The Karamats of Cape Town
In the Spring of 2008 I had the pleasure to travel to Cape Town, South Africa in the company of a Cape Town native, Shaikh Nusrah Cassiem, Saleem McGroarty from Edinburgh, Scotland and Firas Al-Khaffaf from London England.
The four of us had set out from Johannesburg a few days after the conclusion of the ASK Conference to engage in a spiritual journey that had been prescribed and organized by Shaykh Cassiem as an added bonus to the three day conference held at The Rasooli Center whose theme had been: Life, Death and the Hereafter in World Religions and Culture.
After having been immersed in such a heady and thought provoking gathering, this trip to Cape Town would prove to be in many ways an unexpected addendum to all that was discussed earlier at the conference. In addition many of us who have been attending the lectures of Shaykh Fadhlallah Haeri over the years have heard him say on numerous occasions:“Africa is the Land of Wali’s.” Each one of us was to find out firsthand what the Shaykh had continually alluded to in his talks.
We four travelers were to be the recipients of spiritual blessings (Barakat) that came about through the rigors of Ziyarrat and the spiritual hospitality extended to us from the four entombed friends of Allah whose graves we visited.
I must admit that after this journey I can say with absolute conviction that anyone looking for spiritual healing needs to consider a visit to Cape Town. It has been proven to this most unworthy student that there is no place that is devoid of Allah’s Mercy and the truth of the old saying: ‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear.’
Cape Town is a city that lies at the very southern tip of Africa and has in its midst what might be considered one of the worlds best kept secret: The Karamats. And one might be inclined to ask: “What are the Karamats?” And I would be forced to answer in no uncertain terms that the Karamats are to Cape Town what The Blue Mosque is to Istanbul or the Taj Mahal is to Agra – they are in no uncertain terms spiritual Oases.
Many are hidden away in the lush pockets of Cape Town’s unique mountainous forestry. A few of the Karamats are to be found in hard to reach remote areas of the Cape where several hundred years ago the Muslim warriors both men and women defended their faith and their freedom from the invading Europeans.
You will find at each Karamat a tomb or a grave, which contains the body of a Muslim Saint. These saintly beings are called ‘Wali Allah’, meaning ‘Intimate Friend of God’ –many of these men led their congregations of runaway slaves which were made up of a variety of ethnic groups brought to South Africa from all points of the globe to serve the ambitions of the invading Europeans: Malaya, China, India, also indigenous Blacks brought away from other parts of Africa.
One Karamat can be found on the infamous Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was kept prisoner for many years and they will also be found nestled in lush pockets of rain forest alongside the numerous slopes that fringe the Cape. Unique fringes that form a wall of towering summits over which flow the billowing clouds that stream up from the oceans below and flood the amphitheatre-like crater of the deep valley that is Cape Town. These clouds are reverentially called “The Cape Doctor” – a magnificent natural prognostic gauge by which the town people can ‘tell’ the weather.
The Cape Karamats are unique and are reflective in many ways the people of the Cape; they have their own flavor and their own singular mysterious aura that you can feel resonating from a vast tonal base, deep within the earth.
Some are to be found high in the air at the base of the towering hills and require a strenuous hike through thick underbrush and an awesome, surreal windswept terrain. Winding trails leading into secret places in the hills those not so long ago accommodated makeshift villages that harbored the brave Muslim warriors whose lives were always in danger.
Many of the graves are just spots on these paths that are marked by painted rocks, or small piles of multi colored stones lovingly erected by the custodians of these places.
The names of the four Karamats we visited are:
Seyyid Mahmud, Shaykh Nural Mubeen, Shaykh Jafar and Associates and the last a visit to the Karamat of Shaykh Yusuf of Macassar was to become the ultimate conclusion to our spiritual journey. The majestic tomb of Shaykh Yusuf sits atop a hill overlooking a sandy expanse of land now known as Macassar. Shaykh Yusuf’s spirit unquestionably presides here. The visitor cannot escape the peaceful healing energy that abounds in this sacred place.
An additional bit of information that enhanced the visit was to learn that the place described in Surah Rahman (‘Where the two seas meet, and one does not encroach upon the other.’) is reputed to lie not far from Shaykh Yusuf of Macassar. Just beyond the hills.
It is important to remember that the Karamats provide a simple but powerful message to all: ‘That Faith in God can provide the necessary strength to overcome all obstacles.’ The people of the Cape have survived and persist because of the leadership that these noble Wali’s of Allah provided in the past and still provide generously each and every passing day.
May Allah grant all of the inhabitants of the Karamats eternal peace – and may their light continue to be a beacon of hope. There are twenty or more Karamats left to visit on the Cape, may Allah make that a possibility for all spiritual wayfarers. Ameen!
Ziyarat Guide and Spiritual Instructor:
Shaikh Nusrah Cassiem (May Allah protect his secret and grant him long life)
Saleem McGroarty and Firas Al-Khaffaf
For more about Karamats – Google:
1.) Cape Mazaar Society.
2.) What is a Karamat?
3.) Shaikh Yusuf of Macassar