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Quietly courageous Galiema Haron: Imam’s confidante and trusted partner

Quietly courageous Galiema Haron:  Imam’s confidante and trusted partner
September 29, 2020
September 29, 2020 September 29, 2020

Mrs Galiema Haron, the wife of Imam Abdullah Haron, passed away a year ago, on September 29, 2019, exactly 50 years after her husband – who was killed by the apartheid security police on Saturday September 27, 1969 – was buried. Her son, PROFESSOR MUHAMMED HARON, pays tribute to his mother in this article which was first published in the print edition of Muslim Views on August 30, 2019. A month later, Mrs Haron passed away.

CLAREMONT was and ­continues to be regarded as one of Cape Town’s most attractive and popular suburbs.

Galiema Haron and Imam Abdullah Haron with their two eldest children, Muhammed (left) and Shamela (right). (Photo IMAM HARON FOUNDATION)

There are a few reasons for this; the first is that it is the location of Cape Town’s well-known cricket and rugby fields and the other is that it has developed into a tourist destination.

While these might be viewed among the important reasons for it being an attractive location, not much has been written about its social history and, more specifically, about the plethora of individuals who were born and raised in that area.

Among the many families that formed part of Claremont’s social network, the Galant, Basardien, Hattas and Sadan families featured prominently.

From among the various families that dotted this area, the Sadans were a sizeable family. It is into this family that Galiema Sadan was born on August 3, 1926.

Galiema was the eldest daughter of Ali Sadan and Rugaya Osborne; the latter had mixed roots hailing from both Southeast Asia and Europe, while the former’s genealogy goes back to Java, in Indonesia.

Ali Sadan, Galiema’s father, was a respected carpenter, and Rugaya Osborne, Galiema’s mother, was a well-known baker who was much loved by the Claremont community. So, when each of their six children [Abdul-Kariem (Gap), Galiema (Tietie), Ganief (Niefie), Cassiem (Danie), Amina (Mina) and Ayyoub] got married, Ali Sadan made their bedroom and dining room furniture and their mother did all the baking, along with others who assisted.

Sadly, from among these, only Galiema and her sister are still around. One should, however, add that they had an adopted brother, Salie Sadan, who grew up with them. Being the eldest, Galiema generally displayed placid but firm leadership and confidence.

Unlike her mother, who was a socialite and by profession a baker, Galiema decided to take up dressmaking and was a quiet, reserved worker. She learnt the dressmaking profession from one of Claremont’s prominent dressmakers at that time.

Galiema, in a sense, competed with her brother, Ganief, who also specialised in this vocation. Since that time until she reached beyond eighty she was in this field, making dresses for all and sundry, and was respected for the quality work that she produced.

Those who particularly benefitted from her sharp skills were her two daughters and her many nieces; many of them fondly remember how their mother/ aunt used to make dresses for them within a short space of time for a function.

Fatiema Haron-Masoet, Galiema’s youngest daughter, was one of those beneficiaries who received a new dress almost each week when she used to work for a period at Edgars.

Galiema Sadan was a very private person before and even after she married Abdullah Haron, who also hailed from Claremont.

Abdullah, who was a close friend of her two dear brothers, Abdul-Kariem and Cassiem Sadan, when they schooled at Talfalah Primary, got to know Galiema who attended the same school, which was then located in Draper Street, not far from Claremont Main Road Mosque.

Even though there were no early warning signals that the handsome, well-dressed Abdullah had an interest in the young, beautiful Galiema, this became apparent when Abdullah was forced by his aunt, Mariam, to get engaged to someone else.

Galiema Haron on her wedding day, March 15, 1950. (Photo IMAM HARON FOUNDATION)

On March 15, 1950, Abdullah and Galiema entered into marriage according to Muslim rites. Galiema then bore three children; the eldest was Shamela who had left for London soon after she matriculated, the second was Muhammed who has been attached to University of Botswana for more than 18 years, the last was Fatiema, who works for her husband’s dental company, and with whom Galiema presently lives in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs.

Though Galiema evades questions about her early life as a teenager and young adolescent, a few of her family members and friends related affectionate thoughts about the early days.

Galiema, however, vividly recalled the pleasant memories that she experienced alongside her husband, Abdullah, who demonstrated his love throughout their marriage. During their married life, she worked from home where she made dresses for her clients.

While sewing with her handy machine, she listened to the radio playing in the background. At times, she would sing along, if she knew the song or the tune; all these underscored her jolly and happy mood.

Besides her occupation, she also did housework and cooked for the family. Having been well trained by her mother, she made all sorts of dishes that Abdullah enjoyed.

Since she trusted her husband, she would not ask much about his whereabouts apart from knowing that he was doing deliveries for Wilson-Rowntree, the sweet manufacturing company for which he worked during much of the 1960s.

Whenever he got home, he would hug and kiss her fondly, tangibly demonstrating the bond that existed between them. When he was short of funds, he would approach her and she, in turn, never questioned what he was going to do with the monies. She knew that he was also extending a hand to someone in need in the community.

