With the passing on of Shukoor Mowzer, the man who is synonymous with Nakhlistan, DR REEDERWAN CRAAYENSTEIN and IMAM DR ABDUL RASHIED OMAR reflect on the context within which this organisation came into being.
ON 31 May 2022, Cape Town bid farewell to a champion of the poor and an unsung hero, Shukoor Mowzer. Shukoor passed away peacefully and lovingly supported by his family at his home in Rylands, which was also the headquarters of Nakhlistan. The latter is an “oasis” in the midst of the apartheid legacy of poverty on the Cape Flats providing sustenance to the less fortunate and marginalized for close to four decades. The Nakhlistan feeding scheme and burial agency represents the formidable legacy (Sadaqatul Jariyah) of Shukoor Mowzer, which his family and close friends have vowed to continue supporting in celebration of his life.
Mohamed Shukoor Mowzer was born on 13 March 1959 in Kildare Road, Newlands. He is the last of ten siblings of Abdul Gafoor and Janab Mowzer. Shukoor had seven sisters and two brothers. He was married to Rashida Mowzer nee Khan on 19 February 1990 and blessed with a daughter Zainab, named after his mother, and thereafter a son named Yasser. Shortly before his passing in May 2022, Shukoor was blessed with a grandson Zaid Ali, son of Zainab and Ahmed Parker.
Growing up Mohamed Shukoor’s father nicknamed his baby son “Tanku” after Tanku Abdurahman the 1st Prime Minister of Malaysia. The Newlands community from all racial and religious spheres was fond of calling him Tanku. In 1969, when Shukoor was only ten years old his father passed on and three weeks thereafter the family was evicted from their Newlands home by the Apartheid government. Shukoor was then raised by his mother and sisters. He attended Livingstone High School in Claremont and like his two elder brothers loved cricket and was a left-handed batsman. Shukoor did not go on to play organized sports during his youth but enjoyed fishing and cooking. He was fond of farm animals as well as domestic pets such as budgies and had a beloved parrot.
Shukoor was courageous and fearless in his youth and was inspired in the early eighties after performing a walking hajj and having hosted the American based Islamic scholar, Shaikh Imam Muhammad al-Asi on his first South African visit. Shortly thereafter in Ramadan 1984, Shukoor together with two of his closest friends and anti-Apartheid activists, Dawood Parker and Shaikh Sadullah Khan started Nakhlistan after realising that many of those who were fasting would not have anything to eat on Eid al-Fitr. The three of them went about collecting ingredients for two pots of food. The idea was conceived and the preparations were done at the house of Dawood and Zarina Parker in Belgravia Road. In 2022, 38 years later the tradition continues and this year on the night before Eid al-Fitr, Nakhlistan cooked close to 200 pots of food and fed close to 100 000 people on the Cape Flats.
Nakhlistan’s preparation of pots of food is a sight to behold. It is a complex team effort and something else is always in the air, apart from the smell of akhni. Nakhlistan’s origins in the mid-eighties in the midst of the anti-apartheid struggle with the heavy smell of tear gas in the air infused it with a unique spirit of solidarity and activism and renders it far more than a mere humanitarian gesture. Before the anti-apartheid activists had to rub their eyes because of wood burning to cook akhni, they were already wiping their eyes to ease the burning of teargas. The immediate context of the establishment of Nakhlistan was the unprecedented conscientisation, organisation and mobilisation against the Tri-Cameral elections and the formation of housing action committees.
This was the context within which the idea to cook pots of food for Eid was conceived. The organisation would be called Nakhlistan. An oasis indeed. From two pots of akhni to feeing over 100 000 for Eid. Now that is an oasis that never runs dry. Soup kitchens, feeding schemes, fitrah parcels, iftar meals to break the fast and helping people who have fallen on hard times with just a little bit to make them feel that they matter every day. When people pass away and cannot afford kaffan, Nakhlistan is there to give the deceased a final bath and kaffan wrap in love. Where communities lack the means, Nakhlistan helps them to build simple places to pray and teach madrassa classes.
May all the joys that were felt in the hearts of poor people as they have been eating for almost 40 years from pots imagined by Brother Dawood Parker, Shukoor Mowzer and Shaikh Sadullah Khan be a source of solace in the hereafter. And may angels help those who continue to cook at Nakhlistan. May they never cook alone. And may the witness of these brothers – and the wonderful people who never tire of giving- be such that pots of akhni never be empty. May the help given during Covid-19 given to the socially neglected and economically marginalised cause angels to write for them and erase from them. And may the heart of family Mowzer not be broken for too long. Shukoor Mowzer had done what he was sent to do. Greatness is cultivated by serving the least in society. May angels welcome him to the graveyard and light up and widen his grave. Brother Shukoor has returned from whence he came. The reed of Mawlana Rumi is back with the reed bed.