Early Muslims of Wellington

In Wellington, the Muslims community emerged through students at Victoria University in the early 1960’s. Written records exist in the form of Minutes of Meetings. The first such Meeting was held on 24 April 1964 in Porirua at the residence of one of the students. According to the Minutes this gathering was on the day of Eid-ul-Adha.

The students came on government scholarships from many countries. For example, Malaysia, Indonesia, Fiji, India, Ceylon, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. These students became the Muslim identity in Wellington. They organised gatherings and eventually played a vital role in the establishment of a Muslim Community in Wellington. However, they were students whose requirements were not the same as those who would ultimately be living here permanently.

Apart of the students, who were temporary residents of the city, there were also some permanent resident families. At that time, the early 1960’s, they were few and far between.

The now late Mr Muhammad Sharif of Fiji, but he and his family soon moved to Palmerston North.

The now late Mr Abbas Ali of Fiji arrived in New Zealand in 1962 and whilst he invariably attended Islamic functions which were later organised in Wellington, he lived and worked in Masterton, in the Wairarapa district. He moved to Wellington, briefly, at some later stage, but finally settled in Auckland.

There was only one individual permanent Muslim resident living in Wellington before 1966, i.e. the late Mr Mohammed Asfar, who was of Turkish descent and originally from Russia.

The first permanent Muslim family to arrive in Wellington were Mr and Mrs Salamat Khan and Family in 1966.

The next permanent Muslim Family to reside in Wellington was that of the now late Dr Majed Khan of Bangladesh, a Lecturer at Victoria University, who arrived in Wellington mid-1967.

Dr. Hashmi of Pakistan (also a Lecturer) arrived in Wellington sometime after 1967, but was in fact only temporary, as was the case with many other transient Muslims.

Dr. Khalid Sandhu of Pakistan arrived in Wellington around 1969. Drs. Khalid and Razia Sandhu and Family became permanent members of the Muslim community in Wellington.

Dr. and Mrs Khalid Rizvi of India also arrived around that time and have remained in General Medical Practice in the Northern suburbs.

The (now late) Mr Rais Rizvi and his Family have also been members of the original permanent Muslims here, also in the Northern suburbs.

Another Pakistani Family who arrived in Wellington during those early years were Mr and Mrs Rahim Ghowry and Family. After initially settling in Levin, where Mr Rahim Ghowrie took up a position as Maths teacher at a local School he and his Family moved to the Wellington District of Wainuiomata. They remained in this area until their emigration to Australia.

Around 1970/71 Mr and Mrs Bashir Zorgati and Family were permanently residing in Wellington. Mr Bashir Zorgati was originally from Tunisia and was in Wellington for more than twenty years.

Mr and Mrs Shaukat Ali and Family arrived from Fiji, after the departure of the (now late) Mr Abbas Ali from Masterton to Wellington around this very early period in the history of IMAN. Mr Shaukat Ali replaced Mr Abbas Ali as Halal slaughterman at the Meatworks in the Wairarapa District. After a few years in Masterton, Mr and Mrs Shaukat Ali and Family also moved to Wellington on a permanent basis.

The late Mr Shaikh Mohammed Habibullah of India arrived in Wellington in 1975. His sons and Mrs Habibullah gradually arrived sometime afterwards. The Family remained in Wellington for a total of approximately 20 years, before moving to Australia.

Initially there were three gatherings during the year; Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, and Maulood-un-Nabi (Prophet’s birthday). These gatherings gave an opportunity for the Muslims to get together and not only celebrate the festivals but also talk about other issues such as their problems and the future of the community.

The students used a hall in the basement of the Wellington Public Library for prayers. Other Meetings were held at people’s homes. However, later on the Meetings were almost always held at the university buildings. This was made possible with the arrival of the now late Dr. Majed Khan, who arranged for this. After his death in 1975 the congregation moved to the Weir House where some of the students lived. They used a small empty space in the basement until the university began to use that space for storage. This was where the first Jumu’ah prayers began. By this time the Malaysian and Indonesian Embassies were established, and the personnel from the Embassies would join the students for the Jumu’ah prayers. Once this space in Weir House was occupied by the university the Jumu’ah prayer moved to the Malaysian Embassy firstly, and briefly, in Oriental Parade and then on The Terrace. From this time on, the link between the Muslim movement and the university faded away. The only remaining link was when the community organised lectures at the university.

During the Eid-ul-Fitr prayer of 1964 an Association was set up. The number of people who attended this was 25. It was Mr Abbas Ali, who during his speech, emphasised the need for an Association to be set up. Three members were elected, the late Mr Abbas Ali, the late Mr Sulaiman Ali (the late Mr Abbas Ali’s son who was a student at the university and at whose place this Meeting was held), and the late Mr Muhammad Sharif. They named it Wellington Muslim Association.

The Association was set up for the primary purpose of organising and arranging religious gatherings, and “to help the Muslims” as the late Mr Abbas Ali put it. There were no other activities.

In the subsequent Meetings, emphasis was given on the need to strengthen the Association. It was revived during the Meeting of 23 January 1966, which was held at St. Thomas Church Hall in Newtown. It was felt that the Association could not perform its functions without a proper office. Therefore a Working Committee was appointed by the thirty people present at that particular Meeting. It appointed four Committee members, President, Secretary, Treasurer, and a Public Relations Officer. They were appointed to work until such time that the Association was established and registered.

Until now, people met only on the three occasions stated above. The first Meeting to be held outside of any such occasion was on 12 March 1966 at 84 Kelburn Parade. The main purpose of this Meeting was to discuss whether a constitution should be written and to organise the next Eid-ul-Adha prayer and to find out its date. For the first time, the Committee had advertised this in the local newspaper. Eid-ul-Adha was on 31 March 1966 and was held in the lecture hall of the Wellington Central Public Library. People from as far as Palmerston North came. In 1966 there were more Meetings than in any previous year and these gradually increased.

During a Meeting on 6 May 1966 a special Committee was elected to formulate the constitution of the Association. It consisted of Dr. Majed Khan (Chairperson), Mr Ibrahim Kelling, Dr. Hashmi, Mr S. Khan, and Miss Sharifa Zainab. In the same Meeting Mr Salamat Khan was appointed to investigate the possibilities of a permanent centre. A need for a religious teacher was also mentioned.