Haron, Abdullah (1924–1969)

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HARON, ABDULLAH (1924–1969)

Abdullah Haron was an imam in Cape Town, South Africa, and a symbol of Muslim involvement in the antiapartheid struggle. Born in Cape Town in 1924 he lived all his life in that city and died there in 1969, a victim of apartheid's security police. He attended a Muslim school in the city and as a youth spent two years as a devotee of a shaykh in Mecca. On his return to South Africa he studied under respected local scholars. In 1955 he was appointed to the position of imam at a mosque in a Cape Town suburb. He was a keen sportsman and played rugby and cricket even after he became imam. He concentrated on social issues and established an organization devoted to making Islam meaningful to youth in South Africa. He was the first editor of Muslim News, an influential weekly among the country's Muslims.

As apartheid rule intensified the imam was among a small group of Muslims that explored ways to challenge the state from an Islamic basis. But Abdullah Haron also believed in a united front of the oppressed against racial domination. He grew close to members of the then proscribed Pan-African Congress. On his travels to the Middle East he met exiled South Africans and spoke out against apartheid to Arab audiences and leaders, including King Faysal of Saudi Arabia. In September 1969 he was reported dead in detention, the eighteenth political detainee to die in police custody in the 1960s. During the 1980s, in the last wave of rebellion and resistance to the apartheid state, his memory and image were revived as a symbol of Islam's stand against injustice. He became better known and more revered as a martyr than when he was alive.

See alsoAfrica, Islam in ; Modern Thought .


Desai, Barney, and Marney, Cardiff. The Killing of the Imam. London: Quartet Books, 1978.

Donaldson, Dwight M. The Shi˓ite Religion. New York: AMS Press, 1984.

Haron, Muhammed. "Imam ˓Abdullah Haron: Life, Ideas and Impact." Master's thesis, University of Cape Town, 1986.

Momen, Moojan. An Introduction to Shi˓i Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shi˓ism. Oxford, U.K.: George Ronald, 1985.

Shamil Jeppie