Learning the Way in The Barbadian East Indian Muslim Community

by Jackie Faine & Craig Burleigh - July 1976

July 7th, 2022 - My purpose for developing BarbadosIslandLife.com was to have a platform to present the many images and stories that I have in my files. I had begun scanning the images from the East Indian community story and we were finally able to find the notes and type written text that Jackie had done for these. I scanned and prepared the text for online presentation, but we still needed to put names to many of the faces. 

We were able to contact Suleiman Bulbulia and Sabir Nakhuda of the local Muslim community and they were excited to learn of our work as they have been researching and writing the history of the East Indian community in Barbados.

We wish to thank them for the work they have done in helping us – going forward, they will be connecting these photographs with the stories of the people in the images and we look forward to hearing of what some of the people have done in their community and the world at large.

To learn more about the East Indian community in Barbados please read –
Jama Masjid 70 years –
https://issuu.com/muslimheritagebb/docs/jama_masjid_70th_emagazine/2?ff&fs=e&s=cl

Bengal to Barbados: A 100 Year History Of East Indians in Barbados   by Sabir Nakhuda
https://www.amazon.com/Bengal-Barbados-Year-History-Indians-ebook/dp/B08JKRDY1B

Madina Masjid on Sobers Lane 1976 h3-07-23

Madina Masjid on Sobers Lane Built in 1957 1976 h3-07-23

Jama Masjid School Children - a Radiant Smile!
School children at Jumma Masjid 1976 h3-10-04

The original article from 1976 - 

There are two calls given when a Muslim child is born -

the first call, which is the ADHAAN, is said in the right ear loudly and calls the new servant of Allah to the worship of her creator. It is said also on behalf of the child's well being. 

The second call, the IQUAAMAH, is said in the left ear and gives submission to Allah. 

So begins the religious life of the Muslim.

A few days after birth, a male muslim child is circumcized. In Barbados surgeons are called upon to do this, but in India, barbers perform this rite. On the seventh day following the birth, a ceremony, AQIQUA, may be held. This is also the day when the child is named and hair and nails are cut.

School children leave the school at Jumma Masjid 1976 h3-08-24

School children leave the school at Jama Masjid 1976 h3-08-24

Maulana Saied Piprawala, Jama Masjid 1976 h3-03-28

Mr. Saied Piprawala, Jama Masjid 1976 h3-03-28

Mariam Piprawala and Grandkids 1976 h3-04-02

The Piprawala Family - Kensington New Rd

Rashida Piprawala and Children h3-04-15

Piprawala Household h3-04-15

Mariam Piprawala Roast a Breadfruit h3-04-09

Mariam Piprawala Roasting Breadfruit h3-04-09

Maulana Saied Piprawala at Jama Masjid, 1976 h3-04-05

Mr. Saied Piprawala at Jama Masjid, 1976 h3-04-05

Jama Masjid School Children - Brother Carries Sister h3-10-12

Jama Masjid School Children - h3-10-12

The more wealthy muslim family may invite friends and family to celebrate the joy of a new born. Food may be served, but pork and alcohol are not permitted. Tokens to the poor are of prime motive for such festivity and meat is shared and money is given. 

A goat or sheep is usually slaughtered and at least one third is given to the poor. The worth of the equivalent weight of silver to the cut hair is donated as a charitable gesture. The hair and the umbilical cord of the baby is buried, preferrably in the cemetry.

The Muslim child is not different to other children. She keeps toys and enrolls in normal school, but the religious mainstream is of continuing importance. Male or female, the child at the age of five years attends either one of the two Islamic schools. There is one at Sobers Lane and another at Kensington New Road. Just over one hundred children attend these schools, which are satellites of the two Mosques.

Muftis at Jumma Masjid 1976 h3-10-26

Teachers Hafiz Yousuf Samrodia and Hafiz Ibrahim Bhamjee at Jama Masjid 1976 h3-10-26

The classes are of a doctrinal nature and are conducted from four to seven o'clock in the evenings during school terms, and from nine to twelve o'clock in the mornings during vacations. These sessions do not offer a variety of subjects. The hours allow the Muslim child to receive a regular education, mathematics being of particular fancy to most East Indians.

Islamic teachers, called Molvis, are familiar with the Quranic text and recitation and have the responsibility of educating the children. On the island there are four Molvis. They are of great importance to the Muslim way of life. Molvi is the title given when Muslim men attend higher religious schools and are successful in acheiving detailed knowledge of the Muslim religion after a duration of about nine years. 

Jumma Masjid on Kensington New Road 1976 h3-12-19

Jama Masjid on Kensington New Road h3-12-19

Mohammed Degia discusses Muslim teachings at Sobers Lane h3-07-12
Mohammed Degia at the Madina Masjid h3-07-21
Mohammed Dagia explains a point about Muslim life 1976 h3-07-06

Mohammed Degia explains a point about Muslim life 1976 h3-07-06

The more advanced teacher in knowledge and practice is addressed Maulana, meaning " our Teacher ". Two of the four Molvis here are Maulanas.

