Cape Town’s Legendary Holy Men

Signal Hill’s moral high ground

CAPE TOWN: The mother city is surrounded by a ‘holy circle’ of kramats – the shrines of great Muslim spiritual leaders. The kramat on Signal Hill is a place of peace, but also an important landmark in the history of the city, writes Alex Dodd
The kramat, a humble, square, white building with a green dome that sits quietly on the crest of the hill as if it had always been there. Up to the left Lions Head was silhouetted against a dazzling sun and far beneath us lay an immensity of blue sea. At the door beneath the moon and crescent were the words: ‘The Dargan is for praying and glorifying Allah the almighty.’
Kramats, are the holy shrines of Islam, mark the graves of great Muslim spiritual leaders who died in the Cape. There are more than 20 kramats in the Peninsula area, with at least another three in the outlying districts of Faure, Caledon, Rawsonville and Bain’s Kloof.
Cape Town is surrounded by a ‘holy circle’ of kramats stretching from Robben Island to the kramat of Sheikh Yusuf in Faure and offering divine protection to the city, the fulfilment of a 250-year-old prophecy. Sheikh Yusuf’s shrine at Faure is the ‘St Peters of kramats’.

Kramats (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 outling districts of Faure, Caledon, Rawsonville and Bain’s Kloof.
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 (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.
Tuan Guru, whose Kramat is in the Muslim cemetery in the Bo Kaap, was a Prince from the Ternate lslands. 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. Alter 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 lsland 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. For further information contact: The Cape Mazaar (Kramat) Society.
There are more than 23 known significant sites of burial across the Western Cape, ranging as far as Worcester; Wellington, Overberg & Faure. The index to Mazaars situated around Table Mountain & on the Cape Mountain Meander map: Not listed in order of significance but follows the route described in the book “Guide to the Kramats of the Western Cape”

robben island moturu kramat


A. Robben Island: Tuan Matarah
(Sayed Abdurahman Motura)
B. Simons Town: Sayyid Musa
(Sheikh Suleiman / Abdul Samad)
C. Muizenberg: Sayed Abdul Aziz
D. Klein Constantia: Sheikh Abdurahman Matebe Shah
E. Constantia (Summit Rd): Sayed Mahmud
F. Constantia Forest: Sheikh Abdul Mutalib
G. Oudekraal: Sheikh Noorul Mubeen
H. Bakoven: Sayed Jaffer
I. Camps Bay: Sheik Ali (Sayed Bassier)
J. Signal Hill (Ridge): Sheikh Mohamed Hassen
Ghaibie Shah
K. Signal Hill (Army Camp): Tuan Kaape-ti-low
L. Bo-Kaap (Tana Baru): Tuan Guru
M. Bo-Kaap (Tana Baru): Tuan Sayeed Alawie
N. Bo-Kaap (Tana Baru): Tuan Nuruman
O. Vredehoek: Sayed Abdul Matik
P. Deer Park: Sayed Abdul Haq
Q. Mowbray (Cemetery): Sayed Moegsien Alawie
& Sheikh Abdurahman ibn Muhammad al Iraqi
R. De Waal Drive: Sheikh Abdul Kader (Biesmillah Shah Bawa)

The mountain ridges around Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain are filled with mystery. Spiritualists of all religions agree that there are powerful spiritual centres situated on and around the ridges of these mountains. Many stories about the spiritual power emanating fron the Table Mountain ridges are being told. These stories add to the mystery of the mountain whose majestic presence enhances the beauty of the mother city.
On Devil’s Peak, just above De Waal Drive, many graves are found. Two of these graves are covered with satin cloths normally used to cover the graves of saintly persons. Neither the names of the saints nor the spiritual brotherhood to which they belong to is known.

One of these graves, which is marked with an oblong iron frame decorated with stars and crescents can easily be seen from Walmer Estate. The name of the saint is not known, but a legend about him circulates in the community. This legend relates that a certain Junaid Mazier reported that he was curous about a man who, on Friday’s after the midday prayer, would walk towards the slopes. Wanting to know where the man was going, he decided to follow him. On reaching the mountainside, he saw the man walking towards his grave, enter the grave and disappear.
These graves according to several Muslim spiritualist are not the only graves of auliyah buried on Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain. The oral tradition also claims that there are several graves of auliyah buried on these slopes which has as yet not been identified. One such grave is that of a mysterious auliyah, Sheikh Abdul Kader. The location of his grave was only known by a few selected confidants of the Sheikh. They were told to keep the location a secret. Those who related this legend also speculated that Sheikh Abdul Kader is the divine guide referred to in African folklore.