Nation Builders -Trinidad

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    Nasser Mustapha, PhD, Sociology, UWI, is currently a senior lecturer in sociology and head of the behavioral sciences department at UWI, St Augustine. He is a member of the International Sociological Association and the Caribbean Studies Association. As an expert in the field of sociology, and a respected member of the Muslim community (this being the holy month of Ramadan), Sunday Newsday took the opportunity to ask some questions pertinent to both areas.

    How many of us would have known that the expression "cool as Gokool" referred to Haji Gokool Meah (1847-1939) who came on an indenture ship when he was just six years old and grew to be businessman, cocoa proprietor and cinema magnate, builder of the Globe and Empire cinemas in the 1930's? Gokool drank his cup of dhal every day, and in the face of racial prejudice conducted his business with an icy calm that became proverbial, hence "cool as Gokool". [Extracted from Caribbean History Archives]

    Hafiz Yacoob Ali

    Yacoob Ali, born in 1875, at age thirteen in 1888, was sent back to Oudh, India by his father Shaikh Bahadoor Ali to get an Islamic education. He returned ten years later as a hafiz (one who memorize the Holy Qur'an in its entirety - ed) and qari (one who masters the art of reciting the Holy Qur'an -ed)and could chant the inspiring verses in a very melodious tone. This was a great honour and it won for him the admiration of the Muslims of the island.  Hafiz Yacoob established several maktabs (classes to provide religious instructions -ed).   Hafiz Yacoob is pictured here (facing the camera).

    During the Holy Month of Ramadan, he visited several mosques and completed recitations of the Holy Quran in a period of five nights per Jamaat.  On one occasion he was approached by a Charlieville Jamaat to a Khatam-ul-Quran (complete recitation of the Holy Quran) when there were only two Taraweeh left in the Holy Month.  He accepted and was able to complete fifteen "Siparahs" that is half the Quran Shareef in that time.  He is credited with having trained hundreds of Muslims in the Arabic and Urdu languages. 

    He was the father of Haji Sheik Fazloo Rahaman and former President General of ASJA, Haji Shaffick Rahaman.  He was the brother of succeeding Imams of San Fernando Jama Masjid, Sheik Kurban Ali and Sakawat Ali.  He was also the brother-in-law of Imam Syed Muhammad Hosein.


    Moulvi Ameer Ali was appointed Mufti of the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association, then the only Muslim Association in Trinidad,and of which he was made Life-President in 1935.

    Vidya Pooran Muradalli

    She was the very first principal of ASJA Girls High School in San Fernando. She served as principal for 18 years before moving on to the Tabaquite Composite School. She has been serving as principal there for 20 years now. “Shortly after my return from India where I obtained my degree in Human Psychology the president of ASJA, Haji Shaffick Rahaman approached me to head the staff at the girls’ college. This was back in 1966.  And the school was housed under the mosque in San Fernando. I accepted but I wanted to pursue law. I thought I’d leave after a year. But my love for children kept me at the school for so many years,” she said. Before serving as a teacher she was the principal at age 22.    Muradali passed away on the 22nd day of October, 2006.

    Mufti Shabil Ali (Rahmatullah ‘alaih) left Trinidad, in 1973, to India in the pursuit of higher Islamic studies at Arabic College, Darul Uloom, Sabeelur Rashaad, in Bangalore, India. Mufti Shabil Ali graduated with the title Maulana as well as an ‘Ashara Qaari (one who is versed in ten variant ways of recitation of the Holy Qur’an). He then proceeded to Dabhel Madrasah in Surat, Gujrat, India, where he completed his Mufti course. He returned to Trinidad in 1981 and was very active in the Nur-e-Islam Maktab. Three years later, in 1984, he founded and became the first Principal of the Darul Uloom Trinidad and Tobago with its humble beginning in the garage of his home in San Juan. The Darul Uloom was relocated in 1986 to its present venue at Rashaad Ave, Mon Plasir Road, Cunupia. The passing away of Mufti Shabil Ali (RH) on 15th April 1996 was a great loss to the Muslims of Trinidad and Tobago. His good works continue at the now well established Darul Uloom.

    Nizam Mohammed was Speaker of the House in the 3rd Republican Parliament (1986 - 1991) of Trinidad & Tobago. Mr. Mohammed is a former Member of Parliament for the constituency of Tabaquite.  Today, he is a practicing Lawyer .
    He like ", .......and most other Trinidadian Muslims, traces his ancestry to the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. "My great-grandparents came as indentured servants around 1845. They were among the first arrivals in Trinidad," the Port-of-Spain attorney told Aramco World . "To lure them into coming, these people were told that Trinidad offered the best prospects for owning land. Many of them died of frustration and grief."

