By Sana Ebrahim
“For me, Ramadan means to be closest to Allah through fasting – and it is a Month of Mercy. Fasting is very powerful for me – it makes me humbler and more thoughtful,” reflects Deaf poet ZohraMoosa.
Teaching deaf children is her passion. “I want them to be successful. My experiences of prejudices and stereotype inspire me to help deaf learners achieve their ambitions. I love what I do because I enjoy being with deaf children; they experience prejudice and stereotype too. I counsel them to stand firmly and strongly… they must soar high to achieve… they must believe in themselves.
“Their parents, perhaps their societies, do not understand sign language – so how will they encourage and inspire them? This motivates me to teach the deaf as I am deaf – we understand one another.
“I am an educator at a deaf school, teaching South African Sign Language (SASL). In 2018, my learner was the top achiever in KZN. In 2019, my learners were the top achievers and third place achiever nationally.”
Reflecting on her youth, Moosa says: “Through diligence and perseverance and my ambition to strive to become ‘somebody’ in a hearing world, under great economic and social hardship, I pursued my career and after four years of study, (I was the first Deaf Indian to obtain matriculation during apartheid) qualified in Information Technology at the ML Sultan Technikon.
“My journey through tertiary education was a lonely one because very few understood me. My dad was a sales representative at K.S.M. Milling Co. He passed away in 1994, and is sorely missed as he stood by my side. He was a role model as a parent at the Durban School for the Deaf where I was a learner. He supported me until my final year. Unfortunately he did not see my graduation ceremony where I received a standing ovation. He passed on. Mum was and still is my pillar of strength.”
Moosa has authored two poetry anthologies, ‘Silence’ (1997) and ‘Echo of Silence’ (2005). Themes explored in her poetry include: prejudice, stereotype, oppressed, hope, faith, happiness, appreciation, love, struggles, relationships, anger, and frustration. Her favourite poets are Rumi and Kahlil Gibran.
She believes that hearing people should learn sign language. “Deaf people are also human. When they go to doctors, police, nurses, clinics, shops… how will hearing people communicate with them? Deaf people need to understand fully as it is their right. Deaf people have the right to be independent. Sign language interpreters are too costly otherwise doctors, hospitals need to hire interpreters and pay them, will they? How else will they access universities? They have the right to attend mainstream schools so educators should learn sign language as well as children who can hear.
Moosa has performed her poetry on various platforms as part of the Very Special Arts Festival in 1997. “The University of Stellenbosch recorded me while signing my poem and distributed the recording to schools for the Deaf. I recorded myself while signing my poems and made a DVD. The Department of Education approved and the DVD is available for purchase by schools or communities. The University of Stellenbosch purchased several of my poems. My poems through sign language have been uploaded on YouTube.”
She encourages “poets to write more about people who have disabilities because it will enable them to educate themselves and the community.” Her message is powerful: ‘Go and be the eyes of the Blind! Go and be the ears of the Deaf! Go and be the friend of the Disabled!’
Here is her Ramadan poem.
Am I blessed, O’ Ramadaan?
Joy in my sight!
Hope in my mind!
Tremble in my lips!
Anxiety in my heart!
Turmoil within me!
have mercy on me
as I’m unable to listen to Zikr.
as I cannot preach my religion.
do not chide me
as I cannot recite Quran perfectly.
my brothers and sisters
listen to Azaan immediately,
recite Quran melodiously,
preach their religion easily!
whoDost Thou prefer?
Me or them?
Do not give me an answer
as I fear
that I may fall low
on the Day of Judgement!
myibadaat is a witness
and my deeds are a witness.
But they are not enough for me!
Am I blessed, O’ Ramadaan?
Thou art my Master and Controller
of my life and soul!
to challenge on!