HistoryA bit about our history
The Boorhaanol Islam Movement has been the pre-eminent community organisation in the Bo-Kaap for the past 50 years, combining religious educational initiatives with pioneering socio-economic upliftment programmes under the leadership of two of the area’s most well-known sons, the late Imam Abdurahmaan Bassier and his close friend, the late social worker-cum-historian-cum-researcher Dr Achmat Davids. By the time that Imam had passed on in 2004 and the Boorhaanol had lost both its stalwarts, the emphasis within the organisation had shifted significantly towards achieving its educational and upliftment objectives via its publications.
While the quarterly Boorhaanol Newsletter had initially been produced primarily as a link between the organisation and its congregants, its scope was gradually enlarged to encompass both a larger readership as well as a wider agenda. This outreach to the broader community resulted in significant feedback and concern at the pressing issues confronting the Cape Muslim community in particular and the global ummah in general. The role of the Newsletter started embracing a research component as it was realised that the solutions to the problems within the community can only be properly tackled if it was based on accurate data about the resources and issues of the community. Surveys on various aspects of both the human and the institutional resources were undertaken and published in the Newsletter and these projects resulted in a strengthening of the bonds between the Boorhaanol Movement on the one hand, and the various mosque, madrassah and institutional stakeholders on the other.
As the bona fides of the organisation grew and cooperation with mosque committees strengthened, Boorhaanol was able to undertake a survey of the taraweeg facilities at mosques around the Western Cape. The first Taraweeg Survey was published in 1988 and contained details about the human and institutional resources of 77 mosques. By the turn of the century the scope of the Taraweeg Survey had been broadened to such an extent that it detailed comprehensive information about over 500? Muslim places of worship, institutions and organisations across the Peninsula and was widely acclaimed as the definitive Muslim directory of the Western Cape.
The death of Boeta Achmat Davids in 1998 was a huge setback not only for the Muslim community of Cape Town but the country as a whole. His intellectual output as a historian, linguist, researcher, social worker and broadcaster was phenomenal and his thesis proving that Muslims played a pivotal role in the genesis of the Afrikaans language shook the supremacist Afrikaner establishment. His departure also shook the Boorhaanol Movement to whom he had not only dedicated most of his adult life but at whose disposal he also placed his residence at 203 Longmarket Street right opposite the mosque.
Without Boeta Achmat the Movement had to regroup and soon thereafter they replaced their quarterly Magazine with an annual publication designed to provide Muslims with back-to-basics guidance on all aspects of their deen. In addition to these basic guidances, The Companion also contained a reference section wherein all the directories were consolidated. The need to look beyond the holy month of Ramadaan however, coupled with the mandate to preserve the cultural traditions of the Cape Muslims, led to the launch of the first Boeka Treats, a compendium of flop-proof Cape Muslim baking and cooking recipes traditionally made when Muslims break their fast. The popularity of the first Boeka Treats led to the scope of subsequent editions being widened to encompass all aspects of Cape Muslim cuisine. By the 9th edition over 350 recipes had been published covering categories like savouries, cakes, desserts, breads, soups, foods and biscuits. Last year Boorhaanol ventured into new territories when it produced a DVD of 10 Boeka Treats recipes as well as listing the over 350 recipes in different categories. In addition they produced 10,000 copies of a surah Yaseen CD featuring the renowned Ghafith Sheikh Ismail Londt. This year a similar CD featuring Sheikh Londt reciting surah Mulk as well will be produced.
add boeka treat pics from word docs
Boorhaanol Islam Movement
TRIBUTE TO ACHMAT DAVIDS(1939 – 1998)
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ACHMAT THE EDUCATOR with a social conscience
Early in his career as a social worker, Achmat combined the roles of social worker and educator… and was fond of reminding his students: “You cannot be an educator without a social conscience.”
Hence in his first job at Kupungani, (1965-7) the young social worker emerged as a Health Educator.
- As social worker (Director of Social Services) at the Muslim Assembly (1967-80) he formulated guidelines and comprehensive programmes for organizing, implementing and maintaining crèches in the community.
- As Organiser of the Boorhaanol Recreational Movement, he initiated various empowerment programmes and classes in the Bokaap which catered for all groups.
- He co-founded the Grassroots EducareTrust in 1972 and as Chairperson motivated and contributed to the publication of guidelines for educare centers – currently used throughout South Africa.
- In 1970 while working as a social worker at the Muslim Assembly, he suspected that, because of the poor living conditions on the Cape Flats, the drop-out rate in the primary school had to be quite large – this he confirmed in a survey and replicated the survey for the Bo-Kaap in 1974.
- Between 1970 and 1980 Achmat spent much time promoting the cause of the pre-school child in numerous addresses and was invited to serve on the following specialized boards.
