Bracing the icy cold weather, organizers of the annual VOC Ahlan Wa Sahlan Programme on Sunday were welcomed with warm arms by the residents of Hanover Park. The programme, which has taken place annually for the past 17 years, hosts one community each Sunday of Ramadan in a spiritually uplifting evening of athkaar and Quran recitation. Attendees then share in a hearty meal that is provided by Gift of the Givers Foundation. This week, the event was hosted in Masjid al-Rahmaan.
The attendees were graced with the melodious recitation of nasheed that were rendered by Al-Azhar students, athkaar that was led by sidi Eesa Alexander, and qiraa’a by local hufaath.
Co-ordinator of the Ahlan Wa Sahlan programme, Ebrahim Arnold explains that as the third programme for the month of Ramadan, what stood out within the Hanover Park community was the positive attitude that residents displayed.
He says that residents felt proud to speak of the successors achieved through the numerous community initiatives.
“Hanover Park has madrassa classes, hifth classes, ladies classes, and imaamat classes,” he continued.
In light of sporadic gang violence, Arnold asserts that residents are not deterred. Instead, when the location of a programme is impacted by violence, the community simply changes the venue.
“Allah says in the Qur’an [which may mean]: ‘Repel evil by what is best’. This belief captures the attitude of the community is and you have to admire this positive spirit, but it doesn’t absolve us from assisting wherever we can,” Arnolds says.
He said as the Ahlan Wa Sahlan Programme grows, numerous donors have come forward to assist, which has allowed the programme to operate “on autopilot.”
“The Turkish Cooperation Coordinating Agency [in attendance at the event] handed a cheque of R25 000 to the Gift of Givers towards the iftaar. Allah sends these things, so we must simply show an interest in the reality of the situation – our rizq belongs to Allah. The Hanover Park community works together!” Arnold added.
As attendees streamed in to the masjid, the VOC News team chatted to community members who shared their experiences of living in Hanover Park.
While everyone mentioned the growing problem of gangsterism and drugs, each person mentioned many positive aspects of the community.
An ex-resident, Shakiel Allie* explained that despite having moved out of the area, he continues to maintain his relationship with the community and the mosque. He says that growing up within the area has taught him great values of community and granted him a sense of belonging.
In light of growing xenophobia within the country, we were surprised to discover that foreign nationals residing within the community live without fear of being looted within an area renowned for criminal activity.
One Malawian shop owner explained that he and his colleague have been greatly supported by both the masjid community and the community at large.
While two Malawian cousins, who came to South Africa in search of a better life, say that they have immersed themselves within the community and that residents have always welcomed them to be active members of Hanover Park.
Speaking to VOC, member Gift of the Givers Saadiq Natha explained that having worked in numerous areas within the Cape Flats, despite experiencing high levels of crime and poverty, Hanover Park community members work tirelessly to improve life within the community for the benefit of all.