In this peice Sheik Hashim Muzaffar narrates the history of perhaps the largest congregation of Muslims in Trinidad that of the El Socorro / Nur-E-Islam Jamaat in San Juan. He tells the story of the development of the Nur-E-Islam community and takes one back through the many individuals who toiled with their hands and gave of their wealth and land to build one of the pioneering Muslim communities in Trinidad. May Allah SWT bless them all. The piece is extracted from the 50th Anniversary souvenir brochure of the San Juan Muslim Ladies Organisation.
History of the El Socorro Jamaat 1966
In The Name of God, The Beneficent, The Most Merciful
I can remember very well when my father and six brothers used to take me with them to the San Juan Hill Mosque to offer the Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Azha prayers from the year 1909; I was then 14 years Old. In l9l2 my father, Sheik Muzaffar Ali, built a wooden mosque No 1 on the very spot where the Nur-E-lslam mosque No.3 is now built. The Muslims of El Socorro and surrounding areas began to offer their prayers in the Mosque. The Imam this mosque was Meah Nabab Ali. It was very convenient, especially in the month of fasting for Taraweeh and other prayers. Maktab was carried on for adults and children. The teachers were the Imam and Gawhar Ali of Chaguanas. We also had the services of Bahoo Khan of St. Joseph.
The Jamaat continued working harmoniously until the year 1920 when a Moulvi by the name of Fazal Karim Khan Durani, B.A., came to Trinidad from London to do missionary work for and on behalf of the Ahmadiya Movement of Lahore, India. There was a heated debate with the Moulvi on one side and Hafiz Yacoob Ali and Haji Rooknudin Meah on the other side, at the El Socorro Mosque Hall and in a large tent, which was built by the El Socorro Jamaat on an adjoining lot of land. A few months after the debate, Moulvi Durrani went back to London.
In 1924 the El Socorro Jamaat built a new mosque No,2 with steel and concrete. Its construction was supervised by S.M. Mustapha and Mohammed Ibrahim and was completed in a very quick time. Gulam Hosein was appointed Imam of the mosque by the Jamaat. This mosque was the head office of the Sunnat-ul-Jamaat Association,
In 1934, the association delegated Syed Mohammed Hosein to India in search of a qualified Moulvi. Mr.Hosein sent a photograph of a student of Aligarh University by the name of Hafiz Fazloo Rahman Ansarie, B.A. He was recommended to Syed by the same Ahmadi Moulvi Fazal Karim Khan Durrani, B.A., who was in Trinidad in 1920. A meeting was held at the El Socorro mosque by the Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat; the photograph of Ansarie was shown to the members present, including Haji Rooknudin Meah Kazi, who advised that Ansarie was a bit too young for Trinidad. The Kazi told the Anjuman to write Mr.Hosein and ask him to try and select an elderly person. Nazir Ahmad Simab was recommend to Mr. Hosein by Maulana Ahmad Ali of the Anjuman Khodamuddin of Lahore, Punjab, India, and Mr.Hosein sent a photograph of Simab. The Kazi and the Anjuman accepted Simab and he was sent for. At the end of 1935 Syed Hosein arrived with Nazir Ahmad Simab Munshi Fazil. Nazir Simab opened Arabic, Urdu and English classes at the El Socorro mosque Hall. He also opened classes in other mosques in the country districts.
It should be mentioned here that Nazir Ahmad came to Trinidad for one year. However, due to the good work he was performing, he was asked to continue for another year, and this he consented to do. The following appeal was therefore sent out by the Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat Association Inc. to the Muslims of Trinidad: –
“It must be remembered that the Maulana, Nazir Ahmad, came here only for one year, but upon the request of the Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat and your good-selves his services have been extended to another period of one year, much to the great inconvenience and material loss to him – loss of 22 years service, pension, etc., which we are afraid the Muslims of Trinidad will never be able to make good.”
