The spread of Islam in the southern most part of Africa occurred under arduous historical circumstances due to the political defeat and colonisation of Muslim societies across the world by various European colonial powers.
For most part of its history the practical development of Islam in South Africa was a difficult process as Islam was banned by the colonial authorities and even after its unbanning Muslims were discriminated against as a group. Notwithstanding this our early pioneers were both learned alims in sharia and sheikhs of tariqa. Thus, the spread of Islam in this part of the world occurs largely through Sufi sheikhs from various tariqa's, but predominantly from the Qadri and Chisti tariqa's.
Rare in history, especially in the southern most part of Africa, are the selfless contribution of two great Muslim personalities so intertwined in the service of Allah. Recollecting the life of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi through his service to the Muslim community and thereby to Islam is integrally linked to the role and contribution to the Muslim community by Hazrat Soofie Saheb. Both these auliya were further spiritually connected to the same sheikh from the Chisti silsila, Hazrat Habib Ali Shah (R.A.).
The fact that the Habibiya Soofie Masjid has been able to sustain and develop Islamic activity over the past century is largely the result of the pioneering work and foundation laid by these two great personalities whose selflessness in the cause of Islam has left an everlasting legacy.
Context of the spread of Islam
It is imperative to understand the historical context in which Hazrat Shah Goolam Mohamed (popularly known as Hazrat Soofie Saheb) and Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief came to function to serve Islam and the local Muslim community. This context indicates the important role that both these Sheikhs played in the Islamic education of local Muslims and the institutional development of Islam throughout the country.
While Islam was established in the Cape for nearly two hundred years prior to the coming of Shah Goolam Muhammad (popularly known as Hazrat Soofie Saheb) and Moulana Abdul Latief it was different in the former Transvaal and Natal provinces. While in the Cape Muslims were brought either as prisoners or as slaves in the former Natal and Transvaal provinces they were brought as indentured labourers to work on the newly established sugar cane farms. Only later were these indentured labourers allowed to either settle or go back to India. The indentured labourers were followed by a nascent group of merchants and traders which sought better prospects.
Unlike in the Cape in these two provinces there were no established Islamic institutions. In the case of the development of the Habibia Soofie Complex in Cape Town it should be borne in mind that some twenty mosques existed in Cape Town with the densest concentration in one area, namely, Bo-Kaap. Thus at the time of the creation of Habibia Soofie Masjid no other mosque let alone a complete Islamic complex existed on the Cape Flats. Today the densest concentration of Muslims is to be found on the Cape Flats as a result of forced removals and the apartheid related Group Areas Act.
Therefore, the most important contribution made to spread of Islam in South Africa by Hazrat Soofie Saheb RA was the creation of the institutional framework for the perpetual spread of Islam where none existed before through the development of the 12 khanqahs throughout South Africa and including Lesotho. Moulana Abdul Latief RA used to see to the needs of the Habibia Soofie Saheb Masjid in Cape Town. The creation of these institutions allowed for the consolidation and development of the Muslim communities in the respective areas in which they were developed along Islamic principles as espoused by the Quran and Sunnah.
Moreover, while present day Muslim families take for granted that every home will have more than one copy of the Quran and other kitaabs of zikr, duas and Hadith, at the turn of the 19th century this was not the case as the Qurans and other Islamic kitaabs in this country were either written from memory or hand written from kitaabs which were secretly brought with people from the east.
Today that which local Muslims take for granted as a God given right was established through suffering, hardship, as well as gre
at dedication by our pioneer sheikhs who hailed from various sufi tariqa's with one mission, namely, to serve Allah and his creation thereby pleasing Allah who in turn elevated their status in perpetuity as his auliya.
Background to a Life of Service to Islam
Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qadi was born around 1859 in the village of Ibrahimpatan in the district of Ratnagiri (Kokan) on the east cost of India. Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi hailed from a prominent family of Islamic jurists. Qadi Muhammad Yusuf who was an elder in the family was the first cousin of Shah Ghulam Muhammad (popularly known as Hazrat Soofie Saheb). Both Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief and Hazrat Soofie Saheb could trace their family roots back to Sayedina Abu Bakr the first Caliph of Islam. In the case of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief, he could trace his family roots back to Sayedina Abu Bakr through his father's family.
Documentary evidence exists in Bombay that both Soofie Saheb and Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief came from a family of noted religious scholars. The family lived in Hijaz and then migrated to Persia and then to India in the 16th century. At that stage India was under Muslim Moghul rule and the second Moghul emperor Nasin al Humayun was the ruler of India at that stage. Humayun received the family upon their arrival in India and instructed the family to settle in the Kokan area and serve the cause of Islam in that area. The only rationale for this type of request that the family serve the cause of Islam in the Kokan districts from a Moghul emperor such Nasin al Humayun was that he was aware that the family composed of a number of noted Islamic scholars. In fact one of the great – great grandfathers of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief was appointed by the Moghul emperor Humayun as the Qazi of the whole Kokan area. The stamp of the emperor Humayun is still visible on the document of appointment. Once settled in the Kokan area the family produced many generations of Islamic scholars who were appointed Qazis, Imam's and other Islamic workers.
