:: The Dawah Movements and Sufi Tariqat:

Muhammed Haron

Department of Theology & Religious Studies

University of Botswana

Abstract

Much has been written to date about Islam in Southern Africa (Amara 2001, Tayob 1999, Mandivenga 1991) and more particularly about South Africa (Haron 1997). However, whilst general social histories have been penned about the region and specific states located in this vast region, not much has been written about the Dawah movements nor about the Sufi Tariqas, which have either reinforced its earlier brotherhoods that had been established during the early part of the 20th century – if not earlier, or the new orders which saw this part of the world as a safe haven and potential growth area.

Indeed, during the last three decades of the 20th century the Tabligh Jama’at (Moosa 1997) and dawah movements such as the Africa Muslim Agency and Islamic Dawah Movement of South Africa have dominated dawah activities in the region. These movements have no doubt made valuable and significant contributions towards the conversion and spread of Islamic dawah; thus making South(ern) Africa an important part of the global force that has to be reckoned with. Alongside these late 20th century developments, there has also been the mushrooming of Sufi Tariqas in the region’s major cities. This development, to some degree, resulted in the competing for spiritual space. And as far as could be ascertained, these Tariqas have been pretty successful in gaining support from individuals who come from all walks of life and somehow attracting individuals who were involved in the Dawah movements.

The paper thus intends to first offer a paint-brush picture of Islam in the region. Thereafter it wishes to take a cursory look at the various efforts in Dawah such as the International Propagation Islamic Centre in Durban, which was established by Ahmad Deedat, and the Tabligh Jama’at, which started out in the early 1960s. This is followed by a study of the Sufi Tariqat in certain cities. The final part will compare the growth of these groups (Dawah Movements and Sufi Tariqas), and attempt to assess the reasons for their influence and success. These movements and orders will however be preceded by a brief discussion on theoretical paradigms and definitions of social movements.

Key words: Dawah, Sufism, Movements, Islam, Southern Africa, Religion.


0. Introduction:

Religious resurgence across the globe has attracted interest from a variety of persons and groups. Amongst them have been a coterie of academics such as Appleby and his team of scholars who investigated the ‘religious fundamentalism’ phenomenon in the 1990s. The African continent was not left out of his teams’ survey since ‘religion and politics’ have been associated with one another on this (forsaken) continent throughout the 20th century. An array of scholars spanning from the early 20th century into the new millennium has given attention to religion on African continent; some studied the art, others looked at the variety of rituals, and a few others concentrated on the mystical elements and practices amongst the Africans. In the latter category, there have been a sizeable number of scholars such as B.G. Martin, P. Clarke, C. Stewart, D. Westerlund, and K. Vikor who have turned their attention to the phenomenon of Sufism.

Indeed Sufism, and of late Dawah Movements, has been the subject of numerous studies because of its impact and influence on many African societies and communities. Vikor’s survey of the Sufi orders in many parts of the continent clearly demonstrates the vast networks established by them over the decades from as early as the 17th century[i][1]. Individuals such as Vikor have however not entered the Southern African part of the continent to assess the vibrancy of these orders. Perhaps the reason for this is that these orders generally reflected a conservative and an apolitical agenda that was unlike their counterparts in North, West or East Africa.

But with the onset of the process of globalisation and the connections being forged by the various orders with their co-religionists in other parts of the world, scholars have showed an eagerness to study these trans-continental networks and inter-continental developments. They have been concerned with the spread of ‘religious fundamentalism’ that has rocked the world during the past few years. The tragic bombings during 1999 in East Africa, for example, have caused an array of studies to question the reasons for these events. These studies were further bolstered by the 2001 September 11 blasts that took place on USA soil; a happening, which academics (nor many politicians) did not forecast. These events thus triggered off re-newed researches to investigate the extent of religious fundamentalism in the world and to find out to what extent Dawah movements and sufi orders are involved or implicated in these acts; after all Islamic fundamentalism seems to be seen as the ‘culprit.’

Although this study does not intend to undertake an investigative study, it wishes to record the emergence of these movements and orders during the final three decades of the 20th century. The article therefore intends to briefly sketch the growth of Islam in Southern Africa during the last half of the 20th century. It will then locate the significant Dawah movements that have been established during this period and look at one or two case studies to reflect upon their activities and impact. And in addition to identifying these movements, the article will also address the establishment of Sufi orders in the region and will demonstrate the extent of their growth and influence. The last part of the article will try to compare and contrast the activities of the movements and orders respectively by highlighting the commonalities and tensions that exist between these two groups. However, before embarking on this path, there is a need to quickly reflect upon the definitions and explanations of the concepts and terms that are closely connected to these developments.

1. Movements and orders: Definitions and Explanations

In Tayob’s important study of Islamic Resurgence in South Africa, he proposed a modern Islamic paradigm that is quite appropriate for this study[ii][2]. Its appropriateness lies in the fact that the emergence of the Dawah movements and growth of Sufi orders form integrally part of the Islamic resurgence witnessed in the Muslim heartlands and in many Muslim societies all over the world.

He argued that the idea of power relations is ‘inherent in the conflicting Muslim visions of Islam.’ And he extended his argument stating that ‘religious knowledge,’ which is inextricably tied to the notion of power, plays a crucial role in determining, authorising, admitting and excluding individuals or groups depending upon his/her or their perspectives and interpretation of Islam. Tayob drew upon the contributions of individuals such as Qutb and Shariati who had lived and interacted with the West to devise this modern Islamic paradigm, and concretely concluded that different historical contexts and figures shaped it. He pointed out that the exclusive focus of this paradigm was on the prophetic model, particularly the socio-political dimensions of the prophetic ideal. And he also mentioned that this paradigm sought to redefine and reformulate the meaning and significance of the institutional structures in society.

Contemporary Dawah movements and Sufi orders have undoubtedly been amongst those groups who have redefined and reformulated some of the social institutions.

Now that these groups have been placed within their specific theoretical paradigm, it would be helpful to briefly define the terms ‘movement’ and ‘order’ respectively. The term ‘movement,’ according to the one definition as contained in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, refers to ‘a group of people who shares the same ideas or aims’[iii][3]. According to scholars of Sociology of Religion, namely Stark and Bainbridge, religious movements – of which Dawah movements form an integral part – may be viewed as a subcategory of social movements[iv][4]. The primary purpose of the latter, they argued, is to cause or prevent social change, and that of the former is ‘to cause or prevent change in systems of beliefs, value symbols, practices or institutions concerned with providing supernatural compensators.’ The term ‘movements,’ Saliba stated, is a more functional and appropriate term because it encompasses the ideas of transition, transformation and change[v][5]. And since movements initiate and bring about internal and external transformations and changes, the term is quite apt and useful. However, religious movements do differ from other subcategories such as sects and cults; these groups usually militate against the environment and, at times, break away from the societies and communities within which they had emerged; examples of these are plentiful within the house of Islam.

It might be instructive, at this juncture, to bring into the discussion the understanding of Edmund Burke III. He, in his interpretive article entitled ‘Islam and Social Movements: Methodological Reflections,’ raised two very simple questions, namely ‘Is it Islamic political movements? Or ‘social movements in Islamic societies?’ He posed these questions and linked them to the paradigm shifts that have taken place over the past few years in the academia[vi][6]. Defining the type of movement is an important issue because both might operate in the Muslim heartlands but they follow differing principles and have a different set of goals. One may however respond by stating that a religious movement is a type of social movement that is mainly concerned with aspects of religion. The members’ beliefs or ideologies are the major ingredients of this movement whereas the social movements may have non-religious ingredients because of their goals.

