the Malay Quarter of Simon’s Town.[i]
Simon’s Town today is very different, to the vibrant Simon’s Town of Imam Saban’s time in that, today there are very few Muslim people resident in the Town. The Thomas Lane of Imam Saban’s time would have been filled with the sound of children’s laughter as they romped to and from their School. Today, there is only the silence to fill its place. However, the Mosque stands as a powerful reminder of the once strong Muslim Community, who resided in this most picturesque area, The first three Imam’s of the Noorul Islam Mosque in Simon’s Town
Imam Abdul Karriem (Abdul-Karriem Jarley) 1881 - 1904
Imam Abdul Karriem was born in Simon’s Town in 1842 and became the first Imam of the Noorul Islam Mosque from the late 1880’s until his death in 1904.[ii] He was highly respected by his community, and noted for his promotion of the practice of Khalifa, a religious ceremony accompanied by the beat of tambourines and the chanting of prayers.[iii] Imam Karriem is buried in the Malay Burial Ground in Runciman Drive, Simon’s Town, which was granted to the Muslim community of Simon’s Town by the British colonial officer Christopher Bird on 19 September in 1823. This grant was given in response to a petition by a group of Muslim people in Simon’s Town dated 1822; led by Abdolgaviel, an enslaved Muslim man who was also the imam of Simon’s Town at the time. During this period Muslim people worshipped in private homes.
Imam Saban: 1904 - 1928
Imam Mogamit Saleh Saban (1853 – 1928) lived in Hospital Lane and became the second Imam of the Noorul Islam Mosque in 1904. A family man, the Imam divided his time between his family, his community, his job at Albertyn’s Stables and his duties at the mosque. From the inception of his appointment as imam he kept a diary of everyday events which gives an illuminating insight of Simon’s Town in the period 1904 to 1928, when he died.
He was instrumental in forming the Helpmekaar Society and the Muslim Burial Society in Simon’s Town and he worked tirelessly to raise funds for the building of the Noorul Islam Mosque and later the Moslem School, which was situated next to the Mosque.
His first wife, Momentie, with whom he had numerous children, died in 1906 and a year later the Imam remarried a young lady by the name of Marriyam Dollie, who was originally from Bo-Kaap and with whom he had further children. In addition to this, the Imam also adopted a few children from needy families who were raised in his home.
Although the house that Imam Saban lived in has since been demolished, the fig tree that was part of his backyard still stands in the wide open courtyard where his house once stood, in Hospital Lane.[iv]
Imam Armien Baker - 1928 – 1965 “A man can be subjected to such disintegration that he will lose his spirit”
“My father, and his father and his father’s father were born and bred in Simon’s Town. You see, we have been there for 200 years. “I will lose my birthright – my ancestors were the first people to settle in the area. If I move to Bonteheuwel I will become nothing, merely a number. They have no hospitals, no police station, no church, no school. A man can be subjected to such disintegration that he will lose his spirit”. [v] (Imam Baker addressing the Group Areas Board in 1959).
Born in 1910, Imam Baker was the firstborn child of Imam Achmad and Fatima Baker. His father, Achmad, was one of the many fishermen who resided on the slopes of the mountain in this quaint little town.
Being the eldest of 12 children, Armien learnt to share with and care for others from a young age and to this end he became a dynamic leader and carer within his community. After obtaining his teacher’s Diploma at Zonnebloem College in District Six, he became the principal of the Simon’s Town Muslim Mission School at the age of 20!
Highly valued by his Community whom he served as Imam, of the Noorul Islam Mosque- in Simon’s Town, the most notable of Imam Baker’s achievements was to translate the Koran into Afrikaans from Arabic. This endeavour took him 5 years to achieve, having started in 1956 and completing this task in 1961, when the first Edition was Published. At the time he was living in Devon Street, Simon’s Town with his first wife, Tayba Appleby with whom he had 8 children, two sons and 6 daughters. On her death he remarried a lady by the name of Jane Solomon with whom he had a further two children, a son and a daughter.
In 1965 Imam Baker retired from teaching and he and his second wife went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. On his return from Mecca he took up employment as an attorney’s clerk and was later employed as a welfare clerk by what was then known as the old ‘Department of Coloured Affairs’ in Wynberg, where he had relocated after the implementation of the Group Area Acts in Simon’s Town. Once Imam Baker had re-settled in Wynberg, he served as Imam at the Park Road Mosque in Wynberg.
Imam Baker lived to the age of 72, when he died at his home in Essex Road, Wynberg, however, visitors will easily find his first home in Devon Street, Simon’s Town, as it bears a plaque outside with the name of Imam Baker, informing visitors that it was in this house that Imam Baker translated the Koran into Afrikaans.[vi]
 Cape Archives, CTD 20, Simon’s Town Quitrent leases 1814 – 1825, p. 47, 1823. ↵
[i] All Information for this section was derived from the unpublished diary of Imam Saleh Saban 1851 – 1928, courtesy the Heritage Museum in Simon’s Town. ↵
[ii] See Mansoor Jaffer (Ed.) Guide to the Kramats of the Western Cape Tuan (Cape Town: Cape Mazaar Society, 1996). ↵
[iii] Ibid, p. 41. ↵
[iv] Information for this section is derived from the unpublished diary of Imam Saleh Saban 1851 – 1928. ↵
[v] The Cape Times, 21.01.1965, quoting Imam Baker in his address to the Group Areas Board Committee. ↵
[vi] Information Courtesy the Heritage Museum in Simon’s Town. ↵