Many in the family such as Moulana Abdul Latief's father, Qazi Muhammad Yusuf, besides being schooled in fiqh and jurisprudence were also calligraphers and this is evident in the handwritten copies of the Quran's, Hadith books, and other kitaabs currently in the family's possession. In fact the family as part of rare Islamic books which it inherited from the elders of the family is also in possession of a hand written copy of the famous Mathnawi written by Jalaludien Rumi.
Maulana Abdul Latief's parents were Qazi Muhammad Yusuf and Aishah. Hazrat's father was the son of Qazi Abur Rahman. Maulana Abdul Latief had one brother by the name of Kazi Hassan and seven sisters who were Zainab, Khatoon, Khurshid, Fatima, Kulsum, Amina and Latifah. In 1870 while Hazrat Soofie Saheb was still Imam of the Mosque in the village in India he married Zainab the eldest sister of Moulana Abdul Latief. In the early 1890's Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief married Khurshid who was the sister of Hanifah Bi the second wife of Hazrat Soofie Saheb. From this marriage Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief had four children all of whom passed away in infancy. In 1898 Hazrat then married Jamal Bi in India and from this marriage Hazrat had two daughters, namely, Khairunissa and Khadija Bi.
Moulana Abdul Latief Qadi's Islamic Education
As a child and a young man Maulana Abdul Latief received his early education in Ibrahimpatan, Ratnagiri. This education was received from members of the family as his father was an Islamically knowledgeable person and Hazrat Soofie Saheb's father was both the Imam of the Mosque and administered the local madressa. Like Hazrat Soofie Saheb, Moulana Abdul Latief was brought up in a strict Islamic environment. Moreover, over the years the family had in its possession a vast array of classical Islamic literature which positively impacted on the Islamic education of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief and Hazrat Soofie Saheb. In essence Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief's early education was an advanced one due to the Islamically conducive environment in which he was brought up.
Hazrat's higher Islamic education occurred in Bombay. Bombay besides being the biggest business centre closest to his home village (some 200 km) was also an important centre of Islamic learning. In Bombay Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief studied under a Qari which hailed from Panipat in Northern India and who happened to have resided in Bombay at the time. Under guidance of this sheikh, Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief studied Quranic recitation and other subjects. It was Hazrat Moulana Hafiz Nur Mohammed Pani Patti who in 1882 presented Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief with a beautiful copy of the Dalail Khairath. This Dalail Khairath remained with Hazrat throughout his life and is now housed in the Soofie Saheb Archives in Riverside, Durban. Hazrat's studies were not easy for him as he related to family members the trying circumstances under which he studied under this Qari as throughout the duration of his studies he had to fill buckets of water climbing a five storey building to fill the water drums of his ustaad.
In India he is known for his sterling work at the Zakaria Mosque and Madressa in Bombay. It has been suggested by more than one author that given his links with this institution it not difficult to assume that Moulana Abdul Latief received some part of his Islamic education at the Zakaria Mosque and Madressa. Prior to Hazrat's departure from India to South Africa he was the principal of the Madressa and Imam at the Zakaria Mosque.
From Sharia to Tariqa
The movement of the family from a firmly traditional Islamic position based within the Ahle Sunnah wa Jamaat towards a tassawuf orientation equally based in the tradition of the Ahle Sunnah wa Jamaat occurred in the late 19th Century. Through the efforts of the only elder brother of Moulana Abdul Latief, Qazi Hassan, the family over a period of time was initiated as mureeds in the Chisti silsila. This occurred in the last quarter of the 19th Century when Kazi Hassan (also known in the family as Cotheh Mamoo Jaan) extended an invitation to Kwaja Habib Ali Shah to visit the family in Ratnagiri. During this trip to Ratnagiri Kwaja Habib Ali Shah spent a few days with the family.
Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief took baiat from Kwaja Habib Ali Shah and thus became a mureed of the famous Chisti sheikh from Hydrabad. Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief entered the Chisti tariqa late in his life as he was in his late thirties or early forties. Shiekh Yusuf da Costa in a path breaking article on the life of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief suggested that Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief being introduced to the Chisti tariqa was:
"Perhaps the most eventful occurrence in his life because it would give him an understanding of Islam which would change the whole direction of his life." [Sheikh Yusuf da Costa: The Contribution of Maulana Abd Al Latif (R.A.) (1860 – 1916) of the "College" to the Religious Life of the Muslims at the Cape]
As a result of a number of visits by Kwaja Habib Ali Shah to the family in Ratnagiri almost the whole family became mureeds of Kwaja Habib Ali Shah and were initiated into the Chisti silsila.
