Tributes and messages of condolences are streaming in from far and wide following the news of the death of Maulana Ihsaan Hendricks, considered a giant of Islamic intellectual thought and social justice activism in South Africa. Maulana Ihsaan succumbed to a long term illness on Friday night, at the age of 54 years. His death has been met with disbelief and sadness, particularly amongst the ulama in South Africa and within the Palestinian solidarity movement, of which Maulana Ihsaan was a leading activist. As a former president of the Muslim Judicial Council, founder of the Al Quds Foundation in South Africa and an executive member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, his death leaves a gaping hole in the ulama fraternity in South Africa.
Giant of Islam in South Africa
In paying tribute to this prolific scholar and lifelong student of deen, prominent members of the ulema believe the ummah have lost a stalwart who dedicated his entire life in the service of Islam. In a statement, the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa said Maulana Ihsaan’s fervour and passion for Muslim welfare and interests was palpable to everyone who interacted with him.
“His fiery oratory energised us all, whether in boardrooms or at rallies where he would call for solidarity with the down-trodden, and action against the oppressors. In particular, Palestine was a cause that was very close to Moulana Igsaan’s heart as he remained undaunted in seeking ways of highlighting the plight of those living under the Zionist occupation,” said Maulana Ebrahim Bham, secretary general of the Jamiatul Ulama SA.
Maulana Ihsaan travelled far and wide, at home and abroad, mobilising ulama bodies, forging alliances and unions, and influencing communities towards initiatives that mitigated the suffering of the oppressed and those in distress due to natural disasters.
“As the saying goes, ‘… the demise of a scholar is the lifting [away]of knowledge.’ With the passing of Maulana Ihsaan , as a community, we shall remain ever more diminished, especially at a time when there is dearth in experience and wisdom with which to tackle many a challenge facing Muslims,” lamented Maulana Bham.
Prominent academic and imam Dr Rashied Omar described Maulana Ihsaan as a “good friend and silent supporter” of the Claremont Main Road Mosque. Maulana Ihsaan delivered the keynote address at the CMRM Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Sunday 19 June 2016, at the Sports Science Institute. During his address he called for a Fiqh of citizenship that should emphasise the Muslim community’s peaceful co- existence with other faith groups in the country as well as the responsibility of individuals to make a positive contribution to the challenges we face in our country.
His last address at the masjid was the Layla al-Mi`raj lecture at CMRM on 24 April 2017, where he spoke passionately about the unjust occupation of Palestine. He was keen on following this up by offering a full course on the history of Masjid al-Aqsa and the struggles of the Palestinians, at CMRM, but due to his deteriorating health he was unable to do so. Maulana Ihsaan was also a keen supporter of CMRM’s youth empowerment programme and in 2015 his AlQuds Foundation donated R5000 towards one of our youth camps.
“Maulana Ihsaan Hendricks was an eloquent and courageous South African Muslim voice for Palestinian and global justice. He was a champion of the poor and downtrodden, supporting many humanitarian relief efforts at home and abroad. He was an embodiment of a scholar fearlessly witnessing to justice,” said Imam Rashied Omar.
“Our prayers and condolences go out to his family and loved ones during this sorrowful time. May they find strength in their beautiful memories, his immense leadership and scholarly contributions and most of all in the warm embrace of family and friends. We pray that Allah, the Most Compassionate, pardon him, have mercy on him and grant him a high status in Al Jannah, Ameen.”
Other Islamic organisations such as the Cape Town Islamic Educational Centre and Masjidul-Quds also paid tribute to Maulana Ihsaan’s remarkable personality.
“The respected Moulana gave his entire life for the struggle for the liberation of the people of Palestine. May Allah the Almighty grant al Marhoom the highest abode in Jannah, Ameen,” added Sataar Parker, the chairperson of the Board of Trust of Masjidul-Quds.
A visionary in Palestinian solidarity
Veteran pro-Palestinian activist and intellectual Iqbal Jassat said he will remember Maulana Ihsaan as courageous, visionary and unflinching in his commitment to human rights and justice. As one of the executive members of the Media Review Network, a prominent pro-Palestinian advocacy group in SA, he said they had carved a dynamic and vibrant working relationship.
“Together, under his principled leadership of the MJC, we had many opportunities to successfully navigate through challenging terrains. These dealt with the myriad of violations abetted by America’s destabilising policies especially in the post 9/11 era. Foremost has been the fall out resulting from its aggressive military campaigns built upon lies and deceit,” he recalled.
