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The Imam: soundscaped back to life

The Imam: soundscaped back to life
September 25, 2020
September 25, 2020 September 25, 2020

After discussing the recent circulation of three sound clips of Ash-Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron in the first and second parts his son, PROFESSOR MUHAMMED HARON, in the final part, ­focuses on the responses of the family and community more than 50 years after the event.

PART THREE

The soundscapes and familial responses

SPEAKING about communal woes, it is now opportune to turn our attention to the Imam’s ­readings and lecture. It will only – based on familial comments – offer a synoptic overview and ­insight of the chapter titled ‘The Fig’.

During Ramadaan, this year, more than 51 years after being recorded, a few audio clips of Ash-Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron were circulated via social media. (Photo IMAM HARON FOUNDATION)

Everyone who tuned in to listen to his recitation and lecture was emotively attracted and taken in by their Boeta’s presentation. One of his nephews (Mr F) happily shared his thoughts since he was certain that he was there that evening as a boy child.

He said, ‘I was probably sitting and listening as a 12-year-old in that congregation. Who would have thought that I will be listening to our uncle more than 50 years later on a cell phone? At that time, recordings were done on tape to tape reels and cassettes.’

Earlier on in that online conversation, he made the following observations: ‘The spirit to me was electrifying; we had the best of youngsters (the Galant brothers) rendering the Athkaar; there was the Imam’s lectures which was done in episodes so one was left hanging till the next night to find out what happened further; and after tarawieg (sic), we frequented Hajiwani’s shop directly opposite the mosque, where we indulged ourselves with eatables and drinks. So yes, baie, baie lekker.’

Mr F continued describing his feelings by adding, ‘It was very emotional for me listening to the Imaum again and I thank those who made the recording available. The lecture is a typical tafsir of Surah At-Tin…’

He continued, declaring, ‘At that time, the clergy were not really into tafsirring [explaining] surahs to the laymen. So our Imaum’s approach at that time was already breaking ground and really refreshing…’

He then commented saying, ‘His audience or congregation were ordinary people and youngsters, and he spoke at their level; that’s why the ‘mengels’ (i.e. mixture of Afrikaans and English)…’

Mr F’s sister (Ms A) added her voice, and described it as, ‘A beautiful lecture on how to develop the soul through righteous living, not shouting or damning the congregation, like most of the imams of that period did. He explained in a patient, controlled manner, easy to understand, beautiful.’

Another cousin (Ms F) who expressed her ideas earlier in the conversation agreed, saying, ‘Yes, the Imam’s delivery is measured not rushed. In his talk, he takes his listeners with him as he painstakingly wants to bring his point across so his congregation can relate and understand him by means of the surah…’

The latter’s sister (Ms G) added that the lecture ‘resonate(s) with contemporary issues…’ Prior to that she opined that the Imam touched on ‘themes (that are) very much used in programmes, how to love yourself, how to be successful etc.’

Alongside that she added that he spoke in a ‘relaxed tone, conversational, (and) non-evangelic’. This comment underlined the Imam’s general pedagogic approach with whomever he interacted. And according to Ms G’s assessment, the Imam presented topics that were ‘appealing to your intellect’.

She pointed out that the Imam possessed ‘the sensitivity to knowledge and science and the ‘analysis’ of man’, which she found appealing. She ended off, ‘Your dad’s talk has so much far-sightedness, clairvoyance.’

The Imam’s soundscapes and communal replies

Earlier, it was indicated that the clips were sent to others for comments, too. Among those who responded positively was Professor Aslam Fataar, who expressed his thoughts very eloquently.

He stated, ‘These clips of Imam Haron – Taraweeh and the talk – throw a kind of new multidimensional light on this martyrdom figure.’ He added, ‘The soundscape allows one to imagine his personality, leadership and the jamaah (congregation).’

Professor Fataar was surprised by the Imam’s serene voice, declaring, ‘His voice is unexpected,’ adding that one should ‘remember, voice and sounds leading to sama’ or listening are defining qualities of Islamic culture.’ This is an important observation.

He further remarked, ‘I imagined a thinner, boyish voice similar to how his photos depict him. Instead, his voice is deeper, a bit gruffy; in other words, authoritative. His recitation is mashallah, the laagoe, tajweed and pronunciation excellent, and his pace of recitation is compelling.’

He ended his brief comments, asserting, ‘I would want to follow him in Taraweeh every night,’ and making the point, ‘I can now also understand why his congregation adored him so much.’

They did indeed, and they always glowingly remarked about the Imam’s leadership; both young and old concurred with these views.

Though Fataar might not have specialised in the recitation of the Quran, his remarks were apt. They complemented the thoughts of Shaikh Sa’dullah Khan, who mentioned that, ‘Imam Haron’s recitation is clear, precise in pronunciation.’

He added that it was read ‘with a rhythm that is flowing, smooth, relaxed and untiring’. Shaikh Sa’dullah noted, ‘His speed is neither the usual tahqeeq nor the fast paced hadr but a unique pace (tamTeeT).’

He was upbeat about the Imam’s recitation when he stated, ‘It is rather a difficult style to maintain with a consistent rhythm, unless you are very accustomed to such recitation.’

A round-up

The audio clips, as one can conclude from the communal and familial responses, made an impact on all those who listened to the Imam’s recitation as he was leading the special ritual prayers during Ramadaan.

They were taken in not only by the contents of the lecture but also by the way he delivered it. And it is worthwhile repeating Fataar’s comments as one wraps up this piece. He said, ‘I can now also understand why his congregation adored him so much.’

On this note, one would only want to state that the congregants indeed did. Even fifty years after the Imam’s tragic death, there are those who were in his midst who continue to express encouraging feelings about the Imam’s life.

Featured image: Imam Haron with his students at Al Jaamia Mosque. (Photo IMAM HARON FOUNDATION)

This article was first published in the September 2020 print edition of Muslim Views.

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