Shifting to the term ‘order,’ it has been defined in the afore-mentioned dictionary as ‘a group of persons such as monks and nuns living in a religious community.’ Here the views of Vikor may be of interest since he was concerned with the term ‘order.’ The word ‘tariqah,’ he stated, was either translated as ‘order’ or ‘brotherhood’[vii][7]. However, it means a ‘way’ or a ‘method,’ which assists one to reach a religious experience. Via this an organizational framework was constructed in order to transmit and practice this method. He made the point that whilst tariqah-ways can do without brotherhoods, tariqah-brotherhoods cannot do without ways. And since the latter is more widespread, the brotherhoods acquired a function beyond the ways in different parts of the African continent; many of them were transformed into socio-political and economic actors.

2. Backdrop – Islam’s presence in Contemporary Southern Africa

Moving from the western part of the continent to the eastern part, one is struck and fascinated by the variety of beliefs, cultures, and practices that it accommodates. Peoples of different creeds live alongside one another; African traditional religionists find themselves next to families who are either Muslims or Christians. Mazrui’s famous The Africans: A Triple Heritage beautifully illustrated these stories in his widely seen video footage[viii][8]. This was further borne out in the late 1990s by Professor Henry Louis Gates’ observations and video footage during his epic journey around the continent[ix][9]. It cannot be denied that Muslims have been part of this continent for generations and indeed centuries; some have reflected syncretistic tendencies and others opted for purist customs.

Even though Muslims came onto the African soil many centuries ago, Islam found a foothold by the mid 17th century. Ironically, Muslims came as slaves and later as traders to inhabit the Southern African region with the colonialists. When the latter began to make inroads and headway into the region, Muslims were brought from other parts of the world to serve the colonial masters[x][10]. However, Southern Africa has been the home of small pockets of Muslims residing in the different states. The majority of them are located along the east coast from Northern Mozambique towards the Somali territories. Muslims in the hinterlands of the region are far and few between; the numbers are however steadily growing through intermarriage, missionary activities and the slow birth rate. The demography of Muslims in the region demonstrates that even though they numerically small, their input have been quite conspicuous[xi][11]. For example, the Malawian government is headed by a Muslim and supported by a few members of parliament; there are at least two members of parliament in the Botswana government and a handful of others in extra-parliamentary politics; and in South Africa there are two Muslim cabinet ministers, a few parliamentarians, and a sizeable number who are active in local governments around the country.

These individuals and pockets of Muslims owe their presence to the early Muslim traders and also in a sense to the colonialists who brought some of them to this region either as slaves or to work on the plantations; there were of course some who came as free traders, which was however a fairly late development. Since the early 20th century Muslims established themselves in various parts of the region and pursued their profession as craftsmen or shopkeepers. In the process of earning a living and accumulating wealth, some of the philanthropists amongst them laid the foundations for the construction of mosques in the major cities of the region. It is therefore not uncommon to find places of worship in Bulawayo, Blantyre, Durban, Gaborone, Maputo, and Mbabane. Alongside some of these mosques there are also madaris that cater for the Islamic education of the children of these communities. Madaris have however flourished independently in many communities who could not afford the erection of madaris alongside the mosques. In a few of the states, the Department of Education even allowed the Muslim community to utilize the state’s schools to disseminate Islamic education; this was and remains a very positive sign regarding the states’ attitude towards religious minorities.

Many of the communities moreover were able to establish mosques and madaris after they were able to form functional Muslim organizations that pursued these objectives. Thus one finds for example that in South Africa and its neighbouring states the existence of many Muslim organizations, which have been serving the needs of the whole region. These organizations have played and continue to play a crucial role not only in the dissemination of Islam but also in assisting in social welfare work throughout the region. One important organization is the Waqf ul-Waqifin (Gift of the Givers) organization, which has assisted with the collection and distribution of goods to communities in Mozambique and Somalia that have experienced socio-economic problems[xii][12]. The Africa Muslim Agency is another broad based organization that has also served these communities for more than a decade with its Africa headquarters in Johannesburg and the main office in the city of Kuwayt under the leadership of Dr. As-Sumayt. However prior to the formation of welfare focused organizations there was the South Africa Islamic Youth Conference, which was linked to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, and that had the necessary infrastructure to organize meetings and set up institutional structures[xiii][13]. This body networked with numerous organizations in the region in order to coordinate their activities and cooperate to streamline the work in the region. The broad based organization has been influential during the 1980s into the mid 1990s, but because of the disappearance of Arab funds and the breaking up of its infrastructure, it had to give way to stronger emerging organizations such as the Africa Muslim Agency, which had the financial backing from Arabs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwayt. These groups have all been concerned with the building of mosques in various parts of the region; AMA has been viewed as the only organization at present that can sanction work in Malawi and surrounding countries. In fact, through AMA one of the Malawian communities was able to set up a Community Radio station to serve that specific community.

3. Muslim Movements in Southern Africa

Many movements have emerged during since mid 20th century amongst the different communities in the various states; some of which had by then not as yet become independent. Most of the Southern African states only became independent from the 1960s onwards. According to the research of scholars such as Madivenga, Amanze, and Bone many Muslim organizations were established during the last three decades of the 20th century in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Malawi[xiv][14]. The same may be said about South Africa; however, since it had a more economically established Muslim community compared to its neighbouring states, it had a greater variety and number organizations. Organizations served the needs of their respective communities in different ways. There were organizations specifically set up to accommodate those who went to study Islam at traditional institutions in the Middle East and the Indo-Pak continent; for example, in the Cape there is the Muslim Judicial Council (est. 1945) and in the north there is the Jami’at ul-Ulama (est. 1923)[xv][15]. In the mid 1940s the Muslim Teachers Association came into being to serve the interest of the teachers. The Arabic Study Circle in Durban was established by Dr. Dawud Mall for those interested in learning the Quran via translation during the 1940s. Ahmad Deedat and Ghulam Vanker gave birth to The Islamic Propagation Centre in the late 1957 and developed it into an internationally based organization with branches in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) and Birmingham (England) respectively. Many other organizations have emerged and flourished whilst others disappeared and made way for stronger and healthier ones. A quick glance at the website of the Muslim Judicial Council will give an indication of some of the many organizations located throughout South Africa[xvi][16]; in fact, Murshid David’s directory offers one an interesting overview of the organization in almost each and every town and city in South Africa[xvii][17]. The numerous organizations concretely demonstrate the vibrancy and (perhaps financial) strength of the South African Muslims[xviii][18]. However, attention should now be turned to those movements and orders that are of relevance to the theme of this paper.

3.1 Dawah Movements

The Dawah Movement may be categorised into two; the first group belongs to those who have specifically targeted the propagation of Islam to non-Muslims, and the second group belongs to those who have been attempting to only target the Muslims particularly the ‘lapsed’ Muslims. In fact, the two groups differ much in their objectives and activities. However, they share a common aim and that is to propagate Islam. The Tabligh Jama‘at that fits into the second category will be dealt with later and the others will form the first part of this section.

3.1.1 Islamic Propagation Centre[xix][19]

The IPC came about after Ahmad Deedat was giving classes to adults who attended the Arabic Study Circle classes in Durban during 1956. He realised the need for individuals to be knowledgeable about the Christian missionary work conducted by the Anglican diocese and the Dutch Reform Church amongst Muslims in various parts of the country. It was then that he and his bossom friend, Mr. Ghulam Hussein Vanker, decided to set up the foundations of IPC in March 1957.

Between 1957 until 1980 Deedat and his support group confined their teachings to the Southern African region. Whenever he held public debates the halls were packed. Muslim crowds were generally attracted to his harsh method of debate; they argue that the missionaries employ similar tactics to spread ‘The Word.’ However, there were those who disagreed with his methods. They averred that his way of doing dawah was not totally in line with the prophetic method. During the 1980s after Deedat disparaged the beliefs of the Hindus, he was verbally attacked from numerous quarters. Despite the criticisms, he never abandoned his method. In fact, when he became popularly elsewhere on the African continent such as Nigeria, his recorded lectures were widely circulated and he was invited numerous times to combat the missionary activities in that country. The same maybe said for some of the Arab states where many of his writings were translated into Arabic. An interesting outcome of his Malaysian tour in the early 1990s was that he was prohibited from speaking in public or debate openly with counterparts. By then IPC became known as IPC International because of Deedat’s international activities[xx][20].

