Kris Rampersad has the following entry in his book reporting on Haji Ruknuddeen

(Extracted from pages 54-56:

Finding a Place: IndoTrinidadian Literature

By Kris Rampersad                               

Published by Ian Randle Publishers, 2002

ISBN 9766370788, 9789766370787

248 pages)

He arrived as an immigrant in 18631, and was attached to the La Plaissance Estate in La Romain. He developed the reputation of a troublemaker initially because he antagonized many of the Hindu immigrants when he converted one of his shipmates to Islam. At the end of the working day, he would gather other Muslims from La Plaissance and neighbouring estates to teach them the tenets of Islam, and reading, writing and understanding Arabic and Urdu. He also developed a tailoring business for his spare hours, which took him to various villages, and he used the opportunity to perpetuate Islam, its language and literature. He bought out the remaining three and a half years of his indentureship with the help from the Imam Imdad Hosein of Victoria Village and so began his work in forming jamaats, introducing muktab classes and erecting mosques through the colony.

The name, meaning ‘bowing down to faith’, is variously spelt Ruknudden, Ruknuddeen, Ruknuddin, Ruknandin or Rooknuddin, even Rukmudden, evidence of the problems of transliteration.  He came to Trinidad educated by the Chisti Spiritual Order of Sufism in Punjab, India, in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi and Persian languages.  These he perfected by constant reading and recitation in Trinidad.  He arrived as an immigrant in 1863, and was attached to the La Plaissance Estate in La Romain.  He developed the reputation of a troublemaker initially because he antagonized many of the Hindu immigrants when he converted one of his shipmates to Islam.  At the end of the working day, he would gather other Muslims from La Plaissance and neighbouring estates to teach them the tenets of Islam, and reading, writing and understanding Arabic and Urdu.   He also developed a tailoring business for his spare hours, which took him to various villages, and he used the opportunity to perpetuate Islam, its language and literature.  He bought out the remaining three and a half years of his indentureship with the help from the Imam Imdad Hosein of Victoria Village and so began his work in forming jamaats, introducing muktab classes and erecting mosques through the colony.  After he secured his freedom he moved to Tunapuna, where he held muktab classes every night of the week at his home for children and adults, teaching the Arabic language and Islam, examined the progress of the students and gave book prizes as incentives.

            Notably, his work among the Muslims began some five years before the advent of Reverend Morton and certainly would have contributed to the lower numbers of Muslim converts to Christianity.2  By the time Morton’s work began in 1868 there was a somewhat structured system of teaching Islam in the colony.  Learned Muslims were placed in strategic sections of the island: Sayed Abdul Aziz, whose contribution we will examine next, in Princes Town; Meer Hassan and Beekham Syne in San Fernando; Zahoor Khan in Couva, Ishmile Khan in California; Haiz Nazir-ud-deen in Tacarigua; Baboo Meah in San Juan; Abdul Ghany, Yacoob Khan and Subrate Meah in St Joseph; and Ruknuddin in Tunapuna.  They established jamaats, mosques and muktab classes (Ali, 1995:11).  Ruknuddin used Arabic/Muslim literature to try to counteract the Christian missionary education effort:

In his further attempt  to convert the Indians, Reverend Morton imported the Bible and other scriptures (translated in Hindi) from the missionaries in India.  He believed that after preaching the message of Christianity in Hindi (the language of the Indian masses) then the Indian should be provided with literature to enforce the sermons.  To counteract this Ruknuddeen Sahib imported the Holy Qur’an and other Islamic books directly from India.  Although he had elected to remain permanently in Trinidad, Ruknudden still maintained strong ties, through letters, with his fellow Sufis and relatives in India.  It is believed that they acquired the books he requested and shipped them to him.  He sold these books to Muslims at a small profit.  The Muslim community now had a steady supply of Islamic books to keep in their homes and read when they wished…..He also imported theological and philosophical works.  He did not sell these books but instead he built up a reference library in his home.  He generously made these available to interested Muslims.  (Ali, 1995:17-18)

Muslims read the Qur’an by moonlight, resisting the planters’ prohibition of religious practices.  This contributed to the creation of a formidable Muslim community which, supported by Hindus, initiated the struggle for the opportunity to practise Indian festivals, which erupted in the Hosay riots of 1884.  Efforts to preserve the language and heritage were reinforced not only by visits to India, but by the visits of India missionaries to Trinidad.  In 1920 with other Muslims, Haji Ruknuddin, sent for a moulvi from India, Fazal Khan Durani, who was said to be a master of the English language.  He helped the Muslims argue the cause of Islam to the Presbyterians.  He established an Arabic school in North Trinidad and published three pamphlets: ‘The Virgin Birth’, ‘Trinity Original Sins’, and ‘The Book of Genesis and The Promised Land’.

Haji Ruknuddin himself understood English, but used Urdu in debates with other groups.  He was a founding member of the East Indian National Association (EINA) founded in 1897; the Tackyeeyatul Islamic Association (1926) and its offspring, the Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat Association (ASJA) (established 1932, incorporated 1935).  ASJA later became a pioneering Muslim organization in secondary education in Trinidad and in recognition of the service of Haji Ruknuddin, in  1964, it dedicated its girls school in Tunapuna as the Haji Ruknuddeen (sic) Girls’ High School.  It later closed because of financial stringency and the site is now the Haji Ruknuddin Institute of Islamic Studies.  Haji Ruknuddin’s work has had an enduring influence in counteraction the Christianising of Muslims and preserving interest in Arabic and Urdu among the Muslim population.

 

(Extracted from pages 54-56:

Finding a Place: IndoTrinidadian Literature

By Kris Rampersad                               

Published by Ian Randle Publishers, 2002

ISBN 9766370788, 9789766370787

248 pages)



1[Editor's note: According ASJA's website, see here, "Haji Ruknuddeen Sahib who was bom in 1865 arrived in Trinidad in November 1897 on board the "SS MOY"; however checking a lists of ships known to have carried Indian immigrants to Trinidad, see here, the "SS MOY"  did not make a trip in 1897, is it the correct year and the incorrect ship name, or vice versa? In ASJA's 70th anniversary souvenir brochure the following is noted : "In 1895 Ruknuddeen terminated his indentureship ....",  according to the ship arrival lists SS MOY made two trips to Trinidad in the 1890s the first arrival in Dec 11 1893, the other arrival in Dec 3rd 1894.  The most we can conclude from this evidence is that Haji Ruknuddeen arrived in Trinidad sometime in the early 1890s]


2[Editor's note: Haji Ruknuddin Meah arrived in Trinidad in 1890s, the author's assertion here is therefore inaccurate]