- Vice-Chairman, Western Cape Association for Early Childhood Education (1978-84)
- Vice Chairman/Member of Board of Management Sallie Davies Training College for Pre-primary Teachers (1983-87).
- As a follow-up to his drop-out Project (1970-4), he organized a conference on behalf of the Muslim Assembly on the theme of A Programme for Social Upliftment for the Cape Flats Communities (1974), “Preparation for Social Change”
- At heart Achmat was a teacher and spent endless hours.
- Telling stories to little children of his crèches (Boorhaanol and Muslim Assembly)
- Lecturing part-time – Sociology and Social Care Nico Malan Nursing College, Athlone, cape (1976-80)
- Teaching Adult classes – Masjidul Quds – Cultural History of the Muslim Community (1994)
- Lecturing part-time – Teacher Education – Islamic College of Southern Africa (ICOSA) 1996-7
ACHMAT THE FATHER with a heart of the community
Achmat hails from a large family of TEN children and although he did not have biological children, he regarded the children of his extended family as his own.
- His home at 203 Longmarket Street was often home to the homeless, including many street children and “bergies”.
- He was fondly called “Apatjie” by many of his extended household – a recognition of his fatherly role.
- Maulana Dr Farid Essack was one of his better known children who lived in his home for more than a year.
- In 1996 Achmat and Imam Abdurahmaan Bassier expressed their concern for numerous gangs forming on the street corners of Bo-Kaap. The organized youth activities in the Local Stars Hall and invited the youth to participate.
- In 1996 Achmat established the Boorhaanol Nursery School – every child became his child.
- He tutored countless post-graduate research students and referred to the criticism of their work as chastisement – pak gegee – like a typical father.
- Father-figure reflected in his role as social historian: he brought the heroes back to life and spoke with tenderness of their contributions.
- On the day of his burial scores of messages addressed him as the father of the organizations he helped to establish or nurtured in their early years.
- An expert on local cuisine, he enjoyed cooking for his family.
- No visit to the Bo-Kaap by overseas scholars on cultural history would be complete without a visit to the home of the Father of the cultural history of the Cape, Achmat Davids.
- In rediscovering the roots of the Muslims of the Cape, Achmat Davids earned himself the respected title of father of the new Muslin community of the Cape
What the community feel at losing a father:
“…he has come to enrich our lives in the most beautiful of ways…”
(K Rousseau: Beitun-Nur, Society for the Destitute, 16/9/98)
“he encouraged us as young leaders of the community to say what we believed in…he was always there when we needed advice… his characteristic voice and laughter still echo in our minds.”
(National General Secretary: Muslim Youth Movement)
“It is a sad day for us here at Grassroots Educare Trust today…It is a result of his guidance and vision that Grassroots is one of the largest educare organizations in this country today.”
(Grassroots: Board of Trustees – 16/9/98)
“Dr Davids sal onthou word as n kultuurmens … wie se nagedagtenis sal bly voortleef in dit wat hy gedurende n lewe van diens aan sy medemens gedoen en bereik het.”
(G.S. Hofmeyer, Director: National Monuments Council – 16/9/98)
“Achmat was a wonderful person, I only know him just on the radio, but he was part of me and my children, Algamdoelillaa.”
“His death is a tragic loss to the community and the whole of South Africa…”
(Theresa Daniels: Maryland Literacy Programme, 16/9/1998)
“Achamt Davids contributed indelibly to the future and progress of his country, and to the great cause of faith on which he so unwaveringly took his stand.”
(Prof. Kader Asmal: Minister of Water Affairs & Forestry, 16/9/1998)
ACHMAT THE ORGANISER loved a challenge
As a rule Achmat Davids never refused an invitation to assist a new organisation – he loved the challenge to organize and help put his new family on the road.
