Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar
On Wednesday the September 27, we shall be marking the 48th anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Abdullah Haron. After being held by the South African state security for 123 days incommunicado, Imam Haron died in an apartheid prison on September 27, 1969.
According to police reports, the Imam’s death had been caused by a fall from a flight of stairs at the Maitland police station, in Cape Town. A subsequent autopsy report revealed 28 bruises on the Imam’s body, mostly on the legs. His stomach was empty and his 7th rib was broken.
Black South Africans never believed the apartheid police version of the cause of Imam Haron’s death. More than thirty thousand mourners coming from all sectors of Cape Town’s diverse population turned his funeral into a ritualized form of defiance against the apartheid regime.
There are many different ways in which Imam Haron’s life and legacy have been and continues to be remembered by different groups and organizations in Cape Town. The empowering of our youth is one of the great legacies that Imam Haron has left us. Imam Haron was keen to learn from the youth of his time. He and all those who have sought to emulate his example have been witnesses to the profound manner in which young people can open up our eyes to the signs of the times. For they truly live at the cutting edge of the real and rapidly changing world.
In light of the passing of several rugby legends who played in the non-racial South African Rugby Union (SARU), such as Salie Fredericks, Welile James Nkohla, Yusuf Allie, Achmat Isaacs and Salie Dollie in the past year and 2017, it might be expedient at this time to remember Imam Haron’s contribution to non-racialism in sport.
Abdullah Haron was a keen sportsman during his youth and he participated fully in the sports activities of the Claremont community. During the forties and early fifties he played cricket for the Greenroses Cricket Club and served as club secretary from 1942 until 1946. He subsequently joined the breakaway Muslims Cricket Club. One of the highlights of his career came in 1957 when he played in the finals for the Muslims Cricket Club against the then Cape Town based Roslyns Cricket Club.
Haron was also a keen rugby player for the Watsonian Rugby Football Club. He played at scrumhalf and used to wear a jersey inscribed in Arabic numerals instead of Roman numerals. When he was appointed as Imam of the Al-Jaamia Masjid in Stegman Road, Claremont in 1955, he continued to play a role as an administrator at the Primroses Rugby club. During his time as Imam and rugby administrator, Imam Haron advised his congregants and the non-white rugby fraternity not to attend the Newlands Rugby grounds which was reserved for White players only. At the time of his death, Imam Haron, served as a patron of the City and Suburban Rugby Union, which formed part of the non-racial SARU rugby union.
It is no coincidence that Imam Haron’s funeral prayers took place at the City Park Rugby Stadium in Thornton Road, Athlone.
The critical challenge facing us is to find creative and innovative ways of passing Imam Haron’s comprehensive vision of Islam which included active participation in sports to new generations of youth.
In this regard I would like to commend the efforts of the Imam Abdullah Haron Education Trust (IAHET) to memorialize and institutionalize Imam Haron’s legacy by supporting and empowering marginalized youth and communities through education.The IAHET has also instituted an annual Imam Haron Memorial Lecture. This annual lecure provides an opportunity not only to honour the legacy of Imam Haron, but to keep his memory alive in the consciousness of today’s youth.
At this special time we celebrate all those people who spend their lives helping to make the world a better place for all.