It could be possible that Qazi Hassan was influenced by Hazrat Soofie Saheb in considering the formers invitation to Kwaja Habib Ali Shah to come to Ratnagiri so as to enable members of the family to accept him as a sheikh of tariqa. Hazrat Soofie Saheb's acceptance of Kwaja Habib as a sheikh of the Chisti tariqa was unique bordering on the miraculous.
The Impact of Hadrat Shah Ghulam Muhammad (Popularly known as Soofie Saheb RA)
Like Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief, Hazrat Soofie Saheb also hailed from the village of Ibrahimpatan in the district of Ratnagiri (Kokan). Hazrat Soofie Saheb's father was the Imam of the local mosque. From a very young age Hazrat Soofie Saheb excelled in his Islamic education. In 1872 when Hazrat Soofie Saheb was only 22 years old his father suddenly passed away. After much deliberation the elders in the community decided to appoint Hazrat Soofie Saheb as the Imam of the local mosque in Ratnagiri which meant that his duties included teaching in the local madressa. Hazrat Soofie Saheb held this position as Imam for 20 years. In 1892 as he was teaching his students about the importance of the Haj, he experienced a vision of the Kaaba which left him entranced for a few minutes. After Hazrat Soofie Saheb completed his lessons for the day and dismissing his students, his strange experience during the day convinced him of the need for him to depart for Haj. He decided to go for Haj with his wife Zainab Bi and his ailing mother Rabia Bi. Upon his arrival in Mecca Hazrat Soofie Saheb performed the obligatory tawaaf and prayers and proceeded to Medina prior to the commencement of the Haj. It was in Medina that a further change came over him where he was drawn towards spiritualism. On his return home Hazrat Soofie Saheb felt that he required a sheikh of tariqa.
After discussing his intended trip to Baghdad with his family, Hazrat Soofie Saheb departed for Baghdad. It was in Baghdad at the grave of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani that he met Sheikh Goolam Mustapha Effendi al Qadri who accepted Shah Goolam Mohammed as a mureed in the Qadri sisila.
Both Moulana Abdul Latief and Soofie Saheb were mureeds of Hazrat Habib Ali Shah. Hazrat Habib Ali Shah was clearly a source of guidance behind both Hazrat Soofie Saheb and Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief.
A great number of conversions to Islam by people of the Hindu faith occurred due to the work of Hazrat Soofie Saheb in the Natal area.
The development of these Islamic institutions by Hazrat Soofie Saheb and their location in different parts of the country occurred with great foresight and with depth of vision of their immediate and future importance. In retrospect and after assessing the work of Hazrat Soofie Saheb and Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief it is not difficult to come to the conclusion that they were certainly of those of the righteous which Allah guided as they put their absolute trust in him and no other.
While Hazrat Soofie Saheb and Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief were related as family through blood ties and marriage there is little evidence to suggest that this relationship greatly influenced or impacted on their Islamic mission and work in South Africa. Rather the contrary is evident from all historical accounts that their relationship was guided by their selfless dedication to serve Islam and Allah's creation thereby serving Allah. More importantly all historical accounts suggest that both Hazrat Soofie Saheb and Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief notwithstanding their achievements in the cause and spread of Islam in a rapid space of time were very pious and spiritually developed persons in their own right.
Early Experience in South Africa
The first time Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief came to South Africa was an Islamic teacher. The historical establishment of Muslim traders of Kokani origin in the former Transvaal meant that this community was required to establish Islamic institutions. It was these families which requested that Moulana Abdul Latief first visit South Africa to function as a teacher to these Kokani families in the former Transvaal. It should be borne in mind that while there were many Muslim traders which settled in the former Transvaal many of them followed the Hanafi madhab while those of Kokani origin followed the Shafi madhab and thus the request to Hazrat to come to them as a teacher as he would have been able to teach them the Shafi madhab as well.
After Moulana Abdul Latief had completed his teaching he opted to return to India via Durban. In Durban Hazrat Soofie Saheb urged him to stay and assist with the establishment of the Riverside Khanqah. Moulana Abdul Latief's relationship with Hazrat Soofie Saheb was close and his coming to Durban to assist with Islamic education and dawaah at the Riverside khankah was an important part of the impressive success and achievements of the Riverside Khanqah. Moulana Abdul Latief's contribution was extremely positive to the overall mission of Hazrat Soofie Saheb. In final analysis for Hazrat Soofie Saheb to have ensured the completion of his mission in a short space of time he required the assistance of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief and his own family.
Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief served as Hazrat Soofie Saheb's confidant and right hand person to ensure that the mission that was set out by Kwaja Habib Ali Shah the sheikh of both Hazrat Soofie Saheb and Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief was successfully achieved.
All historical evidence suggests that Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief served the cause of Islam as established through the work of Hazrat Soofie Saheb loyally throughout his life.
