Eid al-Adha in SA: Ottoman connections with the Cape Muslim community

Sheeps and goats being slaughtered at Qurbaan Farm in Schaapkraal as preparations start for Eid al-Adha. Picture: Phando Jikelo

Sheeps and goats being slaughtered at Qurbaan Farm in Schaapkraal as preparations start for Eid al-Adha. Picture: Phando Jikelo

Published Jun 14, 2024


On November 20, 1912, the “Cape Times” reported: “There, in the valley between the mountains of Arafat takes place the feast of the Sacrifice, where many thousands of Moslems congregate from all parts of the world, and thereafter proceed to Mina, where, in fulfilment of the Fifth Commandment, they offer a living sacrifice of either a sheep, goat, or camel, as their means allow.

“This ceremony is also carried out in the distant part of the world where Mohammedans reside. In Cape Town, Imam Mahmud Effendi, professor of the Imperial Arabic School, made sacrifice of several sheep, the flesh of which was distributed among the poor of his parish.

“The ceremony was fully observed in the Moslem churches in Cape Town and elsewhere, and special prayers were offered by Imam Mahmud Effendi, who was in attendance, and a moulet was made and conducted by the Imam Abdul Wajgie.

“Dua was offered by the Imam Mahmud Effendi that His Caliphate Molani Sultan Mohamed, Rashad V. of Turkey, may be spared to rule over his dominions for many years to come, and that he may be blessed with congratulations for the Beiram.

Eid al-Adha, the “Festival of Sacrifice”, is one of the most significant Islamic festivals celebrated by Muslims across the world.

In South Africa, the event is marked by unique cultural practices and traditions, particularly within the Cape Muslim community. The community has a rich history, including connections to the Ottoman Empire that have influenced its development over the centuries.

The festival commemorates the willingness of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God, a story that resonates deeply with Muslims globally.

In South Africa, the day begins with special prayers at mosques, followed by the ritual sacrifice of animals, usually sheep or cattle. The act symbolises Ibrahim’s devotion and God’s mercy. The meat from the sacrifice is distributed among family, friends and the less fortunate, ensuring that everyone can partake in the feast.

The celebrations are also marked by communal prayers, festive meals, and the giving of charity.

In Cape Town, where a significant portion of the Muslim population resides, the streets come alive with the spirit of Eid, as families don their best clothes and gather for large communal feasts.

As the Ottoman Empire was a melting pot of various cultures and ethnicities, Eid al-Adha celebrations often included diverse customs and traditions.

The historical connections between the Cape Muslims and the Ottoman Empire have left an enduring legacy, seen in the community’s religious practices, educational institutions and cultural expressions.

The support helped bolster the community’s religious infrastructure and fostered a sense of global Muslim solidarity.

As South African Muslims gather to celebrate Eid al-Adha, they not only honour the faith and traditions handed down through generations but also remember the global ties that have shaped their unique identity.

I hope that next week’s Eid al-Adha reminds us to help the needy families among us. That is how our society used to flourish, with the consciousness of sharing and caring.

* Halim Gençoğlu.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

Do you have something on your mind; or want to comment on the big stories of the day? We would love to hear from you. Please send your letters to [email protected].

All letters to be considered for publication, must contain full names, addresses and contact details (not for publication)

Related Topics:

culture and tradition