He knew his way around a meeting and would be guided by democratic principles when others would be blindly rooted in prejudice. He was a conciliator first and foremost, and confrontation was never his cup of tea, although he did over the years have to tackle some thorny issues. His strength was that he could serve causes and committees without the baggage of ideological prejudice…
He founded or co-founded scores of community organizations: from social agencies to educare centers, some of which are listed below:
1972 – 1980
Chairman/Founder Member Grassroots Educare Trust
1972 – 1973
Executive Member, Cape Peninsula Child Welfare Society
1972 – 1992
Founder/Executive Member Schotsche Kloof Civic Association
1972 – 1974
Founder/Executive Member/Chairman of the Social Action Committee –
Metropolitan Action for Citizens
Participation in Civics Affairs
1973 – 1975
Treasurer/Founder Member Build a Better Society (BABS) (A Mobil sponsored Community Development Project in Kewtown, Athlone)
1976 – 1978
Trustee Foundation for Social Development – University of the Western Cape
1974 – 1975
Founder/Member of Management Committee Goodwill Centre for Mentally Retarded Children
1974 – Death
Vice Chairman/Member of Management Committee, Mosque Boorhaanol Islam
1977 – 1980
Executive Member Community Chest, Cape Town – Allocations Committee
1979 – 1980
Member of the Board of Patrons Institute of Criminology – University of Cape Town
1974 – Death
Member of the Board of Directors Centre for Intergroup Studies– University of Cape Town
1979 – Death
Founder Member Institute of Arabic and Islamic Research
1977 – 1980
Member/Advisor on Social Welfare Issues Muslim Judicial Council
1980 – Death
Executive Committee Member Cape Board for Prison Welfare and State Institutions
1983 – 1987
Vice-Chairman/Member of Board of Management Sallie Davies Training College for Pre-primary Teachers
1978 – 1984
Vice-Chairman, Western Cape Association for Early Childhood Education
1982 – Death
Executive Committee Member, Committee for the Preservation of the Tana Baru
1983 – 1985
Executive Member, Association for Preschool Education, training and Care (ASPECT)
1990 – Death
National Executive Committee Member
National coordinating Council for Muslim Prison Welfare and State Institutions
1990 – Death
Member, Bokaap Trust (National Monuments Council)
1993 – Death
Member of the Board of Directors Stigting vir Afrikaans – Die Vriendelike Taal
1986 – Death
Executive Committee Member Muslim Assembly (Cape)
1985 – Death
Member of the Board of Directors Grassroots Educare Trust
1988 – Death
Member Cape Town Heritage Trust
1996 – Death
Appointed by the Minister as a member of The National Monuments Council
1996 – Death
Nominated as a director of Die Woordeboek van Afrikaans Taal.
1996 – Death
Chairman/coordinating, Environmental Mazaar Action Committee (EMAC)
His organizational skills and leadership style no more clearly portrayed than:
- As Chairperson / Co-ordinator of the Sheikh Yusuf Tricentenary Commemoration (SYTCC) 1993 – 1994 – mobilizing the entire Muslim Community of South Africa to participate in the festivities in 1994.
- As the Organiser of the Boorhaanol Islam Movement for over 30 years he set up numerous community projects, including the establishment of the nursery school and editing the Boorhaanol Newsletter/Magazine.
ACHMAT THE BROADCASTER the voice of the people
Since the inception of the Voice of the Cape, Achmat’s versatility as organizer and particularly as researcher helped keep the struggling young Radio Station on the air, and later as Station Manager saw it emerged as the top community radio station in South Africa. He showed people that there was nothing wrong in being yourself, warts and all. If, as a communicator, you were honest about yourself, others would respond. Administratively, he had a unique understanding of the needs of policy, community and the IBA. He also cared deeply for the staff during his period of interim station manager and as a result, morale was at an all-time high.
As broadcaster Achmat served as
Researcher – Programmer – Presenter – Administrator – Station Manager
As Programme Manager Achmat formulated a language policy for the Voice of the Cape and Voice of the Boland/ voice of Paarl which other radio stations began to emulate: Let the people’s language be heard. This helped develop spontaneity in phone-in programmes as well as talk shows.
Open-door policy: Listen to the other side. This was often the cause of much criticism from certain sectors of the community, particularly relating to news broadcasts.
VOC Restructuring: Achmat represented the VOC at the Independent Broadcasting Authority Hearings and presented a case for a radio station for the people of the Boland…and succeeded. He is commonly regarded as the Father of the voice of the Boland!
Community Orientation: He felt that the community had right to know and appreciate its cultural heritage and encouraged his presenters to play the music of the people even if some of the so-called enlightened detractors objected. He personally hosted talk shows on the cultural history of the community.
Liaison with other radio stations: As a respected broadcaster, he was invited to and appeared on other radio/TV stations. He honoured such an invitation on the day of his death
”….never disdainful of the ordinary person, and avoiding the madness of linguistic purity, he spoke the language of the ordinary people…it was his language.”
(Cape Argus, 17th Sept. 1998)
“In the world of broadcasting where there is a shortage of people prepared to make sacrifices for the cause, his absence will be sorely missed.”
(Leslie McKenzie: Fine Music Radio -21/9/98)
ACHMAT THE HISTORAIN the father of Cape Muslim History
Achmat Davids believed that history belongs in the kitchens of the families rather than packaged on the august shelves of libraries.
He wrote FOUR major works:
- Mosques of the Bo-Kaap (1980),
- The History of the Tana Baru (1985),
- Pages from Cape Muslim History (1994 – co-editor) and
- Slaves, Sheikhs, Sultans and Saints (1995 – in the process of publication)
The mosques of the Bo-Kaap is by far his best known book, and popularised the history of the Cape Muslims.
