Makassar, Shaykh Yusuf (C. 1626–1699)

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Traditional Makassarese sources report that ˓Ali (Shaykh) Yusuf was born in 1626 to a princess of South Sulawesi and raised in the palace of the king of Tallo. He studied under some of the most prominent Arab Muslim scholars in Sulawesi before traveling to continue his education in Banten, Gujarat, the Yemen, Mecca, and Syria. In Damascus he was inducted into the Khalwatiyya order of Sufism, which he worked to spread in Southeast Asia after returning from the Middle East.

In 1664 he settled in Banten where he taught various branches of the Islamic sciences. In 1682 the sultan's son rose against his father's authority with the backing of the Dutch East India Company. Shaykh Yusuf took up an opposition campaign that he pursued for over a year until his capture by the Dutch. He was imprisoned in Batavia and later exiled to Sri Lanka, where he continued his role in advocating resistance against the Dutch via correspondence with the Muslim communities of Indonesia. In 1693 some of these communications were intercepted, and he was thus re-exiled to the Cape of Good Hope. He arrived there on 2 April 1694 and became a founding figure of the Muslim community in South Africa, where he remained until his death. In 1705 the ruler of Makassar petitioned for the repatriation of Shaykh Yusuf's remains, and today his tombs in both Sulawesi and South Africa remain active centers of pilgrimage. Since the 1980s Shaykh Yusuf has become an increasingly popular figure in both Indonesia and South Africa, where Nelson Mandela hailed him as a hero in the history of struggles against oppression.

See alsoAfrica, Islam in ; Southeast Asia, Islam in ; Tariqa .


Feener, R. Michael. "Shaykh Yusuf and the Appreciation of Muslim 'Saints' in Modern Indonesia." Journal for Islamic Studies 18–19 (1999): 112–131.

R. Michael Feener