History of Naqshbandi Order of South Africa

The Naqshbandiyya Order was established by Shaykh Abū Yaqūb Yūsuf al-Ĥamadāni (d. 1140) in the early twelfth century, and is named after Shaykh Muhammad Bahā’ud-Dīn al Naqshbandi (1318-1389).

There exists a view that the Naqshbandiyya Order is one of only three orders that trace its origin or silsila to Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (ra), the other two being the Bistāmiyya and Bektāshiyya orders.

The history of the Naqshbandi Order in SA can be divided into two phases, viz:
(i) The period 1694 to 1998; and
(ii) The period 1998 to the present.


The common view is that we have to go back to Shaykh Yusuf of Macassar to trace the beginnings of the Naqshbandi Order in SA.  Shaykh Yusuf travelled widely and it was in Yemen in about 1649 that he was initiated into the Naqshbandiyya order by Shaykh Abd al-Bāqīal-Mizjāji al Naqshbandi, who was associated with the Indian Shaykh, Shaykh Tājudīn Zakariyyah.

He arrived in Cape Town as a political exile on 2 April 1694 at the age of 68 years.  He died in 1699, and thus only stayed here for five years, and it is not sure whether he initiated any slaves into the Naqshbandiyya Order.  Although it is unclear whether and to what extent Shaykh Yusuf brought any Naqshbandiyya teachings and practices to the Cape, there is a view that he must have done so, particularly in the light of the fact that he was initiated into the order and adopted a personal preference for the Naqshbandi silent dhikr.

Shaykh Yusuf (da Costa) maintains that some Naqshbandiyya teachings and practices must also have come to the Cape in the early 1900s through Sufi Saheb and Maulana Abdul Latīf of the Habibiyyah College.  The Chistiyyah Habibiyyah Order, to which they belonged, absorbed a number of Naqshbandiyya practices through their Shaykh, Khwaja Habib Ali Shah, whose family up to his father had been in the Naqshbandiyya Order.  The Chishtiyyah Habibiyyah Order is in fact a combination of the Qadiriyyah, Chishtiyyah and Naqshbandiyya Orders.

In addition to being inducted into other sufi orders, Shaykh Muĥammad Śāliĥ of the Azzawia Masjid (1871-1945) was also inducted into the Naqshbandiyya order in 1934, at a formal ceremony conducted by a Naqshbandi delegation from Madina at the shrine of Tuan Ja’far in 1934.  Shaykh Śāliĥ is credited with having made of the greatest contributions to Islamic religious education in the history of Cape Town and possibly the whole of South Africa.  It is also reported that Shaykh Śāliĥ performed both the Qadiri and Naqshbandi versions of the Khatme Khwajagan.

Further Naqshbandiyya influence was brought to the Cape by Sayyid Abdul-Qadir al-Naqshbandi, a Syrian who arrived in the Cape in 1950 and lived near Shaykh Yusuf’s shrine in Faure.  Again there is no evidence of him establishing the Naqshbandiyya Order in the Cape, but we know that he spent most of his time teaching. He passed away in November 1985.

Master Ismail Chogle was granted khilāfat in the Naqshbandiyya Order by his Shaykh, Shaykh Abdul-Gaffoor Shah al-Qadiri al-Naqshbandi Allahabadi of India.  He did not initiate anyone into the Naqshbandiyya Order.  In 1981 his son, Abdul-Hay Chogle of Athlone, took bay’ah with Shaykh Abdul-Gaffoor, who also granted him khilāfat into the Naqshbandiyya Order in 1986.  Although he holds the weekly Naqshbandiyya dhikr with his family, he also did not initiate anyone into the Naqshbandiyya Order.

We thus see very little known evidence of the growth of the Naqshbandiyya Order in SA, under the khilāfats of Shaykh Abdul-Qadir, Master Ismail Chogle and Abdul-Hay Chogle.

We can now proceed to examine the second phase of the history of the Naqshbandi order in SA, i.e. from 1998 to the present.


