Sheikhs of Robben Island

Sheikh Abdur Rahmaan Matura was buried on Robben Island about 260 years ago. He defied Dutch colonial rule and was imprisoned on the island in the 17th century. He was one of the pioneers of the Islamic faith in South Africa.

Prisoners like Nelson Mandela on Robben Island drew inspiration and spiritual strength from him when our country was going through its darkest times.

Sheikh Matura reflects the deep roots of Islam in the history of South Africa; as do those brought to the Cape as political exiles or slaves, starting with Sheikh Yusuf, freedom fighter and leader from Indonesia; and many of those brought as indentured labour from India and Zanzibar to work the sugar fields of Natal. These threads and others have left indelible marks on the South African landscape.

Tuan Sa’id Alawi of Yemen came to the Cape in 1744. Muslim Ulama banished there by the Dutch were incarcerated on Robben Island. Tuan Sa’id became a policeman and had access to the Slave Lodge. He is regarded as the first official Imaam of the Cape Muslims. He lies buried at the Tana Baru cemetery in Cape Town.

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