Muslim Views


The Imam: soundscaped back to life

The Imam: soundscaped back to life
August 27, 2020
August 27, 2020 August 27, 2020

In this three-part series, Professor MUHAMMED HARON analyses a portion of the recitation of the Quran during the Taraweeh salaah and an extract of a lecture thereafter by Ash-Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron.

Introduction: the circulated audio clips

MAY 28 of each year usually reminds us of the fateful day on which Imam Abdullah Haron – our father and uncle – was arrested. And we all recall that he was held incommunicado for 123 days, 51 years ago, until the day he was killed by the apartheid regime’s Security Branch.

On top of that, we are also reminded of that date and day since they coincided with the day when we celebrated the birth of the Prophet (SAW).

Leaving that aside and turning to the COVID-19 Ramadaan that we have just left behind, we were all given a surprise during the third week of the sacred month (circa May 13-23).

In that week, three audio clips were circulated on diverse digital platforms. Some received them via emails, others through Facebook, and chat groups got them via WhatsApp.

As they appeared on our sites as independent clips, we were all ill-informed about their contents. But as soon as the message came through describing the set of clips, it became quite clear what they contained, when and where this event took place.

Interestingly, the Imam’s close companion, the late Dr Y S Jaffer who lived all his life in Claremont, had recorded that evening’s event. And it was the doctor’s son, Goolam M Jaffer who permitted the clips to be shared.

Since these recordings were done on long reels, we were informed that Mr Mohamed Iqbal Rawoot had transferred them to the current, digital-friendly format. And the introductory remarks were made by the popular VOC presenter, Shafiq Morton.

Having identified the recordings’ origins, let us first descriptively reflect on the three clips.

The first of the three was an edited version of the dhikrs that were recited between each sets of raka’ah (ritual prayer unit) of the Taraweeh salaah.

The second was the last few raka’ahs of the Taraweeh that were led by the Imam, and the third was a lecture that was given by him. All these activities took place on February 13, 1964/ Ramadaan 29, at Al-Jaamia Masjid, in Stegman Road, Claremont.

The Haron family WhatsApp chat group and the soundscapes

Since we were part of the Haron family chat group on WhatsApp, we circulated the last two clips for two reasons.

The first was to share the clips with those who remembered their uncle and with those who were born after his death, in 1969. The second was to force members on the chat group to reminisce regarding the Imam’s recitation and lecture.

It should be stated that at that time, some of us on the chat group were either toddlers who were still crawling around and some were between five and fifteen (if not older); and it was those of us who fell in the latter category who could recall the performance of the Taraweeh during that period and the lectures that the Imam gave, usually after each Taraweeh salaah throughout that sacred month. It is, however, difficult to say whether all or some of us were present on that occasion. It could well be that one or two from the group were around to participate in that religious event.

Some in the group remembered that they used to refer to the Imam as ‘Boeta’, a term of endearment that they conferred on him because of the pivotal role that he played in their parents’ households.

Apart from the brothers and sisters’ close attachment to their Boeta, even their children – his nieces and nephews – ‘clutched’ onto him when he was in their company.

Anyhow, important to record is the fact that his sisters and the younger and elder brothers, Achmat and Edries, adored him. One of our cousins (Mr A) noted, ‘What I know is that all his sisters adored him, Alhamdulillah.’

These were emotions that were echoed by others, too, and they underscored their tangible feelings towards their dear brother/ uncle, the Boeta, in different ways.

So, while we were listening to or rather reading some of their thoughts on WhatsApp about their Boeta and also giving them time to digest their Boeta’s recitation as he led the Salaah al-Taraweeh, we too put out our feelers to other chat groups in order to get a variety of insights from those who had met him when they were young, and from those who had no knowledge of him except through the views of others who, in turn, had gathered their opinions from the extant reading material.

The variety of responses was not only informative but instructive. They illustrated how he was understood and why he, as the Imam, was able to attract a youthful audience be it in the sacred surroundings or on the rugby grounds where he supported his team.

During the month of Ramadaan, as a matter of fact, a few individuals who were directly and indirectly associated with the Imam, passed away.

One of them was Boeta Sait, as he was called by the younger generation, and the other was Boeta Salie Fakier, who was Imam’s acquaintance, too, and we guess distantly related through Abderouf ties; and they were both from Claremont.

The former was an avid supporter of Primrose, and the latter was a passionate backer of all of the clubs, including Violets and Vineyards. The Imam was, of course, a Primrose and Violets supporter.

In any case, when returning to those clips, we are more than certain that Boeta Sait, together with many of the youngsters, such as the Galant boys and a number of others, including this writer, was in the congregation, all of them participating in the dhikr or ‘poedjies’ as it was still known during that time and the decades before – the arabisation of our community’s vocabulary only came about during the 1980s.

Featured image: 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)

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

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