Circle of Kramats

the Kramat of Sheik Yusuf Image source

The circle of Kramats in Cape Town is a shrine to Muslim holy men buried in Cape Town. Legend goes that it is this circle that protects Cape Town from earthquakes and National disasters.

Kramats or Mazaars, the holy shrines of Islam, mark the graves of Holy Men of the Muslim faith who have died at the Cape. There are more than 20 recognized kramats in the Peninsula area, with at least another three in the outlying districts of Faure, Caledon, Rawsonville and Bains Kloof. 
 
The history of the Mazaars starts with the Dutch invasion of places such as India, Ceylon and Java. Local communities resisted the tyranny but their leaders were banished to the Cape. Citizens of Malay, Indian, Javanese, Bengalese and Arabian origins were also sold into slavery during this time, and these slaves and sultans started the first Muslim communities in the Cape. It was only during the British occupation that the first Mosque was permitted.
 
The graves of Sheikh Abdurahman Matebe Shah, at the gateway to Klein Constantia and Sayed Mahmud, in Constantia, are probably the oldest known sites of deceased Auliyah, ('known as,'Friends of Allah'), both having arrived at the Cape in 1667.
Sheikh Abdurahman was the last of the Malaccan Sultans, whose ancestors established the first Malaysian Empire. Sheikh Yusuf, buried at Faure, is probably the most famous Auliyah at the Cape. Of noble birth, he lived in exile due to the Dutch occupation of his hometown Macassar, where he had spearheaded resistance. He was eventually persuaded to surrender. On a broken promise the Dutch transferred him to the Cape in 1693 and accommodated him on the farm "Zandvliet" on the Cape Flats. He provided refuge for fugitive slaves, and it was through his teachings that the first true Muslim community developed in the Cape as early as the late 1690's. 
 
The kramat situated on Lion's Head mountain is probably the easiest kramat to visit whilst on a visit to the "Lion's rump" area view point, it lies just above the road about half way, where the jeep track is visible. Visitors must pay respect when visiting these sites, remove your shoes when entering, no leaning or sitting on the graves and no loud voices, please!
 
Tuan Guru, whose Kramat is in the Muslim cemetery in the Bo Kaap, was a Prince from the Trinate Islands. His "crime" is not known but he arrived in the Cape in 1780 as a State prisoner. After 12 years imprisonment, Tuan Guru became active in the Muslim community around Dorp Street and was instrumental in the first madrasah (Muslim School) to be built in 1793, and in 1795, the first Mosque. Another Auliyah who served a 12-year sentence was Tuan Sayed Alawie who originated from Yemen. After his release he became a policeman, to have contact with slaves and spread the word of Islam. He died in 1803 and was also buried in the Bo Kaap.
 
The positioning of the kramats is said to fulfil a 250-year-old prophecy that a "circle of Islam" will be formed around Cape Town. This circle starts at Signal Hill with four separate kramats, continues to the site at Oude Kraal, then Constantia, and further to the famous kramat of Sheikh Yusuf at Faure (Macassar). The old tomb on Robben Island completes the circle.
 
Etiquette on visiting a Kramat: Please maintain utmost respect when visiting the tombs of Auliyah. Shoes should be removed. Do not sit or lean on, or put your feet on the grave, and please avoid loud conversation. Sit or stand respectfully facing the grave and have no intention other than to derive spiritual benefit from the shrine.
To find local speciality Halaal food while you are in Cape Town on holiday, or to visit the Kramats with a local specialist tour guide, please contact: Tana Baru Tours & the Noon Gun Tea Room
 
* KRAMAT OF SAYED ABDURAHMAN MOTURA- CO-ORDINATES:-33.798,18.371
Robben Island first gained notoriety as a prison for eastern political exiles, sultans, spiritualists, convicts and slaves. It is a reminder of the injustices and the ill-treatment afforded these prisoners that a Kramat is to be found on the island. The eastern political exiles and convicts are truly the pioneers of Islam in this country; and thus Robben Island becomes very much a part of history of the Muslims in South Africa.
The shrine on Robben Island, is a symbol of the struggle for the establishment of Islam.
It is an expression of Islam’s power, having survived all kinds of restrictions, prejudices, imprisonment and oppression in the land called ‘the fairest Cape on the circumference of the earth.’ Ironically, this shrine was constructed by the Apartheid Prison authorities in the 1960s.
Tuan Matarah also known as Sayed Abduraghman Motura was reputed to have been a very learned and religious man. He spread the message of Islam and consoled those experiencing difficulties. He was known for his wonder cures and the comfort be brought to is fellow prisoners when they were ill.
Tuan Matarah died on Robben Island. Upon his death, his grave soon became a respected shrine. Here those who knew him came to meditate and seek consolation for their suffering. Their example was followed by other prisoners who arrived after his death. On their release, they talked extensively about the holy man who lies buried on Robben Island
 
* KRAMAT OF SHEIK NOORAL MUBEEN - CO-ORDINATES:-33.98, 18.34
Sheikh Noorul Mubeen was banished to the Cape in 1716. He was incarcerated on Robben Island from where he escaped. There are several legends surrounding the details of his escape. It has been narrated that he escaped by walking across the Atlantic Ocean from Robben Island to the mainland. Another version of his escape is that he swam across from Robben Island where he was helped by fishermen to the spot in the mountain, where his kramat now lies. He taught the fishermen Islam and became their Imam.  It has also been related that he escaped by ‘unknown means’ and found this safe site to live. This was a good site helping him to keep watch over the area which included the peaks of the Twelve Apostles and Lion’s head. He began to teach the local slave Islam mostly at night. 

References:
• https:www.livingislam.co.za › Guides › Kramat

Last updated : 15-Mar-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 14-Jul-2011

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