Shamima Shaikh: ‘God’s favoured child’

By Tandile Kona

“The late Shamima Shaikh lived a life of solidarity and empathy. She identified with the oppressed and downtrodden, especially women, children and black people. She championed their struggles which were also hers.”

This was the message shared by San Francisco State University-based Palestinian academic and activist, Professor Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, who was delivering the fourth Shamima Shaikh Memorial lecture in Durban on Saturday, October 14.

Shamima Shaikh was one of South Africa's foremost Muslim women's rights activist and journalist. She died in January 1998, having lived with cancer for almost four years.

Professor Abdulhadi sketched her own activism in the struggle for the liberation of Palestine and the backlash she continues to receive for her commitment to and solidarity with struggles for justice around the world.

Speaking on the theme: “Combating Islamophobia, Orientalism and Zionism: Feminist anti-Colonial Solidarities from Durban to Palestine,” Prof Abdulhadi shared her experiences in the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980’s United States and how solidarity between exiled South Africans and Palestinians was the basis of much of the activist work that they were involved in at the time. The two anti-apartheid movements (South African and Palestinian) supported each other and activists on both sides shared experiences and tactics to advance their causes.

She also drew parallels between the trials that she currently faces in her work as an activist in the United States against racism in all its manifestations and wherever it rears its ugly head, and those Shamima faced during her lifetime when she challenged patriarchal discriminative practices and tendencies in all their guises. Although they never met, the Professor says that she and Shamima are bound by a common thread of struggle alongside their people against injustice.

Insisting that she was a “mere housewife,” according to her husband Na’eem Jeenah, who also spoke at the event, Shamima also held a firm belief that she was “God’s favoured child” and it is that belief that shaped her outlook on life and spurred her on to struggle for social justice until she took her last breath.

Although the struggle for justice was personal to her, Shamima’s humility did not allow her to make everything about her. It is in that vein she never claimed personal glory or sought praise for any of the small but ground shifting victories she achieved during her short but fully lived life.

*Shamima took her activism to the heart of the Muslim community. Courageously advocating for the right of Muslim women to have a voice and to participate on equal terms with men in community life, she became the first National Co-ordinator of the Muslim Youth Movement (MYM) Gender Desk, where she organised workshops, seminars and campaigns. She spearheaded the MYM’s “Campaign for a Just Muslim Personal Law”, the “Equal Access to Mosques” campaign amongst others.

In 1994, she was diagnosed with breast cancer but continued working while being treated. She was one of the founder members of The Voice radio.

She made the pilgrimage to Mecca with her husband and wrote a book together about that experience: “Journey of Discovery: A South African Hajj” published in 2000.

At the end of 1997, Shamima completed her final public engagement. She delivered a paper, Women & Islam – The Gender Struggle in South Africa: The Ideological Struggle. During a period of remission, she had decided that should the cancer return she would not undergo the chemotherapy again preferring to die with dignity, and 17 days later, on the 8 January 1998 / 9 Ramadan 1418, Shamima Shaikh passed away leaving not only a great sadness among those who loved her but a valuable testimony of life for generations of South Africans and people around the world.

Passing Of Ahmed Kathrada

The Muslim Youth Movement (MYM) mourns with South Africa, Africa and the world the passing of Brother Ahmed Kathrada, an activist, freedom fighter and revolutionary.

The fondness with which the MYM holds Ahmed Kathrada dates back to the days of the struggle for liberation, as he was one of the leaders that inspired the Muslim youth in the MYM to immerse themselves in the struggle for a just social order.

After his release from prison, Ahmed Kathrada in December 1989 also made time to grace the MYM's flagship programme at the time, the Islamic Tarbiyyah (Training) Programme, where activists were prepared for grassroots activism. At the ITP, he shared his experiences and encouraged the youth to further involve themselves in popular struggles for social justice. MYM also honoured him and Rafiq Rohan on 16 June 1997 at a special youth day programme on Robben Island.

At a time like the present, when leadership is a means to self-enrichment, Ahmed Kathrada's humility serves as an example and inspiration to those who still believe that we are more than our material needs.

Rest in peace Comrade Ahmed Kathrada. From Allah we come unto Allah is our return.

Mr. Thandile Kona

MYM President

MYM stalwart, Suleman Lockhat: In Allah’s warm embrace...

Thousands are reeling from the recent passing of community icon Murhoom Suleman Lockhat who embodied the character of a true Muslim. Stricken with liver cancer, he once delivered a stirring speech advising all to get closer to the Creator while “you still have time on your side.”

