With the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic, many have lost family and friends; the community has lost selfless activists working for justice and those who worked towards building social cohesion and contributed towards research and scholarship.
‘The antithesis of the ivory tower intellectual’
SEDICK CROMBIE, a resident of the close-knit Strand community, pays tribute to a childhood friend. Their families have also had a close relationship for more than a century.
ABDUSSALAAM Mohammed Karaan was born on January 22, 1968, in Stellenbosch, but resided in the quiet fishing town of Strand, the town his father’s family hailed from, 45 kilometres from the hustle and bustle of Cape Town.
Abdussalaam, affectionately called ‘Doelie’ by his friends and family, attended Strand Moslem Primary School (SMP) till Grade 7. He then pursued hifdh studies under the guidance of Hafidh Sedick Johaar.
In 1982, he left for further study at Waterval Islamic Institute, in Gauteng, and completed his hifdh course in the same year, under Hafidh Abdur Rahman Mia.
He attended Waterval Senior Secondary till Grade 10 and, in 1986, matriculated from Marlboro Senior Secondary. In 1987, he enrolled at the Stellenbosch University for the BSc (Agric) degree, which he attained in 1990, after which he obtained an MSc (Agric) cum laude, in 1994, and his PhD in 2006.
It is said that some people live a full life in a short space of time and this could easily be said of Abdussalaam Mohammed Karaan. The achievements and value of such individuals and what they contributed to society are only fully appreciated and understood after their departure.
This middle child and elder son of three children of Moulana Yusuf and Zuleikha Karaan – two equally renowned and influential individuals with immense intellect within the Muslim community and beyond – gave a glimpse into his initial entry into the world of tertiary studies.
He related that his father took him to university on the first day but they did not have the usual in-depth discussion about the do’s and don’ts of being at university.
He enrolled in a field of study which was alien to people of colour and on top of that, at a university which was the bastion of Afrikaner nationalism.
When they stopped at the university gates and he was about to alight from the vehicle, his father, realising the daunting and intimidating spectre of enrolling at the US in those heady days in the 1980s, turned to him and said, ‘Do not be fearful of what lies ahead for that which you have in your chest is enough to counter any challenges.’
That was a defining moment for him and the advice became a refrain which he always used whenever he embarked on a new challenge.
Throughout those years of study we monitored his progress with an eagle eye as he notched up one success after the other. We should have realised that after having achieved the ultimate success of memorising the Holy Quran in one year, all other challenges that would come along would pale into insignificance against such an achievement.
He triumphantly returned in later years to take the position of dean of the Department of Agriculture at Stellenbosch University and president of Maties Rugby, the university’s official rugby team.
After his studies, the world opened up for this gifted intellectual. He was not only immersed in the advancement of secular education but equally devoted his time to his Islamic education, establishing two hifdh schools and classes for recital of the Holy Quran.
His meteoric rise on different platforms and in different sectors of South African society – educational, religious, sport and social was beyond description.
In a short space of time, he reached other notable, lofty heights: Member of the National Presidential Advisory Council of South Africa, executive member of various agricultural organisations, director on the boards of different corporates and owner of a farm.
Despite holding such high-profile positions, he remained grounded in his outlook on life and was regularly surrounded by people he grew up with. This was a man who could rub shoulders with a president and ambassadors one day but seamlessly relate to former schoolmates and fellow time travellers the next, such was the measure of Abdussalaam.
His infectious laugh and radiance were complemented by his constant smile. He was not a man for pomp and ceremony despite his academic and other achievements but was the antithesis of the ivory tower intellectual.
This characteristic endeared him to all and sundry, and a primary reason why he is still revered. On one occasion when I, as programme director introduced him at an SMP school fundraiser, he smilingly cut me short halfway through reading his impressive CV, with the words, ‘I think that’s more than enough for now.’
Hafidh Professor Abdussalaam Mohammed Karaan’s janazah was on Wednesday, January 13. His departure has left an immense void and a family and community in total grief. In coming to terms with the loss of such a giant of a human being, we take strength from the words, ‘Allah SWT knows best.’
The writing of a glowing tribute to such an iconic individual from our town and of whom we are immensely proud, is solely to pay homage and show appreciation of what he meant to us. It is however more out of gratitude to Almighty Allah SWT for affording us the opportunity to rub shoulders with and the placing of such intellect and wisdom amongst us.
There will no doubt be many more tributes written on his contributions as he is eulogised, for his contributions will stand for eternity as our broken hearts come to terms with his absence.
Our condolences and support go out to his wife, Bashiera, children, Zain, Khamila, Tauriq, Burhan and Adam, mother, Zuleikha, brother, Mufti Tauha Karaan, and the family in their hour of need.
Although we are mourning his departure, this tribute is a celebration of his life as we salute a man who was a real pioneer of intellect and one exuding a common humanity.