At the Riverside Khanqah in Durban Moulana Abdul Latief was in charge of Islamic education at the madressa and more especially the education of the orphans and thus he acted chiefly as a teacher and educator. As the most senior teacher at the Riverside khanqah, Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief also supervised and taught the other ustaads who were also teaching at the institution as student numbers increased and more diverse classes were organised. Hazrat Soofie Saheb entrusted the Islamic education of his own children to Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief. According to Shah Mohammed Saeid Soofie and Shah Abdul Aziz Soofie in their authoritative account on Hazrat Soofie Saheb and his Khanqahs that Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief played a sterling role in terms of Islamic education at the Riverside khanqah when they suggest that:
"The education meted out here made it one of the leading education centres in South Africa in a short time. In fact it was undoubtedly the pioneering Darul Uloom in this Southern part of the continent. Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qadi RA, the brother in law of Hazrat Soofie Saheb RA was the most senior teacher here. He also trained and supervised the other ustaads (teachers) at this institution as the roll increased. It was due to his untiring efforts that saw many a brilliant student emerge from this centre including the minor sons of Hazrat Soofie Saheb namely, Hazrat Shah Abdul Kader Soofie RA, Hazrat Shah Goolam Hafiz Soofie RA, Hazrat Shah Mohammed Habib Soofie RA and Hazrat Shah Goolam Fareed Soofie RA." [Shah Mohamed Saeid Soofie & Shah Abdul Aziz Soofie: Hazrat Soofie Saheb (R.A.) and His Khanqahs, P.62]
Students were placed in different classes in terms of age, aptitude, and education ability. Education by Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief at the Riverside Darbar consisted of beginners classes where the Quran and Urdu were taught. The more senior classes consisted of Arabic, Quran, Urdu, Pharsee, Islamic history, and Deenyat.
For the young and old, Islamic education conducted by Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief was also Islamic education of an advanced nature that was based on tassauwuf orientated classical Islam. Shah Mohammed Saeid Soofie and Shah Abdul Aziz Soofie in their authoritative account of Hazrat Soofie Saheb (R.A.) and his Khanqahs comment on this point when they suggest that:
"It is interesting to note that the immortal 'Mathnawi' of Moulana Jalaluddin Rumi R.A. the great mystic poet the world has produced, was also taught. The Mathnawi comprising of six books containing 26660 couplets and which took ten years to complete, is a long narrative poem. It contains the roots of religion and the discovery of the mysteries of nature and divine knowledge. It has all the pantheistic beauty of the Psalms, the music of the hills, the swaying of the forests, the colour and scent of roses, which are the Mirror of the beloved.
It is reported that there were times when Hazrat Shah Moulana Abdul Abdul Latief Qazi (R.A.) in his melodious voice, taught the Mathnawi to the students in the madressa, Hazrat Soofie Saheb R.A. sitting in the Masjid went into a state of wajd (ecstasy)." [Shah Mohamed Saeid Soofie & Shah Abdul Aziz Soofie: Hazrat Soofie Saheb (R.A.) and His Khanqahs, P.63]
Many children that were taught and received their Islamic education at the madressa and orphanage under the capable tutorship of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief proceeded to become Imams, Munshis, Muezzins, community leaders and were sent to various areas to further the cause of Islam.
After teaching at the Riverside Khanqah for nearly three years Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief requested that Hazrat Soofie Saheb grant him leave to return to India as he missed his ageing father and family tremendously. More importantly the environment in India was more conducive to the practice of a tassauwuf orientated classical Islam. Hazrat Soofie Saheb requested that Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief postpone his intention of departing for India until Hazrat Soofie Saheb returns from his trip to Cape Town. In 1903 Soofie Saheb departed for Cape Town and in his absence he placed Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief in charge of the Riverside khanqah.
Upon his arrival in Cape Town Hazrat Soofie Saheb resided at the home of a friend, Mr. Abdul Gani Parker. Mr Abdul Gani Parker's residence was in Cross Street which prior to the apartheid Group Areas Act was known as District Six. One Friday morning Hazrat Soofie Saheb appealed to Mr. Abdul Gani Parker who was his host and who hailed from the same Kokan district in India to acquire a horse and cart so that they could look around the peninsula for a suitable piece of land. After viewing many sites the horse stopped at the site of the present Habibia Soofie Masjid and would not move any further. This experience was not dissimilar to the manner in which Hazrat Soofie Saheb obtained land in Riverside in Durban as Hazrat Soofie Saheb's horse also did not want to proceed any further than the site that was chosen for the Riverside Khanqah. Hazrat Soofie Saheb with Abdul Gani Parker and a few other Muslim brothers who accompanied them on this historic trip got off the cart to view the site. Hazrat Soofie Saheb walked around the site for a while and then decided to purchase the land for the establishment of a new Khanqah.
After the purchase of the land Hazrat Soofie Saheb stayed in Cape Town for seven months while the necessary legal documents were being drawn up by the lawyers for the transfer in trust of the recently purchased properties.
