On Saturday, June 16th, also Youth Day in South Africa, the Claremont Main Road Mosque Saturday Morning Madrasa traveled about 40 km from Wynberg to the Faure kramat, in Macassar. We were blessed with beautiful weather and good conditions.
Approximately 350 pupils and teachers spent the day at this historic settlement, learning about its history and meaning. Mr. Ebrahim Rhoda, a local historian of the region delivered a very informative talk to the pupils at the Macassar mosque. After Mr Rhoda’s lecture we recited the Raatibul Haddad and performed Thu’hr salaah. This concluded the Macassar program.
The word kramat comes from the Arabic word ka-ra-ma, which means “dignity” and also means “miracle.” A kramat is therefore a place for paying respect and dignified tribute to significant spiritual figures of Islam. Such places can be found throughout the Muslim world. They have different names in different places. It is our custom to use the term “kramat” for the burial place or shrine of our revered ancestors of great spiritual achievement.
Many kramats fill up the landscape of the Cape Peninsula and honor slaves and exiles from the East who were brought here by the Dutch East India Company. Among those exiled to the Cape were scholars and saints admired and respected for their knowledge, very deep faith, and leadership of the Muslim communities.
When a person becomes the Beloved or Friend of Allah, otherwise known as a Wali, everything they do is through the power of Allah. They are people who spend their time in remembrance of Allah: in all forms of dhikr and salah. There are various markers of such Awliya Allah.
In popular culture it is widely believed that once they physically depart from this world, their distinction is upheld and their bodies do not decay or perish, but remain whole and unblemished. In some cultures, as a sign of recognition, the grave of the Wali-Allah is specially marked, such as with a tomb and special coverings, and thus distinguishes the grave from an ordinary one. Various practices have emerged in different parts of the world around the tombs of the saints of Islam.
It is spiritually beneficial and enriching to visit kramats and participate in acceptable practices of remembrance or dhikrullah at these sites
With more than 20 recognized kramats in the Peninsula, there are more than enough to visit. For this reason, the Claremont Main Road Mosque Madrasa took the initiative to visit the resting place of Sheikh Yusuf, better known as the Faure Kramat.
Who was Sheikh Yusuf? Abadin Tadia Tjoessoep, more commonly knownas Sheikh Yusuf, was born in 1626 on the Indonesian island of Makassar into a noble family. He was the maternal nephew of King Biset of Goa. At the age of 18, he embarked on Hajj to Mecca, spending several years learning under various scholars. Because of the conflict between the British and Dutch East India Companies, he was unable to return home. Instead he was welcomed in Java, by Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa. He was given the hand of the Sultan’s daughter in marriage and became his religious judge and personal advisor. For 16 years he stayed in Java until the Sultan’s son rose against his father, possibly on the wishes of the Dutch East India Company. After being defeated in battle by his son, Ageng was captured later that year, but the 57 year old Yusuf managed to escape.
In 1684 Sheikh Yusuf was persuaded to surrender on the guarantee of pardon, but instead of being set free, was imprisoned. He was then transferred from his arrest at Batavia castle to Ceylon on the basis of his rumored attempt at escape.
On the 27th of June 1693, at the age of 67, he was exiled to the Cape of Good Hope on the ship Voetboeg. Arriving in the Cape on the 2nd April 1694, Simon Van Der Stel received Sheikh Yusuf and 49 other prisoners. They were sent to the Zandvliet farm outside Cape Town, in an effort to reduce the influence of the Sheikh on the Dutch East India Company’s slaves. The plan proved futile. The settlement became a safe haven for slaves and it was here that the first organized Islamic community in South Africa was formed. From here the Islamic faith spread to the slaves of Cape Town and throughout other parts of the colony.
The Zandvliet farm vicinity was renamed Macassar as a mark of respect to Shiekh Yusuf’s place of birth, and he was buried on the hills of Faure overlooking the area. A shrine was erected over his burial site, now known as the Faure Kramat.
Visiting this historic site is a part of the tradition of Muslims of Cape Town. It is a place for commemoration and for relaxation. The madrasa went there as part of its curriculum to educate pupils about local Muslim history and the deeper spiritual dimension of Islam.
This trip was not only educational but also spiritually uplifting.
It taught us about the remembrance of, and nearness to Allah. In two well-known extracts from The Quran Allah says:
“Fath kurooni ath kurr kum” (2: 152)
- Remember Me and I will remember you
“Wa la thikrul laa hie akbarrr” (29:45)
- And the remembrance of Allah is greatest
And in a Hadith Qudsi Allah says:
“I am as my servant thinks I am, I am with him when he makes mention of me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it”
and the hadith concludes:
“and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” (Hadith 15 in Forty Hadith Qudsi, 1997)
On this night of Mi’raaj, we should use this opportunity to remind ourselves that closeness to Allah is not limited to Awliyah. Indeed, Allah wants this from us and makes it easy to achieve. We should all strive to engage in the remembrance of Allah. We all have an intrinsic and fundamental opportunity to be near Allah. The great early figures of Islam at the Cape can be models for us in this respect.
Wikipedia entry of Sheikh Yusuf accessed June 14 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh_Yusuf
The Roving Ambassador of Peace – Yasien Mohamed (IQRA Publishers, 2006)