The book, Muslim Traders in Natal - the First 100 Years by the Interim Director of UKZN’s Centre for Islamic Studies, Emeritus Professor Suleman Dangor, was recently launched at a special function organized by the Minara Chamber of Commerce.

The book focuses on the traders who established their own businesses or inherited family businesses and maintained, extended or transformed them (1860 – 1960). It celebrates their achievements and contributions to the wider Natal community and the South African nation. More than 400 guests attended the event.

Former political activist, Robben Island Prisoner and ANC MP, Ahmed Kathrada, pointed out in his address at the launch that no country could rely solely on its government to alleviate and improve the lives and social conditions of the less fortunate in society. It was therefore incumbent on religious bodies and civil society organizations - such as Minara - to make substantial and meaningful contributions to ensure a better life for all.

The Minara Chamber of Commerce commissioned Muslim Traders in Natal in 2010 as part of the 150 years celebration of the arrival in South Africa of Indentured labourers from India. The book aims to document the history of Muslim business families and their contributions to the history of KwaZulu-Natal. These families, apart from their business priorities, also contributed substantially to the community through their philanthropy and good ethical practice, making a difference in spheres such as education, healthcare, infrastructure development, poverty alleviation and religious institutions.

The first in a planned series of publications on Muslim pioneers in South Africa, the book concentrates on Muslim pioneers in business who began arriving in South Africa as “passenger Indians” in 1860. The traders originated primarily from the Gujarat region in India. Some first traded in Mauritius before relocating to Natal where they were soon the envy of British traders and often victims of first colonial and later apartheid laws aimed at limiting and restricting their rights to commerce and trade. The book contains a comprehensive list of traders and traces individuals and families with the same surname, dates and places of birth and actual years of arrival in South Africa.

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