At the Doornhoogte site in Cape Town which Hazrat Soofie Saheb purchased, a small wood and iron house was built and as the news of the arrival of Hazrat Soofie Saheb spread many local people came to meet him. On the trip by Hazrat Soofie Saheb's to Cape Town Shah Saeid Soofie and Shah Abdul Aziz Soofie in their authoritative account of Hazrat Soofie Saheb and His Khanqahs suggest that:
"His spiritual outlook, his humility, character, and his dedication to serve Islam and the Ummah selflessly won the hearts of many including the leading Sheikhs, Imams, Huffaz and other leading personalities of the time. He was visited daily by people during his short stay here. He accepted the invitation of all, irrespective of caste, colour, creed, language or status in the community." [Shah Mohamed Saeid Soofie & Shah Abdul Aziz Soofie: Hazrat Soofie Saheb (R.A.) and His Khanqahs, P.123]
While Hazrat Soofie Saheb was in Cape Town many people had become mureeds and entered the fold of the Chisti silsila. Hazrat Soofie Saheb ensured that the foundation of the current Masjid was laid and a madressa which also acted as a Jamatkhana was completely built prior to him returning to Durban. At this stage all structures which were built on the now famous Doornhoogte site were wood and iron structures.
Upon Hazrat Soofie Saheb's arrival in Durban from Cape Town he instructed Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi to proceed to Cape Town and take charge of the newly established khanqah. Even though Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi wished to return to India he immediately prepared himself for the new challenge which Hazrat Soofie Saheb had set for him and departed for Cape Town. Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief's action of departing for Cape Town to take charge of the Doornhoogte Khanqah instead of departing for India showed his selflessness to the cause of spreading Islam and ensuring the worship of Allah in this part of the world.
Prior to Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief's departure in 1904 to Cape Town to take charge and ensure the complete development of the new Habibia Soofie Khanqah in Doornhoogte on the Cape Flats Hazrat Soofie Saheb had received written instructions from Kwaja Habib Ali Shah to confer Khilafat upon Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief. Thus, the Khilafat granted to Moulana Abdul Latief occurred with the permission and authority of Kwaja Habib Ali Shah. The Khilafat conferred to Moulana Abdul Latief was in the Chisti, Habibi and Qadri silsilas. Hazrat Soofie Saheb also gave Maulana Abdul Latief a staff of his as a gift upon conferring Khilafat to him. The staff of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief which was given to him by Hazrat Soofie Saheb is currently housed in the Soofie Saheb Archives in Durban. The granting of Khilafat to Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi was unique as under normal circumstances the sheikh who is granting Khilafat would grant the mureed or person such Khilafat. In the case of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief he was granted Khilafat by Hazrat Soofie Saheb with the permission of his and Hazrat Soofie Saheb's Sheikh, Kawaja Habib Ali Shah while their sheikh was still alive. Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief was the first of six people upon whom Hazrat Soofie Saheb granted khilafat.
Once Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief received khilafat from Hazrat Soofie Saheb as a sheikh in the Chisti, Habibi and Qadri silsilas the following titles were added to his own name to reflect the honour bestowed upon him. These titles were al Chisti, al Nizami, al Hafizi, al Habibi and al Siddiqi.
Upon the departure of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief for Cape Town Hazrat Soofie Saheb made arrangements for his family to come to South Africa.
The Development of the Habibia Soofie Masjid
When Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qadi came to Cape Town he was welcomed by the Muslim traders who also hailed from the hilly mountainous area south of Bombay, Kokan. This community was able to identify with Moulana Abdul Latief required his services to ensure that Islam was established not just for them, but for future generations. In turn Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief required their support and participation in the development of the new established khanqah and more importantly the success of the Islamic programmes developed by him depended upon their active participation. For those from the Kokan area he was known as Hazrat Moulana and for those who did not converse with him in Urdu he was known as Sairie, which meant holy one as it was a local adaptation of Sayyedi.
Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief's Islamic work commenced immediately upon his arrival in Doornhoogte. At the time of Hazrat's arrival there was no mosque on the Cape Flats, but there many Muslim families spread out on the Cape Flats. On the first Friday in January 1904, Moulana Abdul Latief informed those people around him that Jummah Salaat was going to be held on the site which was earmarked for the Masjid. The ground was cleared and sheets and covers were laid. At the appointed time of Jummah Salaat Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief requested one of musallees to recite the call to prayer (adhaan). Muslim people living in the area responded to the Adhaan and after a short while the Jummah Salaat was in progress. After the Sunnah Salaat Hazrat delivered a lecture and a tree stump next to the wood and iron house constructed for him served as a mimbar for the actual Jummah khutba.
