HIS MISSIONS

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A few indentured Indian families whose contract to work on the cane fields had expired, lived in this area, called Riverside. They took up farming and supplied the Durban market with greens, fruit and vegetables. Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA stepped down from the horse drawn wagon, followed by his few companions. One piece of land captured his attention, next to which were a few farmers busily engaged with their chores. On the far side of the land were a few small humble wood and iron dwellings. He then walked towards this area with the others. As they were approaching the house a Hindu gentleman (Narainsamy) who was the owner, came hurriedly towards them. He warned them not to come further because behind a nearby rock there was a huge python that terrified the people who came there to visit the temple. Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA very calmly walked towards the owner while the others were naturally very scared of the situation. The driver of the wagon made a hasty retreat to wait at the wagon. Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA was greeted by the owner who immediately saw a saintly personality in front of him and recognized him to be a very holy person.

The owner was astonished to see that the party walked freely along the pathway without any harm being done to them. Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA told the man of his intention to buy the land from him and the reasons for the purchase. The owner agreed and told Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA that the land was for sale but could not get a buyer because of the presence of the python.

 

The Python makes an exit

 

Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA negotiated with the owner to buy the piece of land where the present Musjid and Mazaar stand. At the same time he walked towards the spot where the python lived while the others, including the owner, watched from a safe distance. To everyone's amazement he spoke to the reptile by saying. “I have come here to purchase this land and to plant the flag of Islam and of Hazrath Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti RA.” Surprisingly the python emerged, stopped at the feet of Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA for a few seconds as if making salutations, and headed towards the lagoon area where it disappeared. It is reported that the home of the python was near a well next to the present mosque.

Purchase of first site

 

The next day Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA, was taken to the office of Mahatama Gandhi who was then practicing as a lawyer in Durban. The land at Riverside was legally and duly purchased and a trust was created. Copy of part of the Deed of Sale of the site at Riverside                                                                                                          

(Note the signature of Mahatma Gandhi)

The First Musjid

 

After purchasing the land at Riverside, Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA personally drew the sketch and instructed the builder to begin with the project. Hazrath himself laid the foundation of the House of Allah and work began in earnest. While the Musjid work was in progress and with the assistance of the same builder, he laid the foundation for his humble home. His family at the time was still in India. The Musjid was constructed with bricks and the house with wood and corrugated iron. The house remained in its original state until 1968 when it was forcibly demolished under the then Group Areas Act when Indians had to move out of Riverside area for White occupation. A khanqah was also built for spiritual training and upliftment and a part of this khanqah was also used as an orphanage.

Arrival of the Family

 

It was approximately 18 months after starting the building project, which was now complete and in operation, that he called his family to join him here in South Africa in 1897.

According to the record in the Archives at Durban, the following family members joined him at the Khanqah at Riverside.

His mother, Rabia Bi, his wife, Bibi Zainab and his sons, Shah Mohamed Ebrahim Soofie, Shah Abdul Aziz Soofie, Shah Abdul Kader Soofie, Shah Goolam Hafiz Soofie and his daughters. May the blessings of Allah be upon them.

His mother, Rabia RA, who was now very old and sickly, came to South Africa because she wanted to be with her eldest son and her daughter-in-law, Zainab Bi RA. There was a very special bond of love between these two women which had become even stronger during Haj. His mother was a great source of inspiration to Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA and many are the tales about his reverence for her. She passed away in 1913 (1332 AH) and lies buried next to her eminent son in the Mazaar Shareef at Riverside - together in life and together in death.

After the members of his family joined him at the Darbar in Riverside his administrative work was shared. His eldest son, Hazrath Shah Mohamed Ebrahim Soofie RA was able to assist him at the Darbar so that he was able to expand his missionary work around Durban district, eventually spreading to other parts of the country.

Mazaar Shareef of Hazrath Badsha Peer R.A.

 

Meanwhile the name and fame of Hazrath Badsha Peer RA (buried in Brook Street Cemetery) spread far and wide and people began streaming in to seek spiritual benefits and blessings. In order to attend to the needs and comforts of the community Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA had to construct a wood and iron building over the Holy grave of Hazrath Badsha Peer RA and personally attend to the people. However, the building of other Masaajid (Mosques) and Khanqahs often kept him away from the Mazaar and he had to appoint a full-time Mujawar (keeper) to attend to the people’s various requests and needs.

The First Madressa

 

“Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”

After the completion of the first Musjid, followed by the Khanqah cum Orphanage and residential house, Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA began madressa classes for the children in the area, the orphans, the destitute and even the adults in the newly constructed Musjid. However in early 1903, Parsee Rustomjee, a prominent member of the Parsee community donated a building which was used as a madressa, as a token of appreciation to Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA. 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. Hazrath Moulana Abdul Latief Qadi RA, the brother-in-law of Hazrath 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 personal efforts that saw many a brilliant student emerge from this Centre, including the minor sons of Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA namely, Hazrath Shah Abdul Kader Soofie RA, Hazrath Shah Goolam Hafiz Soofie RA, Hazrath Shah Mohamed Habib Soofie RA and Hazrath Shah Goolam Fareed Soofie RA.

The students were grouped and placed in different classes according to their age, aptitude and educational ability. There were classes for beginners (including adults) learning to read the Quraan and the Urdu language. The senior classes were taught the languages - Urdu, Arabic and Pharsee (Persian), General Deenyath and Islamic History. Great emphasis was laid on the teaching of Urdu because it was the belief of Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA that the most valuable and priceless treasures of Islam were to be found in Urdu. Kitaabs in the various libraries of the Indo - Pakistan sub continent.