Academics acclaim his efforts:
“For the Muslims he provided temporal depth and historical character to their belonging in South Africa, while scholars will remain indebted to his authentic and magnificent contribution.”
“All of us are indebted to the ground-breaking archival work that Achmat Davids undertook and he may rightly be described as the father of Cape Muslim History.”
(Shamil Jeppie & Robert C.H. Shell)
It can be assumed that hundreds of thousands heard his story the medium of:
- His own talk shows on the radio
- The madaris which used his books for local history
- Mosques through public lectures
- Public schools which used his works for local history
- Academic papers / lectures.
Achmat wrote over 40 historical publications on the cultural history of the community of the Cape. In his earlier years his papers had a distinctly social welfare flavour as he explored the problems of the local community. After 1977 he made contact with the Cape archives and he wrote with a passion as he journeyed through the alleys of old Cape Town.
The following are some of his historical publications:
- 1977 “The Early Cape Muslims, 1652-1800” in ‘Iqraa research Journal Volume I, Muslim Students Association, University of Cape Town
- Foreword to The Early Cape Muslims by FR Bradlow and M Cairns, Balkema, Cape Town
- The Mosques of Bo-Kaap – A social History of Islam at the Cape, South African Institute of Arabic and Islamic Research, Athlone
- “Politics and the Muslims of Cape Town – A Historical Survey” in Studies in the History of Cape Town Volume 4, edited by C Suanders et al. African Studies/History University of Cape Town
- “The Muslims in South Africa” in South African Outlook, October, 1982
- 1983 ‘The Revolt of the Malays’ – A Study of the Cape Muslim Reaction to the Nineteenth Century Smallpox Epidemics” in Studies in the History of Cape Town Volume 5, edited by C Saunders et al. African Studies/History University of Cape Town
- The History of the Tana Baru: The case for the Preservation of the Muslim Cemetery at the top of Longmarket Street Published: Tana Baru Preservation Committee. Cape Town
- 1985 “From Complacency to Activism the changing political mood of the Cape Muslim Community from 1940 to 1985”Paper delivered at the History of Cape Town Workshop, University of Cape Town (unpublished)
- “My Religion is Superior to the Law” – The Survival of Islam at the Cape of Goodhope” in KRONOS, 1987 – Institute of Historical Research, University of the Western Cape
- 1991”Urban Conservation and Regeneration: The Case of Bo-Kaap” in Papers of a Symposium on Urban Conservation, edited by D and V Jepha, SA Institute of Architects
- “Muslim-Christian relations in Nineteenth Century Cape Town 1825 – 1925” in KRONOS No 19, Journal of the Institute of Historical Research, University of the Western Cape
- 1992 “Bagels and Koeksusters – A view of the cultural history of District Six” SARP, Yale University, United States of America
- 1994 Pages from Cape Muslim History, Published by shooter and Shutter, Cape Town – co-editor with Dr Y Da Costa
- 1994 “The Indonesian Contribution to the Early History of Islam at the Cape” a paper delivered at a symposium on ‘Sheikh Yusuf of Macassar – 300 Years of Islam at the Cape’ in Jakarta, Indonesia
- “The Imams in Nineteenth Century Cape Town – dealing with Conflict” a paper Islam and Civil Society, a symposium at the University of South Africa, Pretoria – Published in KRONOS, 1995
- 1995 Slaves, Sheikhs, Sultans and Saints – A book in the process of Publication
ACHMAT THE LINGUIST reclaimed the language of our people
For a non-white in the Apartheid era to lay claim for his people to the founding of Afrikaans – the mother tongue of the oppressors was downright blasphemous. Achmat ended the debate (who developed Afrikaans) with a passion and spiritual fortitude and caused major tremors in certain quarters. He made his claim with copious proof on national television, at international conferences, in South Africa and Europe and he was heard and read by academics and lay persons alike. His dissertation is the community’s magnus opus, its claim to founder of the Afrikaans language.
In the latter part of his life (1992 – 1998) Achmat focused increasingly on the linguistic of culture… to trace the community’s roots in its language… and he succeeded admirably.
In his Master’s dissertation he pays tribute to his friend and Imam, Imam Abdurahmaan Bassier: “…he was virtually daily at hand to solve my major problems…my sincere thanks to him for…nagging me to get on with it…”
He delivered academic papers in linguistics in U.S., Belgium and Indonesia.
Some of his published papers include:
1992 “Muslim-Christian Relations in Nineteenth Century Cape Town 1825 – 1925” in KRONOS No 19, Journal of the Institute of Historical Research, University of the Western Cape.
1993 “Discovering the Hidden Transcript: The Arabic Islamic Roots of the Afrikaans Language: Center for Middle-Eastern Studies, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
1993 “The Future of Afrikaans in a New South Africa” SARP, Yale University, united States of America
1993 “The Arabic-Afrikaans Publications and its implication for the history of Afrikaans Literature” SARP, Yale University, United States of America.