Much to everyone’s surprise and dismay, this is what happened soon after the appeal was sent out. At the end of 1936, the executive of the Anjuman Sunnat-ul Jamaat Association Inc. held a meeting at the residence of Mr. S.M. Mustapha, El Socorro Road, San Juan, and decided that the services of Maulana Nazir Ahmad Simab be dispensed with, no just cause being given for his dismissal. The Maulana sailed from Trinidad in the middle of 1937 for his homeland.
The Muslims of Trinidad, especially the Simab students and their parents could not find a quiet and qualified teacher to continue the good work started by Maulana Simab, their beloved teacher, so they got together and decided to ask Maulana Simab to return to Trinidad. This he consented to, and he arrived in 1939. As soon as he arrived, he started a school, teaching Arabic, Urdu and English. The school was more on the modern line and children of all denominations were enrolled; more English was taught. The staff was comprised of one Head Teacher and five Assistant Teachers.
The Maulana, who, in our opinion, was not sick, gave us a shock when he died suddenly in 1942. He was buried in the Muslim Cemetery in El Socorro Road, San Juan.
The school was not closed, however, as the students of the deceased and their parents continued to run it until 1949. It should not be invidious if the names of some of the people who continued this good work were mentioned. I refer to Kamaluddin Mohammed, Ramzan Ali, Yacoob Khan, Ishmael Mohammed, Imam Gulam Hosein, Ali Hosein, S. Damrie, Hassina-Khan and many other students, and parents Sheik Hashim Muzaffar, S.M. Mustapha and others.
In the year 1949, application was made by the Tackveeyatul Islamic Association Inc. to the then Director of Education, Mr. Hogben, for state aid for the school. The books were inspected and checked by the Education Department after which the application was granted. Ours then was the first non-Christian school to get aid from Government. A school Board of Management was formed and the school was named El Socorro Islamia. The role of Head Teacher was entrusted to Mr. Nabab Ali, and Assistant Teachers were appointed.
The seed the late Nazir Simab had planted in 1939 had begun to bear fruits in 1949. It would be only fair to say that Simab was the pioneer of Islamia schools in Trinidad. May his soul rest in peace.
Tackveeyatul Islamic Association Inc. is the first incorporated Muslim association in Trinidad and Tobago, and is also the first to get state aid for its Islamia schools.
A Mosque Board was formed by Sheik Hashim Muzaffar and other Muslims to run Maktab in the Mosque Hall, to look after the Mosque, and to carry out various other functions. Imam Gulam Hosein was appointed Chairman, together with the following
Secretary – Kamaluddin Mohammed
Treasurer – Sheik H. Muzaffar
Committee of Management
– Fazal Hosein
– Rasheed Khan
– Latiff Ali
– Dally Mohammed
– Usuff Mohammed
– And a few others.
The following jobs were carried out by the Mosque Board, all of which were done under the supervision of Mr. S. H. Muzaffar who gave his service free of charge: The entire Mosque Hall was resurfaced; a concrete platform was built to make Wazu; extra water taps were installed; two new doors were installed on the southern side for male namaazies and two also on the northern side for the ladies; the entire Muslim cemetery of over an acre of land was fenced around with hollow clay blocksand concrete columns; all old graves and drains were filled with over one hundred truck loads of dirt; three steel gates kindly donated by Sheik Hashim and Maggedan Muzaffar were installed at the three entrances to the cemetery. All the above work was carried out within a period of five months through the instrumentality of Mr. Muzaffar.
Through the generosity of Mrs. Reyasat Ali and Subhan Ali, the Mosque Board succeeded in getting an alternative road from El Socorro Road to the Muslim Cemetery. The Ali’s were approached by Mr. Kamaluddin Mohammed and Sheik Hashim Muzaffar and they kindly consented to allow the new mad to pass through their property. The old road has been acquired by Government and a Government school was built over it in 1950.
