Islam Throughout the World: South Africa

Muir Street Mosque, Cape Town
Photo 143678415 © Dmitrii Sakharov | Dreamstime.com

The Republic of South Africa is a state at the southern tip of the African continent. It is washed by the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Indian Ocean in the east. Within its territory it has a small enclave, the state of Lesotho. South Africa is a non-Muslim country. The Muslim population stands at 1.5% of the total. Yet, South Africa is an example of how the Muslim minority can play a prominent role in the life of the country and help convert others to the true faith thanks to the “visibility” in public life enjoyed by some of the most prominent Muslim political, public and cultural figures. We can see this from the increased conversions to Islam over the past decade, which is perceived by many South Africans as an alternative to Christian society, until recently the domain of apartheid and which could not be called a society of justice.

South Africa has always been regarded as the domain of the Christian Dutch Reformed Church. Nevertheless, the Muslim community did arise here. The first Muslims in this region were slaves and prisoners who were forcibly brought here from countries of Southeast Asia in the period from the middle of the 17th century CE to the beginning of the 19th century CE. In the 19th century, hired workers from British India flocked here, one tenth of whom were Muslims. And, finally, the last wave of Islamic immigration came when the apartheid regime fell in 1994.

South Africa is the popular destination of many Muslim organizations engaged in dawah. They include the Islam Propagation Center International, the Islamic Dawah Movement of South Africa, the Africa Muslim Agency, the Call of Islam. Their efforts are helping to create an image of Islam as an active and effective religion capable of solving many modern problems. But even more important is the role of public figures spreading Islam by personal example, such Malcolm X, the American fighter against white supremacy, whose ideas and social significance influenced the determination of the fighters against apartheid in South Africa. South Africans saw in this example that the fighter for their rights and social justice is a Muslim, which could not but leave a mark on their soul and worldview.

Furthermore, there are several large Muslim public organizations operating in South Africa that receive spiritual and financial support from the Muslim community, namely, Jamiat ul-Ulama of the Transvaal, The Muslim Judicial Council, Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa, Muslim Students Association of South Africa with branches at all campuses. In addition, Muslim political parties have come into existence in the country, in particular, the African Muslim Party and the Islamic Party.

All these efforts lead to an increase in the role and influence of Islam in a non-Muslim country and can serve as an example of a productive dawah in a Christian environment. Muslims become more and more noticeable in the country’s Parliament and government bodies. For example, the current South African ambassador to the United States, former Prime Minister of the Western Cape, Ebrahim Rasool, is a Muslim. Another Muslim, Naledi Pandor, is the Minister of Science and Technology. And there are many more such examples.