Cape Malays…

and their Heritage

Indian Muslims: Natal and Gandhi (1893 – 1900)

Posted by tahirfarrath on March 18, 2010

(History of Muslims in South Africa)

1893 – Arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

A litigation, involving £40 000.0.0d [forty thousand punds sterling], between the firms of Dada Abdulla and Company, merchants and shipping agents in Durban, and Tayob Hajee Khan Mahomed and Company of Pretoria, saw the arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi [d 1948] in Durban. Gandhi, who came from Gujrat and speaking Gujarati as well as Kutchi, “had been hired by the Porbundar branch of Dada Abdulla’s firm to assist their team of lawyers as an interpreter and adviser.

1894 – Founding of the Natal Indian Congress

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi , while in Durban, was aware of the existence of the Indian Committee Durban, and also of the total abhorrenceof the Indians by the White community. Seeing the discriminatory situation, Gandhi decided to form a strong political body to fight all forms of injustices of the South African Government. This body was named the Natal Indian Congress [NIC], the membership of which was dominated by well known and established Muslim businessmen: 85% were merchants and 12% were from white-collar occupations.

Some of the Presidents of the NIC were: Abdullah Hajee Dada [1894-1896], Abdullah Karim Haji Adam [1896-1898], Cassim Jeewa [1898-1899], Abdul Kadir [1899-1906], Dawd Mahomed [1906-1912], Abdullah Karim Haji Adam [second term, 1912-1913].

Among the secretaries of the Congress were: M K Gandhi [1894-1901]], Adamji Miakhan [1896-1897, during Gandhi’s temporary return to India], M H Nazar and R K Khan [joint secretaries, 1902-1905], Omar Jhaveri [1905-1907], M C Angalia and Dada Osman Uoint secretaries, 1913-?].

1895 – Shah Ghulam Muhammad Habibi or 1910 Soofie Saheb [Rahimahu Allah]

Shah Ghulam Muhammad Habibi [or Mahomed Ebrahim Soofie], popularly known as Soofie Saheb , was born in 1850 in Kalyan, a small town near Bombay, India. He was the son of Ibrahim Siddiq, a qadi – and imam of a masjid in Kalyan.

Ibrahim Siddiq died in 1872 when Shah Ghulam Muhammad was 22 years old. He succeeded his father as imam and teacher and continued to serve the community in Kalyan for the next 20 years.

In 1879 Soofie Saheb [aged 29] married Bibi Zainab Qadi [d 1950, Durban], of which union they were blessed with nine children: three daughters and six sons. In 1890 he [40] also married Hanifa Bibi [d 1966, Durban], who conceived one child: a son. Soofie Saheb brought both his wives and all his children to South Africa.

In 1892 he travelled to Arabia with his mother in order to perform Hajj. While visiting al-Madinah, his mystic tendencies began to manifest. On completing the Hajj, he returned to Kalyan but was not content in continuing his work in his hometown on account of his interest in tasawwuf [sufism].

He left for Baghdad where he visited the tomb of the great wali Allah , saint, Syed `Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (R.A. j. Here he met Shah Ghulam Mustafa Effendi , a prominent member of the Qadiri Order ,who accepted him as his murid [disciple]. It was hismurshid [mentor] who gave him the name Soofie . About six months later, the murshid advised hismurfd to go to Hyderabad, India, where he met theChishti Sufi , Habib `AG Shah , whose disciple he became and stayed at the khanqah (sufi quarters] for several months.

In 1895 Habib ‘Ali Shah instructed Soofie Saheb [aged 45] to set sail for South Africa. He arrived in Durban and found a temporary shelter at the Grey Street Masjid. Seeing the poor condition of the Muslims in the religious sphere and disgusted with their indifference to tasawwuf, Soofie Saheb returned to Hyderabad after staying in Durban for a few months.

In the Certificate of Identity issued by the Immigration Department of the Union of South Africa, Certificate Number 21953, Soofie Saheb’s signature in Urdu reads: Mahomed Ebrahim Soofie Saheb.

His murshid , Habib ‘Ali Shah, was disappointed on seeing Soofie Saheb in Hyderabad, and this time told him categorically to settle in Durban. Soofie Saheb returned to Durban with his brother-in-law, `Abd al-Latif , and his son `Abd al-`Aziz. They settled, on their arrival, at Riverside in Durban where they founded a small masjid and a khanqah.

In 1900 it became evident to Soofie Saheb [aged 50] that many Muslims wished to become hismurids ; thus he sought the permission of hismurshid for khilafat [spiritual successorship]. He left for India and on receiving the khilafat from hismurshid returned to Durban to continue his work. Soofie Saheb made one more trip to India in 1904 upon the death of Habib `Ali Shah and returned the following year.

Most of Soofie Saheb’s legal documents were drawn up by J P Calder and Calder, Conveyancers of Durban. Soofie Saheb maintained that the right of trusteeship of his institutions were to be retained by his descendants.

Soofie Saheb’s Saheb’s sons:

1  Shah Ebrahim Mahomed Soofie, died in 1955 in India; buried in Ajmer.

2  Shah `Abd al-`Aziz Soofie, died in 1947 in Durban; buried at Riverside.

3  Shah `Abd al-Qadir Soofie, died in 1940 in Pietermaritzburg; buried at Riverside.

4. Shah Goolam Hafiz Soofie [ Bhaijan ], died in 1953 in Durban; buried at Sherwood, Durban.

5. Shah Mahomed Habib Soofie[Bhaimid], died in 1969 in Durban; buried at Riverside.

6. Shah Goolam Fareed Soofie [son of second wife, Hanifa Bibi], died in 1974 in Durban; buried at Riverside.

7. Musa Mia, died in India, aged 4 or 5.

Soofie Saheb’s daughters:

1 Hajira Bee married to Hafiz Hoosen of Tongaat.

2 Habib Bee married to Ariff who came to Durban with Soofie Saheb on his second trip to this country.

3. Khawaja Bee married to Imam `Abdul Samad ibn Ahmad Qadi [former Imam of Grey Street Masjid ,Durban] died 1967.

All the daughters of Soofie Saheb are buried at the family graveyard in Riverside, Durban.

The following institutions were established by Soofie Saheb:

* The Habibiya Soofie Saheb complex [established 1896] consisting of amasjid, madrasah, khanqah and a cemetery at Riverside, Durban.

* A masjid, madrasah, cemetery and orphanage [established 1901] in Athlone, Cape Town.

* A masjid, madrasah and Imam’s quarters [established 1904] in Springfield, Durban.

* A masjid, madrasah, cemetery and Imam’s quarters [established 1904] in Westville, Durban.

* A masjid, madrasah and Imam’s quarters [established (905] in Glenearn Road, lwerport, Durban.

* A jama’at khdna and cemetry [established 1905] in Sherwood, Durban; now a masjid .

* A madrasah [established 1906] in Sea Cow Lake, Durban. A jama’at khana was added to this complex in 1950, and in 1968 it was rebuilt and transformed into a masjid proper with living quarters for the imam and also an orphanage.

* From 1907 to 1910 Soofie Saheb established masajid, madaris and Imam’s quarters in Tongaat, Pietermaritzburg, Colenso, Ladysmith, Verulam and Butha Buthe [Lesotho].

Soofie Saheb died in Durban in 1910 at the age of 60. He is buried at the darghah [tomb] in Riverside, Durban. His mother Rabiah who died in 1913 lies buried beside him. In 1978 the darghah and masjidwere declared a National Monument. The Soofie Saheb masjid-darghah complex began a total renovation [1985] which was completed in 1988, costing more than Rand 100 000. The well kept family graveyard is at the back of the mazar.


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