“Unafraid to tackle challenges and speak truth to power, Sheikh Ihsaan deservedly earned the respect of South Africans from all walks of life.
At the same time, his enormous contribution to the Palestinian freedom struggle, won him accolades from leaders of the Resistance against Zionist #ApartheidIsrael. Of course his high profile and powerful voice which echoed the demands of Palestinians, earned him the wrath of the settler colonial regime and its band of right-wing supporters in South Africa,” Jassat continued.
“Having worked closely with him, I can testify that Sheikh Ihsaan’s unique insight coupled with his ability to marshall his “troops”, will forever be valued and profoundly appreciated as a distinct quality of a brilliant leader. May Allah grant Sheikh Ihsaan Hendricks maghfira and highest rank in Jannah.”
Ebrahim Moosa, a journalist and prominent pro-Palestinian activist and writer, said Maulana Ihsaan began championing the cause of al-Quds and Palestine in South Africa and abroad at a time when awareness was sorely lacking and activism for Palestine was hardly in the vogue. He was highly respected internationally as well as in Palestine for his selfless activism. Moosa had been greatly inspired by Maulana Ihsaan’s commitment and zeal to Palestinian history and politics.
“He groomed a new generation of activists and served as a catalyst for much meaningful action for Palestine. He also emphasised the importance of principled activism and informed responses. His leadership will be sorely missed at a time when the Occupation has crossed all bounds and al-Quds and al-Aqsa faces its darkest hour,” said Moosa, the founder of the Palestine Information Network (PIN).
A well-known voice in Muslim media
Maulana Ihsaan’s outspoken personality and critical analysis on a myriad of topics was well known to Muslim media in South Africa. Over the years, Maulana Ihsaan had established himself as one of the leading analysts on Palestinian affairs and contemporary Islamic debates, often taking on thorny issues with gusto.
Radio Islam’s programme manager Ml Sulaimaan Ravat said the entire Radio Islam staff are shattered by the passing of Maulana Ihsaan. Ravat said the alim had dedicated his life to Khidmah and to the service of the deen of Islam.
“He will be particularly remembered for his services towards conscientizing the Ummah in South Africa about the plight of the Palestinians. His drive and his enthusiasm when it came to educating the masses and as far as the Palestinian cause is concerned and the vigour and the strength that he showed when having to combat anti-Palestinian forces and when having to combat the anti-Palestinian narrative in mainstream media and other platforms.”
“May Allah accept his services for deen, for the liberation of Palestine and may Allah grant his family sabr and may Allah grant him the highest abode in the Jannatul Firdous Insha’Allah Ameen.”
Channel Islam International, a Johannesburg based radio station, paid tribute to Maulana Ihsaan’s tireless contribution in striving for the liberation of Masjidul Quds and Palestine and how he made the South African community aware of the untold suffering of the Palestinians under the hands of the Zionist regime.
Maulana Ihsaan was awarded the International Palestinian Award for his efforts. He also received the award of “The defender of Masjidul Aqsa” in the year 2008. In 2012, he led the Africa one Aid convoy to Gaza and was honoured with ‘the keys of the Gaza’.
“His commitment to a #FreePalestine, will remain a beacon for all freedom-loving people and human rights activists, not only in South Africa but globally, to rally in support of the people of Palestine,” said CII in a statement.
Seasoned broadcaster Inayat Wadee of Salaamedia believes Maulana Ihsaan’s death is yet another great loss not only to the scholarly fraternity, but to Muslims at large, particularly those who seek justice in the face of oppression. He called Maulana Ihsaan a “beacon amongst scholars” who stood firm on his principles, unwavering in the face of injustice and constantly striving for the cause that was closest to his heart, the liberation of Al Aqsa.
“It was through the untiring efforts of Maulana Ihsaan that the love and passion for the liberation of Al Aqsa had strengthened amongst the Muslims of South Africa. It was this intellectual giant who against all adversity stood up to be counted amongst those who was not afraid to speak his mind. It was he who kept the struggle for Al Aqsa alive week after week every Thursday in Cape Town. He inspired many to continue and not to give up and lose hope,” said Wadee.
“It was the booming voice of MAulana Ihsaan that was never afraid to speak his mind when it came to matters of injustice and human rights abuses. He was passionate about supporting the brave sons and daughters of Palestine who until today stand firm against all odds in the protection of the honour, sanctity and dignity of Al Aqsa. Moulana Igsaan leaves us with many fond memories and has left a legacy that will remain entrenched in the footprints of time.” VOC