1994 “Afrikaans – die produk van akkulturasie” in Nuwe Perspektiewe op die geskiedenis van Afrikaans Opgedra aan Edith H Raidt eds. Gerrit Olivier en Anna Coetzee, Southern Boekuitgewers
“Nationalism in the making of Afrikaans” paper at conference on “Language and Nation building in Europe”, European Economic Community, KLV, Leyden, Belgium.
“Arabic-Afrikaans: a contribution to the Encyclopedia of Islam to be published by EJ Brill, Leiden, Holland
1996 – Nominated as a director of Die Woordeboek van Afrikaans Taal.
ACHMAT THE ACADEMIC who transcended the stiff and stifling academy
Achmat Davids deregulated the academy. Rising from the ranks of social worker to social worker to social anthropologist, to educationist, to cultural historian, to linguist … he refused to be contained by the schools, structures or paradigms peculiar to these disciplines…he brought to each an academic effervescence through his numerous publications.
Meaningful contribution rather than personal achievement: this he demonstrated by his endless hours of painstaking research even to detriment of his personal state of health.
He wrote what he believed and his beliefs inspired him to defend his research even against academic giants…and he emerged triumphant.
He refused to be drawn into idle discourse and in every talk, every paper he delivered he had a positive message for humanity – even if, through his honest forthrightness he appeared controversial.
Achmat is regarded as the leading authority on South African Muslim culture and history, and acknowledged both internally and nationally as an expert on the genesis of the Afrikaans language.
He presented papers at International Conferences in the United States, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malaysia and Indonesia; and has published at least 46 papers both locally and internationally.
Despite his jovial, affable manner, colleagues and his students alike often tasted his hard, uncompromising and thoroughly scholarly academic arguments.
Criticism of a colleague’s or student’s efforts was to Achmat nothing more than an act of chastisement…”Ek het hom pakgegee..” An inaccurate, unsubstantiated statement was tantamount to an ethical misdemeanor – a lie.
The world acknowledged his academic contribution:
Diploma in Social Science (UCT)
Fellow of the International Programs of Social Workers and Youth Leaders – Ohio State of University (USA)
Master of Arts (cum laude) – Thesis subject: The Afrikaans of the Cape Muslims from 1815 to 1915 – a Socio-Linguistic Study – University of Natal (Durban)
Fellow of the Southern African Research Center – Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (USA)
Fellow, Tumbrill College, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (USA)
PhD – Syekh Yusuf Islamic University – Tangerang, Indonesia, 1994 – in appreciation of his research on Cape Muslim history.
Every single scholar who wishes to say anything about Muslims in South Africa will continue to take Davids as his/her starting point for many years to come. Such is his contribution – a truly worthy sad-qatuj-jaaria!
Imam Bassier TributeIn Honour of Imam Abdurahman Bassier
The life of Imam Abdurahman Bassier was long and meaningful. In that time he displayed many noble attributes that many of those he left behind may wish to emulate. A selection of these attributes has been chosen and amplified with the intention that it may resonate and inspire those who knew him and those who will get a glimpse of what he stood for through these pages. There are two parts to this tribute. The first is a brief biographical account of his life. The second takes the form of a salaah time table which follows the solar months and can thus be used every year. Juxtaposed alongside each month is a theme consisting of a Quranic verse, one of Imam’s attributes as well as a relevant piece of advice he uttered. May Allah Almighty grant him Jannatul-Firdouz, Insha-Allah.
This tribute is a brief outline on the life of the late Imam Abdurahman Bassier. In 1923, Imam Abdul Bassier and his Alawiyah Tariqah Jamaah traveled to recite all over the country. His pregnant wife, Gadija, went along. On 19th January she gave birth to a son, Abdurahman, in Port Elizabeth. At that time Imam Abdul Bassier was Imam at the Boorhaanol Mosque in Longmarket Street, having been appointed in 1911. Gadija was an equally busy woman. Apart from being a mother of 3 children as well as an extended family at 77 Wale Street, she combined her role as ‘motjie Imam’ with a full-time employment as a laundry lady.
In 1930 the whole Bassier family went on pilgrimage to Makka. Abdurahman, aged 7, contracted the deadly smallpox illness in Makka. He spent more than a month blindfolded and totally isolated fighting for his life. Miraculously he survived, although the disease left its marks on his life. Upon his return from Haj with his parents in 1931, he entered Sub A at Schotsche Kloof Primary School in Bo-Kaap. By 1933 he had progressed to Standard 3 and moved to Prestwich Street Primary where he completed Standard 6. Unfortunately due to the perceived unIslamic environment prevailing at high schools at the time, his father did not allow him to further his formal secular education.
