Tuan Said Aloewie was the first official Imam of the Cape Muslim community. He arrived at the Cape in 1744 together with Hadjie Matarim. They were listed as “Mohammedaansche Priesters” on the Bandieten Rolle (Convicts Register) and banished to the Cape to be kept in chains for the rest of their lives. They were incarcerated on Robben Island where Hadjie Matarim died. There is a tomb for Hadjie Matarim erected on the island.
On the death of Hadjie Matarim and having served eleven years of imprisonment on the island, Tuan Said Aloewie was released. Said Aloewie was originally a citizen of Mocca in Yemen, the southern portion of the Arabian Peninsula. The Dutch had a trading post at Mocca and it is uncertain whether the Said was brought to the Cape directly from Mocca or if he was a missionary from Yemen to Indonesia and there in Indonesia fell foul of the Dutch East India Company’s laws.
On his release, Tuan Said Aloewie elected to stay on at the Cape. He had a burning desire to propagate Islam amongst the slave and free black population. This was indeed a dangerous consideration at the time because the Cape was still governed by the Statutes of India one of which stated that “within the town of Batavia, no other religion besides the reformed Protestant Church should be exercised and anyone violating such law, be it Christian, heathen or Moor (Muslim), shall forfeit all his property, be put in irons, be banished out of the country, be punished corporally or with death, according to the circumstances of the case”.
But the severity of the laws did not bother Said Aloewie one iota. He was determined to teach Islam. To facilitate his ambitions, he became a policeman. This strategic decision soon bore fruit when he was given the keys to the Slave Lodge and thus had easy access to the slaves.
It is related that the Said was endowed with miraculous powers and many legends are woven around his life. He was an unique individual, a God-fearing man, a real nation builder. The kind of man “who works while others sleep”.