This act on the part of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief a century ago was certainly an historic occasion as for the first time the Adhaan was recited for the Jumuah Salaah which was held in open air on the Cape Flats. Yusuf da Costa reflected on the significance of this first Jummah Salaat for the local community that participated in this historic event when he suggested that:
"The whole proceeding must have been especially significant to those first generation immigrant Muslims from Kokan. Here they had an Imam who was 'of them'. He had come from Kokan, spoke their language, and understood their cultural idiosyncrasies. Although there were many mosques and madrassahs at the Cape at the time, the language used as a medium of instruction was the then developing Afrikaans language of which these immigrants from Kokan could by then only understand a few words. The arrival of Moulana Abd al-Latif (r.a.) changed all that. Their children could now be thought and lectures could be given in the medium of their home language." [Sheikh Yusuf da Costa: The Contribution of Maulana Abd Al Latif (R.A.) (1860 – 1916) of the "College" to the Religious Life of the Muslims at the Cape]
For Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief the attraction of the new immigrant community to the newly established khanqah was merely a means to an end as the Khanqah allowed the community to be consistently involved in Islamic programmes. At the same time he went out of his way to break down cultural barriers between Muslims from various backgrounds whose common imaan and Islamic heritage bound them into a single community. Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief's appointments of Imams at the mosque is a clear indication of his single minded purpose of getting Muslims to practice Islam in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah.
After the overwhelming success of holding the first Jummah Salaat on the Cape Flats there was no stopping of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief and the newly established jamaat at the Habibia Soofie Masjid. Thereafter Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief with the support and active participation of the community set about developing the Masjid and other parts of the Habibia complex. The wood and iron house built for Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief gave way to a proper brick structure. In January 1905 the foundation of the Masjid was laid. At the same time consideration was given to the construction of a madressa, orphanage, kitchen, storeroom, as well as rooms for the accommodation of travellers.
Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief's family arrived in Cape Town in 1905 and now Hazrat could continue the work of developing the Habibia Soofie Masjid without any personal hindrances and under the watchful eye of his father Qazi Muhammad Yusuf al Habibi and with the support of his brother and the rest of his family which formed a pillar of strength for him.
At the same time Hazrat Soofie Saheb decided to transfer the land of the mosque from the Shah Ghulam Muhammad Trust to the Molvi Abdul Latief Trust in order to allow for unfettered development of the Cape Town khanqah under the leadership of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief. This was certainly a show of confidence by Hazrat Soofie Saheb in the ability of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief.
In 1906 Hazrat Soofie Saheb visited the Habibia Soofie Masjid in Cape Town and on this visit he was pleased with the manner in which the khanqah was set up and the Islamic programmes which were put in place. The structures established at the Habibia Soofie Masjid was similar to that established by Hazrat Soofie Saheb in Riverside, Durban,
Soon thereafter the Masjid and other parts of the Khanqah were completely developed. Upon the completion of the Masjid one of his disciples enquired as to why such a big mosque was built in a sparsely populated area. To this Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief responded with depth of vision when said that 'this jungle would one day become a bustling city'. Today the Cape Flats caters for the densest population of Muslim inhabitants in the Western Cape.
From all the Masjids established by Hazrat Soofie Saheb, the Habibia Soofie Masjid (College) in Cape Town is the largest while the Masjid developed in Colenso is the smallest. Even though the land and initial establishment of an Islamic complex in Doornhoogte was the work of Hazrat Soofie Saheb, it was the capable role of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief that was important in the full establishment of the Habibia Soofie Masjid and ensuring that it served the entire Muslim community on the Cape Flats irrespective of cultural background. The Cape Mazaar (Kramat) Society aptly described the relationship between Hazrat Soofie Saheb and Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief went it suggested that:
"The spiritual vision of Sufi Saheb would never have become a reality without Moulana Abdul Latief. He had to suffer great deprivation, living in a wood and iron shack, without running water or other necessities. This he endured because he had only one mission in mind, to serve his spiritual mentor, whose guidance he knew would lead to greatness, not for him, but for Islamic Society." [Cape Mazaar (Kramat) Society: Guide to the Kramats of the Western Cape, Cape Town, 2001]
Hazrat was an Islamic scholar in the true sense of the term. This was evident by the fact Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief brought with him or had sent from India his personal library which consisted of an extensive collection of Islamic books. Many of these books were handwritten and leather bound copies of Islamic works some of which were written by the forefathers of both Soofie Saheb and Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi. Qazi Muhammad Yusuf the father of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief was also a professional calligrapher and had handwritten many Islamic books.
From a Quranic and Sharia perspective the spiritual development of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief was far in advance of his time. The knowledge gained by Hazrat in his study of Islam from an early age to his development as an alim and then a sheikh of tariqa was imparted by him to his congregation at the Habibia Soofie Masjid in various forms. As a learned alim Islamic education formed an important part of his Islamic make up and thus Hazrat also served as a teacher.
Islamic classes were run at the newly established madressa for the young and old. More advanced Islamic classes in various subjects were run for the training of local Imams. At this stage Habibia was one of the very few local institutions running advanced Islamic classes for the training of Imams and other Islamic workers. It was through the running of these advanced classes that the Habibia Soofie Masjid acquired its nickname as the 'College'.
