The Muslim community in Durban forms a generous fraction of the Indian community in Durban. They were also determined to maintain and spread their religion wherever they settled. The rise of a Muslim culture in Durban dates back to the history of Saint Badsha Peer and Soofie Sahab. The grave of Saint Badsha Peer is a mystical heritage site in Durban to date it is still visited and still a place of worship.
The rise of the Muslim culture
In 1860 Hazrath Sheik Ahmed Badsha Peer arrived in Durban as an ordinary indentured laborer and worked at a sugar cane farm in the North Coast. He was a holy Muslim man with mystical powers that was discharged to continue his work of god (Allah). He lived his life on the streets of Durban as a simple man with no family, preaching the Islamic religion and giving hope to the suffering community. He spent most of his time in Grey Street Mosque and the Brook Street cemetery and also visiting his friends at the farms.
He advised the people that they should preserve and remain positive regardless of their situation and that there was going to be a spiritual guide arriving soon. He was always shabbily dressed and untidy in appearance and although he was respected as a holy man later, he was never taken seriously when he warned of a spiritual guide appearing soon to change the situation. He died in 1895 and was buried at the Muslim cemetery in Brook Street as an ordinary man.
The Recognition of Saint Badsha Peer
In 1895 the same year Saint Badshah Peer died, Hazrath Soofie Sahab came to Durban as instructed by his spiritual master in India. His aim was to strengthen the Islamic religion. He started the first Khanqah (Muslim spiritual retreat) on the northern banks of Umngeni River, the area known as Riverside. He built a Musjid, Madressa and an orphanage. He created employment and helped Muslim widows with burials. His Musjid was known as the Soofie Saheb Darbar. He was the spiritual guide Badsha Peer predicted, and as a fellow Muslim man, Soofie Sahab located the grave of Badsha Peer at the Brook Street Cemetery and erected a shelter over his grave and made the community aware about the greatness of Badsha Peer. Badsha Peer became known as a saint. Soofie Sahab erected a wood and iron structure over Badsha Peer grave site to serve as a shelter for the majority of people who visited this site to pay respects and perform prayers. He started the annual Urs Shareef (mass gathering) at the cemetery site which is still practiced today. The site has undergone many renovations and is a major attraction in Durban. The structure is now made up of brick and mortar. Soofie Sahab passed away at the age of 63 and he was buried in the Riverside where a shrine was built on his grave. Today both the Badsha Peer and the Soofie Darbar are common sites of worship.
By: Yoveshine Pillay
Reference: The Post Newspaper, page 102, November 16 2010.