We are all going to die some day. That is a fact of life. And we all need to be buried somewhere. That is our final destination. What happens after that falls in the realm of the unknown and is prescribed by our religious affiliation. So we find ourselves in the graveyard, the Wallacedene Cemetery on this holy Friday, after Jumuah. But it is not death that brought us here today – it is the official opening of the burial grounds for Muslims in this area, encompassing Durbanville, Kraaifontein, Scottsville, Northpine, Wallacedene and surrounding areas.
“The grave’s a fine and private place …” Andrew Marvell once wrote. This is the scene that greets us when we arrive at the Wallacedene Maqbara. The cemetery is still relatively new with a few graves resting there. It is vast and beautifully paved with gravesites clearly marked. The area allocated for Muslim burial is about 1km long and 40m wide and accommodates 198 plots. The plots are clearly marked with green lawns as far as you can see.
We are directed to a marquee to the left of the long tarred road where the City of Cape Town has prepared for the proceedings of the day. It is a beautiful graveyard – almost inviting as the sun shines through a few scattered clouds and we gather at the marquee for this solemn and sanguine occasion. It is after all a long awaited occasion, since there is no Muslim burial ground in the area. Muslims living in the area have been using Vygekraal (Johnston Road) and Mowbray cemeteries for years. It is well-known that these cemeteries are full to overflowing and there is a dire need for more cemeteries in the Western Cape. The new cemetery promises to fulfil the Muslim burial needs in the Northern Suburbs as it is the closest maqbara within a forty kilometre radius.
The Muslim communities of the area were well represented by local ulema and residents, the City of Cape Town, the responsible representative of the Kraaifontein Municipality and the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC). Some of the town elders, Boeta Osman (90) & Aunty Amina Miller (80), Boeta Ismail Jackson, Aunty Amina Yon, Aunty Galeemah Bhayat (all in their late seventies) of this community also attended this auspicious event.
World renowned qari, Sheikh Abduraghmaan Sadien (Masjidul Quba, Northpine), rendered a beautiful recital of the Holy Quran. As he recited, the rain came down in torrents and some hail caused everyone to huddle closer together under the gazebos. The weather bore testimony to the gravity of the occasion – to the seasons of life and death. The sun shone, then it rained, and it hailed, and suddenly it was very cold and it rained some more . . .
The opening dua was made by Moulana Khalil Parker (Al-Hidayah Masjid, Watsonia Park). The master of ceremony, Imam Jubyer Miller (Scottsville Madrasah), gave a brief history of the maqbara when the first seeds were planted. It was Peter de la Hunt who first advised that Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) should speak for all Muslim communities on the acquisition of maqbaras in the city. The MJC appointed Sheikh Ali Gierdien at the time.
The Muslim practice of burial in a simple cotton shroud is the least destructive option and is permitted in designated grounds. Sheikh Riad Fataar, second deputy president of the MJC explained that the MJC supports the use of berm graves. Only headstones are permitted for these graves making it aesthetically and financially more attractive. Although the city allows for monuments, it is not economical, neither recommended by the MJC. The grave itself will be flat. Should one default on these regulations, the cemetery authorities have the right to remove e.g. monuments or flatten the graves within accordance to their regulations. Sheikh Riad Fataar is in charge of Muslim cemeteries. Sheikh Riad Fataar stressed the importance of everyone– all five communities – working together.
It is a milestone in this community for having waited so long – over forty years to finally have a maqbara in the area. The sabr shown by the pioneers proves that “when you have patience, when you have sabr, when you have perseverance – at the end of it Allah gives you what you are supposed to get. Allah grants you that you deal with people who are accommodative. The process of securing the cemetery for Muslim needs has been made easy. There were no obstacles. Allah made it easy for us and everything went smooth until the opening.” The significance of this occasion is that there is a dire need for more maqbaras. “Daar is nie meer plek om dood te gaan nie.” That is why the MJC went to the City of Cape Town to ask for more space. Research had been done by the City of Cape Town into the burial needs of Muslims and it was found that there was a great demand for new cemeteries as most of the existing cemeteries are filled to capacity.