The real growth in the Naqshbandiyya Order has been experienced in the period from 1998 onwards, commencing with the establishment in that year, of the Haqqani Foundation of SA in Cape Town by Shaykh Hishām Kabbani, a Khalifah of Maulāna Shaykh Muhammad Nāzim Al-Haqqani of Cyprus, the head of the worldwide Naqshbandiyya Order.  Shaykh Nāzim is considered to be the qutub and mujjaddid, i.e. a reviver of Islam of this age.

Through Shaykh Hishām, Shaykh Nāzim appointed Shaykh Yusuf da Costa as his khalīfah in Southern Africa, in 1998.

A major impetus was provided by the nationwide visit to SA in 2000 by Shaykh Nāzim, accompanied by Shaykh Hishām and a host of other murids from all over the world.  During his stay, Shaykh Nāzim:

• Lectured in all the main centres in SA;
• Delivered up to three daily talks at the residence of Shaykh Yusuf da Costa;
• Gave bay’ah to hundreds of people;
• Gave individual spiritual guidance to many; and
• Inspired his murids and others to give Almighty Allah priority in their lives.

The khilāfat of Shaykh Yusuf da Costa and the visit by Shaykh Nāzim sparked a decade of remarkable growth of the Naqshbandiyya Order and its contribution to the promotion of Islam in Southern Africa.  More than 600 people attended the first public Naqshbandiyya dhikr in the Habibia Soofi Masjid in November 2000.

The Naqshbandiyya Order practices and activities are based on three pillars, viz.:

(i) The remembrance of Allah (dhikr).
(ii) Being for Allah.
(iii) Being for Allah’s cause, i.e. the deen of Islam.

We examine our growth in the past decade in relation to these pillars.

(i) Dhikr (the remembrance of Allah)

There has been a phenomenal growth in the number of congregational Naqshbandi dhikrs conducted in Southern Africa from Thursdays to Sundays:

• In Cape Town we have a weekly congregational dhikr in a different Masjid every Friday. There are up to eight separate ladies’ dhikrs every Saturday afternoon.  Up to three dhikrs are held on Saturday evenings, including one or two in the outlying or rural areas.  A dhikr is held in a “black” township every Sunday, attended by people from other townships and from the suburbs.  People from the townships also conduct dhikrs in their areas, such as Mfuleni, every Monday, Thursday and Saturday.  Up to three dhikrs are also held every Saturday afternoon in the Delft area.  This totals nineteen dhikrs in Cape Town.
• In the Eastern Cape there are eight dhikrs conducted every weekend.
• At least three dhikrs are held in Gauteng from Thursday to Saturdays.
• In Durban a weekly congregational dhikr is held and another in the township every alternate weekend.  There are ten teachers employed by the Naqshbandi Order who, every Thursday and Friday, conduct the Naqshbandiyya dhikr in eight different areas.  This totals ten dhikrs in Durban.
• Four congregational dhikrs are held in Malawi weekly, in the villages of Nkota Kota, Makolanga, Mangochi and Blantyre.
• There is also one weekly congregational dhikr in Namibia.

This gives us a total of forty-five (45) congregational Naqshbandi dhikrs held on a weekly basis in Southern Africa, spread over more than 70 sites.

In verse 45 of Surah Al ‘Ankabūt, Allah (SWT) says ‘wala dhikrullahi akbar’, meaning ‘and the remembrance of Allah is the greatest’.  In Bayhaqi it is narrated that Abd Allah ibn Umar (ra) said that the Prophet (SAWS) said that dhikr is the polish of the heart, and that the most calculated to rescue from Allah’s punishment is dhikr, even more so than jihād.  In Bayhaqi, Hakim, Tabarani and a few others it is narrated that Jabir (ra) said that the Prophet (SAWS) encouraged participation in the gardens of paradise, which he (SAWS) described as being the gatherings of dhikrullah.