In addition to establishing an Islamic complex Moulana Abdul Latief also established a spiritual programme based on the Quran and Sunnah and as practiced by the Qadri and Chisti Sufi silsilas. It was Moulana Abdul Latief who first established the spiritual programmes of the Chisti Silsila for the jamaah of Habibiyah and the Muslim community of the Cape Flats.
This programme was characterised by a regular Salaah programme of not only the Fard Salaahs, but the Sunnah Salaats as well, including the performance of Tahaajud in jamaah. Other spiritual programmes over and above the Salaah programme included Quran Khataam, regular Zikr programmes, celebration of Meelad un Nabi, annual Urs celebration, Khatme Khawajagaan, etc.
Maulana Abdul Latief established a regular programme of Islamic education which exists up until today. These programmes were geared towards the community at large and crossed cultural boundaries in order to ensure the spiritual well being of the Muslim community throughout the Cape Flats. This education is based on the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah and constitute the basis of belief in Allah by the Ahle Sunnat Wa Jammat.
Establishing the Chisti Tariqa
Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief like Hazrat Soofie Saheb was very strict about adherence to the Quran and Sunnah and this adherence translated itself to strict adherence of the sharia. Therefore for both Soofie Saheb and Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief their practice of tassauwuf was completely sharia based. In other words without fulfilling the sharia obligations of Islam a Muslim is unable to truly follow the path of tariqa.
For Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief and Hazrat Soofie Saheb there was no compulsion in teaching the practice of tassauwuf. Any person seeking to set out on the path of tariqa had to do so voluntarily. However, all those who followed the path embarked upon by Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi sacrificed their wealth, time, and energy in the cause of Islam through strengthening the development of the Habibia Soofie Masjid for the sake of the bourgeoning Muslim community on the Cape Flats.
Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief conferred Khilafat upon two persons. The first person khilafat was conferred upon by Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief was the father of the late Imam Baboo, Shah Muhammad Yusuf al Habibi. Shah Muhammad Yusuf al Habibi resided at the Habibia Soofie Khanqah and was married to the sister of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief.
The second person to be conferred khilafat by Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief was Sayid Shah Ahmed of Karda in India. Sayid Shah Ahmed of Karda in India was on visit to his Qadriya mureeds in Cape Town and wished to be initiated into the Chisti order by Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief. Sheikh Yusuf da Costa eloquently explains the significance of Sayid Shah Ahmed's act of being initiated into the Chisti Silsila by Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief when he suggests that:
"This induction is a clear indication of the high regard for Moulana Abdul Latief's (r.a.) spiritual status by others in the tasauwwuf discipline. There could be no greater compliment than the one paid to him by Sayid Shah Ahmed when the latter requested to be inducted into the Chistiyyah order by his hand." [Sheikh Yusuf da Costa: The Contribution of Maulana Abd Al Latif (R.A.) (1860 – 1916) of the "College" to the Religious Life of the Muslims at the Cape]
The Habibia Khanqah
Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi established social programmes for the poor and orphans at the Habibia Soofie Masjid. A formal orphanage was established by Moulana Abdul Latief who housed many prominent local religious personalities from around Cape Town.
The legacy established by Moulana Abdul Latief in the different facets that constitute the Habibia khanqah has endured for over a century as it was built on firm Islamic foundations purely with the intention of pleasing Allah.
Closing an Immortal Chapter and Opening a New Chapter
After Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief was satisfied with the development of the Habibia Soofie Khankah he travelled to Hijaz in 1911 to perform Haj. Upon successfully completing his Haj Hazrat travelled for the last time to India where he visited his place of birth and more importantly Hydrabad and Ajmer. The visit to Ajmer was geared towards visiting the mazaar of Hazrat Kwaja Mohinudeen Chisti (R.A.) the doyen of the Chisti silsila. The visit to Hydrabad by Shah Abdul Latief (R.A.) was his last visit to the mazaar of his Sheikh of tariqa Hazrat Khwaja Habib Ali Shah (R.A.). Kwaja Habib Ali Shah passed away in 1904 after he granted permission for Khilafat to be conferred by Hazrat Soofie Saheb to Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief and as Hazrat commenced with his daunting task of developing the Habibia Soofie Khankah in Doornghoogte, Cape Town. During Moulana Abdul Latief's return from India he stopped over in Durban as people travelling to the Middle East for Haj or travelling to India could only do so at that stage by ship which was the cheapest form of transport and the first port of entry from those destinations to the then Union of South Africa was Durban. Moreover, for Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief it was imperative that he spend a few days in Durban as during his trip, on the 29 June 1911, Hazrat Soofie Saheb had passed away.