    The indenture system, used by Trinidad's British colonial masters shortly after slavery was abolished in 1834, was a form of unpaid servitude which usually required peasants, nearly all of them Hindus or Muslims, to work the sugar plantations for a term of years in order to pay off their debts or repay the often inflated cost of their passage. Inhumane living conditions were often accompanied by efforts to impose Christianity on the newcomers, regardless of their religious beliefs. "Because of the hardships these people faced in their early days and throughout their lives," Nizam Mohammed said, "they never left any historical information behind. Today, many of us have no idea of our heritage in India."

    Mohammed, who is ........ London-educated, has no way of knowing whether his great-grandparents were among the 225 passengers aboard the Fatel Razeck, which brought the first indentured servants to Trinidad on May 31,1845. But he does know about his two grandfathers, Kallam Meah and Rajeem Meah. After serving their five-year terms of indenture - a status just one step above slavery - Kallam went into coffee and coconut farming, and Rajeem became a tailor. In later years, before the advent of the petroleum industry, Trinidad would owe much of its economic success to these early Muslim farmers and merchants."1


    AbdulWahid Hamid

    AbdulWahid Hamid, writer, editor, educationalist, teacher and community activist, was born in Trinidad in 1943. His paternal grandfather had migrated to the Caribbean from Kanpur (Cawnpore) in India while his grandmother as a young Hindu girl of 14 was kidnapped off the streets by British agents in India and taken to Trinidad as an 'indentured labourer'.

    His best-selling 'Islam: the Natural Way' has been translated into several languages including French, Spanish, Turkish, Bossanski, Urdu and Malay. He has recently published 'Burnishing the Heart', selections from the Qur'an for self-awareness with some personal reflections.

    Earlier publications include a pioneering course for the teaching of Qur'anic Arabic, and life histories of the Companions of the Prophet based on original Arabic sources. He has edited numerous books including the important 'The Meccan Crucible' by Zakaria Bashier, and more recently M. S. Kayani's 'Pondering the Qur'an' and 'The Quest for Sanity - reflections on September 11 and the Aftermath'.

    Prior to arriving in Britain in 1964, AbdulWahid was a primary school teacher and had a brief sojourn as a student at Al-Azhar in Cairo. In London, while doing further 'A' levels in Latin and History, he joined the Labour Party but left in disgust at Harold Wilson's Rhodesia policy. AbdulWahid studied history and Arabic at the School of Oriental & African Studies.

    A life-long activist and mentor, he has been president of the London Islamic Circle, general secretary of the Federation of Students' Islamic Societies, editor of 'The Muslim' a member of the team that launched 'Impact International' in 1970, and a mainstay of community initiatives both in Trinidad and Britain, in particular the founding and development of The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). He was a member of the MCB panel that presented evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Religious Offences in October 2002.

    He was responsible for the major refurbishment of the Rabitah Centre and Mosque, Goodge Street, Central London under the supervision of the architect Ayyub Malik and the graphic designer Zafar Malik. His career has included work as a university lecturer and an educational consultant in Saudi Arabia and the teaching of Qur'anic Arabic in London, Chicago, Toronto, Trinidad and Bahrain.

    Senator Dr. Wahid Ali

    Trinidad Express Port-of-Spain January 7, 2000:-  Dr. Wahid Ali, a devout Muslim, was struck with a paralyzing disease four years ago. He drew upon his beliefs and his family to survive. Faith and prayer became his tools for existence. He was the founder of the Inter Religious Organization of T&T, the idea planted in his mind in 1951 by his mentor Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddiqui, Al Quaderi. In celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, his family shares this story as one of inspiration for people of all faiths.

    Jalal Bacchus

    Trinidad Express Newspaper Port-of-Spain December 2, 1997:-

    Jalal Bacchus claims he was the first man to sell coconuts around the Queen's Park Savannah. He sold under the samaan tree near Stollmeyer's Castle. In those days, he says, there was no highway and, living in Curepe, he rode his horse-cart into Port of Spain.

    He has lived in a tapia house with a needle grass roof; he has seen the advent in Trinidad of planes, trains and automobiles. Before now, however, Bacchus says that he has had very little reason to own or use most of these modern conveniences. Last Wednesday, when receiving two tickets courtesy Air Caribbean to Tobago, Bacchus explained that he had never been on an aeroplane quire simply because "I had no cause".

    Bacchus's hundredth birthday was a big enough cause though for members of the Curepe Local Village Council, headed by Shah Hosein, to seek the patronage of several companies to enable Bacchus to have the experience of flying and for members of his small community to come out on Sunday morning to celebrate his birthday with him.

    Hosein explained at the ticket-giving ceremony that the response was greater from the smaller companies; the village council was able to raise a little over $2,000 towards Sunday's birthday get-together and Singh's Auto Rentals has paid for both Bacchus and Hosein to stay at the Grafton Beach Hotel in Tobago for three days.

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