Instead, at the age of 14 he became a tailoring apprentice and a few years later he started his own tailoring business and earned a living as a tailor. However, the yearning for knowledge still burnt brightly within him and soon after leaving school he commenced Islamic studies under the late Sheikh Ismail Edwards, an Al-Azhar graduate and one of the leading Alims at the Cape. It was under Sheikh Ismail that the youthful Abdurahman cut his religious teeth and by 1958 when Sheikh was tragically killed in a car accident, his student had outgrown his milk teeth and was destined for other stages.
Abdurahman’s youthful days were full and varied. It always started with Fajr at the mosque, often preceded by a cold shower. After Fajr he went on long walks into the mountains and to Kirstenbosch , during summer lasting up to 3 hours. Apart from the exercise, these walks were used for memorization and basking in the solitute of nature. Back at the tailoring shop, a respected trade in those days, the conversations were often heated and drawn out over technical issues of the Deen. After work in the afternoons it was onto the rugby playing fields for practices in the winter and the swimming beaches in the summer. Initially he played for Roslyns Rugby Club in the company of the legendary Freeman, but was later instrumental in the establishment of the Buffaloes Rugby Club, for which he played until 1949. In fact he represented Western Province Rugby Union as a wing in 1948. Weekends used to be spent mountain hiking or camping, while he also loved Western movies and listening to live performances of the Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1949 he undertook his second pilgrimage at the age of 26. This journey made a deep impact upon his outlook on life, especially in his interaction with different people on the trip. Especially the poverty and the piety that he witnessed shaped his vision of society. On the 19th September 1953 he married Mareldia, eldest daughter of Hadji Noor and Hadji Mymoena Ederies of District Six. It was to prove a match made in heaven, for she bore him 5 children, including a pair of twins, while she was to prove his primary source of support, encouragement and solace. Initially they settled with his parents in Bree Street, but in 1960 they all moved to Sachs Street, where he spent the remainder of his years.
In August 1962 Imam Abdul Bassier passed away at the age of 82 years. His youngest son, Abdurahman, was elected the following month in an open election to succeed him. He was 39 years old. At his first meeting with the mosque committee, he requested that the contributions from the congregation be utilized to start a bursary fund for needy students, and later to fund the Recreational Movement.
A few months later while visiting a sick mureed at the Brooklyn Chest Hospital, he was approached to minister to the Muslim TB patients. Thus for the next 15 years he would conscientiously visit that hospital on Sunday mornings to provide spiritual comfort and hot koeksisters to the patients.
In 1964 his yearning for a platform to serve the broader community was realized when, with the assistance of a recently graduated social worker, Achmat Davids, they established the Boorhaanol Recreational Movement. The Movement aimed to improve the quality of life of the community through adult education and training, recreational activities for the youth, and bursaries to scholars and students. The Movement energized the mosque committee, for the wide variety of activities taking place required hard work and sound planning. At night the Bo-Kaap mosques and halls were abuzz with activities that uplifted, educated, empowered and relaxed people from all walks of life. Imam was at the heart of all of this, ensuring the proper integration of the spiritual with the temporal, while at the same time fulfilling his duties as a tailor, Imam and father.
In 1966 they published the first Boorhaanol Newsletter, or quarterly magazine with the dual purpose of educating its readership as well as updating those who had been displaced to the townships. In 1970 they established one of the first Muslim preschools in the Cape, but not before a long struggle. The reason was that the proposed venue, the old Schotsche Kloof Hall, had been condemned as an unsafe building. It required much fundraising in the form of open-air mini-fetes to repair the hall to the satisfaction of the authorities.
As leader of the Boorhaanol mosque, Imam was obligated to represent his congregation at the Muslim Judicial Council. He served that body with distinction for 40 years in various capacities, being elected as Chairman from 1979 to 1981, and vice-chairman until 1984. During that period he was involved in the establishment of the first mosque in Mitchells Plain, facilitated the resolution of conflicts at the mosques in Bishop Lavis and Factreton, as well as negotiating the re-opening of the Darul-Ilm in Salt River. Later he also served on the Imaarah, the highest decision-making organ of the MJC.
In 1978 he started doing prison missionary work at Robben Island and Pollsmoor prisons. Given the tense political situation as well as the prevailing antipathy towards prisoners, progress was slow. By 1980 with the assistance of Achmat Davids, he established the Muslim Board for Prison Welfare and State Institutions, under the auspices of the MJC, Hospital Welfare Society, Muslim Assembly and Paarl Jamaah. He served as its chairman from 1982 until he fell ill in 2002. He soon realized that Muslims need to have a unified body in its negotiations with State authorities, so he began the long road of setting up a national body. In 1988 the National Muslim Prison Board was established with Imam serving as its co-ordinator until 2002. One of the Board’s main achievements has been the appointment of a Muslim Chaplain in 1998.