A life dedicated to professional excellence
(SHANAAZ PARKER: JANUARY 27, 1960 – DECEMBER 14, 2020)
MAHMOOD SANGLAY pays tribute to, Shanaaz Parker, a Muslim Views columnist for over two decades.
IT was early in March, 1999, that Shanaaz Parker visited our Muslim Views offices in Mavis Road, Rylands (Cape Town). She asked to speak to the editor, Farid Sayed, about our Kitchen Talk feature.
Shanaaz expressed concern that some of our dessert recipes contained gelatin that may have originated from non-halaal sources. She was of the view that the gelatin in our recipes should specifically be distinguished as the halaal variety due to the prevalence of non-halaal gelatin.
We were struck by her direct interest in the minutiae of our feature content, and by her credentials as a culinary professional attached to a tertiary institution, namely the Athlone Technical College School of Cooking.
Following discussions regarding her interest in Muslim Views and her expertise in the culinary arts and sciences, we offered her an opportunity to become a regular contributor to Kitchen Talk.
In November, 1999, Shanaaz’s first contribution was published. It was a spectacular full-page feature focusing on pastries, in preparation for Ramadaan, commencing on December 8, 1999.
For the launch of her feature, she led a team of patissiere (pastry chefs, students and assistants) and a professional photographer, Mohamed Jaffer. Her approach was inclusive and respectful of the contribution of others.
In that edition of Kitchen Talk, she ensured that Baheya Mosely, Rachel Williams, Rukeya Ebrahim, Shameemah Khan, Bereniece Daniels and Brenda Mietha were duly credited.
The significance of these details is not merely their historical record but a reflection of the character of Shanaaz in a 21-year-long relationship with Muslim Views, of which 14 years were publishing content she provided.
These ethics and standards were maintained throughout her professional life.
Shanaaz lavished meticulous attention to detail, food styling and presentation. And she commanded oversight of the food preparation, baking, food styling and photography. Those were the years preceding the digital era, when photographic film and slides were fashionable.
Shanaaz was typically involved up to the pre-press stage of production, the proofing and checking of editorial copy. It was her consistent commitment to excellence that set her apart from many others in the culinary arts.
Another attribute was her approach to the traditional secrecy with respect to recipes. In the Indian community there is even a code of secrecy in this regard. A ‘Kassam’ level of secrecy means the recipe is not to be divulged.
The ‘Allahna’ level of secrecy is even more onerous, never-ever to be divulged. Shanaaz upended this tradition and adopted an open-source approach to what could conceivably have been regarded as her intellectual property. She never hesitated to share.
In her dealings with Muslim Views over two decades, she manifested exceptional integrity, creativity and a particularly astute acumen for negotiation in business.
What distinguished her was her patient perseverance with the peculiar vicissitudes of community print publishing and her tenacity in pursuing her business goals. Again, irrespective of the negotiated outcome, Shanaaz adroitly navigated every business opportunity.
Generally, she will be remembered as a woman of distinction in diverse professional roles. Culinary expert, author of 22 cookbooks, entrepreneur, wedding and event co-ordinator, lecturer in the culinary arts, owner of a student and holiday accommodation business and presenter on radio and television.
In each of these roles, the abiding impression she left is one of professionalism, integrity and grace.
Shanaaz engaged executives in the corporate world, like Pick ’n Pay, manufacturers of brands like Moirs and halaal authorities like the National Independent Halaal Trust.
She was also offered an opportunity to complete her masters degree in the culinary arts with City & Guilds International, a leading institution dedicated to products and services that help people achieve their potential through work-based learning.
Lesser-known facts about Shanaaz’s work are her commitment to charity and her faith as Muslim. She frequently set aside percentages of her book sales for worthy causes, and she routinely consulted ulama for guidance on issues of halaal.
Students who occupied her residence looked up to her as a mother figure. She ensured that she had their parents’ consent to provide not only accommodation but also a level of care for their social and moral well-being.
An example of her lesser-known community work is her participation in a project, launched in 2006, dedicated to provide opportunities for the poor and needy to undertake the Hajj.
Together with Moulana Ahmed Mukadam, the late Ebrahim Badroodien, Achmat Jacobs, Awaatief Daniels and Fatima Allie, she played a leading role in awarding ten Muslims an all-expenses paid opportunity to fulfil the rites of the Hajj. In recent years, she expressed to me her interest in reviving this programme.
The last years of her work with the paper is under the feature title Fusion Lifestyle, which she developed as a means of converging the best of cultural diversity for our audience.
Muslim Views editor, Farid Sayed, says, ‘Shanaaz brought loads of energy and enthusiasm to her work, and this was evident in the projects in which we collaborated with her.
‘Fusion Lifestyle was her brainchild and she did thorough research before submitting her copy. She worked closely with the Muslim Views team and the page designer right up to the production date. Her attention to detail was meticulous.’
Shanaaz departed this world following complications developed due to COVID-19 infection, at a time of making an active contribution to Fusion Lifestyle. She is survived by two children and five grandchildren.