The first negotiated cemeteries were Klip Road and Grassy Park. Other municipal maqbaras falling under the auspices of the MJC include Mitchell’s Plain & Khayelitsha (who share a cemetery), Delft, Belhar, Maitland, Eerste River & Blue Downs. The MJC has accepted responsibility and has signed protocols with the City of Cape Town. There is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Cape Town and the MJC whereby the MJC has been appointed as the overseer of all the municipal cemeteries where there are Muslim allotments. Along with the allocation of the cemetery there are certain rules, regulations and restrictions that must be adhered to.
The MJC cannot be at every cemetery so they have appointed a person from the community to oversee the janaazahs and take calls, collect payment for the grave, etc. They normally take experienced people to perform this task and Sheikh Riad Fataar called on the community to exercise patience as it is new in this community. Sheikh Riad Fataar also raised the issue of a pauper’s burial, when there is a janaazah of a person whose family cannot afford the burial. It becomes the responsibility of the cemetery committee to find the funds and ensure that the person is buried. The process is to find sponsors, approach the community/jamaahs, mosques, the MJC. If there is no-one to fund the burial, Sheikh Riad Fataar committed himself to personally pay for such a burial. The contact person at the MJC’s office is Sister Insauf Fry.
Sheikh Riad Fataar quoted a friend who once said: “We are all in the Departure Hall”. In this type of work the people who are buried cannot thank you. Your reward lies with Allah”.
The City of Cape Town was represented by Ms Susan Brice, cemetery co-ordinator of City Parks Cape Town, accompanied by Ms Lulama & Mr Myburgh. She has been instrumental in securing the plots for this community. Susan Brice welcomed and thanked everyone for attending the opening. She expressed how proud she was of the Wallacedene cemetery which provides for all denominations in the area. She made a commitment to the Muslim community that they would continue to provide plots subscribing to Muslim burial rites as the need arises.
The MJC Wallacedene Area Cemetery Committee represents all five aforementioned areas: Fuad Deaney, Sulaiman Salie, Ikraam Solomons, Salie Moos, Rusdin de Young, Anwar Ismail, Samsodien Parker, Jubyer Miller and Kashief Murray . The person appointed for the Wallacedene Maqbara is Hajji Fuad Deaney. He can be contacted when applying for burials.
Nazeem Adams of the Kraaifontein Municipality is the person who oversees the preparation for burials at the cemetery. Brother Nazeem Adams and Moulana Abdul Fataah Carr of the Fatwah Department have already established the qibla at Wallacedene maqbara.
Sheikh Abdul Nasser of Wallacedene stated that there are certain duties for certain individuals such as being a leader in a community. ”A leader or imam is not man-made – it is Allah given – Allah appoints that person – it doesn’t just happen to anyone. When such a responsibility is bestowed upon us, it is an amaanah (trust). You must know it comes from Allah”. He also said that the people of Wallacedene are a beautiful community. On a lighter note he commented on the reputedly rough community and misconceptions: ”I can assure you that there is no reason to fear that they would “steal” your body parts”. Sheikh Riad Fataar affirmed that nothing like this has ever happened, neither will it ever happen.
The rain slacked as the proceedings drew to a close. Alhamdullillah, there were showers of blessings ushering in the new maqbara with the closing dua which was rendered by Sheikh Abdullah Hartzenberg (Durbanville) and we gradually made our way to the refreshment area, the grass glittering with sunshine in the rain!
Hajji Fuad Deaney: 084 222 1286
Burial order clerk for Kraaifontein Municipality: Nazeem Adams
Details of the contact persons for the various areas will be posted at the Al Hidayah mosque (in Watsonia Park), Masjidul Quba (in Northpine), Durbanville Jamaat Khana and Scottsville (Madrasah)
Process for booking a grave:
The undertaker needs the following documents:
- Medical certificate B1663
- ID document of the deceased and informant
- Address of the deceased.
- Name of the Sheikh or Imam doing the burial
The undertaker will provide the City Parks booking clerk with the burial order.
The City Parks booking clerk will ensure that the grave is prepared.
For further information:
Contact Northern District: 021 5501052/3
A note on berm graves as per Cape Town City regulations: Berm graves fall in the category of private graves and allow for a second burial of a family member on top of another coffin. The City encourages families to consider reopening graves to accommodate a second or third burial. There is also the reduction burial option, where remains from older graves are exhumed and place in a smaller box for deeper burial to accommodate one or two more coffins.[Compiled by Faltoema Murray & Soraya Latief]