With different sets of challenges of Muslims in small towns and rural areas, a senior delegation of ulema from the Muslim Judicial Council set off on a journey this week to foster a relationship with shuyookh in the Garden Route. The Da’wah Caravan trip, which started last weekend, was a form of engagement to promote and support the growth of Islam in the Overberg. Among the delegation was MJC president Sheikh Irafaan Abrahams, first deputy president Maulana Abdul Khaliq Ebrahim Allie, executive member Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels and Sheikh Abubakr Gabriels.
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat on Thursday, Allie explained that it was the founding members of the council that committed to this cause. The latest visits coincided with the 1963 commemorative trip by the then MJC Leadership Garden Route Delegation.
“It’s part of the MJC’s leadership outreach to build, nurture and develop relationships with our communities. Over the past weekend, the Boland Islamic council visited (various areas, including) Swellendam, Napier and Bredasdorp,” he explained.
Allie said the MJC “played an important role when it came to the development to Islam in these particular towns.” He further described the engagements with the George community as ‘wonderful’ and added that the relationship between residents has been fruitful.
The MJC, according to the Allie, was instrumental in supporting the Mossel Bay and Knysna communities when it came to purchasing land and laying the foundation for the establishment of a masjid. The same rang true for the establishment of masajid in Albertinia and Knysna, the latter of which remains an ongoing project.
“These communities can be very isolated and has grown in momentum with foreign communities. Knysna has come far and continues to need support.”
Construction on the masjid in Knysna was disrupted by the Covid19 pandemic, however building works restarted last week. The Knysna Muslim Council hope to complete the masjid, toilets and ablutions by the end of November. The council’s Omar Essa said funds are running out and they are unable to complete the first floor which contains the imam’s residence. They are only building a 1m wall surrounding the perimeter for safety purposes. Essa said donations are coming in, but a significant amount is needed to complete the project.
“Our main is to get the masjid and ablutions up and running. We are hoping to have our first Jumuah in the first week of December, ahead of the tourist season in Knysna,” he said.
The ulema also met Shaykh Salaamtu in Brighton, Port Elizabeth. The masjid sits on a plot with four churches of Christian denominations propagating the call of Islam.
According to Allie, isolation of some communities, however, does pose some challenges. He cited the fact that a language barrier exists for the Malawian-national imam in Albertinia – despite being a qualified shaykh from Madina. The issues affecting other areas, which included “conflict and disputes as in other communities” had however not stopped Islam from spreading.
“It’s fascinating to see the growth of Islam along all national routes- N7, N1, N2 and the routes that branches off. Islam is alive and its starts small. Its starts with somebody having a sincere intention to say we need to establish something where people can be able to identify with.”
One of the key areas, Allie said, was how to attract and hold the attention of the youth. Using the community of Port Elizabeth as an example, Allie said that he witnessed young groups of ulema coming together and strive to make sure the lines of communications are open. Allie noted various online programmes and how extensive interaction with young people has led to learning opportunities.
“Young people must be engaged with. We must be able to listen to and understand their needs and challenges and how we can provide the necessary guidance. I hope and pray we can continue this engagement,” he said.