 

It is said that heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. They are not those who are necessarily lauded by society; but rather those who, in their quiet, unassuming and unacknowledged way serve society. They do so not in any dramatic fashion but in their daily interactions, below the radar. Service becomes a habit in a life lived with purpose. 

Oftentimes one wonders where such individuals derive their strength, energy and time to engage in so much, for so many, for so little in return. Such was Suleman Lockhat of Durban (03 March 1953 – 06 August 2016) who returned to his Lord earlier this month, after a courageous battle with cancer at the age of 63.A lawyer by vocation, a Muslim in commitment and an activist by passion Suleman combined these attributes to greatly benefit individuals and organisations too numerous to mention. 

His formative years were spent in the Muslim Youth Movement(MYM), a movement that he identified with for most of his life, recruiting many into its ranks. However his commitment to ‘the Movement’ did not make him doctrinaire and deter him from drinking from other fountains: he was a regular attendee at the khaanqah of the late Moulana Yunus Patel and other ulama. He was a consistent presence at all MYM meetings and programmes making his contribution as a beacon of calm and rationality even during the most serious crises. He was the calming influence when there were warring factions – between radical youth and traditional grandees and from ideological battles to personality conflicts always respecting the confidence entrusted to him. For the MYM he handled all their legal matter pro deo and was key in the purchase, establishment and registration of key properties including the Islamic Centre Trust and the “Camp Site” in Verulam. He served as trustee on both.

Arising out of his commitment to the ‘Movement Project’ to establish organisations for various professionals, and tracking the idea of the Islamic Medical Association, he was instrumental in founding the Association of Muslim Accountants and Lawyers (AMAL). The idea was first mooted at the MYM Islamic Training Programme (ITP) in Lenasia with MYM President Ahmed Saeed Moolla and Zein-ul-Abedin Kajee. He served AMAL as chairpersonfrom its inception in 1984 to 2011 and continuing to play a key role until his death, seeing it through challenges but also growth and making a significant contribution to tackling critical issues such as Muslim Personal Law. 


As part of the MYM, Suleman was active in many outreach programmes (Da’wah) into various communities, including Kwa-Mashu and Phoenix. He was instrumental in institutionalising these programmes. He played a key role in building the first mosque in Kwa-Mashu, one of the first in a South African ‘township’ and organisedtaraweeh, iftaar and talks there. With Abdul Wahab Khan he established the Islamic Society of Rydevale in Phoenix. In both these institutions,he not only served as trustee but provided the legal instruments for their establishment. He also served as trustee of the South African Da’wah Network (SADN) which runs many such institutions.


After the period of his active involvement in  the MYM,  when older members regrouped in other organisations such Islamic Forum and Vision 2020, Suleman played a key role in their formation and continued his involvement in these and built relationships with fraternal organisations such as Minara Chamber of Commerce and SAMNET.Suleman played a key role in many of these think-tanks in influencing the thinking of young professionals, academics and businessmen and women.

Committed

He was committed to a non-racial South Africa and building a new society. In this he saw a key role for the Muslim community. On many occasions he provided legal assistance to activists facing the onslaught of security police during the anti-apartheid struggle.He also played a key supporting role in getting Fowzia Peer elected as an ANC Councillor for Westville and its surrounds by transporting voters and supporting her until the counting was done. 

Not widely known is that as an attorney and member of the Immigration Board, Suleman Lockhat rendered yeoman service beyond the call of duty and often well into the night in dealing with the challenges faced by immigrants and refugees, especially from the other parts of the African continent.

In this very busy life, both professional and as an activist, Suleman’s commitment to his aged parents was unstinting. He found time to see to their needs and sometimes was late for meetings because he had care for the needs of his parents. He lived a modest life, a regular at the Reservoir Hills mosque and a friend to all. He also saw to the needs of his siblings and his own five children. Suleman will be missed by all – from his family to professionals to refugees who depended upon him for guidance and assistance. He was a friend to most, a confidant to many and an inspiration to all.

A year before his passing he was asked to share some ‘wisdom of the elders’ with those present at the annual Islamic Forum gathering. His words ring true and will remain an inspiration to all. The following is what he said during his address.

