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A quiet heroine: Galiema Haron remembered

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Galiema Haron, wife of Ashaheed (martyr) Imam Abdullah Haron, has died and been laid to rest 50 years to the day the imam was buried. She passed away at the age 93 in the early hours of Sunday morning, shortly before the Fajr athaan (morning call to prayer). She has been known – and will be remembered as – a woman of quiet heroism with distinguished determination, serving as a source of encouragement and strength for not only her family but all those involved in the Imam Haron Foundation and the remembrance of her husband, the struggle icon.

“It was not just to the day, but to the hour, that we had buried aunty Galiema,” said national coordinator for the Imam Haron Foundation, Cassiem Khan, highlighting the synchronicity of the passing of Galiema Haron with her late husband’s.

“Her passing has left us in a much weaker state because with much of our activities for the 123 days of commemoration, we got our strength and support from her. Her body was frail, but her mind and her encouragement were there for us and gave us the determination to do all the work we had done.”

Mourners carry the bier into the mosque

Khan indicated that Hajja Galiema passed away peacefully in the presence of her and the late Imam’s three children, Shamela, Muhammad and Fatima.

A determined mother, survivor and pillar of strength

“One of the things that was clear for us, is that she had an immediate struggle [after the death of Imam Haron] and that was survival,” said Khan.

“They lost their family home because the Apartheid government didn’t recognise Muslim marriages… the family was stripped but her determination was to keep her children together and with her. She had to learn to drive and find employment, but her determination was, and remained, that they may have taken her husband but they would not take her family.”

Dr Muhammad Haron, the son of Hajja Galiema and imam Abdullah Haron, addresses the jamaah

After many hard years of work and child-rearing, Hajja Galiema’s body left for burial from the house which she had invested in and built on for her family and any others she was able to care for.

She is said to have embodied motherhood and the caring nature required of Muslim women, while standing strong in the face of adversity and holding the family unit together.

“She worked extremely hard and stayed focused on doing what was necessary – as only a mother can – by rearing her children under difficult circumstances. The house from where her body left is the house she had invested in, built and extended over the years for the comfort of not just her children,” said Khan.

“She was the type of person who would take in foreign students, local students and people who needed a place to stay…of those students, one came to visit her at the janaaza (funeral) and he was always very proud saying that she was his other mother. That’s the type of person she was.”

In a statement, Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) secretary-general Shaykh Igsaak Taliep said Hajji Galiema had kept alive the flame of her husband’s resistance to apartheid and embodied the struggle that so many women had to endure during that time.

“Often, the role of women in the fight against the brutal Apartheid regime, has been underplayed. This is largely due to a linear understanding of what a freedom fighter is and can be,” he said.

“Aunty Galiema Haron was a freedom fighter. During the life of Imam Abdullah Haron, she served as a pillar of strength and a source of inspiration. She unwaveringly kept the family unit together in the face of insurmountable challenges.

Hajja Galiema being laid to rest next to her husband at Mowbray cemetery, a provincial heritage site

“As a mother and a wife, she poignantly understood the sacrifice her husband was making for the collective freedom of all people. She also understood what this sacrifice would mean for her and her family. Imbued with the resistance of slave and indigenous folk, she kept her husband’s legacy alive, and in doing so, inspired generations.”

Hajj Galiema’s loving, determined and resilient nature has been widely recognised and appreciated.

“That’s what is referred to as the quiet heroism of aunty Galiema,” said Khan.

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