The Hamidia Masjid stands serene amid the hustle and bustle of Newtown Photo BacktoSouthAfrica
Newtown – On 9 Jennings street stands a masjid that has such rich history it would be a crime to forget it. The Hamidia Masjid in Newtown is not only a place to perform salaah, but it was used to stage a demonstration against the discriminatory legislation known as the Asiatic Laws.
On 16 August 1908, Mahatma Gandhi addressed a gathering which saw passive resistors burning their passports. It was an act that saw people come together regardless of religion to stand up against the discriminatory laws placed on them. The original completion of the mosque is unknown, with historians putting it between 1907 to 1908. What is known is the name and that was made clear by Maulana Ebrahim Bham.
“One of the things that happened in the late 1800s was that Sultan Abdul Hamid was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, became very popular with Muslims. Because he spoke the language of Muslims when he spoke of the oppression and what was happening in Palestine. At this time, he sent a representative of the Ottoman Empire to Africa.”
The trustees at the time were fond of the Sultan so much so they wrote a letter to him which can be viewed in the foyer of the Turkish Embassy. The letter explains they kept the name Hamidia in reference to him, explained Maulana Bham.
Hamidia masjid – centre for Islamic activity
The masjid has been a centre for Islamic activity since its inception with many great Ulama visiting the mosque. Prominent people also used to stay around the mosque during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Maulana Bham explained that since Newtown is made up of flats, it was perfect for Muslim professionals to start their lives. Eventually they all migrated to the suburbs. The flats now house many foreign migrants which has changed the demographic of the mosque.
“The audience who we have is slightly different. Although I must say that there’s still quite a bit of the original locals that come because many of them have shops in the Oriental Plaza … You have a good split of maybe 50/50 or maybe 60/40 in favour of the local original inhabitants.”
Over the years the masjid has been significantly modified in different ways. The minaret and copper dome that we see now was added back in the 1950’s. According to Artefacts, additional work was done on the building by Margoles, Dukes, and Smith in 1958.
It is a masjid that deservedly is called historic and has served, not only the Muslim community, but the community at large. Hamidia masjid will always be remembered in history as the place the Newtown community came together in solidarity. To stand against the discriminatory laws of Apartheid. Listen to the Know Your Mosque series on the Ashraf Garda Show.