Because of overcrowding in the Islamia School, the school’s Board of Management approached the El Socorro Mosque board for permission to run classes of the Islamia School in the Mosque Hall. The Officers of the Mosque Board approached the trustees of the Mosque property and got their sanction. One month after school started in the annex, it became overcrowded, and the Owners of the adjoining lot, Sheik H. Muzaffar, and Farouk Mustapha very generously built a shed covering three-quarters of the lot and gave it to the T.I.A. School Board of Management to run the annex school free of charge. The TIA carried on this annex school from 1950 to the end of 1965 when they transferred to their new two storey Aranguez Islamia School, Boundary Road, near the Hindu Cemetery.
It is to his greatness as a teacher, philosopher and friend that a great many of the Simab students who today hold important positions in the religious, Government and business sectors of our country, are indebted to the late Maulana Simab. Among the many are: The Hon. Kamaluddin Mohammed, Minister of Public Utilities; The Hon. Shamshuddin Mohammed M.P.; Senator Ramzan Ali, Chairman of the Island-Wide Cane Farmers Association; Mr. Yacoob Khan, Imam of the Leaguite Muslims of St. Joseph and surrounding districts; Mr. Ali Hosein, Manager of Mico Garment Factory, and many others.
In passing encomiums to the many persons who have worked assiduously in the furtherance of the Muslim religion in Trinidad and Tobago, mention must be made of the late Fazal Mohammed, father of Kamaluddin and Shamshuddin Mohammed, who placed his residence, time and service, at considerable sacrifice to himself, in the teaching of the young Muslim boys and girls to read the Holy Quran and other religious books, and to offer the various prayers. Mention must also be made of the late Gulam Hosein who, after the death of Fazal Mohammed in 1949, continued the good work until his demise in 1958.
With the passing of these two illustrious gentlemen, their students took the burden on their shoulders to continue where they had left off The boys formed themselves into a youth group now known as the Islamic Youth Movement, and the girls into a Ladies Group. It soon became evident; however, that these two dynamic groups were expanding daily until the time came in 1965 when it was considered necessary to build a two-storey mosque in order to accommodate the ever-growing membership. The President and Secretary of the Youth Movement were therefore made officers of the Mosque Board which comprise: Kamaluddin Mohammed, Chairman; Hakim Ali, Secretary; Shamshuddin Mohammed, Vice Chairman; Abdul Samad and Sad& Ramzan Ali (of the Youth Movement), Asst. Secretaries; Imam Razack Ali, Treasurer; Sheik H. Muzaffar, Hanif Hosein, Farouk Mustapha, Usman Ghany and Zaid Mustapha, Members
The Mosque Board, in conjunction with the Youth Movement and the Ladies Group, held a Bazaar in the Mosque Hall in January 1966. A few days after the bazaar, Mosque No.2 was demolished to make way for Mosque No.3, “Nur-E-Islam” which is built on two lots of land; one lot was donated in 1912 by Sheik Mohamed Mustapha where Mosques No.1 and 2 were built, and the other lot by Sheik Hashim Muzaffar and Farouk Mustapha in 1967. The Nur-E-Islam two-storey Mosque is almost complete. The ground floor is very spacious; toilet and other facilities have been separately provided for both ladies and gents. There are also separate water taps for making Wazu. The Mosque also has a spacious and beautiful stage, shelves for library books and four enclosed rooms with panel doors.
Below is given the names of persons who offered prayers in Mosques No.1 and No.2, and who have since passed away from this world to the next. May their souls rest in peace. Nasiban Hagie, Mr. Hagie, Zaitoon Subratee, Jaffeeram Khan, Ayub Ali, Samad Abdul, Abdul Majeed, Mrs. Abdul Majeed, Mahboolah Khan, Taitus Imamdee, Harris Imamdee, Janifa Ogeer, Unus Ogeer, Ali Hosein, Rahiman, Rakeeb Meah, Bass Baig, Juman Syne, Ameener, Zulfakar Meah, Rustam Khan, Khoda Bocas, Meedo, Hoosanee Syne, Habibullah, Kai Tun, Clifford Mohamed, Baboo Meah, Jinah Batan Khan, Tun Mohammed, Millard, Mrs. Bakaroo, Gopp Son, Mansoor Baig, Jume, Mr. & Mrs. Sheik Muzaffar Ali, founder,builder, and donor of the first mosque.