"........ And it is Thy Lord the Most Bountiful Who teacheth by the pen Teacheth man that which he knew not."

The learning of the recitation of the Holy Quran by heart in arabic is of high value to devoted servants of Allah. The learning of the alphabet and words and constant recitation help the children to attain this praise worthy result. 

Arabic is not learnt as a language, but the rolling sounds of the language become the rythmic recitation of the Quran. As many children become adults they strive to recite the Holy Quran by heart, and so become what is known as HAFIZ. In Barbados eleven people, one of which has been taught here, can recite the Quran by heart.

Children learn to pray together. The ADHAAN and IQUAAMAH are the first and second calls respectively, and their translations are taught at an early age. When the children are seven years of age the parents encourage them to pray, " The service of worship is better than sleep."


The muazzin recites the Adhan calling worshippers to Jumma Masjid 1976 h3-11-37

The Muazzin recites the Adhan calling worshippers to Madina Masjid 1976 h3-11-37

The muazzin recites the Adhan at Jumma Masjid 1976 h3-11-40

The Muazzin recites the Adhan at Madina Masjid 1976 h3-11-40

The muazzin of Jumma Masjid 1976 h3-11-41

The Muazzin of Madina Masjid 1976 h3-11-41

Parents are expected to insist on the children going to prayers when they are ten years old. Praying consists of numerous body movements – the minimum daily exercise. Spiritual consciousness, faith and confidence in prayer are emphasized.

When the children become adults the men folk pray at the Mosque, and the women, at home. The Muslim prays five set times per day, the special day being Friday, AL JUMU' A, when a special sermon is given making the noon prayer longer.

Other than the arabic recitation and prayer the children learn GUJRATI, an every day Indian provincial language. Also learnt is URDU, the official language of Pakistan; URDU is a mixture of Persian and Arabic and is treated as the second language of Muslims of Pakistan and India.

Madina Masjid July 1976 h3-07-25

Madina Masjid July 1976 h3-07-25

The child at puberty or mid teens is responsible for his own religious actions to Allah. Unlike most teenagers, the Muslim youth does not have an involved relationship with the opposite sex, but is allowed platonic relationships. The concentration is geared to a life time quest of peace, submission and obedience to the entire will of Allah.

Parents make a choice of partners and contact is allowed after marriage. This type of discipline does not disturb the Muslim youth as it is part of their piety to Allah; parents are respected as the more wiser because of their own experiences.

The young Muslim girl busies herself with general house work. She is taught by women within her family to sew and cook. Sometimes further instruction in sewing is given by a community dressmaker. This way the Muslim woman is able to make clothes for herself and her family in the future. Most young men become involved in businesses, social work and furthering their religious knowledge. Both men and women are noted to be hard workers.

Mohammed Dagia at Madina Masjid 1976 h3-07-14

Mohammed Degia at Madina Masjid 1976 h3-07-14

The young adult is not likely to frequent entertainment spots and discotecs as music, the high light of such places, has restrictions. Drums, wind and string instruments are associated with brothel-like behaviour and are forbidden.The danger in music is that it evokes extreme reaction, it can strengthen " the sweetness in mangoes, the bitterness in aloes ".

One instrument, the DUFF is allowed. In days of old the people of Medina welcomed Mohammed on his arrival from Mecca with duffs and chanting voices. Music is in nature and a realization of natural beauty is lawful, " Music stems from the same footing as poetry and, "Song lives in nature".

Wudhu is the ritual washing performed by Muslims before prayer

The Islamic Center at 49 Tudor St was established at the beginning of this year – 1396 by Islamic lunar calendar – with the financial aid of the more affording members of the Muslim community. A group, of which the majority are young adults, was able to reform what was a furniture factory into a meeting place.

All is not learning here, and through group projects, table tennis, darts and other games have been provided. All people are welcome to form a part of the group and ages vary. There is no discrimination and the centre caters to non–Muslims as well.

A summary of the seven authentic books of the Prophet called the HADITH is used and spirits conversation on Muslim values and the laws of Isalm. Discussion is on Thursday nights and religious questions and problems are dealt with. On Wednesdays and Fridays, arabic is learnt.

According to the individual's progress and knowledge she is grouped as beginner, middle or regular. On Friday nights the training is more advanced. Some of those who teach on Wednesdays attend this Friday class which is conducted by a Molvi. Plenty of time is given to the learning and mastering of Arabic.

Table Tennis at the Islamic Center July 1976 h5-06-09

Recreation at the Islamic Center July 1976 h5-06-09

M. Degia leads the talk at the Islamic Center July 1976 h5-06-11

M. Degia leads the talk at the Islamic Center July 1976 h5-06-11

Darts at the Islamic Center July 1976 h5-06-06

Darts at the Islamic Center July 1976 h5-06-06

The Quran is accepted as an authentic doctrine because of it's young age and its high credibility in that it had a sole conveyor, Mohammed, the last in a long chain of prophets. Although Muslims are very similar to Christians, they find it difficult to accept the genuity of the Bible. Their point of view is that it has been passed down over a long period of time into changing hands and languages, whereas a direct copy of the original Quran remains preserved in Tashkend, Russia.

