The Al Azhar Mosque is an Islamic Mosque in District Six, Cape Town. It holds the same name as a rather resplendent more-famous Mosque in Cairo, Egypt but what it lacks in minarets, it makes up for with position, for the Mosque of Cape Town lies right in the heart of one of the City's former 'grey areas' of the Apartheid era - District Six.
Al Azhar Mosque, in Aspeling Street, is the oldest Mosque in District Six, founded in 1887.North, Tennant Road to the West, De Waal Drive South of it, and Cambridge Street to the East. District Six, though, is no longer there. Most of it has been absorbed by the Suburbs of: Walmer Estate; Zonnebloem and Lower Vrede. Only a tiny portion of the original Victorian-style Neighbourhood remains.
Between 1966 and 1980 (it took 15 years) the Group Areas Act enabled the government to forcibly remove 60 000 residents from District Six, which was labelled a 'whites-only' Area. Homes (1 800 of them) were razed to the ground and a hugely diverse (racially, religiously and tolerance-wise) Community was destroyed.
District Six has been described as a cosmopolitan area where a complete mix of people lived, from all walks of life (from priests to politicians, from fishermen to prostitutes). It was poor, and overcrowding was bad but it was a hive of activity with streets rich with bakeries, butcher shops, clothing retailers and old Victorian houses. People remember a vibrancy. The rich mix of cultures meant that the Area was a seedbed of opinions, thought and enterprise, which were a threat to Apartheid!
The Government changed the name to Zonnebloem and left only a few Churches and Mosques to act as a Memorial of what once was. Worse still they renamed the new townships on the Cape flats after road names of the former District Six – Hanover Park, Lavender Hill, Tyne Court.
As if the void was too loaded to fill, the land in Town remained undeveloped; a blight right alongside De Waal Drive, nothing more than 91 hectares of empty Land and a grassy Hillside. A feature of the drive into to Cape Town!
The Al Azhar Masjied was founded by Imam Kassiem Gamieldien in the late 1800’s. Imam Kassiem served as the first Imam of the Masjied. Imam Kassiem Gamieldien’s son, Sheigh Abubakr Gamieldien better known as Imam Akaa studied at the Al Azhar College, in Cairo. He served as the Imam of the Masjied until his demise in 1945. At the time the masjied operated a madrasah, where the learners were taught Shariah studies by Hafith Abdul Mallick. Sheigh Abduragman better known as Imam Amaanie, another son of Imam Kassiem, left for Cairo in the year 1900 to study at the Nasrih Government College in Cairo. He returned in 1907 and was appointed as Ustadh and Imam of the Indian College in Mowbray. In 1908, Sheigh Abduragman was appointed as co- Imam of the Al Azhar Masjied and assisted his brother in the duties of the Imam at the Masjied. He also acted as Headmaster of the madrasah at the Masjied. He passed away in Cairo in 1935.
In 1922, Sheigh Abduragman departed with his family, including his sons, Muhammad Shakir, Habib, and Muhammad Ihsan for Egypt.
Sheigh Muhammad Shakier, the eldest son of Sheigh Abduragman, completed his studies at the Al-Azhar University Cairo. He returned to Cape Town in 1938. He was recognized as one of the foremost Islamic scholars in the Cape and South Africa. He served as one of the Imams of the Al Azhar masjied for many years until his passing on in 1997.
Sheigh Muhammad Ihsan who studied at Cairo University returned to Cape Town in 1945 and was appointed as Imam of the Masjied after the passing on of Sheigh Abubakr in that very same year. Sheigh Muhammad Taib Jassiem who also studied at the Al-Azhtar College in Cairo assisted with the Jumuah prayers until 1972.
Sheigh Ismail Keraan, the current Imam of the Al Azhar masjied, was appointed as the assistant imam of the masjied in 1995. Sheigh Keraan was a student of the late Sheigh Shakir. Sheigh Keraan is a graduate of the University of Cape Town and studied at the Al Azhar College and also in Rhiyadh, Saudi Arabia. On the demise of Sheigh Muhammad Shakir, Sheigh Keraan became the Imam of the Masjied and has now been serving as Imam of the masjied for almost 17 years.
Hanif Edwards – His Life and Works by Moegamat Hoosain Ebrahim, 2004
/Dr Ahmad Fuad Gamieldien- youngest son of Sheigh Abduraghmaan Gamieldien (born 1930 in Cairo)