Mr. & Mrs. Bhagal Meah, Nasiban, Mr. & Mrs. Haji Khadaroo Meah, Haji Mohammed Ibrahim, Ishmeal Mohammed, Isahack Mohammed, Ogeeran Ibrahim, Nagboon Isahack, Battie Isahack, Nabab Ali – Imam Mosque No.1, Hausildar Meah – Imam Mosques no.1 and 2, Gulam Hosein – Imam, Mosque No.2 for over 24 years. Mr. Dubberi Buckreedee Meah – Assistant Imam Mosque No.2, Mrs. Buckreedee Meah, Dill Mohammed – Muezin Mosque No. 1 & 2., Mrs. Dill Mohammed, Shabadat Ali- Muezin Mosque No.2, Ameer Bocas, Mr. & Mrs.Madar Bocus, Hashmut Madar Bocus, Azmat Rose Madar Bocus, Mr. & Mrs Jahangir, Mr. &Mrs. Jangir, Mr & Mrs Buckreedee Meah, Karim Bocus, Abdool Aziz, Hamid Aziz, Mr. & Mrs. Dehell Meah, Bullar Dehell, Mr. & Mrs.Kairatali, Mr. & Mrs.Elahie Meah, Amjad Elahie, Moharram Meah, Mr & Mrs.Fazal Mohammed, Mr. & Mrs.Mohammed Jan, Karam Hosein, Mrs. Sheik Mustapha, Sulaiman Mustapha, Osman Mustapha, Mr. & Mrs. Sultan Mohammed, Mr. & Mrs.Rasu1 Bocus, Mr. & Mrs. Mohammed Hosein, Habib Sultan, Anwar Ahmin Mohammed, Pop Ahmin Mohammed., Mr. & Mrs. Sultan Khan, Rahman Sultan Khan, Zainool Sultan Khan, Talim Hosein, Ashraff Hosein, Azam Hosein, Mrs. Zulakha Shaffic Gaffoor, Mr. Salamat, Mr.Bally, Mr.Marbood, Mr.Nabbie, Mr.Agis Mohammed, Mr. & Mrs. Mohamdally, Mr. Dewan Suliman Meah, Mr. & Mrs.Golam Mohammed, Role & Go1 Mohamadall~ Mr & Mrs.Panchoo, Ben Panchoo, Usuff Panchoo, Mr. Mandia Ali, Mr. & Mrs.Hassan Khan, Mr. & Mrs Jeeyan, Mr. & Mrs. Munshie Baig, Mr. & Mrs.Ogeer, Zora Ogeer, Mr. & Mrs. Nasiban Haji, Mr. & Mrs.Ackbar Ali, Mr. Abbass Ali, Shakeer Abbass Ali, Mr. & Mrs. Peru Meah, Oli Peru Meah , Fazal Meah, Usuff Hosein, Mrs. Jameeran Tahib Ali, Mrs.Haffiza Sulaiman, Mrs. Hamidan Ibraham Khan, Mrs. Loorkhoor, Mrs. Ulfat Ali, Mrs. Zaitoon Khairat Ali, Mr. & Mrs. Ali Nawaz, Abdool Karim, Ayub Karim, Hamid Hausildar, Ali Raja, Mr. Sakawat Ali, Kalil Khan, Nizamuddin Khan, Mrs. Dolly Mohammed, Mrs. Ibrahim Khan, Mrs. Latiff Khan, Hakeem Khan, Mr. Nuruddin, Mr. Khallan, Mr. Nagrallie, Hasnu Meah, Mrs. Abool, Mrs. AshraE Ali,Rahmat Ali, Reysat Ali, Aziz Mohammed, Dulay, Hannif Mohammed, Salamat Ali, Mr. &Mrs. Yadan Meah, donor of the Muslim Cemetery Land.