Upon his arrival at the Durban harbour Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief set off immediately to the Mazaar of Hazrat Soofie Saheb (R.A.) were he paid his last respects and made Esale Sawab Fatheha. Thereafter Shah Moulana Abdul Latief met his sister Zainab Bi and other family members. According to Shah Mohammed Saeid Soofie and Shah Abdul Aziz Soofie in their authoritative account on Hazrat Soofie Saheb and his Khanqahs, Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief returned to Cape Town a very broken hearted man. Upon Hazrat's return to Cape Town he continued with his work at Habibia.
At this stage Moulana Abdul Latief was suffering from diabetes and as is the case with most pious personalities he was aware that he was not going to live for a very long time. A while before Hazrat Moulana's passing from the dunya he had informed his family that he was not to live long. In fact while Shah Abdul Latief (R.A.) was on a trip to visit some of his mureeds in Johannesburg he had written a letter to his Khalifah Muhammad Yusuf Parker al Habibi (the father of the late Imam Baboo). The letter consisted of Hazrat's wishes for the continuation of the pioneering Islamic work that had commenced at the College to further continue under the able leadership of his Khalifah Muhammed Yusuf Parker.
Nearly a month prior to the passing of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief he was confined to bed due to his illness and thus could not attend the salaah prayers in the mosque to which the better part of his life was attached. However, even terminal illness could not stop this humble servant of Allah from continuing with his daily prayers to which he became accustomed as an integral part of his life since childhood. Hazrat continued with his salaah while sitting on his bed and utilised a table and pillow to enable him to prostrate during his salaah.
It was Hazrat Soofie Saheb's request that Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi (R.A) be buried on the premises of the Habibia Soofie Masjid thereby also indicating his opinion on the spiritual status of Shah Moulana Abdul Latief (R.A.). However, according to regulations no burial was allowed to occur within the precincts of the Habibia complex. Special permission had to be requested from the authorities at the time to ensure that Hazrat Soofie Saheb's request could be honoured for Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi (R.A.). In fact permission to bury Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief within the precincts of the Habibia Soofie Masjid only came the day before the passing of Hazrat.
Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief passed away on the 17 April 1916 as the adhaan was being recited and he himself was preparing for the Zuhr Salaah. One of Hazrat's last wishes was that upon his passing his ghusl and the Salaatul Janazah be performed by one his mureeds who was Imam of the mosque at the time. Imam Hassan Jakoet, the Imam of the mosque, honoured Shah Moulana Abdul Latief's last request of him. While the Habibyah mosque was the only mosque and the largest mosque on the Cape Flats it was far too small to cater for the crowd which came to pay their last respects to a great personage and wali of Allah. Allah says of his auliya in the Holy Quran that: "Behold! Verily on the friends of Allah there is no fear, Nor shall they grieve; Those who believe And (constantly) guard against evil." [Surah 10, verses 62 and 63]
His khalifah Shah Muhammad Yusuf al Habibi, Imam Hassan Jakoet and Hajji Wazir Parker were three of the people which placed Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi (R.A.) in his grave. Out of great love and respect for their sheikh, Hazrat's mureeds stood around his graveside in silent prayer for a long time.
Moulana Abdul Latief passed away at the age of 58 years. This occurred some six years after the passing of Hazrat Soofie Saheb. The passing of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi occurred only twelve years after he had performed the first Jumuah Salaah on the Cape Flats and some twenty years after his arrival in South Africa. Shah Abdul Latief (R.A.) passing occurred after ensuring the full establishment of the Habibiyah Soofie Khanqah.
The mazaar of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi lies next to the mosque and within the precincts of the khanqah which he so ably established.
Nearly ten years ago Sheikh Yusuf da Costa in a pioneering article on the life and passing of Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi (R.A.) aptly summed up his contribution when he says that:
"Although his death was a major loss to them at the time, the results of the work that he had done in establishing the 'College' and the Chistiyyah Order in the Cape are still with the Muslim community to this day, and it is now almost eight decades later. The 'College' stands today as a major memorial to what can be achieved by the unselfish dedication to the Cause of Islam. It also stands as a memorial to the work in the Cause of Allah by one of India's and later South Africa's most precious sons, Sufi Sahib (r.a.) of Riverside , Natal." [Sheikh Yusuf da Costa: The Contribution of Maulana Abd Al Latif (R.A.) (1860 – 1916) of the "College" to the Religious Life of the Muslims at the Cape]
Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi (R.A.) like Hazrat Soofie Saheb (R.A.) lived his whole life purely as a self sacrificing servant of Allah. For the righteous and pious servants of Allah the Quran clearly states Allah's wish and command when it suggests that:
"I have prepared for My righteous servants what no eye has seen and no ear has heard, not has it occurred to the human heart. Thus recite if you wish: And no soul knows what joy for them (the inhabitants of Paradise) has been kept hidden." (Quran, Chapter 32, Verse 17).
Habibia Soofie Masjid has now endured a century of vibrant development and this history and legacy of the College has only endured due to the selfless work of its pioneers and those who picked up the mantle and legacy which both Hazrat Soofie Saheb and Hazrat Moulana Abdul Latief Qazi had successfully established.