The academic who showed up
A gentle, passionate fighter for social justice everywhere, Clint Le Bruyns inspired all he interacted with, writes SURAYA DADOO.
IN December 2016, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) lecturer, Clint Le Bruyns, messaged me with a simple request. #FeesMustFall activist, Bonginkosi Khanyile had been denied bail and would be spending Christmas in jail as a result of his role in the struggle for free, decolonised education in South Africa.
Le Bruyns had embarked on a letter-writing campaign with the aim of providing Khanyile with words of encouragement to sustain his spirit. Le Bruyns would show Bonginkosi the letters on his weekly visits to the prison.
There was, however, one condition. The message had to be written by my children. To feel the support of youth, Le Bruyns explained, would be far more nurturing for Khanyile’s morale.
I explained to my then ten-year-old daughter how Bonginkosi came to be spending Christmas in jail. In drafting the message, she learnt about privilege, inequality, the sacrifice of activism and struggle, and state persecution. I’m not sure she would have been introduced to those concepts in such a meaningful way were it not for Le Bruyns’s campaign.
When I heard about Le Bruyns’s passing on January 7 due to COVID-19 complications, this was my first memory of Le Bruyns, even though I had worked with him on several Palestine solidarity projects years before. For me, nothing typifies Clint Le Bruyns more than this interaction.
A gifted teacher
At just 48 years old, Le Bruyns was already an accomplished academic. He was the director of the postgraduate Theology & Development Programme and a senior lecturer within the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at UKZN, in Pietermaritzburg.
But, first and foremost, he was a teacher and mentor. Academics are not always teachers but Le Bruyns was.
Hundreds of students have posted messages about how Le Bruyns had changed their personal and professional worldviews, impacting them way beyond the lecture theatre. Le Bruyns had a formative influence on how students who trained as theologians understood theology’s role in social change.
‘His focus on theology, solidarity and ethics gave birth to many contributions on tricky topics, such as #FeesMustFall, political and state relations, economic and gender justice and land reform in peer-reviewed academic publications,’ says Dr Marthie Momberg, who was Le Bruyns’s colleague at Stellenbosch University.
Doing academia differently
With a baseball cap, sneakers and a penchant for hip-hop, Le Bruyns could easily have been mistaken for a wayward, post-graduate student instead of a lecturer. Far from the stuffy academic in an ivory tower, Le Bruyns was able to connect with the struggles of people from all walks of life. He was equally comfortable at an academic conference and at a protest.
‘Clint was the embodiment of speaking truth to and about power.
‘He was courageous and principled without being self-righteous, and he always maintained his signature gentle demeanour and good humour.
‘Despite his achievements and contributions, Clint was the antithesis of individualism, pomposity and narcissism – values often glibly promoted in the academy today,’ says Dr Salim Vally, an educationalist at University of Johannesburg.
Le Bruyns was determined to do academia differently. And he did.
In 2017, he founded the Dolphin Coast Book and Film Club, a groundbreaking book and film club in KwaZulu-Natal. The group initially started with four people meeting weekly at Le Bruyns’s home. The group now comprises almost 400 members, from teenagers to octogenarians.
‘The club brings together the most unlikely suspects. These are undoubtedly people who would not be found in the same place together or seemingly have anything in common. And yet, here we are,’ said Le Bruyns.
He also hosted a weekly programme on a community radio station, posing hard questions about uncomfortable social issues to his audience.
Le Bruyns also founded the Underground Academy for Lifelong Learning, an initiative to help mobilise and nurture lifelong learning in communities in and beyond South Africa. The aim is to advance public good and create a more responsible society by developing research capacity, thought leadership and facilitating grassroots community engagement.
‘As academics we do not, and we dare not, belong to ourselves. We owe our communities good scholarship. Show up in the everyday spaces of contested life as part of your core work,’ Le Bruyns said.
From Pietermaritzburg to Palestine
As an integral part of the South African Kairos movement and the broader Global Kairos for Justice Movement, Clint Le Bruyns ‘will long be remembered for his tenacious witness to truth, especially in support of the Palestinian cause,’ says Professor John De Gruchy, Emeritus Professor at the University of Cape Town.
Le Bruyns was deeply involved in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). EAPPI is a project of the World Council of Churches (WCC) that recruits and despatches international observers to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) to monitor the interaction between Palestinian residents and the Israeli military.
He shared these first-hand experiences of the Israeli occupation with his students, introducing them to the Palestinian liberation struggle.
In 2015, Le Bruyns was part of a flotilla attempting to break the siege of Gaza.
‘The Palestinian people are mourning,’ wrote both the Palestinian Embassy in South Africa and Hamas. Typical Le Bruyns, his death brought together – in his words – ‘the most unlikely suspects’.
Le Bruyns is survived by his beloved daughter, Amy, his mother, Verena, and a wide circle of family, comrades and friends.
Suraya Dadoo is a freelance writer.
- These tributes were first published in the January 2021 print edition of Muslim Views.
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