She, at times, used to raise her voice – though lovingly – and he responded without any anger. On the whole, one can describe the life that Galiema had with Abdullah to have been more than an eventful one – from the time they entered into marriage until the time the notorious apartheid Security Branch wrenched him away from her and her children on May 28, 1969. Throughout the almost two decades of marriage, she was able to mention various incidents in which she enjoyed and loved the company of her husband. He joked with her and conversed with her very romantically and lovingly.

They travelled, for example, by car to Johannesburg and other South African cities during the early 1960s. Towards the end of the 1960s, she accompanied him on a memorable trip to the Middle East where they visited Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Galiema was never left out of his life even though he seldom informed her about his political activities; this part of his life she was suspicious about but preferred not to pry and left him to do what he always did: serving the community and anyone who was in a desperate situation.

When Abdullah became imam at Al-Jaamia mosque, in Claremont, during 1955, she stood by his side and supported him in all his tasks in the community. Galiema assisted him when he was financially in dire straits.

She came to his aid whenever he extended help to those in need and those who were incarcerated by the apartheid system. Indeed, not much has been recorded about her acts as an enthusiastic supporter of the Imam’s social activities, which may be attributed to the fact that she – like many other partners in the socio-political and religious struggles – was not fully familiar with all his acts.

On top of that, though being a faithful housewife, she, like many other Muslim women, was not well informed about Islam’s overall philosophy nor was she wholly informed about the notion of social justice within the apartheid state.

She knew aspects but not in detail since she remained occupied with her household chores, including her profession as a dressmaker. Leaving aside these aspects, one wishes to underline that she was by his side as his silent ‘financier’ and, of course, his confidante and trusted partner.

Though she is presently bedridden and has lost her speech, she has always been a strong-willed person – even as she lies in bed she demonstrates this character trait on a few occasions.

Soon after her husband’s tragic murder on September 27, 1969, she showed signs of family leadership. Apart from having been pained by her dear husband’s killing at the hands of the Security Branch, she had the willpower and the ability to rear her two children – the elder daughter having already settled in the UK – singlehandedly without giving up hope; nay, she expressed deep faith in God Almighty and that faith kept her going all these years.

According to the apartheid legal system, Galiema was regarded as an ‘unlawful’ wife of the Imam since they were not married in court and, as a result, the couple’s children were regarded as illegitimate.

The outcome of this was that she lost her home and was forced to move to her mother’s home in Athlone – on the Cape Flats – and she was split from her son who had to stay at the home of a close associate of the Imam and the family.

In spite of these traumatic experiences, Galiema saw to the education of her two younger children and also assisted her eldest daughter in small ways from her earnings. She, by then, had to work at a dry cleaners (Personal Cleaners) as an alteration hand, on top of working in her profession from home.

Since Shamela was studying radiography in the UK, she received financial aid through the Defence and Aid Fund but was also, at times, given small sums by Galiema.

At home, Galiema got assistance from the Stegman Road mosque community as well as organisations such as the Hospital Welfare and Muslim Educational Movement and the Arabic Study Circle to get her son to complete his undergraduate studies at University of Durban-Westville (now amalgamated with University of KwaZulu-Natal).

The same applies to her youngest daughter. It is important to note that she strove hard to see that her two children achieved their education. She also succeeded in securing a plot of land where she built a house in Crawford; the very place where she is currently residing with her youngest daughter.

All of these acts are proof that Galiema Haron never neglected her children or had set them aside for her own personal interest. As a matter of fact, when she was keeping her family together, she did so by taking on ‘boarders’ and many of these individuals who qualified as doctors, dentists, journalists and teachers spoke highly of her management skills.

She washed and ironed their clothing, fed them, cared for them. She demonstrated throughout this period that she was a determined woman, an independent individual and a focused person. She generally spoke little but did much.

Although she was and is at times ‘hardkoppig’ and ‘astrant’ (stubborn), she relished her liberty and freedom to express her feelings frankly.

Sadly, now that she has reached beyond 93, she has become dependent upon her children and others to assist her. Despite their willingness to help and aid her, she would still have her say in the matter if things were not in order or were wrong.

There is no doubt that in spite of Galiema’s frail condition – she has reached a point where she is essentially inaudible* – in the eyes of her children and the community, she continues to remain, along with many others, an unsung heroine; someone whose legacy should be recorded, honoured and respected.

* Mrs Galiema Haron passed away on September 29, 2019, a month after the article was published in the August 30, 2019 print edition of Muslim Views.

Featured image: Galiema Haron, who marked her 93rd birthday on August 3, 2019 was the quietly courageous confidante of Imam Abdullah Haron, and after his brutal killing she stood firm strengthened by her faith and laboured hard, as a widow, to provide for her family, Shamela (left), Fatiema (right) and her son, Muhammed. (Photo IMAM HARON FOUNDATION)

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