Karamats (Muslim Shrines) are burial sites of Saints of Islam. For many
generations, residents of Cape Town visit these Shrines and pay their respects.
In BoKaap there are three Karamats, and behind BoKaap on Signal Hill there are
two. We will give you a brief history of these Muslim Shrines and the role these
men played in the History of BoKaap’s Islamic foundation.
The "Tana Baru" (meaning New Ground) is a Muslim burial site in
BoKaap which was purchased by the Cape Imams in 1840. In 1886, however, the Tana Baru was closed in terms of the Public Health Act No.4 of 1883.
A burial site in Maitland was granted but the which upset the Cape Muslims
as it was quite a distance from BoKaap. They also maintained that the Tana Baru
was well maintained and was of no danger to public health.
The Moslem Cemetry Board fenced the Tana Baru in 1920 which indicates that the entire area including the private plots
were once regarded as a Muslim burial ground. It was also due to Tuan Guru that the land granted to Frans of Bengal on the Tana Baru as a burial site in 1805.
Three prominent early Cape Muslim Imams lie buried on the Tana Baru
grounds and shrines have been erected to honour them.
Karamats in BoKaap – Tana Baru
- Tuan Nuruman / Imam Norman
- Tuan Sayeed Alawse
- Tuan Guru / Imam Abdullah Kadi Abdus Salaam
1) Tuan Nuruman or Imam Norman. He was elected as Imam of his people while he resided in the Slave lodge.
While being housed in the slave lodge (today known as the Cultural History
Museum) he was considered an oracle for the good deeds that he performed. He was
the only known Wali that was a former slave. He had a light, which in today’s
terms can be described as an aura, which eminated when he prayed.
2) Tuan Sayed Alawie of Mocca in Yemen. He was known for his propogandisement among the slaves in the Slave Lodge. Tuan Sayed served a prison sentence of eleven years. After his release he settled on the mainland and was regarded as the first official Imam of the Cape Muslims.
3) Imam Abdullah Kadi Abdus Salaam also best known as Tuan Guru. He was a prince from Tidore in the Ternate Islands and was brought to the Cape in 1780. While imprisoned on Robben Island, Imam Abdullah wrote a book on Islamic Jurisprudence and several copies of the Holy Qur’an from memory. His handwritten works became the main reference work of the Cape Muslims in the nineteenth century and had a tremendous influence on Islam in the Cape. He established the first
organized school where the Quran was taught to slaves and free black children. Hence he was nicknamed “Tuan Guru” meaning “Mister Teacher”.
Karamats in Siganl Hill Road – Signal Hill
- Sheikh Mohammed Hassen Ghaibie Shah
- Tuan Kaape-ti-low
4) Sheikh Mohammed Hassen Ghaibie Shah is buried in the grave inside the newly erected tomb is Sheikh Mohammed Hassen Ghaibie Shah
Al Qadri. Sheikh Mohammed Hassen Ghaibie Shah , is one of the two better known Auliyah who lies buried on the Signal Hill Ridge. The other one is Kaape-ti-low. Both of them, according to oral tradition, were followers of Sheikh Yusuf of Macassar. These men were learned teachers of Islam. There are other graves as well. These are the graves of Tuan Nur Ghiri Bawa also known as Tuan Galieb,
Tuan Sayed Sulaiman and Tuan Sayed Osman.
5) Tuan Kaape-ti-low is buried further up the Signal Hill
Road.Though not visible from the road itself, lies the grave of Tuan Kaape-ti-low. It is situated at the far end of the Scout Camp, some distance away from the road. The shrine is a simple structure, rectangular in shape, with a moon and star built on to one wall. Inside the shrine lies the grave which has been built up with bricks. In the 1930′s, the shrine of Tuan Kaape-ti-low was some distance away from the path behind a pond. This pond was apparently destroyed when the area around the shrine was fenced in as a military camp during the Second World War. It is claimed that Tuan Kaape-ti-low was a general from Java in sheikh Yusuf’s army and was exiled to the Cape with the great Sheikh. This oral tradition cannot be verified in official records. In the community Tuan Kaape-ti-low is also referred to as ‘Jawhi Tuan’.