While Ash-Shaheed Imam Abdullah Haron had a direct impact on his students and congregants, it is a measure of the Imam’s conduct of teaching and activism that the lessons learnt from this dynamic personality continue to impact on generations that follow. NONTOBEKO AISHA MKHWANAZI spoke to the daughter of one of Imam’s students.
THE killing of community leader, teacher and activist, Imam Abdullah Haron, on September 27, 1969, by the apartheid government, left thousands of people across the globe in a state of shock and grief.
Among those who were devastated upon hearing the sad news was the late Abduraghmaan Galant, fondly known as Pinkie, who was Imam Haron’s student at Al Jaamia Masjid, in Stegmann Road, Claremont.
‘My father [Abduraghmaan], who was 13 years old at the time, was grief-stricken as the Imam was not only his teacher but his pillar of strength, and this could be heard from his voice as he made adhaan [the call to prayer] at the balcony of the home of Imam Haron on the day of the Imam’s janaazah [burial],’ says Abduraghmaan’s daughter, author of Imam Haron’s Bilal and founder of Sky Limit ProjMan, Hajja Fatima Galant Abrahams.
Through the book, which tells the story of Abduraghmaan, particularly his rich memories during his madrasah days at Al Jaamia Masjid in the 1960s, Fatima expresses the importance of preserving history in order to inspire change.
Fatima says that her late father cherished the values and principles taught by the Imam, and he instilled these principles in his children and encouraged them to teach their children, and the community at large.
‘My father would tell us countless stories where the Imam encouraged the learning of deen and the spread of the message of Islam. I deem this as a crucial aspect in dawah because spreading a message without sufficient knowledge is misleading people.
‘Hence, to promote learning and spreading of Islam, led by my sister, Muallima Aiesha Galant Fortune, under Sky Limit ProjMan, my family and I run Madrassa Sobiereen, in Hanover Park, which has over 100 students.
‘These students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and with the area being flooded by drug abuse and gangsterism, it is important for us to teach them Islam so they can be exemplary in their communities,’ says Fatima.
She says that Imam taught the youth with passion, love and kindness.
‘My father would also narrate to us that there was never a dull moment with the Imam. If you were sad, upon meeting the Imam, your face would be lit with a smile. My father would also tell stories of how fun it was to play with the Imam but there was always a lesson to be learnt. That is how easy and loveable he made Islam to be for the youth,’ says Fatima.
She expressed that her father emphasised the importance of encouraging the youth to use their talents to worship Allah.
‘My father’s love for the Mawlid [commemoration of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)] was inspired by Imam. Despite, this sacred month also being a reminder of the morning on 29 May, 1969, when the Security Branch took the Imam away from his family and held him incommunicado for over four months [123 days].
‘My father was excited on this day as he was going to use his voice to worship Allah through dhikr but the news of the Imam’s arrest broke his heart. But he did not allow that to hinder his passion which was inspired by the Imam, using his voice to worship Allah. And this he continued throughout his life by also participating in nasheed competitions,’ says Fatima.
In addition, she says that her father had taught her the importance of feeding the poor, as he had observed from the Imam.
‘From a young age, my father, his siblings and other boys from Claremont would go to townships to spread deen, inspire hope and feed the poor. So, growing up, this too became part of our culture.
‘In order to continue this legacy, among the projects my mother and I run is a feeding scheme named after my father – The Pinkie Chow – which feeds thousands of people in various areas,’ says Fatima.
She also highlights that in continuing the legacy of Imam, one does not need to do extravagant things but each one can start small in their communities. At the end of the day, it’s about inspiring change for a better future, even if it’s just feeding or teaching Islam to one person and sharing that principle with the next generation.
In light of the recent announcement by the Imam Haron Foundation of the reopening of the inquest into the Imam’s death, which will be taking place in an open court at the Western Cape High Court from November 7 to 18, 2022, Fatima says it is time for justice to be served.
‘Imam died while fighting against injustice and it can’t be true that, 53 years later, there is still no justice in South Africa. This needs to change in order to instil justice in our society,’ says Fatima.
To purchase a copy of Imam Haron’s Bilal, contact Fatima Galant Abrahams on +27 737973994 or +27 718875497 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- This article was first published in the October 21, 2022 print edition of Muslim Views.