Where does Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels, President of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) and Treasurer of the United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA), amongst other esteemed positions, hail from? Where else but from the leafy quarters of Claremont, he migrated to the wind wept plains of the Cape flats under the wing of one of the most esteemed fathers of learning in the Cape Town community, Imaam Ishmail Johnstone of Surrey Estate.
Not only did Imaam Johnstone firmly shape his spirit and intellect along the course of Islam, but was also instrumental in the MJC President's graduating from the College of Medina University.
What better way than to cement the relationship through family ties? Hence, the union of marriage between Sheikh Ebrahim and Aisha, third eldest daughter of Imaam Johnstone. Aisha, so well fathered and so well husbanded. "Without her I could never have made it during those challenging years in Medina", says the Imaam of Forelands Masjid about the queen of his heart, "for she is a woman of great courage and sabr". As if the Sheikh sang this praise in her pres overwhelming generosity and love reciprocated that "he is a lovable man.
I cannot other¬wise but give him my all. His kindness, patience, deep love and care is always, always there". The sunshine rays of love in turn "also flows to my children: Galiema (19), Zahrah (17), Abdullah (15), Mogammad Zainuddeen (12), Oesama (10), Rabia (7), Abdul Basit (4) and not forgetting my deceased baby, Mariam buried in Jannatul Baqi in Medina", says the first Lady of the Muslim Judicial Council. The curriculum vitae of the President of the MJC has been spoken and written.
Aisha Gabriels, queen of the heart, hearth and home of the President of the Mitchells Plain Islamic High School, stands on her own. "Sheikh gave me all the opportunities to grow", she humbly imparted to me. "I was young when I married". Certainly, Medina proved fruitful years. And with great pride the MJC President said that his beloved is "twen¬ty-nine juz ghaafith". She teaches Quran at the Mitchells Plain Islamic High School.
What says bosom friend and confidante, Sheikh Erefaan Abrahams of Surrey estate Masjeed of the Trustee of Iswa? "I treasure this friendship. I'll put my life in his hands because he is a man of great character, dedi¬cation, honour and truthfulness". The deep friendship between the two stretches "from Imaam Ismail's time" and firmly forged in Medina. "We need to give our unfailing sup¬port to the leadership of Sheik Ebrahim for Allah's sake and that of our ummah. So, to be at the helm of this vast operation is no mean task, not least to lead the ummah. Let's turn our attention to the presence of the President of the Muslim Judicial Council.
What are the challenges facing the South African ummah?
Our challenge is our youth, undoubtedly. The task of the youth in the twentieth century is very great. They would have to bear the responsibility of carrying Islam into the twentieth century and beyond. Hence, it is our task as parents and ulema to make it easier for them; to open the way for them. To open the way for the youth means that we should help them build a strong character which will reflect the truthfulness and love for Allah (SWA) in the way the Nabi Muhammad (AS) showed US. Parents and Ulema must show the youth how Muslim character building is not only an important and an enduring fun¬damental to tackle the challenges of our soci¬ety, but that it is the armour against all that is opposed to Truth and truthfulness.
How should the youth implement Truthfulness?
Although telecommunications and the Internet have revolutionized the way we com-municate with each other, truth and truthful¬ness never change. Parents and teachers remain facilitators: to open the way for the youth not only to come to terms and grasp and understand the enormous impact mod¬ern technology has on our day to day living, but that we should equip them to master the technology for the Love of Allah (SWA) and for the sake of Islam. In this way we can help ease the burden of communities and make life more bearable for those in difficulties but with the distinct lamic character and values and principles.
Who are those communities we must reach?
Khayelitsha, Gugulethu and the rural areas are sometimes our forgotten communities. Not enough effort is spent to bring about Da'wah to our neighboring communities. It is my dream that each and every Muslim be involved in promoting Islam whenever they may find themselves on the face of the globe. The beauty and charm of Islam is hidden away in our homes and we are not sharing it actively with our other communities. Da'wah is not only a fertile ground for spreading the message of Islam but has many other spin¬offs, too. Not only can such close contact engender closer understanding of each other by sharing Islam but it can also bridge the way for better citizenship in the country. I agree with Ismail Gumane, a graduate from the College of Sharia, who wrote an article to the Cape Times, stating that if the people in South Africa really understand Islam the majority of the country would no doubt be Muslim. To share the great value of the Quran that can change the lives of people dra¬matically is one of my enduring dreams. Share the message of Islam with those who do not know it yet, hence cutting the distance and in turn the suspicion which so sharply characterise our communities, in exchange for trust and respect for each other. Most impor¬tantly the light of Allah (SWA) will shine in the hearts of our compatriots who must become our brothers and sisters in Islam and in humanity.
What role should women play in this complex technological society?
Locally, nationally and internationally women have a strong role to play. Wrong perceptions about women in Islam are so rife. The goal of every Muslim is to attain the Jannah which lies at the feet of our mothers, according to our beloved Nabi Mohammed (AS). Women are not meant to be the pariahs of our society but the valuable treasure of mankind. The mother is the beginning and pinnacle of every civilization. Not only should we honour and respect her, but she should play her role as a Muslim in the fullest sense the Quran and our beloved Nabi Muhammed (AS) applauds her. Women hold entire civilization in their hands and we must support them in every way to help them build the fabric of our com¬munity locally, nationally and globally. Our honourable mothers spend more, time with our children than their fathers. A pious, educated and cultured woman not only brings stability to her own home, the unit of society but instills confidence and can heal our ailing society. Hence, their major influence on the future of our leaders.