Sheikh Yusuf, regarded as the founder of the Islamic faith in the Cape, dies at Zandvliet (Macassar)

Sheikh Yusuf's tomb in Macassar Image source

Saturday, 23 May 1699

In the late 1600s many Muslim men of wealth and influence were banished to the Cape from their homeland in the East because the Dutch feared them as a threat to their political and economic hegemony. The first political exiles or Orang Cayen were the rulers of Sumatra. Shaykh Yusuf of Macassar is the best known of the Orang Cayen.

Shaykh Yusuf ['Abidin Tadia Tjoessoep] was born in 1626 of noble birth in Goa in the East Indies. He fought alongside and supported Sultan Ajung of Bantam, Goa, in his war against the Dutch. Twice Sheikh Yusuf escaped from Dutch custody in the East, but was finally persuaded in 1694 to surrender on the promise of a pardon. The Dutch did not fulfill their promise and Sheikh Yusuf was banished, along with his family and followers, to the Castle in Batavia from where he was transferred, under armed guard, to the Castle in Colombo, Ceylon [now Sri Lanka]. Fearing Sheikh Yusuf's influence in Ceylon the Dutch exiled him to the Cape of Good Hope ten years after his initial surrender.

The Sheikh arrived on board `De Voetboog' on April 02, 1694 along with his entourage of 49 which included his two wives [Carecontoe and Carepane], two slave girls [Mu'minah and Na'imah], 12 children, 12 imams [religious leaders] and several friends with their families. He was royally welcomed by Governor Simon van der Stel at the Cape. They were moved to a farm in Zandvleit, near the mouth of the Eerste River in the Cape, on June 14, 1694. The Company's attempt to isolate Sheikh Yusuf at Zandvleit did not succeed. On the contrary, Zandvleit turned out to be the rallying point for `fugitive' slaves and other exiles from the East. It was here that the first cohesive Muslim community in South Africa was established. Since many of the Sheikh's followers hailed from Macassar, the district around Zandvleit is still known today as Macassar.

Sheikh Yusuf is regarded, by many, as the founder of the Islamic faith in the Cape. He died in Zandvliet on 23 May 1699. His Kramat has been a place of pilgrimage ever since.

References:
• South African Government Information Sheikh Yusuf (1626 - 1699) [online] Available at: www.info.gov.za [Accessed on 23 May 2013]
• Islamic Focus Sheikh Yusuf Macasari [online] Available at: www.islamicfocus.co.za [Accessed on 23 May 2013]

Last updated : 23-May-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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