Controversies did not leave Deedat and his supporters behind. One of his former students Advocate Yusuf Buckas, who emulated Deedat’s dynamic style, split from the IPCI because of internal disagreements and squabbles. The latter decided to form his own group and by 1986 put up a training centre, Islamic Dawah College International. In addition, there have been other conflicts caused by Deedat’s family members that led to the restructuring of the IPCI and was, at one satge, under the directorship of Mr. Fuad Hendricks, former Secretary – General of the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa. Since the beginning of 2003, a new executive was appointed; and during June 2003 Dawood Ngwane, a lawyer, was voted in as IPCI ameer in June 2003. And its two active branches are in London and Dubai respectively.

Deedat has left behind numerous booklets. Many of which had been translated into different languages. However, his video material proved more popular since they could see Deedat in action, and the manner in which he conducted his debates. It is purported that IPCI is one of the richest dawah movements in the Muslim world. Mention should be made of the fact that Mr. Vanker, who had resigned in 1982 because of ill health, was the other active member of IPC during the 1960s through to the 1980s. His style was markedly different from Deedat’s and he was viewed as a sober and intelligent debater; someone who wisely responded to issues pertaining to Christianity and other religious traditions.

3.1.2 Islamic Missionary Society, Islamic Dawah Movement and Africa Muslim Agency

Vanker’s style was somewhat similar to the style adopted by Mr. Mohammed Laher who formed the IMS in Johannesburg during 1958. He, however, gave great attention to missionary work amongst the Africans[xxi][21]. With his supporters, they set up simple Islamic centres to serve the needs of the impoverished communities in the African townships. This also caused him to set up feeding schemes and self-help projects to empower the communities. These types of projects also became part of the programme of the IDM, which was formed in Kwa-Zulu Natal during 1981.

IDMSA started humbly in one of the township’s Islamic centre, namely Umlaas Marianhill Islamic Centre. Medical doctors Ebrahim Dada, Yusuf Osman, and Faizal Ahmad as well as the stalwart of Islamic mission, Yusuf Mohamedy started the IDMSA; all of theme were members of the MYMSA and felt the need to break away from the parent body and devote their time in dawah activities. Presently they are located all the major cities of South Africa and have done well for themselves; however, when the Africa Muslim Agency came onto the South African scene, some of its members joined it to pursue dawah in the region.

AMA, directed by Faried Choonara who was a key member of MYMSA in Johannesburg, opened its offices in 1981. The organization was and still is bankrolled by Kuwayti funds via Dr. Abdurahman as-Sumayt, and it operates in more than 35 African countries. The purpose is to not only give dawah but also to provide other assistance particularly during floods; the Mozambique floods were a case in point. AMA and other organizations such as Waqf al-Waqifin have been extremely active in helping these communities in times of need.

3.1.3 Jamat al-Tabligh

One movement that succeeded to criss-cross the borders of the Southern African states and settle there because of its a-political agenda was the Tabligh Jamat (hereafter TJ). This movement, which had its origins in India and which had initially been strongly linked to the Sufi order, had spread its tentacles to different parts of the world and had become known for its missionary work amongst Muslims[xxii][22]. Scholars have closely scrutinized its development over the years. In southern Africa the TJ is argued to have taken root in 1963 during the time when the South African socio-political scene was at its harshest[xxiii][23]; by then, the liberation movements had been banned and many of its Muslim members went either into exile, were detained or continued in a clandestine manner with the political activities. According to Mahida, the TJ was already conducting its tabligh as early as 1958[xxiv][24].

However, from the very outset it was clearly understood that the TJ had to steer clear and not concern itself with the politics of the states it was entering, and that all its members’ efforts and focus should be on the Muslim community. An important part of the TJ’s focus and concentration was to force lapsed Muslims to implement the basic practices of Islam; in other words, they must be reminded of performing the daily salat on time and preferably in congregation. The performance of these prayers, they argued, would lead to the improvement of the person’s personal qualities and increase the person’s faith in God. In fact, the TJ laid a great deal of emphasis on one’s faith in God and continuously reminded its followers of the necessity of constantly increasing one’s faith through good actions. These actions however can only come about via certain rituals instituted by the TJ. Amongst these are the daily ‘kitab’ reading, going out on gush and seeking out the Muslim residents of the area, using miswak to brush one’s teeth instead of the toothbrush, donning an ‘Indian/Pakistani’ outfit, namely the kurta, that has ‘hosepipes’ which ends above the ankles, and having a long, clean beard. All these activities and mannerisms, they averred, would help in keeping the person on the spiritual path. And in addition to these, they were spurred on to go out on a 40 day ‘tabligh’ excursion to different parts of the country or to other parts of the world in order to spread the message amongst the Muslims and to wake them up from their slumber, and remind them of what will take place if the fundamental principles are neglected or ignored; in support of these, they daily read to the members statements attributed to the prophet as a method of putting ‘fear’ into the person’s heart. The rigid programme was instituted from the inception of the TJ, and it was the programme TJ members faithfully followed and practiced wherever the movement established itself. In Southern Africa the TJ was established in the 1960s, flourished during the 1970s and early 1980s, but seemed to have slackened its activities in the 1990s; for example, after a long absence they came to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, to hold a small gathering over a weekend during June 2002.

During the time when it was quite active and widespread, it had come under severe criticisms from various quarters particularly from the emerging youth groups and educated elites. The latter, for example, critically commented that there was no need that they be called to prayer because one should know one’s duties and leave it to the individual’s conscience. They emphasised as strong evidence that even though the TJ is concerned with ‘Allah’s work’ they neglect their duties towards their kith and kin particularly when the male breadwinner goes on gush for 40 days; the families, they insisted, needed their breadwinners to be around and spend quality time with their spouse and children and, at the same time, to stabilize the community and reinforce the Islamic values that the TJs are preaching. The TJs also came under fire from a different quarter, namely the student groups. The students came into conflict with one another at universities where the TJ and the youth movements had infiltrated during the mid 1970s. In 1976, for example, the University of Durban-Westville’s Muslim Students’ Association was torn between those who supported the Muslim Youth Movement (see later) and those who felt that they had to follow a more traditional lifestyle practiced by the TJs.

The TJs long standing foes, however, were those who are aligned to the Brelvi school, referred to as the Sunnis in southern Africa. The latter classified the TJ as deviant, and based themselves on the thoughts and practices of the TJ. For example, in two articles entitled ‘Who are these Deobandi/Wahabi Peoples and what is the Jamat Tableegh’ and ‘The Tableeghi Jamat in relation to World Islamic Movements’, they pointed out that the TJ considered practices such as the milad as bid‘a and who arrogantly held the view that their (TJs) kitab reading, chilla, gusht and ijtima be strictly followed[xxv][25]. The Brelvi group abhorred these practices and opined that these practices from a legal standpoint are ‘makruh,’ and they also attributed to one of the key ideologues of the TJ of having stated that ‘Allah speaks lies;’ this and seven other statements have been listed and clarified to show the false beliefs spread by the TJ. In fact, this group suspected that the British colonialists created the TJ and it is for that reason that the TJ has been praised by a journalist in The Economist; it made reference to the journalist’s article ‘The Other Side of Islam’ in which he is purported to have said: “So long as such movements exist, … , essential Islam remains alive and well.” The Brelvis, who followed particular sufi shaykhs and accepted certain pirs as their spiritual guides rejected the TJ programme and constantly spoke against their views. As a consequence of these open verbal conflicts, one of the members of the Brelvi school was tragically killed by members of the TJ in the late 1980s; unfortunately, no one was apprehended or found guilty for this despicable deed[xxvi][26].

