As Muslims in Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the Caribbean observe the celebrations of Eid Ul Azha (this week), better known as “Bacra” Eid or Qurbani; we take you back to the year 1896, a historical chapter in the history of Islam in Guyana. It is an opportune time for us to reflect on the many sacrifices (Qurbani) that our ancestors made in their adopted homeland while instilling their religious practices on future generations, and which today has survived vibrantly in Guyana and the Caribbean.
In 1896 a group of “Mahomedans” merchants from Georgetown led by Gool Mohumad Khan, Goolam Ally, Goolam Aidin, K. H. Dharsee, Kareem Baccus, and a few others of the Mussulman faith sent a petition to the Combined Court of British Government in which they requested a grant of money for the purpose of constructing a mosque and a school in Queenstown Ward (where today sits the Queenstown Jamma Masjid) and where the children of the “immigrants” would attend the school attached to the mosque.
The petition was signed by Muslims from across Guyana led by Gool Mohumad Khan, who was born in 1853 and was a Yusufzai Pathan from Swat, Afghanistan. Khan arrived in British Guiana on 11th May, 1877 on board the ship King Arthur.
In defence of Islam, and the Prophet Mohamed, as criticisms of the Muslim community mounted, Gool Mohamed Khan did not standby ideally. He engaged the Christian Church in historic debates and discourses that resulted in the publication of his book, "Unity v Trinity.” The first edition of the book was published in 1910 in British Guiana. After the book was later discovered, his Pakistani niece, Begum Akhter Jahan Khan, published the Third Edition of the book in August, 1988 in Pakistan
In 1906 he returned to India with his family, leaving two of his 11 children (which can be considered a sacrifice) with his sister-in-law (who were childless) in British Guiana as well as a rich legacy of his contributions to the Muslims of Guyana.
The petitioners drew attention to the fact that there was no proper place of worship or schools where they can congregate especially for Fridays’ prayers or where their children may be educated without losing their religious background. The petitioners felt that the benefits to the colony “must be apparent to the British government to have the East Indian immigrants and their children educated in a proper manner and in their mother tongue (Urdu), as well as in the English language, by teachers from one of the colleges of India.” The petitioners argued that since a great portion of the immigrants leave the Colony for India, the building of a school and mosque would serve as an incentive for many to remain in British Guiana.
The petitioners further urged the Court to take into consideration that “the growing number of East Indian Immigrants in the colony, the sad want of education in the faith of their forebears and their want of an education in their mother tongue.” They also brought attention to the religious discrimination against non-Christians, and urge the government to grant the Muslim financial help, which would benefit the colony as much as the parents and children whereby the East Indian children would be better educated. This sort of pleading with the British governor general continued up until the 1950s by other subsequent Muslim organizations, but the British denied the Muslims any help. While, the Christian schools continued to receive funding from the British government but not the Muslims nor the Hindus which the petitioners raised back in 1896.
At the time (1896) of signing the petition, according to the petitioners, there were about 105,463 Hindustanis in British Guiana and among those 32,432 were born in the colony and about 20,000 were Muslims.
Throughout the period of indentureship and up until independence, East Indians on the whole were denied education and employment in the public sector, unless they converted to Christianity. This was yet another sacrifice they were forced to endure in order to further their socio-economic standing in the “eyes of the British.”
To our Muslim brothers and sisters in Islam we wish you a happy Eid-ul-Adha.
A special thanks to Professor Dr. Wazir Mohamed, of the University of Indiana and the Anna Catherina Sunnatal Jamaat who shared this historical document with us.
Georgetown, GINA, July 30, 2011 - President Bharrat Jagdeo today expressed satisfaction over the level of tolerance that Guyanese now enjoy. He said this could have only happened if there are enlightened leaders and, organisations such as the Central Islamic Organisation (CIOG).
Speaking at the opening of the Masjid Al-Nur, Islamic
Center, located in one of the newest housing schemes, Parfaite Harmonie, Region
Three, President Jagdeo expressed pleasure that the scheme has gotten such a
wonderful building and that he is also pleased CIOG is already thinking about
how this House of God can be used, not just as a place of worship and for
Muslims but a place of service to the residents of the West Bank Demerara
The link takes you to some movie clips showing the construction of Ruimveldt New Mosque, Alexander Village, Guyana.
These silent movie clips were recorded by Brother Rasheed Khan (Son of the late Mohamed Shaheed Khan) and who now resides in Barrie, Ontario. Without his preservation of these priceless movie clips, we would not have anything to show our newer generation of the timeless efforts taken in building this Masjid from the beginning and also to be able to see some of the older generations whom have all passed away and trust that Allah will grant their souls a resting place in Paradise (O ye people, praise Allah. Whoever builds a mosque for Allah The Exalted, he shall build a house for such a one in paradise).
Six Guyanese Made the Haj in 1949
In 1949, the following Muslims of the former British colony, British Guiana, and close associates of the
Anjuman-E-Islam and the Muslim Association of British Guiana performed the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca:
Al Haj and Hajjah Ghulam Abbas
Al Haj and Hajjah M. I. Dookhie
Al Haj Karamat Khan
Al Haj Ramjohn (Ramzan);
It is noted in the publication, Islam and Nur-E-Islam (January 1950), the official organ of the United Sadr Anjuman-E-Islam of Guyana that Haji Ramjohn upon his return of the haj attended the all Guiana Muslim Conference and delivered an address to the gathering of this visit to the holy land.
Gafoors has become a household name in Guyana, but standing tall behind this empire is a simple, private man, who has braved many storms to become one of Guyanas most successful businessmen, turning a small business of two employees into a conglomerate deserving of national pride. Reservedly, he agreed to share his climb to success with the Times Magazine . Born in 1941 at No. 59 Village, Corentyne, the Executive Chairman of Gafoors Industries Limited, Sattaur Gafoor is the eldest of seven children, and received his early schooling in Berbice.
Seeking better educational opportunities for their children, his parents came to the city in May 1953, around the same time the British Guyana Constitution was suspended, and he was enrolled at the Central High School where he completed his secondary education after sitting the Senior Cambridge and Higher Senior Cambridge Examinations of the time.
Upon arrival in Georgetown, his father opened the doors to the first Gafoors store on Lombard and Sussex Streets, which employed a clerk and a porter.
For Sattaur the choices after school were limited, because it was expected of the eldest child in those days that he maintain tradition and join his father in business.
Ayube Ahamad Khan, MS, AA, better known as Ayube Hamid, former Programme Manager and Sales and Marketing Manager of the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation, died on January 21, aged 82. Ayube Hamid was the best known, longest-serving and most versatile broadcaster this country has known. He recalled, nevertheless, that the most memorable moments of his life were spent not before the microphones in Demerara but 14,000 km away in Meerut, in Uttar Pradesh, India.
The following is the introduction to a privately-published book entitled, 'A Short History and Genealogy of an Indian Indentured Labourer in Guyana: Haji McDoom and his Descendants, 1884-2008'. The book was inspired by the passing of Haji McDoom's great grand-son, Shahabudin Mohamed McDoom. The book tells the story of the arrival of a young Muslim Indian in Guyana in 1884 and records his nearly 1000 descendants over six generations. It contains interesting information about one of Guyana's early Muslim communities. A copy of the book was entrusted to each family line to ensure the history and heritage it records is not lost. Its author, Omar Shahabudin McDoom, kindly agreed for us to publish its introduction.