KwaZulu Natal Tourist AttractionsHazrath Badsha Peer Shrine
Where? Hazrath Badsha Peer Shrine, Upper north eastern corner of West Street Cemetery, Durban, 4001.
In the midst of the busy market on Victoria Street stands the Brook Street cemetery, one of the most famous and oldest cemeteries in Durban.
Here, in amongst the four different religious denominations of the cemetery (Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish)is the Hazrath Badsha Peer Shrine - a dedication to Hazrat Sheik Ahmed Badsha Peer, a great Sufi saint who is buried here.
He is one of the most celebrated mystics in South Africa and it is believed that Hadrat Badsha Peer's lineage is traceable back to the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
He arrived in South Africa in 1860, one of first Indian indentured labourers to the country. The 203 Indians who arrived by ship were sent to various parts of Natal. Hadrat Badsha Peer chose the north coast as his destination. Contracts were anything from five to ten years. Those who chose the ten year option were given the choice of either returning to India at the expense of the government, or remaining in South Africa. The sufi saint chose to remain.
The story of how he was recognised as a saint recounts how he began to spend more time in meditation and spiritual exercises under a tree, than ploughing and cultivating his designated labour area. In contradiction to his fellow workers' fear that he would be punished for neglecting duties, at the end of every day his area of land was complete. And yet nobody saw him move.
The British government recognised his spiritual powers and gave Hazrath Badsha Peer an honourable release. Instead of his salary, which they offered him, he asked for passage to Durban where he went straight to the Grey Street Mosque – then a lot smaller than now. He moved into a tin shanty directly behind the mosque and continued to commune with his creator, giving many predictions, none of which were taken seriously as no-one recognised him as a saint.
Only years later when Hadrat Shah Goolam Muhammad Soofie arrived - a great Muslim missionary and saint whom Hazrath Badsha Peer had predicted would come - was he recognised by the missionary who sought out his grave, placed a stone on either side of it, and pronounced him a saint.
Today a shrine stands over the grave. Just beyond the cemetery's walls the constant daily hubbub of the market continues.