Another group with which the TJ came into conflict was the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa; a movement described as centrists and different from the leftists Muslim movements that had been established in then1980s such as the Qibla Mass Movement and the Call of Islam[xxvii][27]. The latter was supportive of the ANC and the former of the PAC before the democratic election in 1994. These groups however did not spread far and wide; they were confined to the urban areas and only in specific places. The MYMSA however had been instrumental in establishing a host of organizations, which had also been responsible for the formation of organizations in the neighbouring states such as Swaziland and Lesotho. The main reason for them having been at loggerheads with one another was the fact that the TJ came under the influence and control of the well established Muslim theologians who were trained in Deoband and Deobandi affiliated institutes such as the Darul Ulums at New Castle and at Azaadville; their brand of theology fully supported the activities of the TJ and this led to a close bond existing between the two. But since the Muslim theologians were sceptical of the Muslim youth movements and their agendas they spoke out against them and against the modern practices that have infected their thoughts and practices. The theologians were dead against the modernists whom they pointed out were empty of any spiritualism and that this can only be attained through the participation in movements such as the TJ. The MYMSA and its supporters did not leave the debate unchallenged; they responded to the views of the theologians and the TJ. Although the debates and challenge persisted for a few years, the conflict eventually died down and each were left to move along their own paths.

Despite the criticisms the TJ drew crowds of people to its cause and in the process reformed many individuals who had been involved in gangsterism and drugs. In fact, many of these individuals seem to have opted for this movement because it suited their behaviour patterns; they were not at any stage ostracised or looked down upon for what they had committed in the past as might be the case in other movements. They also felt more secure with the support the theologians had given the TJ. The conservative Deobandi theologians fully supported the TJ’s conservative agenda. It is however interesting that even though the theologians participated and supported the TJ, none of them led the TJ in this region. The leading exponent was an elderly Kwa-Zulu Natal gentleman, namely Bhai Padia who had won the hearts of many followers in that part of South Africa and whose humble approach attracted many. He was generally known for his piety and his deep sense of spirituality. In fact, he stood out as the lone figure to lead the TJ for more than two decades. This dependence upon one figure however led to a leadership crisis that eventually led to the movement entering their weakest period.

3.2 Sufi Tariqahs[xxviii][28]

When comparing the TJ to the Sufi orders, it is immediately striking that the latter is no new phenomenon. Sufi orders have existed for many centuries in the Muslim heartlands and were exported to other communities. In fact, these orders played a crucial and cohesive role in many of the minority Muslim communities. Southern Africa is a case in point. Sufi traders were the ones to plant Islam in this part of the African continent as it was in other parts of the world.

In this section, an attempt will be made to describe the development of some of the orders. In fact, during the last decade of the 20th century there seem to have been a rapid increase in Sufi orders and many Muslim individuals – young and old, male and female, have demonstrated an interest in these movements. One major reason for this phenomenon is the desire for spiritual guidance and support in this very competitive material world that is in need of a spiritual injection. However, this trend has also led to a number of leading Sufi shaykhs who considered South Africa a convenient place to station themselves. Prominent sufi personalities such as Shaykh Abu Bakr Siraj ud-Din (Martin Lings), Shaykh Abdul-Kader As-Sufi ad-Darqawi (Ian Dallas), Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri and a few others have either made South Africa one of their regular stop-overs and in many cases some have established branches here; branches that have been growing and flourishing. For example, Shaykh Haeri made South Africa his permanent home in an outlying town known as White River. He leads the Jafariyyah-Shaddhiliyyah order with locals such as Abu Bakr Karolia and Iqbal Jhazbhay playing prominent roles in the order. Its geographical shift, however, did not mean that they have not lost contact or touch with their murids in other parts of the world. Contact has been kept with these murids and supporters via their cyberspace connections.[xxix][29] Websites for many of these orders have been designed and this has drawn a new clientele and also added to the growing numbers of adherents.

Since it will be difficult to describe and discuss each and every sufi order that has emerged during the past three decades, it may be instructive just to mention them in brief at this juncture and then move on to treat the more prominent ones in detail. From amongst the small and flourishing tariqahs are the Maryamiyahs whose ideas are closely tied to the perennial philosophers such as Schuon and Lings[xxx][30]. It was mentioned earlier that Martin Lings has been visiting his group on regular basis in Cape Town. This tariqah has however been around for more than two decades and has kept their membership to a minimum. Another Cape Town tariqah that has grown quite rapidly under the stewardship of Shaykh Mahdi Hendricks is the Shadhliyyah-Alawiyyah Order; in 1997 Shaykh Ahmed Alawi ibn Murad from Algeria came to Cape Town to inaugurate the opening of the Zawiyah as-Sufiyyah in the southern suburbs of Greater Cape Town.

Other tariqahs that have found their way into the hearts of some of the Cape Muslims and other South African cities, where the West African refugees and migrants are located, are the Tijaniyyah and the Mouridiyyah tariqahs; some of the new murids travelled to Senegal to be initiated by the grand Shaykh, Imam Hassan Cisse, of the Tijaniyyah order and the South African muqaddam at present is Shaykh Anwar Bayat[xxxi][31]. The Mouridiyyah that had been formed by Shaykh Ahmad Bamba and his ardent Senegalese followers also rooted itself in different parts of South Africa particularly in the main cities[xxxii][32]; they and many other orders that are currently based in South Africa have set up their respective branches to lure the Muslim youth to their specific order. These and other related or fledgling tariqahs such as the Rifa ‘iyyah or Sammaniyyah have added a new dimension to South African Islam, a dimension that was always invisible and distant from the centre. At the turn of the 21St century these tariqahs have pushed the South African Muslims into the centre, and have forced the Muslims that have been influenced by the Wahhabite thought to accept the presence of these orders who are also claiming their rightful place for spirituality.

Further in this article descriptions will be given of some of the more popular South African based sufi orders; a fair amount of information will be extracted from their specific sites to show the diversity of South African Sufism and their philosophies and practices. However, for a more detailed and interesting study on earlier practices of Sufism at the Cape the unpublished thesis of the medical practitioner, Dr. Karim, should be consulted[xxxiii][33].

3.2.1 Past Personalities and their influences

Prior to looking at the contemporary developments and few lines should be dedicated to beginnings of Islam in South Africa so that one can observe the change and continuity. In fact, Samuel Zwemer, the Christian missionary, astutely observed that the Qadiriyyah, Chistiyyah, Naqashbadiyyah, Rifa‘iyyah, and Shadhiliyyah had been around when he visited the Cape in the 1910s[xxxiv][34]. He noted the impact one of the earliest and most prominent exiled figures subsequently had on the growing Cape Muslim community. And he was Shaykh Yusuf al-Makassari[xxxv][35]. The latter was from a royal family but more importantly was a sufi shaykh; a shaykh who was not a practitioner of one order but many. He was a member of the Khalwatiyyah, Naqshbandiyyah and Qadriyyah tariqahs. This description clearly reflects the extent of the person’s interest and his involvement in each of these orders; he may be viewed as a non-partisan person who wanted to merge all the orders into his personality. Even the latter’s writings bear testimony to the fact that he was seeped in the teachings and practices of these orders[xxxvi][36]. Subsequent to his death there were a number of other orders that had found South Africa to be virgin territory and a safe-haven; free from other competitive groups and thus able to practice freely and without any public opposition.

Mentioned must however be made of two other important sufi figures, they were Badsha Peer (d.1894) and Sufi Saheb (d.1910). These individuals had a lasting impact not only the Durban Muslim community in particular but also on other parts of the region in general[xxxvii][37]. The latter has been an active philanthropist since his arrival in 1895; he built mosques, madrasas and khanqahs in different parts of the country and at the same time formed branches of his tariqah; a more detailed discussion follows below.