In 1982 his attention was drawn to the desecration of the graves of the pioneers of Islam at the Tana Baru cemetery. His response was to approach several Muslim neighbours of the Tana Baru and with the assistance of Achmat Davids they established the Committee for the Preservation of the Tana Baru. Once again progress was slow and for fundraising he urged Boeta Achmat to research and publish the book Save the Tana Baru – an invaluable historical account of our legacy. Imam served as the Chairman of the committee until 1998 when the Tana Baru Trust was established, entrenching the prohibition of any commercial development of the cemetery. He served as Chairman of the Trust until he fell ill in 2002.
Imam suffered a stroke in February 2002 at the age of 79 years. Thereafter his activities were severely curtailed. On Saturday morning of the 24th July 2004 he passed away peacefully in the company of his lifetime partner and wife Mareldia. He was buried the following day in the grave of his father, Abdul, at the Mowbray cemetery.
“Thus have We Made of you an Ummah justly balanced” [Al-Baqara 2:143]
A balanced lifestyle promotes a healthy body, mind and spirit. Throughout his life Imam strove on the middle path, shunning extremism and extravagance, preferring the long walk of enduring progress to the sprint of popular glory, or the seat of the strident spectator. Aware of his limitations, his plate was invariably full, yet never overflowed whereby he neglected or abandoned his duties, nor was it ever empty before his appetite for service was rekindled. His love for people was matched by his love for nature, where his youthful sojourns into the mountains, the seas and the forests nurtured his love for his Creator.
Play sport, for it teaches you how to win and how to lose
And swell not your cheek (for pride) at men, nor walk in insolence through the earth, for Allah does not love the arrogant boaster. [Surah 31 (Luqman), Verse18]
Respect for the dignity of all people personified his character. His kind and gentle manner, humility and sense of humour imbued those around him with a strong sense of security and affection. Never one to seek the limelight, yet at all times aware of his duties towards his Creator and his community. Nor one to raise his voice, those around him always felt the warm glow of gentle encouragement while chastisement was accomplished with wisdom and lack of malice.
I shake the hands of those I differ with, and I do not abuse the house/company of my friends
This is the Book in it is guidance sure, without doubt to those who fear God, who believe in the Unseen, are steadfast in prayer and spend out of what We Have provided for them. [Surah 2 (Al Baqarah), Verse 2-4)
Imam Abdurahman Bassier was Imam for 42 years while his father, Imam Abdul Bassier served for 51 years. Imam performed all religious duties with love, sincerity and in the best of manners for the sole reason of gaining the pleasure of his Creator through service to humanity. He placed great emphasis on the implementation of the 5 pillars of Islam. His deep-rooted and profound understanding of Tawhid and the Taqwa that flowed therefrom spoke of a man who had pondered deeply over his Creator and lived for His reality.
If each Muslim in the Bo-Kaap could undertake to attend just one waqt a day at the mosque, all 10 would be overflowing.
And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquility with them, And He has put love and mercy between your hearts.
[Surah 30 (Ar Rum), Verse 21][ family pic ]
The family forms the moral, emotional and psychological foundation upon which Islam’s social structure is built. Indeed, family cohesion was Imam’s abiding passion – he lived it, he promoted it and he went out of his way to repair it. He was married to Mareldia, they enjoyed nearly 50 years together in a harmonious, co-operative and compassionate relationship. They ensured that they spent time with their children, imbuing them with sound values and a good education. They meticulously honoured all family ties, close or distant, displaying neither favour nor prejudice, only support and security.
“My closest friends are my family”
And consult them in affairs (of moment) then, when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, for Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him).
[Surah 3 (Al-Imran), Verse 159]
Few people engender respect across the spectrum. Fewer still, trust. When over decades, someone’s demeanor remains humble, his speech sincere and his promises honoured, trust accumulates. People will instinctively turn towards you to settle their conflicts and resolve their disputes. They will develop confidence in the institutions you belong to, the causes you promote. That deep trust that people invested in Imam was only a reflection of the total trust that he placed in his Creator. Imam once remarked that the most successful projects that he had embarked upon were those whereby he had placed his total trust in Allah (SWT).
When tackling any challenge place your faith first in Allah(SWT), have faith in your niyyah, have faith in yourself, have faith in your partner (spouse, colleague, team-mate)
Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him, and do good – to parents, kinsfolk, orphans,
those in need, neighbours who are of kin, neighbours who are of strangers,
the companion by your side, the wayfarer.
