By Naseema Mall
After more than 300 years of Islam in South Africa, what is the Islamic footprint on the indigenous people of this country? This is the question Fathima Sbongile Dlamini poses.
Dlamini is the author of the book ‘Why am I a Muslim?’ which was published with the help of the Islamic Propagation Centre International (IPCI). The book chronicles the journey of several black South African women to Islam.
Dlamini bemoans that most South Africans do not know anything about Islam. “More information needs to be distributed because people do not have enough information about Islam and Muslims, which is sad and disappointing. I hope that this book will change the lives of African families because many still believe that Islam is an Indian religion,” she said.
Dlamini was raised in the small village of Kwa Maphumulo by a single mother. At a young age she founded Ubumbano Development Association to serve the women in the community. “We made beadwork, mats with plastic, brooms and sewed many things. We had a meeting with the councillor about working in the community hall and he agreed,” she said.
Dlamini said that one day she had a dream that she was praying in a masjid. She explains this in an excerpt in her book: “One day I decided to visit a Mosque in the city after dreaming about being part of a prayer there. I did not tell anyone about the dream fearing how my family may react. After all of my research and dreams about me being a Muslim, I thought to myself that maybe I was meant to be a Muslim. I decided to go to a mosque in the city. Entering the mosque, I was welcomed by an elderly woman who told me that it was time for prayer and showed me where to sit. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It is exactly how it happened in my dreams.”
“After the prayer, the elder told me to approach one of the teachers if I wished to know more about Islam. At that time I had already decided to follow in the teachings of Islam. I approached the teacher and asked her how I could learn more about Islam. The teacher told me about their book shop and classes I could attend,” said Dlamini.
She reflects in the book: “The books which I read about Islam gave me great confidence, and after I did my own research about Islam with the help of some scholars, I discovered that Islam is a peaceful religion which respects other individuals according to their abilities.”
As the first Muslim in her community, Dlamini teaches people in her community about Islam and Muslims, and she helps uplift the community by teaching them skills through her NPO. Now that she’s finished building her home, Dlamini is working towards building a crèche and a madressah. Her aim is to introduce Islam as a way of life from an early age, promote literacy, family values, youth development and empowerment programmes for rural women.
“To achieve this noble goal requires a concerted effort and commitment on my part as a woman who is willing and ready to contribute toward meaningful social change and rehabilitation of the soul,” said Dlamini.
‘Why am I a Muslim’ documents women from various backgrounds and how they came to embrace Islam, and what being a Muslim means to them.
Dlamini is seeking book sales sponsorships and can be reached on 0721877626.