The Imām of Simonstown and his diary (1904-1928)

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis is a study of Imām Muḥammad Ṣāliḥ Saban and his Diary within the context of the Simonstown Muslim community that he served from 1904 until 1928. The thesis presents the Diary, transcribed, edited, and digitised, for the sake of understanding the Imām’s contribution. It examines the Diary as a reflection of one man’s witness, open to study from a number of perspectives. Firstly, it presents a background to the early Muslim presence in Simonstown and its links with the Cape slave community. It then constructs a biography of the Imām, mainly on the evidence culled from the Diary, but supplemented by secondary sources. It then turns to the Diary as the Imām’s testimony. The Diary is compared with those of other diarists, who mostly represented a European dominant-class viewpoint of Simonstown. The thesis argues that the Imām’s Diary provides another perspective on the town and its inhabitants. Finally, the study presents the Diary as an insider testimony of the Imām, his role and authority, in the Cape.

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