[Surah 4 (An Nisaa), Verse 36]
He was born to serve His Cause. Rich or poor, prisoner or president, day or night, winter or summer, near or far. His only criterion was the Holy Quran. He honoured the orphans, dignified the inmates, empowered the needy, comforted the sick, buried the dead, educated the youth, inspired his family, guided his assistants and assisted his neighbours. All this was done simply and sincerely, with no expectation of reward, except His pleasure – an ample recompense, Insha-Allah.
Visit the sick, but consider his needs above your own
God and His Angles send blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe send ye blessings on him and salute him with all respect
[Surah 33 (Al-Ahzab), verse 56]
The norms and traditions of a community serve to both differentiate and to unify it. The Cape Muslim community has a rich and proud heritage dating back more than 300 years, and upholding that tradition was close to Imam’s heart. He understood that the moulood, gadaad and arwaag had not only a religious dimension, but a social and psychological one too. When he witnessed the desecration of the graves of our pioneers, including Tuan Guru, at the Tana Baru cemetery, he considered it his duty to reclaim the dignity of a precious part of our history. Undeterred by legal beaurocracy, lack of funding and community apathy, he succeeded in conscientising Muslims about the value of recognizing your roots. His other great cultural passion in the Bo-Kaap was to ceaselessly campaign for Muslims not to abandon their heritage by selling their properties. Long before the word gentrification became fashionable, he foresaw that a Bo-Kaap with 10 mosques and few Muslims would haunt those who exchanged their heritage for a few pennies
“Do not do away with an existing custom, when you cannot replace it with something more beneficial.”
Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand,
and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue,
and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart –
and that is the weakest of faith.
(Hadith related by Muslim)
Imam displayed all the qualities that a good leader should possess – taqwa, wisdom, vision, patience, humility and diligence. Above all, it was his sincerity and commitment that defined his leadership. His emphasis on transparency, respect for constitutions and keeping proper records characterized his involvement. He led by example, always first to volunteer, never shirking his duties or responsibilities, indeed his attitude spoke of a passion to tackle the work and move the organization forward.
Imam was fond of asking the family the question “All aboard?” before proceeding with any venture, neatly encapsulating his leadership style of inclusivity and consensus
O ye who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the latter are better than the (former) : Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better that the (former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other…
[Surah 49 (Al Hujurat), Verse 11]
Tasteful humour delivered at the appropriate moment can facilitate a social situation. Imam found himself in many serious, sad and heated situations where his innate sense of optimism would lighten the atmosphere without compromising the dignity of its people. His humour was gentle, characteristically uttered at the right time, never offensive or crude, and often laced with wisdom and moral undertones. Invariably an encounter with Imam left you with a smile, both on your face and in your heart.
“Have your say during the meeting, not after.”
O Mankind! We created you from a single pair, of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that you may despise each other).
Verily, the most honoured of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you.
And God has knowledge and is well acquainted with all things.
[Surah 49 (Al Hujurat), Verse 13]
Imam reached out to all people – rich and poor, black and white, male and female, Muslim and non-Muslim. He visited Robben Island where Imam Achmad Cassiem, Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela were imprisoned during the Apartheid struggle, spreading the message of Islam to all. He also represented Muslims on the inter-faith forum for many years, becoming familiar with other religious denominations. Within the Muslim fold he straddled many boundaries be it Ulema groupings, mosque groupings or racial divides.
Do not judge between two contesting parties, unless your knowledge of the subject is greater than theirs.
O ye who believe. If ye aid (the cause of) God, He will aid you, and plant your feet firmly.
[Surah 47 (Muhammad), Verse 7]
In our land of inequalities, the dignity of empowerment far outweighs the riches of entitlement. Imam firmly believed in the innate goodness of every human being, he searched for it and strove to develop it to its full potential. His zeal for knowledge and education led him to establish classes, male and female, in diverse fields resulting in widespread upliftment and empowerment. Whosoever felt the weight of discrimination and inferiority, Imam instilled self-belief and independence. Whosoever languished in despair, he restored dignity and renewed hope. Whatever the occasion, he had the wonderful gift of giving expression to the talent of everyone involved.
Verify any news before spreading it.
By Al-Asr (the time), Verily man is in loss; except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth and Patience and constancy. [Surah 103 (Al-Asr)]
Imam’s life was a beautiful manifestation of the triumph of spiritual time over material time. Time is a creation of Allah Almighty, and on the spiritual plane, a thousand years may pass in a twinkle of an eye. Those around Imam were often mystified where he got the time to fit in all his engagements. Many of his good deeds were performed consistently over many years. Such reliability can only stem from sincerity of purpose and purity of heart. Whatever he embarked upon was always preceded by a firm intention (niyyah) – an unshakable commitment to proceed for His sake regardless of the obstacles.Patience formed an indispensable ally to his daily mission, while his spirituality bestowed baraqah on his endeavours.
Honour your invitations, and arrive neither too early nor too late.