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 outlying districts of Faure, Caledon, Rawsonville and Bain’s Kloof. Click here for a complete list.
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 (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 (Faure is not on this map). 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. He provided refuge for fugitive slaves, and it was through his teachings that the first true Muslim community developed.
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. For further information contact: The Cape Mazaar (Kramat) Society