Of the books and kitaabs that were used to impart religious education, very little is known. It is unfortunate that after the demise of Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA in 1911 many of the books and kitaabs were removed or borrowed from the Khanqah and never returned, for either sentimental reason or other reasons best known to the borrower. The same was repeated after the demise of Hazrath Shah Abdul Aziz Soofie in 1947. One thing is certain that these valuable books were from India and were in general use in the Darul Ulooms in India at that time. Today these books would have served a very useful purpose to identify the type of education imparted to the scholars.

It is interesting to note that the immortal “Mathnawi” of Moulana Jalaluddin Rumi RA, the greatest mystic poet the world has produced, was also taught. The Mathnawi, comprising of 6 books containing 26660 couplets and which took 10 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 there were times when Hazrath Shah Moulana Abdul Latief Qadi RA, in his melodious voice, taught the Mathnawi to the students in the Madressa, Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA, sitting in the Musjid went into a state of wajd (ecstasy).

Some of the many outstanding students that attained their education at the Madressa were .

1.     Hazrath Moulana Abdul Kader, who received his elementary education at the Madressa at Riverside. He proceeded overseas to further his studies and returned to serve the community faithfully for many years.

2.     Imam Habibullah Khan, who performed many years of yeoman service to keep the torch of Islam alive in the sprawling district of Clairwood which in those days was a densely populated, impoverished residential area.

3.     Sayed Hameed, a brilliant teacher who is also remembered for his excellent calligraphy in Urdu and Arabic.

4.     Munshi Dawood Vanker, a colourful personality, whose name was a household word, was a teacher and lecturer for many years.

May Allah be pleased with all of them.

5.     In recent times Moulana Abbas Khan received his basic education at the Soofie Saheb Madressa before pursuing his studies in Pakistan. He is now serving the community.

The First Orphanage

 

‘The best home is that in which an orphan is brought up.’

Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA put into practice this Hadith to the letter. He found that there were children in Durban, many of them orphans, who were being neglected. It was not unusual for him to go into town to collect the children who were begging for food in the streets. He used to take them to their parents.

Some were old, others were sickly and unable to work. He provided assistance to these families. In most cases, with the permission of parents and relatives, the orphans and destitute children were taken to the Orphanage at Riverside in order to give the families an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves.

At the Khanqah the very young ones were taken care of by his wife, Hazrath Zainab RA, who was the motherly figure. They were immediately washed and changed into clean clothes. The older children were given clean clothing after a wash and were introduced to the other inmates under the personal guidance of Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA. Orphanages were normally synonymous with strict military discipline, child abuse and child labour. In most cases the behavior problems were due to the upbringing in the former environment - while some were over-pampered, others were totally neglected. Both types of treatment breed problem children. So far as the orphanage at Riverside was concerned, the Islamic atmosphere helped tremendously to instill friendly relationships among inmates. A lot of love and care emanated from the Orphanage under the supervision of Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA, who was a strict disciplinarian so far as Shariat matters were concerned but who at the same time was humane.

He was ably assisted by his beloved wife in this respect.

 

The parents of these children also received assistance from the Khanqah. Groceries, meat, vegetables and cash were delivered to the homes of those who were unable to call at the Centre for some reason or the other. The horse-drawn wagon was the only means of transportation at the Darbar. Assistance was given to other people also.

Dinner at the Khanqah was an orderly and disciplined affair whether it was breakfast, lunch or supper. The homely atmosphere that prevailed was remarkable. Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA himself sat with the orphans, destitute and other inmates and his sons at the Darbar all sitting side by side at the dastarkhan (table cloth). If there were visitors at the Khanqah at that time, they were also asked to join in. He personally made sure that all partook and enjoyed their meals. When all had finished, then only he used to eat.

When Mother Nature is at rest, in the stillness of the night and when all the members of his family are fast asleep, Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA, with a lantern in his hand would go on his routine nightly rounds to make sure that everyone was comfortable and asleep.

He used to carefully awake those with weak bladders, take them by their hands, walk them to the toilets, wash them personally and take them back to their beds and tuck them to sleep. If anyone needed an extra blanket, provisions were made. If any beddings were messed he would personally clean the child and change the bedclothes. At that part of the night he used to wash the soiled clothes. On numerous occasions, on his routine check he would attend to orphans and other inmates if he found them awake due to fever or other ailments. He personally saw to each one and attended to them in a fatherly manner. Some were given medicine while others were given hot tea and bread. He would stay awake with them, if he had to. Alhamdo-lillah, Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA carried out his duties and obligations towards the orphans and destitute as was the Sunnah of our Holy Prophet SAW and the teachings of the Holy Quraan. 

His aim in bringing the children from the streets to the Orphanage was primarily to give them a shelter over their heads, feed them, and most important, to educate them. He wanted to lift their morale and make them self-sufficient so that when they left the institution they would be an asset to the community, a source of help to their parents and family members.

The education at the Orphanage was entrusted to the brother-in-law of Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA, namely, Hazrath Moulana Shah Abdul Latief Qadi RA who later became one of the six Khulafas of Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA and was placed in charge of the Soofie Saheb Darbar at Athlone, Cape town.

Many children from the Orphanage and Madressa at Riverside grew up to become Imams, Munshis, Muazzins, community leaders and were posted to various small villages and remote areas around Durban. 

As a result there was a sudden surge in the country to provide their children with Islamic-education. This indirectly led not only to the upliftment of Islam but also to the spread of Islam. All this was entirely due to the teachings and tireless efforts of Hazrath Soofie Saheb RA who was also responsible for promoting Urdu as a language, used in many homes as an official language. It was, and still is, regarded as the “khazana” (treasure) of Islam.

These and many more have left their alma mater and have served, while some are still serving the community.