3.2.2 Contemporary Tariqahs

The Tariqahs have grown at a tremendous rate in different parts of South Africa throughout the 1990s and particularly during the period of democracy, that is after 1994. However, it has been difficult to track the establishment and development of each one of them, and because of this the article only makes reference to those that have been well-known and wide-spread. Mention en passant is however made of the minor ones. We now give attention to these.

3.2.2.1 The Chistiyyah Tariqah

This order which trekked via India to this part of the continent has become one of the most wide spread and diffuse orders. Most of their supporters are located in important towns such as Zeerust that links groups in Botswana and Zimbabwe respectively. One of the key personalities to have planted the seeds of the Chistiyyah order in this region was Badsha Peer. The Chisti-Sabiree Jahangiri silsila was brought to South Africa in 1943 by Janab Ebrahim Bhai Madaree Saheb Chisti Sabiree. He established the Buzme Shah Iqbal Chisti Sabiree in Durban. This Buzme, and its sister Buzmes in other cities and towns, has a monthly gathering in which they have a Khatem Khwajegaan in memory of Hazrat Kwaja Muinuddin Chisti as well as other kwajas and sayyids linked to their order. The other Buzmes are located Cape Town, Johannesburg and Zeerust; members of the latter Buzme reside in Gaborone and nearby Botswana towns.

The Chisti Sabiree Jahangiri Silsila created a special website, namely www.sabiree.com, on the 27th July 2000 with the blessings of their Indian-based shaykh who is known as Pir-O-Murshid Sajjada Nasheen Hazrat Sayed Muhammad Shah Chisti Sabiree Jahangeer Kambalposh. The site was set up so that they may disseminate the teachings and information of their order. It included: (a) various sayings of the awliya, (b) saints of their order, (c) the tree of shaykhs, which appears in Urdu and accompanied by a transliteration (for those who know how to speak the language but cannot read it); an English version will be made available, (d) conversations of the Chisti shaykhs as recorded by their mureeds as well as (e) anecdotes about them, and (f) if one is a mureed then one is expected or rather encouraged to sign in and identify the shaykh to whom one is attached. The site also has a few wall papers or screen savers that one can download; amongst them are the photos of their pir and of the order’s centre.

It has an online Sabiree Paighaam: The Sabiree Message newsletter that shares information about the wise thoughts of the Chisti shaykhs and also spread information about their monthly activities. The editorial committee also inserted their response to the ‘grave worshipping’ controversy that started during the latter part of 2000 and continued unabatedly into 2001 (see below); the article also appears in the Al-Qalam, the MYMSA monthly mouthpiece. Although the first issue of their newsletter appeared in July 2001, it is assumed that the other issues have been delayed due to technical hitches. The order also printed a booklet entitled Sama/Qawali in order to expose the reader/surfer to the role spiritual music in the order. The compiler(s) cautioned that although the qawali is not the sole objective of the order, it has a specific place within it and this is borne out by the list of recorded statements of those shaykhs in the order. And because of the acceptance of this practice, South African Indian Muslims have generally responded positively to this form of music as well as to the Qawali singers such as the Sabiree brothers who annually entertain them in the various South African cities.

Amongst the variety of activities on a monthly basis and annually is what has been commonly referred to as the ‘Urs celebrations’ and the ‘salami.’ The latter has been a practice also shared by South African Muslims of ‘Malay’ origin[xxxviii][38]. The practice is solely concerned with the celebration of the birth of the prophet and the recitation of the ‘salawat (praises).’ It however differs from those who do not identify with the practice in the manner in which it is done; for example, when the ‘praises’ are brought the congregants in that specific gathering stand up to re-enact the way the nascent Medina community welcomed the prophet upon his arrival into the city of Yathrib. Basing themselves on this event, they argue that they are reminded of that by literally standing up. Whilst this has been considered an acceptable argument, the more fanatical followers have stated that when doing so, the prophet appears in their midst when reciting the ‘praises’ and therefore one should be mindful of his presence. This has of course led to numerous theological debates that have not been put to rest.

This practice did not solicit as much opposition as was the case with the ‘Urs Shareef’ activity. This involves a few interrelated practices; the first is the commemoration of the tragic death of Imam Husayn at Kerbala, and the second is the visiting of the graves of those viewed by them as ‘awliya.’ When these graves are visited the disciple(s) usually bring along a chador, flowers and scent to place it on the grave of the ‘awaliya;’ this practice, according to them, is a sign of respect and distinction in that they are different from the ordinary person. This practice was and is vehemently condemned by those who oppose the sufi orders. As already indicated that this is quite an old debate but was resurrected towards the end of 2000 by Shaykh Faiek Gamieldien, a Cape Townian imam and one who was opposed to many of these mystical practices. The debate was initiated when he saw a television programme in which the practices of Muslims were highlighted; in response he wrote a lengthy article in one of the Cape Town newspapers in response to this[xxxix][39]. And because he strongly stated his point of view regarding a few basic practices including ‘grave worshipping,’ he was attacked by the different sufi orders and those who are sympathetic towards Sufism. Various groups had gatherings to debate the issue and they even invited Shaykh Faiq who seemed to have got cold feet; in one instance, the video recorded debate each time zoomed in on an empty seat where the shaykh was supposed to have sat to present his arguments.

Apart from the CSJ branch, there is also the Chisti Habibi Soofie Islamic order. This order has its headquarters in Durban, and also established its website in order to disseminate the views about their activities[xl][40]. The order was brought to South Africa by Hazrat Shah Goolam Muhammad when he arrived here in 1895. Quite a few have recorded his contributions in building khanqahs and mosques in different parts of South Africa[xli][41]. Its members are involved in economic empowerment projects, youth development activities, and publications. Its branches are located in, amongst others, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg,[xlii][42] Ladysmith, Colenso, Tongaat, Riverside[xliii][43]; the latter has been declared as part of South Africa’s monumental heritages and it also has an archives and a museum. Another group that has their own site is the Basha Peer[xliv][44]; this is located in Kenville in the Greater Durban area.

3.2.2.2 The Murabitun:

The Murabitun, compared to the other sufi groups, the youngest order – besides the Muridiyyah order that were brought by the Senegalese traders and visitors – to enter Southern Africa. Since their entrance in the mid 1980s, they attracted adherents from all walks of life and established themselves in the major cities. No information is found about the South African branch on their (now non-fixed) website www.murabitun.org. The movement is led by the notable and vibrant Shaykh Abdalqadir As-Sufi who was known previously by many other appellations such as Ad-Darqawi etc. Whilst in North Africa he embraced Islam and studied under the renowned scholar, Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-Habib. Since then he was a faithful follower, and the founder of the Murabitun in the beginning of the 1970s. There are a few individuals who are quite active with the Murabitun such as Ismail Nana who has been the amir of the South African branch for a number of years, after Amir Aburahman Zwane was ousted out of the position for having abused his powers and having interpreted aspects of Islam in an extremely literal manner. Since this event, the movement attempted to keep a close control over its activities and monitor its members.

This movement considers itself as a ‘post-modernist platform’ that responds to the concerns of the day by emphasising the basic Islamic beliefs and by totally rejecting the present day economic framework imposed upon the global society by the IMF and World Bank. And because of their firm stand against this framework, they have proposed practical alternatives. The shaykh of this order has been a prolific writer he has written numerous works amongst which the Roots of Islamic Education and The 100 Steps stand out as significant texts. In addition, some of his disciples have also been active in producing translations and texts on various aspects of Maliki theology and jurisprudents. One of the most contemporary translations of the Quran was produced by Aisha Bewly and Abdurahman Bewly, a wife and husband team. The fresh presentation has contributed to new insights into the Quranic verses; the translation has been circulation the South African book market but has not been able to eclipse the popular Yusuf Ali translation. Imam Malik’s famous and influential Al-Muwatta was also translated by Aisha at-Tarjumana as she was known before[xlv][45].

