"A Young Soldier of Islam" Haji Ruknudeen Sahib
Halima KassimView all articles by Halima Kassim
The year was 1893 when Ruknudeen arrived in Trinidad. He was part of the movement of labourers from India to the Caribbean who supplied labour on the sugar, cocoa, coffee, coconut and rubber estates, who filled the gap left by the emancipation of slaves in 1838. The vast majority of indentured labourers who arrived in Trinidad came through the port of Calcutta originated from the lndo-Gangetic plain; Uttar Pardesh, Oudh and Bihar with a minority from Punjab and Bengal. These migrants were known as kalkatiyas. These were predominantly Hindu areas. In Uttar Pardesh and Punjab, where a significant number of the immigrants originated, Sunni (orthodox) lslam dominated (Titus 1960). However, Shias (also spelt Shi'ites another stream in Islam) and the Wahhabis (followers of strict fundamental Islamic teachings) were also to be found (Titus 1960). It is estimated that eighty per cent of the indentured migrants were Hindus, fifteen per cent were Muslims and the rest were tribal, Christians, Sikhs and others (Lal 1996). In other words, "every shipload of Indian immigrants that came to the Caribbean contained a few Muslims" (Bisnauth 1989). Over the seventy-plus years that indentured labourer scheme remained in place thousands of Indians arrived in ships which docked in Trinidad and were dispersed to various estates.