Democratic Institutions in South Africa

Abdullah Abdurahman

in Modernist Islam, 1840-1940

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780195154672
Published online November 2007 |
 Democratic Institutions in South Africa

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Abdullah Abdurahman (South Africa, 18701940) was the pre-eminent political leader of South Asians in South Africa in the first half of the twentieth century. Abdurahman's paternal grandfather was a former slave who founded a successful business in Cape Town; his father studied theology at al-Azhar in Cairo; Aburahman, by contrast, went to Scotland to study medicine, and established a medical practice on his return to Cape Town in 1895. Abdurahman soon entered politics, helping to found the African People's Organisation and serving as its president from 1905 until his death in 1940. Despite the imposition of suffrage restrictions on nonwhites, Abdurahman was elected to the Cape Town City Council and the Cape Provincial Council, running on a platform of unity among nonwhite peoples and a demand for equal civil and political rights with whites. Abdurahman's speeches rarely referred to Islam, perhaps because many of the South Asians and Africans whom he represented were not Muslim. However, in front of a Muslim audienceas in the speech described here, given to the Young Muslim Debating Society in Durbanhe allowed himself passing references that linked his faith with his political beliefs. By the time of this speech, in the mid-1930s, Abdurahman's reformism was already losing favor with younger militants, who espoused communism and secular nationalism.1

Chapter.  1453 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture ; Islam

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