The movement in South Africa has launched the Islamic Times to act as an important conduit via which the order’s ideas could reach a wider audience. The issues that appeared reflected that the reports and newspaper articles did not concentrate on hard community news but focused on thematic issues that were of concern to the movement. Unfortunately, the paper that was launched in the beginning of the 1990s could not make it and thus was re-launched in the late 1990s; it appears that even after the latter effort that the paper was unable to survive the newspaper business. Their publications are available via their business site[xlvi][46].

The murabitun has weekly meetings in which they recite the special murabitun wird. They also emphasise the dhikr (invocation of Allah), and fikr (reflections upon Allah) aspects. However, in tandem with these one has to have himma (consciousness of Allah) to take one to the higher plains of spirituality. They also allow the singing of the ‘qasidah burdah’ and other related genres by groups such as Al-Rijal al-Burda from Morocco. They have annual gatherings such as the ‘World Gathering of the Darqawa’ and ‘Moussems’ like the one that was held in Casablanca in 2000. Since it undertakes dawa amongst the non-Muslims particularly in Europe it also produced documentaries to highlight the position of Islam in areas such as Albania, regarded by them as Darul Islam of Europe. The movement indulges in the formation of Islamic markets where the dinar is promoted and used[xlvii][47]; and since they have established themselves in the Cape Peninsula, they have also been considering setting up a million dollar educational institution in the Cape[xlviii][48].

3.2.2.3 Qadriyyah Tariqah

The Qadriyyah order has been wide spread on the African continent. A section of the Qadriyyah operated at the Cape for a number of generations. During the latter half of the 20th century many internationally respected shaykhs came to South Africa. Amongst these were Maulana Abdul-Alim Siddiqi al-Qadri who came in 1935 and 1952 respectively, Hazrat Pir Zainul Abidin who visted in 1961, 1973 and 1983, Maulana Ibrahmi Khustar al-Qadr who lectured in 1968, Maulana Fazlur-Rahman Ansari who delivered lectures during 1970 and 1972 respectively[xlix][49], and Shaykh Sharif Umar al-Qadri of the Comoros came during the early 1980s. Each and every one of these individuals in one way or the other contributed to the spirituality in South Africa. In fact, Maulana Ansari delivered a series of inspiring lectures that have been edited and published and broadcast on the local Muslim Radio 786 station. The Qadri tariqah has remained very vigilant although it only seemed to have blossomed during the last three decades. The reason for this was that it was under a steadfast leader; he was a local artisan who was very much attracted to the sufi practices and cultivated these amongst his family and friends. He was Mr. Abdurahman Da Costa. The Cape branch is however not the same as found in Kwa-Zulu Natal and represented by the Imam Ahmed Raza Academy (see below); and since this is the case, concentration will only be on the group as it is at present in the Cape. It must also be pointed out that the order has members who are located in other towns and cities beyond the Western Cape province; here mention must be made of the cities of Kimberly and Mafeking respectively. A very interesting overview has been given in an unpublished manuscript by Da Costa’s son, ‘Adil during the early part of 2003; ‘Adil is at present one of the leading exponents of this traiqah. The Qadriyyah tariqah at the Cape is currently under the leadership of Imam Farid Manie.

The Imam Ahmed Raza Academy was established in 1983 and has since grown rapidly. It considers itself to be the largest ‘Ahle Sunnah organization in South Africa;’ it protects and promotes the cause of the Ahli Sunni wa Jama’ah. This distinguishes itself from the Shi’is and other deviant groups. The foundation of the academy was laid by Shaykh Abdul-Hadi Al-Qaderi Barakaati in 1986 with the purpose of uplifting the Muslim community academically and spiritually; he was taught by the Darul Ulum’s Mufti Maulana Shah Mustapha Raza Khan al-Qaderi an-Noori Radawi. The latter is referred to as Ghous ul-Waqt and Taj ul-Ulama al-‘Arifin. The members of this academy follow the path of the Qadriyyah silsila.

The Academy has listed a number of objectives amongst which are: the propagate and promote the teachings of the Ahl Sunni wa al-Jama’ah; to promote the celebration of the maulud of the prophet and the urs of the awliya; to adopt ways to improve the quality of life of Muslims locally and abroad; to serve as a centre of learning and produce memorizers of the Quran; to formulate and implement a simplified syllabus; to initiate schemes for Muslims; and offer guidance to the Muslims. Since maulud is considered one of the most important practices of this and other silsilas, the academy refuted the arguments presented by the Majlus ul-Ulama of the Eastern Cape. This group set down 17 reasons why Muslims should not celebrate the maulud the way it is celebrated by the Breilly (Brelvi) groups. The academy also responded to the statements of Shaykh Bin Baz on the same issue. The academy consists of a variety of departments such as the Fatwa, Welfare and Educational Departments. The latter sees to the preparation and printing of textbooks, and the housing of the Mustapha Raza lending and an audio-visual library. The Welfare department extends its services to the community and the Fatwa department responds to community queries regarding dietary laws and other related concerns.

Since the academy has been established along the lines of the Brelvi school, it was also not free of criticisms. In fact, the institution’s mentor Imam Ahmad Raza Khan was vehemently criticised for his views in a lecture by Maulana Ibrahim Adam, a Cape Town based theologian, who was trained in Deoband. The latter gave a lecture titled ‘The Berelwis and the Truth behind its founder.’ Amongst the accusations are that Imam Khan is purported to have said that he was appointed by Allah over the Ahli Sunnis and that the Imam claimed that another prophet will come after prophet Muhammad (s). Sayed Shah Alei Rasool Nazmi from Meerat in India responded to these and other excerpts from his lengthy troublesome lecture. On each of the points the sayed refuted his arguments[l][50].

3.2.2.4 Alawiyyah Tariqah

The Alawiyyah order has been one of the more established orders in South Africa and in particular at the Cape. Shaykh Muhammad Salih Hendricks (d. 1945), who had studied in Mecca under some of the most learned shaykhs (Shaykh Sulayman Shattah, Shaykh Umar ba Junayd, Mufti Ash-Shafi’iyyah Sa’id ibn Muhammad Bab As-Sayl) in the Haram of Mecca, had been initiated into the Alawiyyah order and upon his return strengthened these ties with members of the same order in Zanzibar whilst also serving as a religious judge. This bond had led the Ratib ul-Haddad to be introduced and practiced at the Cape. However, in addition to this they also performed ratib ul-Attas, Nasr wa al-Falah, ad-Duriyya, etc[li][51].

The Zawiyyah, a mosque located in the heart of Greater Cape Town not far from the city centre, has been an important centre of religious activities. It is a centre where the maulud is one of the most significant annual activities. During these activities the earlier mentioned ratibs are regularly performed. At present the order is overseen by two brothers, namely Sieraj and Ahmad. Both were graduates of Umm ul-Qura University and both took the bay’at of the Alawiyyah order. Being the major role players, they have pursued the activities of the Alawiyyah order with great passion and have drawn many to their activities. They have created a website to remain in contact with their murids and at the same time make available information about their activities and writings/translations[lii][52].

Amongst their most important activities are the weekly classes and sermons. For their classes and sermons they rely on the works of scholars such as Imam Nawawi, Imam Al-Ghazali and Shaykh Al-Habib as-Sayyid Abdullah ibn Alawial-Haddad. And they often recite the popular Barzanji qiyama and du‘a. Both the shaykhs are active in translating texts of prominent figures in the order and also write their own articles on issues pertaining to Islam. They are very particular about their order and rely heavily upon the policies set down by earlier shaykhs. And their devotion to the tariqah has culminated in the translation of Shaykh Abdurahman Balfaqih’s fatwa that deals with ‘The Way of the Bani Alawiyyah at-Tariqah al-‘Alawiyyah.’ This shaykh mentioned that the Alawiyyah endorsed: the taking of the oath, the donning of the khirqah, going into seclusion, doing spiritual excercises, adopting self-discipline and closely bond with one’s shaykh. In their case, they are the murids of the respected Shaykh Muhammad ibn al-‘Alawi al-Maliki who visited Cape Town during 1997. Many Cape Townians took the oath when he was around.