It is on the basis of these Quranic and Prophetic injunctions that the Naqshbandi tariqah promotes the deen of Islam primarily through the medium of dhikr.

(ii) Being for Allah

There are a number of murids who give tirelessly and unselfishly of their time and resources to the activities of the Naqshbandiyya Order.  In addition to the dhikr activities outlined above, there is also the An-Nisā subcommittee that sees to the spiritual and educational upliftment of women, and other subcommittees that attend to issues including da’wah, media, fundraising, finance, and advertising and website affairs.

(iii) Being for Allah’s cause

Our efforts are intended solely for the cause of Almighty Allah (SWT), to spreading the deen of Islam amongst the poor, through particularly the remembrance of Allah (dhikr), the building and maintaining of masjids and salaah khaanas, the provision of Islamic education, food, clothing and ablution facilities, and other general social welfare assistance that we are able to provide.  True worship requires not only Imaan and the rituals such as salaah, etc, but the practical and helpful love and assistance to those in need.  In Surah Al-Ma’oon, for example, Almighty Allah (SWT) cautions against those worshippers who do not feed the indigent and to supply neighbourly assistance, to those in need.

Significant Achievements

The Naqshbandi Order has, in its short history in SA, made some significant achievements, achievements that are not what we claim, but rather what Almighty Allah (SWT) has granted us through His infinite mercy.  These achievements include inter alia the following:

• We are, quantitatively, possibly the largest tariqah in SA.
• We have operational offices in Cape Town (which functions as the head office), the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal and Malawi, have appointed an Amīr in the Free State/Northern Cape area, and also have a presence in Botswana and Namibia.  Planning for da’wah trips to Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and other parts of SA are well in advance.
• As previously mentioned, we conduct and teach congregational dhikr in all the areas we are operative in.
• Our approach to promoting Islam extends beyond the making of dhikr, to following the Prophetic model of actively working for Islam.
• We are very mindful of the Prophetic example, and our focus is to work amongst the poor.
• In the Western Cape we have built masjids/salaah khaanas in Mfuleni, Harare and Burundi, and have upgraded various others.  We have also completed the building of another Islamic Centre in Driftsands, and have purchased property in Happy Valley where we plan to establish another masjid.
• We provide ablution facilities at the masjids and salaah khaanas.
• We formally teach Islam to adults and children in the townships.
• Shaykh Yusuf da Costa, with the assistance of others, has published various books to assist us with our work, dealing with Islam and spirituality.
• We regularly provide food to adults (via soup kitchens and servings at our township dhikrs), as well as to the children attending madrasah.
• We have helped to re-establish dhikr in Malawi, coupled with Mufti Abbas Cassiem, the Mufti of Malawi, taking bay’ah into the Naqshbandiyya Order.
• We are in the process of putting up a building to house agricultural machinery, i.e. a maize mill and huller in the village of Machinga in Malawi, to assist the residents there to become self-sufficient.
• We employ up to twenty missionary workers in SA, Namibia and Malawi, to spread and teach the deen of Islam.
• Since we have focused our work amongst the poor in the townships, more than two hundred (200) people have recited the shahada and reverted to Islam, including two mute people.  We do not claim credit for these reversions, as it is Allah (SWT) alone that changes the hearts of people.  We are very privileged to have been chosen by Allah (SWT) to be associated with these reversions.
• We have significantly helped with the integration of Muslims from the suburbs and the townships – we do our utmost to treat the people from the townships as our fellow creation, our fellow Muslims.  We do not only assist them and make dhikr with them, but we also socialise with them, and they with us.  We do this on the basis of our practical belief that we are one ummah, not divided by race, colour, wealth, status or any other measure.
• We have built bridges with local Somali and Malawi communities, mainly through dhikr, also in an attempt to show we are one ummah.
• In May 2008 we forwarded 3000kg of clothing to the poor in Malawi.
• We have in various practical ways assisted the victims of the so-called xenophobic attacks in SA.