HOPEFIELD, a small town on the West Coast, was founded in 1853. When the R45 road was re-routed around the town, the infrastructure of Hopefield gradually shrunk and became geographically and economically isolated.
Ghaironesa, a revert, and her husband have lived in Hopefield for 30 years. Along with another couple, Islam took hold in the town. There they raised their children who attended madrasah run by an imam and his wife.
The husband of the one couple passed away and the widow returned to Cape Town. For 12 years, Ghaironesa and her family were the only Muslims in the area, besides the imam and his wife.
However, the field was not completely barren. New seeds started sprouting when a young girl noticed a car with a woman in hijab passing her every afternoon. She was intrigued and one day followed the car to the madrasah and started asking questions about Islam.
After a few visits, she decided to revert and chose the name Yusrah. As the years passed, she inspired more and more young women to enter the deen.
With the opening of a masjid in the area in 2012, these women had a place to go but still found learning about the deen a challenge.
According to the women, there was no real unity until they met Zainoe, who happened to visit the area in 2016.
Zainoe says that she found that the women and children of Hopefield had no dreams for the future. Due to the lack of infrastructure in the area, they lived their lives in hopelessness, never aspiring to get out of the area.
However, the women were so inspired by her that, before long, they had started a group they call the ‘Women of Wonder’. They started out as a walking group but this soon resulted in them actively working to improve their lives.
A dream was born amongst the women that they would be able to sustain themselves by starting a little business. The first thing they did was to get one of the women to bake pastries. The next step was for the ladies to learn to sew so that they could establish a cut, make and trim industry.
It was also important to instil hope in the young girls who mostly completed matric and then fell pregnant so that they could get onto the social grant system. Because of the lack of work available in the town, the majority of them live on the grants paid to grandparents, and child support.
Zainoe started a Saturday craft class for the little ones aged from about three-years-old to ten, in an effort to get the children off the streets where they are exposed to unruly behaviour and gangs.
The craft class got the little ones so excited and enthusiastic that when the classes were cancelled for a while, they were incredibly sad.
One great success, though, is the ongoing feeding scheme that happens twice a week at one of the ladies’ homes. Before the work commences, the women listen to a short naseegah from Zainoe to inspire them. Everyone does their share in providing either a plate of food or sandwiches for the children.
Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond their control, their projects are not progressing as quickly as they would like but the Women of Wonder remain positive and actively continue the work with great patience and perseverance.
During 2018, they formed and registered the Hopefield Islamic Society and formalised their affiliation to Shaikh Alexander’s Islamic Dawah Centre, in Athlone.
All the Women of Wonder’s efforts culminated on December 9, last year, when they celebrated the birth of our beloved Prophet (SAW) in a local hall.
Together with 40 ladies from the Al Widaad Jamaah, from Bonteheuwel, and members of the Masjidul Quds Tuesday class, the Hopefield Islamic Society celebrated its first Moulood in Hopefield.
It was an emotional moment when the ladies, all dressed in lilac, walked onto the stage and a few of them shared with the audience their journey to Islam and their dreams for their town.
One of the women, Rashieda, expressed her hope for unity among the women and dreams of an aftercare facility for the children where they can go after school, have something to eat and rest before going to madrasah.
She would like the older girls to take responsibility for this facility and care for the younger ones; and it must be for all children, not just Muslim ones.
Mu’atha has high hopes that Islam will grow as they gain knowledge from women who reverted to Islam and learnt from their husbands. She remarked: ‘I want us to teach our kids how beautiful Islam is. I am a dreamer; I want to be a Muslim woman that all women can look up to. I dream our kids will be able to go out into the world. I dream of raising daughters to be an example of the women of ummah.’
Shakira married a Muslim but did not enter the deen immediately. She first wanted to learn about Islam before she moved from Elsies River, where she learnt from a muallima who sat with her every Sunday morning.
Shakira was a Moulood follower in Cape Town and had many in tears as she expressed her feelings standing on stage at her community’s own Moulood, which they had worked for.
The most remarkable thing about these women, who live mostly in abject poverty, is that their hopes and dreams are focused on how they and their children can be better Muslims.