3.2.2.5. Naqshbandi Tariqah:

The Naqshbandi order in Southern Africa has had a rich and long history. However, during the contemporary period new leadership came to the fore; amongst them were Dr. Yusuf Da Costa, a former school principal and lecturer in Geography at the University of the Western Cape, and Imam Hasan Walele, a trained and practicing engineer. These two carried the order into the new millennium with the regular weekly gatherings and weekly discussions on the local Muslim radio stations on issues dealing with sufism. In addition to these activities, they also created their own website www.naqshbandi-sa.org, which has gone offline and subsequently been incorporated into the mother website of the Naqshbandi order, that highlighted many of their activities and also listed the controversy with Shaykh Faiek Gamieldien who opposed some of their views. That aside, their weekly talks and discussions have resulted in a growing interest in Sufism which was bolstered by the visit of prominent international personalities, namely Shaykh Hisham Kabbani and Shaykh Muhammad Nazim ‘Adil Haqqani; both are leading personalities of the ‘Naqshbandi order of the USA’ whose works and ideas have been circulation certain circles in South Africa. These two paid visits during April 1998 and November 2000 respectively. They were however represented at the Parliament of World Religions gathering in Cape Town in December 1999.

During April 1998 the five person delegation, representing the Islamic Supreme Council of America, and led by Shaykh Hisham Kabbani – the Caliph of the Naqsbandi-Haqqani order, came on a 12 day fact finding visit to South Africa. In Durban they were hosted by Advocate Hafiz Abu Bakr of the Al-Braka Bank and members of the different Muslim organizations. The idea was to establish diplomatic ties with the South African Muslim community, build working relationships with the ulama fraternities, and forge links with the Muslim educational institutions and mosques. Shayk Hisham Kabbani delivered the Friday sermon at the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere, namely the Jumu‘ah masjid in Grey street (Durban) on the 17th April. The delegation visited the dargah of Soofie Saheb in Durban and the tomb of Shaykh Yusuf in Cape Town. In Cape Town they were much impressed by the youth’s recitation of the salawat, burda and barzanji; recitals that a pretty normal and widespread in the Cape. For the December 1999 meeting of the Parliament of World’s Religions, Shaykh Muhammad Nizam Adil al-Haqqani, the world leader and 40th Grand Shaykh of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani order, prepared and delivered a paper on ‘The Spiritual Dimension of Man’ and ‘Tasawwuf’[liii][53].

On the 31st of October 2000, Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil al-Haqqani and his caliph, Shaykh Kabbani, were attracted to South Africa’s mother city, Cape Town, as well as the other major cities, namely Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria, where they formally established their links with the local Naqshbandi order led by Dr. Yusuf Da Costa and his deputy Imam Hasan Walele. During their visit many locals took the bay ‘at and continued as murshid of Dr. Da Costa, and the delegation was able to go to most of the awliyas’ graves. They then toured Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria. They were able to lead the dhikrs, the khatm al-khawajagan and the suhbat in all of these cities, and when they were in Cape Town one of their gatherings was broadcast live on the local Muslim radio station, Voice of the Cape. The main message of the delegation was to hold fast to and practice the traditions of the Ahl Sunnah wa al-Jama‘ah; these should be accompanied by continuous spiritual exercises[liv][54]. Mention should be made of the fact that on his tour he met opposition, as has been the case elsewhere, from the salafi ranks; for example, when Shaykh Kabbani was giving his speech at the Husami masjid in Craven-Bee, located in the northern suburbs of Greater Cape Town, a wahabite wanted to intervene, and the same happened when the delegation visited Pretoria.

4. Comparative Evaluation:

The paint-brush picture with extensive comments in some cases of the different dawah movements and Sufi tariqahs in South(ern) Africa gives one a clear view of the vibrancy of these groups in this part of the world. One is able to note that each of the mentioned groups share certain common strands whilst they differ in the way they function and operate.

In this section an attempt will be made to briefly compare and evaluate the dawah movements in particular the TJ with the Sufi tariqah. The comparative evaluation will touch on the question of leadership, the nature of scholarship, the types of rituals, the number of adherents and the issue of social change.

4.1 Leadership:

In all the movements the question of leadership has been a crucial factor in leading and guiding the movement. There is definitely a distinct difference in the nature of leadership in the TJ and Sufi tariqah; whilst the latter give support to the notion of charismatic leadership and paying homage to the appointed leader, the TJ plays this down and shifts the focus to the other activities. However, the leader still acts in an important capacity that cannot be ignored. Although actual bay‘at is not performed in the TJ as is witnessed amongst the sufi traiqahs, allegiance and respect is shown to the amir of the TJ via the duties one performs for or on behalf of the TJ. The titles bestowed upon the leadership place them in a position of respect. The visit of Shaykh al-Haqqani and the manner in which his personality has been described by Shafiq Morton (2000) concretely demonstrated the respect accorded to the person and the attention he his given by his murshids, supporters and empathisers[lv][55].

It should also be added that whilst the question of leadership in all of these movements play a significant and crucial role, the position of the leader is also open to abuse. In a very scathing booklet written by Sidi Othman from Italy on the personality of Shaykh Abdul Qadir as-Sufi is a case in point. The former murabit member, basing himself upon the shaykh’s writings and practices, raised a number of critical and pertinent issues. He titled his booklet: Ian Dallas: The Shaykh who has no clothes: The true realities of Shaykh ‘Abdalqadir al-Murabit and the Murabitun World Movement (1994/5). Another case in point is when the leading members of the Brelvi group responded to their critics and their leadership.

Whilst there was an overwhelming warm response amongst the people whenever prominent personalities came to Southern Africa, there were also those waiting in the wings to criticise and find fault with the ‘opposition’s’ ideas and rituals. This has happened on numerous occasions in South Africa. Many of the movements have tried to fill spiritual gaps, which have not been satisfactorily attended to by the jurisprudential oriented theologians. What is quite evident is that the people in general do not mind paying homage to each and every shaykh who comes from abroad; as far as they are concerned they benefit from the shaykh’s august presence and particularly from his barakat.

4.2. Scholarship

Perhaps an area where there has been a glaring distinction between Dawah movements and Sufi orders in Southern Africa is in the field of scholarship. Very few of those leading the Dawah movements with the exception of Deedat have penned any books of note. It could be that they are more concerned with the spreading of dawah without giving due attention to the systematic planning of it via the preparation of specific texts. Individuals such as Yusuf Mohamedy, who have been active over the years in Islamic mission, written any noteworthy book that offers an understanding how Islamic mission operates within the Southern African region. Deedat has, of course, written numerous booklets that give one clear insight into the nature of Christian mission to Muslims, and many other aspects of his approach to Islamic mission. He indeed stands out as a unique example in this regard. However, his texts are not used as readily and extensively as those written by Sufi shaykhs.

The main argument being that the Sufi shaykhs’ writings concentrate mainly upon spiritual development. In other words, the Sufi shaykhs give clear guidance to their followers and those interested in their method of how to become spiritually imbued and conscious; the texts of the dawah movements at no stage discuss spiritual development as a key ingredient in the spreading of Islamic mission. The works of the Sufi shaykhs are generally influential and are profusely used by the educated and non-educated.

