By Tasneem Adams
It was a moving and awe-inspiring feeling for the first group of people who viewed the blessed relics of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) at a special event at the Palestine Museum on Sunday night. Members of the ulema, Muslim organisations and other dignitaries were given the first glimpse into the priceless artefacts ahead of the Cape Town leg of the International Sacred Trusts Exhibition which runs from 4-6 March. The public exhibition now takes place at the Masjidul Quds in Gatesville from 9am to 10pm, following logistical problems with the museum.
At the launch on Sunday night, praise on the beloved Prophet (pbuh) reverberated the air, as guests waited patiently for the relics to arrive. Once the custodian of the relics, Sayyid Ahmad Ehraz of Delhi and other dignitaries walked into the venue, the historical objects were handled with the utmost care and security kept a watchful eye to safeguard the items. After the unveiling of the relics, which were placed in glass casings, guests had a chance to view the sacred possessions. Onlookers were attentive and respectful of the sanctity of the relics, visibly moved by what stood before them. Some were left with glistening eyes and their hair standing on end.
Prior to the unveiling of the relics, a number of guests speakers reflected on the event as a historic moment for the South African Muslim community. Once the opening dua was rendered by Shaykh Muhammad Moerat, deputy Home Affairs Minister Fatima Chohan delivered the opening speech.
“Today we are in presence of items that carry the DNA of our beloved Nabi Muhammed (pbuh). 370 years ago Muslims set foot in the Cape and today we play host to the very items that touched our Nabi. That is very emotional for me…” she began.
Chohan recalled her experience visiting the Topkapi Museum in Turkey, where she first saw the relics of the Prophet (pbuh) and his Sahaabah.
“We are taught as children that we not to hold our Nabi Rasool Allah to the divine. We are taught that our Rasool was a man regarded as the perfect example of a human being, but always a man of flesh and blood. And it was this humanness that touched me when I saw the relics in Topkapi. Here I was faced with the very items used by our Sahabah. It did not diminish my Imaan but gave me further reconnection to my faith. It taught me that we as human beings are infallible,” she said.
Safeguarding the relics of Islam is vital in this day and age where Islamic history and culture are being destroyed.
“It’s an amazing time for us in this country. We are in a time when the Muslim community has never been as free. But Islam is confronted with so many threats around the world. We should not consider ourselves immune to these threats. Preserving these relics is preserving our religion,” she stressed.
“May we all attain goodness and virtue by following the virtue of our Nabi Muhammed (saw), who forgave freely and pursued equality and justice for all. May our Creator be pleased with the ummah of his Nabi (saw).”
In his address, MJC secretary general Shaykh Isgaak Taliep questioned whether Muslims fathomed the magnitude of the event.
“As a child growing up in Cape Town, I told my parents I wish I could’ve grown up in the time of the Nabi (saw). So to stand here in the presence of these relics is indeed a momentous occasion.”
But Taliep believes there needs to be increased consciousness of the Prophet’s life and relevance in the contemporary world.
There needs to be greater symbolism in the display of the relics and Muslims must imbibe the personality of the Rasulullah in their everyday lives, added Taliep.
“What will we take from this programme his evening? How will it enrich our lives going forward? How will we look at the sense of humanity that he brought to humanity? I want to make an appeal that we commit ourselves to learn the comprehensive message of the Prophet and strive to implement this message, InshaAllah.”
In what was the most powerful speech of the evening, Awqaf South Africa deputy CEO Mikaeel Collier reflected on the current discord within the South African Muslim community and called for intra-Muslim tolerance and cooperation.
“In the world we live in, we see the erosion of all forms of Islamic identity. The relics tangibly connects us with our beloved Rasulullah,” said Collier.
“But we need to ask ourselves, what is the condition of our ummah today? How do we answer Rasulullah when he has taught us that the ummah is a single ummah. Yet we so divided and hatred is rife in our Ummah. The ummah is bleeding. We need to use the opportunity to reflect on these questions as we look at these relics.”
There was also an interesting parallel drawn between the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his connection to Palestine. The city of Al Quds (Jerusalem) derives its religious prominence from being the first Qibla, the initial direction toward which the Prophet (pbuh) and the early Muslim community turned their faces in prayer.
Shaykh Ebrahim Gabriels, the newly appointed director of the Al Quds Foundation in South Africa, touched on this connection.
“Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and with you coming here, Allah has increased the beauty and barakah of Cape Town. With the relics of Rasullulah, Allah has indeed blessed Cape Town. We are all human beings, we are people with feeling…and we can feel the beauty here tonight,” he said.
“Cape Town deserves to have the relics here as Cape Town loves our Rasullulah. This is a city commemorates the birth day of the Nabi for three months of the year.”
Gabriels believes the relics had to come to the Palestine Museum first, as Palestine must come first in the hearts and minds of Capetonians.
“The people of Palestine are being killed everyday and the world is silent. As South Africans, we know discrimination, but this is chicken feed compared to what is happening there. In fact, if our Rasullulah had to be consulted, Rasullulah would have said, anything to do with Palestine,” he said.
“When Allah decreed to take Rasullulah beyond the seven samaa (heavens) to meet Allah, it was decreed that the Nabi first go to Palestine and Masjidul Aqsa. So with the barakat of the relics of the Rasullulah in Cape Town, we hope that the people of Cape Town will now wake up for the call for Palestine.” VOC