In South Sulawesi, there are seven Religious Leader known as “Wali Pitue”, and one of them is Syekh Yusuf Al-Makassary.
The first written source which reveals the life of Syekh Yusuf Makassar is the traditional book of history belongs to Makassarese-buginese, that is the so-called “Lontara”. There are three Lontara which inform much of his life, namely lontara Tallo, lontara Gowa and lontara Bilangngang. It was the three lontara considered to very reliable in tracing Riwawayana Tuanta Salamaka ri Gowa (the history of our safe master in Gowa, i.e. Syekh Yusuf al-Makassar). Besides, oral tradition which is famous among Buginese-Makassarese people in South Sulawesi could also tell us such history.
According to “Lontara Bilangngang”, the heritage of the twin kingdoms, Gowa-Tallo, Syekh Yusuf was born on 3 July 1626 M coinciding with 8 Syawal 1036 H. The story of his birth was told in oral tradition in Buginese-Makassarese society and it become agreement among them. This fact indicates that his birth was 20 years after Gowa and Tallo kingdoms being Islamized by an Ulama from Minangkabau, namely Abdul Kadir Khatib Tunggal or popularly called Dato’ri Bandang.
As an ordinary human, he was born on the earth through his father and mother. As stated in Lontara Riwaya’na Tuanta Salama ri Gowa, his father is Galarrang Moncongloe, a brother in one mother line of the 15th King of Gowa Imanga’rangi Daeng Manrabia or Popularly known as Sultan Alauddin, the first king who converted to Islam and declared Islam as the formal religion of his kingdom in 1603. His Mother is Aminah binti Damapang Ko’mara, who is descendant of noble family from the Tallo kingdom, the twin kingdom of Gowa.
However, according to hasyiyat fi al-Kitab al-Anba’ fi I’rab la Ilaha illa Allah, one of Syekh Yusuf’s works stated that his father is Abdullah, so Prof. Hamka decides that his father’s name is Abdullah. Besides, oral tradition inherited by his descendants informs that His father is Abdullah Khaidir. Yet, the latter name still becomes controversy in common people since some regard that he is the prophet Khaidir. Nonetheless, the geneology of his descendants which is inherited by generations can convince us that his father is Gallarang Moncongloe, then Islamized as Abdullah Khaidir.
The life of Syekh Yusuf was popular up to now in four places or countries; they are Makassar (South Sulwesi), Banten (West Java), Ceylon (Sri Langka), and Cape Town (South Africa) since he spent much of his life at those places. In Ceylon and South Africa, he was even regarded as the first who put foundations of the existing Moslem community and as the father of several Moslem communities in south Africa who struggled to realize unity against oppression and ethnical differences.
During his childhood, he spent with learning to read al-Qur’an and was taught how to practice Islam in daily life. After being able to read al-Qur’an and ready to study further, his father sent him to pondok pesantren Bontoala to study Islamic knowledge and linguistic means such as: Nahw, Sharf, Balaghah, Ma’ani and ‘Ilm al-Mantiq. Afterwards, Syekh Yusuf pursued his study in pondok Cikoang under the teaching of Syekh Jalaluddin al-Aidid. Because of his intelligence in following Majlis, he was then suggested by his teachers to continue his study in Jazirah Arabia.
Having adventured in Middle-East for around twenty years to study Islam, he returned to his hometown. Although there is oral story stated that he never go home, this story can not be accepted because we do not get any strong reasons and historical fact for evidence. Yet, it should be noted that after returning to Nusantara, Syekh Yusuf became the great warrior who always precipitated rebellions against the Dutch either when he was in Makassar, Banten, Ceylon, and South Africa. Wherever he was, he often dessiminated Da’wah Islamiyyah and called upon Jihad fi Sabilillah.
Syekh Yusuf was also popular as the prolific writer of tasawwuf works either in Makkassarese, Bugis, Arabic, Javanese, and Arabic. His works written in Arabic to mention some as follow:
1. al-Barakat al-Sailaniyyah
2. Bidayat al-Mubtadi’
3. al-Fawaih al-Yusufiyyah
4. Hashiyah in Kitab al-Anba’
5. Kaifiyyat al-Munghi
6. Matalib al-Salikin
7. al-Nafhat al-sailaniyyah
8. Qurrat al-‘Ain
9. Sirr al-Asrar
11. Taj al-Asrar
12. Zubdat al-Asrar
13. Fath Kaifiyyat al-Dzikr
15. Hazhihi Fawaid ‘Azima Dzikr La Ilaha illa Allah
16. Muqaddimat al-Fawaid allati ma la budda min al-‘Aqaid
17. Tahsil al-Inayah wa al-Hidayah
18. Risalah Ghayat al-Ikhtishar wa Nihayat al-Intizar
19. Tuhfat al-Amr fi Fadilat adz-Dzikr
20. Tuhfat al-Abrar li Ahl al-Asrar
21. al-Munjiyya ‘an Madarrat al-Hijaiba
Syekh Yusuf passed away in 22 Zulqaidah 1109 H coinciding with 23 May 1699 M. in his seclusion, Zandvliet at the age of 73 years old. He was buried in sandy hill of Fasle Bay, not far from his residence. His tomb now was seen as ‘sacred’ and believed as the holy place. His tomb was completed with other buildings, including the tombs of his four students who also struggled for Islam in South Africa.