Shaykh Yūsuf al-Makassarī Naqshbandī Khalwatī qaddas-Allāhu sirrah ul-ʿazīz (1626-1699), also called Sheikh Yusuf of Macassar, is known to be the first person who established Islam in South Africa in the seventeenth century. He was originally from Indonesia and a follower of the Naqshbandī Sufi tarīqah among others. In this tarīqah, he was a murīd of Shaykh ʿAbd al-Bāqī Mizjājī Yamanī Ḥanafī Naqshbandī quddas-Allāhu sirrahū (d.1074 AH).
A portrait of Shaykh Yusuf al-Makassari
He was born in Makassar, Indonesia in 1626 in a royal family. He was also known as Abadin Tadia Tjoessoep. In 1644, he left for Hajj and lived in Makkah for some time, where he learned from the esteemed scholars of Ḥaramayn. In Yemen, he met his master Shaykh ʿAbd al-Bāqī Mizjājī and learned the Naqshbandī Sufi Path.
Among his teachers was Imām ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAlawī Ḥaddād of Yemen quddisa sirruhū, who has mentioned him in some of his writings. He was also authorized by Imām ʿAbdullāh in his Sufi path. He was also authorized in the Qādirī, Khalwatī and some other Sufi orders.
He was captured by the Dutch and exiled to the Cape of Good Hope in 1693, along with his family and close associates, where he started preaching Islam and many slaves converted to Islam and gathered around him.
Shaykh Yūsuf died at Zandvliet on 22 Dhu al-Qiʿdah 1109 AH, accordingly 23 May 1699, at the age of 73. Later, the area around Zandvliet was renamed Macassar in honor of Shaykh Yūsuf’s place of birth. A shrine was constructed over his grave soon after his death, which is still a place of visitation for the Muslims of South Africa.
It is not known whether he was authorized in the Naqshbandī order, or whether he taught the Naqshbandī tarīqah to others. He is however known to have learned this noble path in Yemen.
His karāmāt (miraculous powers) are well known in the Muslims of South Africa. When he was aboard the ship towards the Cape, the fresh water became depleted while the ship was still far away from land. When Shaykh Yūsuf heard about this, he put his foot in the sea water and asked the men to let down the casks in that spot. When they filled their casks, they were amazed to see that the water was fresh and good to drink.
Another karāmat of him is that, for some time, a serpent used to live in his shrine. It behaved well to the good people, but would hiss at those with bad hearts, so that they could not enter the shrine. Continue reading