The Hymn of Muslim Slaves: Ratib al-Haddad in Cape Malay History

Our qari (Qur’an reciter) for the month of Ramadan is a young hafidh (one who has has memorised the Qur’an) from the heart of the Cape Malay tradition of South Africa.

At a special gathering at SeekersHub Toronto, Hafidh Abdullah Francis recited the Ratib al-Haddad, which is a collection of invocations and supplications from the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet, compiled by Imam Sayyid Abd Allah ibn Alawi al-Haddad (1634-1720), may Allah have mercy on him.

The Ratib al-Haddad is recited by hundreds of millions across the Muslim world but the Cape Malays of South Africa have an extraordinary history with it.

The Ratib came to this part of the world with the Muslim scholar, Shaykh Yusuf Makassar, exiled by the Dutch colonisers of 17th century Indonesia. Little did his slavemasters know that through him would spring forth the birth of Islam in this part of the world.

In this very special recording, you’ll hear the following:

  1. A brief history of how Islam flowered in the Cape, despite the colonial ban. Discussion between Dr Yusuf Patel of Cape Town and Abdul-Rehman Malik of SeekersHub Global.
  2. How the Ratib al-Haddad was guised by Muslim slaves with hymn-like melodies, making the litany so distinctive in this part of the world
  3. A brief snippet of the Ratib Al-Haddad as it is sung today in congregation at Masjid Auwal in Bo Kaap, Cape Town (from 7 min 22 seconds)
  4. A full recitation of an extended version of the Ratib al-Haddad in the Cape Malay style by Hafidh Abdullah Francis at SeekersHub Toronto (from 10 min 27 seconds)
Photo: The burial place of Shaykh Yusuf Makassar in Cape Town, South Africa