Tracing the History of Indonesian Islamic Clerics in South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa: Teaching Islam and struggling to break free from slavery, that is what the Islamic clerics (ulema) of the Indonesian archipelago had done when exiled by the Dutch to the southern tip of the African continent, which now known as Cape Town.

A number of names are still remembered as Islamic clerics and fighters from the Indonesian archipelago who spread Islam in South Africa, starting from Sheikh Abdurrahman Matebe Syah, known as Orang Kayen/ Orang Kayo (Rich Man) from West Sumatra, Prince Cakraningrat IV of Madura (Sheikh Matura), Mr. Jalil Lalu Dea Koasa and Mr. Ismail Lalu Dea Malela from Sumbawa NTB, to the most famous Sheikh Yusuf Al Makassari Al Bantani from Makassar and Tuan Guru (Master) Abdullah Kadi Abdussalam from Tidore.

The effort to trace back the footsteps of the Islamic clerics from Indonesian archipelago was repeated by a team of researchers from Agency for Research and Development (Balitbang) of the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Indonesia (Kemenag) who was invited directly by MJC (Muslim Judicial Council) South Africa which based in Cape Town. In addition to the research, the team from Kemenag also conducted a series of seminars in several places in Cape Town to discuss about Islamic education and the role of Islamic clerics from the Indonesian archipelago in South Africa.

This was revealed when the team from Kemenag and MJC leaders conducted a courtesy call visit to the Indonesian Consul General in Cape Town, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Kemenag team led by Head of Research & Development, Prof. Abdurrahman Mas'ud, PhD, while from MJC headed by Deputy President, Sheikh Riad Fataar.

The program by the Kemenag is a part in promoting Indonesia as center for moderate Islam to the international world. Head of Balitbang said "In enhancing its efforts, in the near future the government of Indonesia will build an Indonesian International Islamic University (IIIU). With that we hope the international community can learn the moderate Islam from Indonesia" continued Prof. Mas'ud.

Beside the visits from government agencies such as the Ministry of Religious Affairs, relationship between the two countries have been established at the level of people to people contact, among others by non government organizations (NGO) in Indonesia (such as Nahdatul Ulama and a number of universities) and by institutions in South Africa, including MJC and IPSA (International Peace College South Africa).

The Indonesian Consul General positively welcomed this relationship. "The Consulate General will always support and encourage this people to people contact relationship to be continued, including by a number of research that have been started by some researchers both from Indonesia and from South Africa" said Konjen Krishna Adi Poetranto. ©Pensosbud KJRI Cape Town.