Since about 1927 Muslims have been coming to Barbados. A lot of them are from Surat district in India, which is "136 miles off Bombay side", seeking a place where they can make a better living. Most of them live in the Fontabelle area, namely Kensington New Road and Sobers Lane. Some keep small vegetable patches and livestock in this crowded city area. Being centralised, small businesses are carried on within the residential area, such as sales of tyres and tiles.

The Muslims are resourceful, but over indulgence is not a practice, and mediocrity and simplicity are considered worthy. The enviromental change from India is obvious and for a society so greatly tuned to a religious way of life they keep a close community. Although 90% of Muslims are involved in business and come into day to day contact with all types of people, they are very cautious about what they reveal. Nevertheless, these people find it easy to communicate the content of their religion, a very strong characteristic of all Muslims.

A member of Jumma Masjid 1976-h3-11-29

Daud Abdul Haqq an Early Convert to Islam at Madina Masjid 1976-h3-11-29

Recipies from Mrs. Rashida Piprawala of Kensington New Road

Birani
Ingredients : 2 lbs. rice, 2 lbs meat, 1/4 lb cooked peas, salt to taste, masala (seasoning)

1. Mix masala with meat – marinate for one hour.
2. Parboil the rice for 15 min, strain and wash
3. Layre rice, meat and peas in a heavy saucepan
Raw onion and saffron may be sprinkled on top
4. Cook on a very slow fire for 1 - 1.5 hrs with saucepan lid on.
5. Serve with crumbled hard boiled egg.

School girls from Jumma Masjid walk home along Kensington New Road h3-10-31
School children at Jumma Masjid 1976 h3-08-34
Jackie Faine talks with member of Jumma Masjid 1976 h3-11-42

Jackie Faine talks with Daud Abdul Haqq of Madina Masjid 1976 h3-11-42

Jackie Faine talks with Mr. Saied Piprawala at Jama Masjid 1976 h3-03-22

Roti: makes about 25

5lbs flour, 1 lb butter, 1 teasp. salt, 2 teasp. baking powder, cold water.

1.    Sift dry ingredients together and 'rub' butter into flour. Add enough water to make dough – leave to rise for 15 min.

2.    Roll 25 balls, leave to rise, roll flat, leave 15 mins.

3.    Spread butter on raw rotis and dust with flour. Fry on both sides in a heated pan

4.    Rotis may he served with a meal or used as a shell for curry stews.

  • Wonderful photographs! They have reawakened my memory of your ability to capture the emotion/essence of your subject. I found the whole project scintillating. Thanks for sharing with me.

    • Hey Suzanne – thanks for kind words – glad that they are bringing back the old feeling for Barbados – I must say I’m really happy to have these as I’m enjoying seeing them all again since so long ago – I don’t even think that these were ever published. Next up will be on Shipwrights building Bajan fishing boats!
      I wish I had been able to concentrate on more stories like this at the time, once the publishing outlet closed down we couldn’t continue as we would have liked. Hope you all are doing well.

  • Excellent work, Craig. This reveals interesting things about Barbados I never knew, in a vibrant fashion. Looking forward to more pictorial documentation of our history and culture.

    • Hi Ralph – so glad you’re finding things you didn’t know – when I think of how little in terms of time and energy it took to do the photos and story I just wish that we had done way more on all kinds of things about Barbados. I have one coming soon on Shipwrights of Shermans on fishing boat building.

  • Such wonderful photographs of persons of my (Muslim) community. There are some people who have passed on, and what they looked like was just a snippet in my memory. The photos of the spontaneous joy captured ( through your lens)in the faces of the children ( most of whom I know) is incredible. Something that seems to be missing in children of today. My brother is in one of the images and I immediately recognised him. Even what appears to be a random photo of a street evokes memories of days bygone Thank you so much again for the trip down memory lane.

    • Hello Mohammed – so glad that I’ve finally got these so that you and the community can see them – got to chat with Sabir this evening – he’s keeping busy recording the history of the community – glad that the pics are filling some holes in the memories! All the best.

  • Excellent work, Craig.
    My father’s business, Kings Engineering Works, was located at Kensington New Road.
    Many familiar faces and buildings are depicted in your photos.

  • Craig, thanks for publishing this article. I knew of the Indian diaspora in Trinidad and Guyana but not Barbados. It is fascinating that the Indian communities in these places are originally from opposite ends of India. The photographs are simply wonderful, capturing the joy of childhood!

    • Hi Sayan – glad to have these accessible – Sabir has wrtten three books about this history – I’m now reading Bengal to Barbados – seems most E. Indians in Barbados came from within 100mls around Mumbai – looking forward to finding out more of this story.
      I’ll have to scan my photos from Trinidad – Jackie and I were there for Carnival in 1977 and the head of the Indian Hindu community had died – we hitched a ride to the cremation on the Caroni river and I did a bunch of photos of that. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!

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