Sheikh Yusuf Kramat

There are more than 20 recognised kramats in the Cape Peninsula area. Photo courtesy Janine Lessing

For the Muslim population the Sheikh Yusuf Kramat in Faure is one of the most important spiritual shrines in the country.

The holy men of Islam, or Auliyah, were originally brought to the Cape Colony as prisoners from Malaya, India and Arabia by the Dutch settlers. Today, there is a large Muslim population in Cape Town and surrounding areas.

Many of the Auliyah brought to the Cape Colony were noblemen. When they died they were laid to rest in holy shrines of Islam known as kramats (or mazaars).

Today there are more than 20 recognised kramats in the Cape Peninsula area, with a few additional shrines in the outlying districts of Faure, Caledon, Bain’s Kloof and Rawsonville.

The kramat of Sheikh Yusuf of Macassar, said to be the father of Islam in South Africa, remains an important shrine for followers of the Muslim faith.

Sheikh Yusuf lived in exile due to the Dutch occupation of Macassar. It was here that he spearheaded his resistance movement. The Dutch colonialists transferred him to the farm Zandvliet in 1693, where he provided refuge for fugitive slaves.

The kramat of Sheikh Yusuf, which looks like a miniature mosque, is located on the summit of a vegetated sand dune above a small settlement in Faure.

Inside there is a bed of ornamented quilts, under which Sheikh Yusuf is interred (although there are differing opinions on this – some historical records note that his body was returned to the East Indies). There is also a plaque indicating that Sheik Yusuf, his 49 followers and his family were the first to read the Holy Qur’an in South Africa. It is said that through his first holy teachings the first true Muslim community developed in the Cape.

The kramat is open to all visitors and many Muslims undertake a mini-pilgrimage to the site to pay their respects. Visitors should dress modestly and remove their shoes before entering the shrine.

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