The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) recently celebrated a new chapter with the inauguration of a new president, Shaykh Irafaan Abrahams. Abrahams, who many know as the principle of Darul Islam High School, has entrenched a footprint of extensive work within the community of Surrey Estate and the greater Cape Flats. Though many recognize his face and admire his khutab, Abrahams’ humble upbringing gives new insight into who he is.
Abrahams, who this year celebrates his 57th birthday, was born in the Cape Town suburb of Surrey Estate, hails from the well-known Jonas family of District Six.
Both sets of his grandparents fervently taught the Qur’an within the community and were renowned for their strict principles, which they inculcated into their off-spring.
His parents, who were respected within the Surrey Estate community, adopted the principles that their parents held in high esteem.
Abrahams says the teachings of his parents aroused within him the love of the deen of Islam and transformed him into the individual that he is today.
“There was not a day since the age of eight that I can remember that I did not miss a fard salah. My mother also encouraged us to pray Salah in the masjid, even Fajr salah”, Abrahams said.
“I remember when my mother was very sick and they carried my mother out of the house, her words were: ‘My children, keep mindful of your salah, Allah will look after you’.”
His mother passed away at the age of 47 when he was at the tender age of 12.
Abrahams, who was subsequently raised by his older siblings, lived his life in gratitude for the foundation that his mother established for him and his siblings.
“For that I must thank my brothers and sisters who took care of us, and who continued to raise us on the principles of my mother.”
Despite the financial troubles that he and his siblings experienced, he is grateful for the teachings that his parents instilled in them.
“Many times I would go to school barefoot, walking from Surrey Estate to Heideveld. When it was cold, my brother Yusuf would carry me on his back. And other times, we went to school with dry bread, which was wrapped in newspaper, and I would hide myself so that I could eat it. So I know hardship, but I am grateful for my mother’s principles,” says Abrahams.
In his early teens, his Islamic education was greatly influenced by Imam Ismail Johnstone, the ex-imam of Surrey Estate masjid.
“He was a giant in the Arabic language and very effective in relating Islamic discourse.”
In addition to teaching him the theory of Islam, Shaykh Johnstone constantly encouraged his students to practice good conduct within society.
One of his early memories of reciting the Qur’an was at his mother’s deathbed, which he described as a night that he would “never forget.”
During his ninth year at school, following his introduction to Qur’anic studies, he decided to study hifth with Imam Shamsodien.
At the age of 14, Abrahams began to teach children the Qur’an and at the age of 15 he, subsequently, began teaching adults.
“From the age of 14 until the age of 57, I have been teaching Qur’an, I even taught Qur’an to Arab children during the nine-years that I stayed in Saudi Arabia.”
The Shaykh completed a Bachelor of Arts in 1987, in Arabic and Islamic Studies at University of al-Madinah al-Munawarah, Saudi Arabia.
After which, he completed a one-year Diploma in Teaching Arabic to non-Arabs in 1995, at the King Saud University, in Riyadh.
While Abrahams continues to be an avid community advocate against gangsterism and drugs within the Cape Flats, he has also worked as the Imaam of the Darul Islam Masjid,
In addition, the Shaykh is the; ameer and chairman of the Darul Islam Zakah Fund, administrator at Darul Islam Islamic High School, Principal at Darul Islam Haafieth School, ameer and adviser At Darul Islam Primary School, chairman of the Western Cape branch of the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS), ameer and chairman of the Darul Islam Task Team in defence of the Ahlus Sunnah Wa’l Jamaah, founding member of the Surrey Estate Neighbourhood Watch Patrol, and the Executive member of the Surrey Estate Rate Payers Association (SERRA).
Abrahams said that his work within the community was not to gain the acknowledgement or praise of the society. Instead, he worked to serve the community.
Relationship with the MJC
Abrahams explained that in the first few years after graduating from the University of al-Madinah al-Munawarah, he conducted voluntary work in the Social Welfare Department at the MJC, which included; counselling, home visits, sitting in shariah courts, and served on the Imaarah of the MJC.
Abrahams, says that his new position as president is not only a position of honour, but is accompanied by challenges and responsibilities – the greatest of which is being able to answer, sufficiently, when questioned on the Day of Judgement.