One of the leading Sufi khalifas in South Africa is Dr. Yusuf Da Costa; this former high school principal and university academic might not have written any specific Sufi text to date, he has however been advocating the reading of works of his shaykhs as well as those of the sufi order that he currently leads. Moreover, he has been regularly using the local radio stations as a means to publicise his opinions and views of the sufi order. These weekly broadcasts have become popular and have drawn a wide interest from a variety of listeners. The popularity of Sufi shaykhs such as Dr. Da Costa has outstripped the work of the dawah movements who have not been using the media effectively. Other individuals who are not necessarily Sufi shaykhs but prominent murids such as Shaykh Sieraj and Shaykh Ahmad have also made use of the radio stations as a way of disseminating the ideas of the ‘Alawiyyah order[lvi][56]. In addition, they have also publicised their thoughts via intermittent publications and on their online site. Both of them have been writing and delivering lectures and have been openly punting the Sufi path; they have been occupied with the translation of some of the key texts of the order. And as a result of their input, they have attracted the attention of number of adherents. Mentioned may also be made of Abu Bakr Karolia’s online contributions such as ‘A New Universal Strategy for the Ummah’, which – along with a few other related articles – written since 2001 reflect upon the Sufi path.

4.3 Adherents

If one compares the TJ to all the sufi tariqahs put together, one might wish to argue that they have an equal number of adherents and sympathisers. This is evident when one observes their annual and monthly gatherings. Since the TJ usually has its annual ‘ijtima,’ it attracts, at least, 5 to 10 thousand persons over a weekend; this is indeed a big crowd of participants. Although the sufi tariqahs do not have their activities over a long weekend as is the case with the TJs, similar numbers do attend the urs or the milad celebrations annually. And when surveying the mosques that are controlled by the respective groups, one might find that almost an equal number is shared; this again explains that there is no out-right majority or minority groupings in them both. This issue, however, remains a point of debate and will only be resolved until demographic surveys are undertaken to substantiate the arguments for or against.

It may moreover be added that the adherents are generally devoted to the cause and thus try to follow the guidelines as faithfully as possible. And it is not easy to compare whether the TJ follower is more or less faithful than the one who follows the sufi order. Here again it’s a matter of conjecture, assessment, interpretation and observation; all of which are problematic. Since there are no spiritual barometers one cannot exactly point out the spiritual level of the adherents and thus cannot reach conclusive results. One may only surmise that spiritual activities have been on the increase because of influence of the Muslim community radio stations; however, whether this spiritual level can be maintained and sustained is another moot point and difficult to answer. In any case, sizeable numbers attend the obligatory prayers and many more participate in the TJ and sufi circles which can be used as a barometer to measure the increase or decrease of the number of persons who participate regularly in the respective rituals.

4.4 Rituals:

The rituals, it is well known, differ from one group to the other; and in the case of the two respective movements, there are specific rituals outlined for both. And even amongst the Sufi orders each group have their specific rituals to perform. And its also unlikely that members of the TJ would accept all the practices implemented by the Sufi tariqahs. For example, the celebration of the birth of the prophet is generally not wholeheartedly approved by the salafi/wahabi schools. Members of the TJ staunchly stick to the rules set down by their leadership and do not attempt to deviate. In the Cape, where there exists a more tolerant atmosphere regarding these activities, members of the TJ also attend functions organized by the Sufi tariqah.

However, the theologians, who side with the TJ, have written numerous articles and books to prove the invalidity of such celebrations. In fact, theologians belonging to the Majlis ul-Ulama of South Africa, which is confined to Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas, have ventured to translate texts such as Irshaadul Mulook (1998) and Mashaikh –e-Chist (1998) as an indirect measure of countering the Sufi tariqahs; in this case the Chistiyyah tariqah[lvii][57]. These theologians have been vigilant in their criticisms of those who visit the graves of those perceived as awliya.

The Gamieldien 2000-2001 controversy is a case in point. This led to heated debates in the media and in public. For example, the latter was challenged to come to an open debate organized by the Sufi tariqah. He decided not to pitch and the debate continued in his absence; the video recording captured the debate without the shaykh being there; in fact, an empty chair where the shaykh was supposed to have sat to make his input was the focus of the camera. These and other events are signs reflecting the attitude adopted by salafi/wahabi groups who have rejected these practices. It, however, also demonstrated to what extent the sufi tariqah adherents have taken these practices to heart and have emphasised their indulgence as an important act to become more spiritually enhanced or charged.

4.5 Social Change

Via the rituals implemented and practiced by the different movements, one is able to gauge their impact upon the society. It is therefore quite evident that the emergence and growth of each of these movements and tariqahs have led to some form of transformation. When the TJ slowly penetrated the Muslim community at the Cape, those who became members and adherents slowly changed their patterns of behaviour and not only adopted the dress code set down by the movement but also implemented certain eating habits all of which, they argue, have been practiced by the prophet (s). Although similar changes have been observed when the Sufi tariqah were making inroads into different communities, these have however been less visible in terms of dress codes but more prominent in terms of the practices.

Moreover, they have not only affected the behaviour of the individuals in a dramatic way but also the nature of the activities. It is indeed heartening to see that most of the sufi orders have ploughed their efforts into doing social welfare work; an act that had previously been demonstrated by individuals such as Sufi Saheb at the turn of the 20th century. Some of the orders have thus set up feeding schemes and self-help projects as a way of showing that Sufism does not mean isolationism but full participation is social activities without making a fuss of the practices and purpose of the order. The perception has generally been that the Sufi tariqahs do not involve themselves in community affairs; armchair critics were forced to change their perceptions because of the meaningful contributions that are being made by the different orders. Social changes have thus been observed in different parts of the region and many of these have been attributed to the orders active in those areas.

5. Conclusion:

All the movements that have been established or re-emerged over the past few years have embarked upon spiritual programmes. They have entered to create spiritual space for themselves and vied with one another to attract as many adherents to their particular movements. In the process they were unconsciously competing with one another for individuals to enjoy their specific spiritual pathways.

Southern Africa will remain a home, nay a safe-haven, for many of these movements and tariqahs. However, one is concerned that even though the Muslim population is small that they should not find themselves embroiled in conflicts that would eventually lead to the dismemberment of the movements or tariqahs, and ultimately paralyse the communities. Each of them has a space in which they may freely operate and move; they should use these opportunities to pursue their objectives without adopting an intolerant attitude towards one another, and be mindful of the spiritual journey each of them have undertaken.

7 Responses so far »

  1. 2

    Khan said,

    Assalaamu Alaikum …

    For more stuff like this in english and urdu … download from this link read, print and forward to all and all……. (its less than 1.5mb) http://www.ahya.org/news/tj_03.zip

    u will like it i am sure…. ……
    …… email me at sfaizu@yahoo.com

  2. 3

    Md. Iqbal Hussain said,

    As salam alaikum

    I am a Hindu convert, accepted Islam in 2007 and from last one year I have been doing the work of Dawah in and arround my home town and 4 youngmen have also accepted islam.
    I have been doing this work independently and now I need support for an ongoing spontanious dawah process and to conduct meetings for the seekers and to establish a book centre and a dawah centre.
    In this regard I want to come in touch with some organization so that I may work effectively and to have an effective witnessing.
    Tour reply would be much valued.
    Meanwhile praying for you all. May Allah guide you and bless you.
    Your brother
    Iqbal

    • 4

      Amir Habib said,

      Jazak ALLAH mere bhai i pray for you and admire for your cause and effort, you have proved that HIDAYAT is from ALLAH and we born muslims are the back sitters and you the new commer setting examples for us May ALLAH bless you and your family. proud of you my brother.
      Amir Habib
      Qatar

    • 5

      Maruf said,

      You may contact with Dr. Zakir Naik.

    • 6

      zuhaib said,

      ws.where ru .i m in delhi. i would like to meet u if u live in delhi
      .v do dawah work.u can call me at 09716422971

  3. 7

    Baz Al said,

    Sallam,

    I am a none Muslim from the UK with an interest in Islam.

    I have specific questions relating to the meaning and etymology of the word Allah and would like to discuss them in depth with an Islamic Scholar well versed in the subject.

    I am happy to correspond be email.

    Can you help me in the right direction?

    Jazakum khair

    Baz Al


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