"A few months ago I fell seriously ill. I have suffered a tumor in my liver and it has been a very challenging time. Challenging with a lot of reflection, reflections on what I have done with my journey thus far, where I am going, how I am going to meet my Lord and have I succeeded in that journey thus far? Of course when you look at it you have many regrets, regrets about why you didn’t do this earlier and why didn’t you do that but nevertheless it is a time to get closer to Allah and the Prophet (saw). When we hear about the examples of the Prophet’s reactions to people, the faith he displayed, the forgiveness he gave, the sincerity with which he received people, that he didn’t just reject them; these are morals that we cherish and how good would it be if we could practice these examples? 

“To everyone here I am saying that you are very fortunate. You are fortunate that you’ve got time on your side, you’ve got energy on your side, you’ve got opportunities on your side and many of you have got youth on your side and you cannot be on a better journey than the one you are on now. Make the best of it. Educate yourselves, inspire yourselves and practice what you can. All of us, we have this opportunity now to get closer to Allah and the Prophet (saw) as much as we can so that when our time comes we will be able to say: Ya Allah, I am ready. If I serve no purpose in this world anymore I am ready to go. And many of us, myself included, haven’t reached that stage yet and I'm asking Allah to give me time so that I can reach that stage. 

This experience has taught me a lot and I must thank Allah for a very supportive family, very supportive brothers from the movement who care and keep in contact and give us the support that we need at this time because it’s not easy but you make me capable of living through it. Praise be to God, ‘We surely belong to God and to Him we shall return’ and Allah knows best. And I am hoping that when we return, the angels will be able to declare: “To the righteous it will be said: ‘O reassured soul, come back to your Lord, well-pleased yourself and well-pleasing unto Him. Enter you, then, among My honoured slaves, And enter My paradise.” (Quran 89:27-30)

We pray that the Almighty embrace Marhoom Suleman Lockhat in his mercy, envelope him with his love and grant him the highest abode in Jannah. May his legacy continue to accumulate blessings (Thawab-i-Jaariya).  Someone wisely said: ‘Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.” We all have that choice.

*This tribute was written by Shuaib Manjra - assisted by Ahmed Manjra and Ahmed Saeed Moola.

Press Statement On Isis & Boko Haram

The Muslim Youth Movement (MYM) of South Africa wishes to express its condemnation of the violence that is perpetrated in the name of Islam by groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) and Boko Haram. The wanton destruction of property and violence against civilians can never be acceptable under any circumstances.

The killing of Christian minorities in Iraq and the killing and abduction of young girls in north eastern Nigeria are a blight in the conscience of all humanity and we should all join hands in the rejection of violence against civilians and innocent people as a means to achieve any religious, economic or political objectives.

We add our voice to the many around the world who see the acts of these groups for what they are, criminal acts that deserve condemnation by all people from all faiths. We also pledge to support initiatives that are aimed at ending the misery that these groups have visited on the people in the places where they operate.

We call on leaders in the global Muslim community to raise their voices in calling for an end to the violence and to distance themselves from these groups in order to isolate them with the ultimate aim of ensuring that they can no longer find refuge within Muslim communities.

The MYM will continue to campaign against these groups and to encourage its membership around the country to partake in activities and campaigns to isolate and condemn ISIS AND Boko Haram.

 

Mr. Thandile Kona

MYM President

 

Muslim Youth Movement: ‘Challenging time for the world’

This Ramadan comes at a challenging time for our country and the world. In South Africa, there is an awakening and a realisation that all is not well with our socio-economic conditions.

Evidence of this not-so-well rainbow nation is the widening and unsustainable gap between the rich and poor, the high levels of unemployment, the grinding and humiliating poverty that is increasingly being criminalised and most menacingly, the general loss of hope by those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder that things will ever get better.

In the world, the Zionist noose around the necks of the Palestinians shows no signs of ever breaking. The Egyptian people who moved a few steps forward with the democratic election of Muhammad Morsi, have now moved many steps backward with the capture of power by undemocratic forces. Libya is falling apart. The strife in the Central African Republic and the menace of Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria all make for a world in turmoil and in need of renewal.

Ramadan presents a chance for that renewal. It is an opportunity for individual and collective reflection and renewal. We should spend it reflecting on how best we can live our lives the way Allah intended us to. We should reflect on how best we can contribute towards the struggle against injustice, inequality, poverty and hopelessness.

We should reflect on how we support the workers’ struggle for a just wage, the people’s struggles for clean drinking water, dignified living conditions and a quality education. We should also reflect on how best we can live our lives in order to attain righteousness, the objective of fasting as stated in the Qur’an chapter 2, verse 183.

On behalf of the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa, I wish all a blessed holy month of Ramadan. May we all make the best of it. Ramadan Mubarak!

Thandile Kona
President
Muslim Youth Movement

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