Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Killing of the Imam

I just completed reading a book called ‘The Killing of the Imam’ which chronicles the life of a South African Imam, by the name of Abdullah Haron who was killed in prison by the apartheid police in 1969. The book was initially published in 1978, but was banned in South Africa and it has recently been reprinted. I won’t speak about how horrendous apartheid was, we all know about that already, and the Imam’s story is not very different from many others. He was held in detention by the then security police, for 131 days in which he was relentlessly questioned, left in solitary confinement and eventually physically beaten to such an extent that he passed away because of his injuries. All through this he did not give up the people he was working with and insisted on not giving the police any names. Today he goes down as a struggle hero, and his story has been a motivation and inspiration to many.

While reading this book I naturally contemplated on some things. Firstly, we will never know what the capture and the death of the Imam did to his family. Years later the effects of this event is still dominant in their lives. This illustrates how every action has a ripple effect, whether positive or negative and most times people don’t even consider the consequences of their actions and who it will affect.
Secondly, the claim of superiority by any person or group of person’s always needs to be looked on with scepticism because those who are truly superior will never show their superiority; in fact they will not even believe that they are superior. The example of our beloved messenger, Muhammad (pbuh) comes to mind once again. There can be no person who is more superior than Muhammad (pbuh), no King, no Prince, and definitely no President. Allah Almighty himself has asserted the superiority of Muhammad (pbuh). Yet this Blessed man never once believed that he was superior nor did he behave in a superior manner at any point. On the contrary he insisted on remaining humble, a slave of Allah who slept on the floor, ate on the floor, stayed hungry for days and gave to others before even thinking of himself. What a perfect example this is for us all. Through humility everyone benefits and everyone is treated with respect, and through pride and arrogance the opposite occurs.

These were important reflections, no doubt, but it was the Imam’s assertiveness that his fight against apartheid, (which he regarded as a fight for the people) was the right thing to do as Muslim, that really stood out for me. It was related that Imam Abdullah emphasized the social responsibility of Muslims, how we are supposed to care about others, see to those in need and stand up for the oppressed. He provided charity and assistance to families of those who were convicted and called “terrorists” simply because they dared to stand up against the oppressive white apartheid government. He did this with full knowledge that he himself might be implicated and regarded as assisting “terrorists”; and this is exactly what had happened. When he was arrested his charity work was questioned, his motivation for freedom and equality was questioned, and basically his humanitarian efforts were regarded as “terrorist activity”. But he stood firm, because he believed that as an Imam his duty to the people extended far beyond the minbar (pulpit) and the Friday sermon. Many hailed him as a martyr when he was killed, Allah knows best about everything, but I can definitely look upon this man as a role model for us all.

And then I can’t help but feel saddened by our generation. We have a rich legacy, but we don’t even have knowledge about this legacy. What would people like Imam Abdullah say to us today? How would he feel about our level of apathy and selfishness? I feel like we have been deprived- we do not know the importance of many things, including other people because our lives are mainly virtual and this means that we are mainly individualistic.  We have everything in terms of material things, but we have very little in terms of human morals and values!

Here in South Africa the new generation has been given freedom on a golden platter. We have fooled ourselves into believing that the struggle is over! Yes, apartheid may be over, but the struggle is far from over!  Just the other day a horrible rape of a young 17-year-old schoolgirl occurred here in our country! Not to mention the many more rapes which were reported on subsequent to that. We are losing our youth to drugs and crime. Our streets are filled with beggars, education is dismal- children are in Grade 7 but they cannot read and the literacy rate of the country is so poor it’s embarrassing. These are only but a few of the many struggles we have to deal with.

 How can anyone say that the struggle is over when we have so many battles on our very doorstep? How can we continue to live in our comfort zones when the world is going mad around us? Where’s our sense of caring, our sense of social responsibility? If only we had the outlook and conviction of people like Imam Abdullah Haron, perhaps our country would be better and perhaps we would be able to leave behind our own legacy which could one day be admired and followed by others.  

May Almighty Allah help us all to do what pleases Him, to care about others to the point that we will protect them no matter what, to be a benefit to those around us (because obviously we cannot help everyone). May Allah help us to become aware and awake to the things that really matter so that we too can become people of substance and honour! Inshaa-Allah Ameen

Book Image from here
To read more about Imam Abdullah Haron you can also visit:

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