Preserving the Oldest Quran in South Africa: A Testament to Cultural Heritage

South Africa’s oldest Quran, handwritten more than 200 years ago by an Indonesian imam, has been discovered and preserved in Cape Town. The Quran was written by Imam Abdullah ibn Qadi Abdus Salaam, also known as Tuan Guru, who was banished to Cape Town by Dutch colonizers. This valuable artifact, found in the attic of the Auwal Mosque, is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Cape Town’s Muslim community. The Quran was in surprisingly good condition, and efforts were made to ensure that all the loose pages were placed in the correct order. The text has since been displayed in the mosque, protected by a fire- and bullet-proof casing. Tuan Guru’s achievement of writing the Quran is remarkable, considering Arabic was not his first language. The purpose of writing the Quran was not only to preserve Islam among Muslim prisoners and slaves but also to uplift the spirits of those around him. The discovery of this Quran sheds light on the resilience and perseverance of the Muslim community in Cape Town during the Dutch colonial period. This preservation of cultural heritage is essential for maintaining the identity and history of a community. The Quran serves as a symbol of the survival and development of the Muslim community in Cape Town, which now represents approximately 5% of the city’s population. By showcasing this artifact, the Muslim community hopes to educate the public about their faith and the history of Islam in South Africa.