US scholar to SA: ‘Open up the Deen’

By Al Qalam Correspondent

South African Muslims were facing great changes for the better, according to US scholar and now Saudi resident, Wayne Rodney Bennet, better known Hudaifah Al Amreeki.

Al Amreeki was in South Africa as a guest of the Islamic Propagation Centre International who hosted a week-long Dawah enrichment programme in Durban. He urged the community to “open their hearts and minds” to all people regardless of race and Islamic religious differences.

Al Amreeki featured in Radio Al Ansaar’s 90 Minutes Programme and pointed out that Islam always unified all people. That it embraced communities and brought nations together.

“South African Muslims were facing great changes for the better. For the first time there is a great number of Muslims from other countries like Nigeria, Somalia, Senegal, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana who speak different languages and cultures, but are united with the local Muslims in their beliefs.

“I believe that the masajids should open their mimbars each week and the Jumma lecture should be presented by an imam from each of these communities. This is only one step. We would have to do a great deal of work of bringing all of them together with a common purpose,” said Al Amreeki.

He said that the local Muslims were already doing great work, creating and developing Islamic educational institutions, feeding the indigent, practicing charity, providing health care and dawah.

He said that it was up to the local Muslims to make the meaningful change and should “Open up the Deen.”

“Accept all Muslims. We all have shortcomings. We need to drop the differences. We are one when it comes to Islam. If we are divided, we are going nowhere,” he said.

Born in Philadelphia South, Al Amreeki received his basic education in the United States before moving with his family to Japan. “I spent four years in Japan where my father served in the United States military. We returned to the United States and finished high school in 1976. I then went to Virginia State University where I studied microbiology and philosophy, graduating in 1982.

“Next came a stint at the American College in Chicago where I studied until 1985 when I was awarded a scholarship to study Arabic at the King Saud University in Riyadh. I graduated with my Masters in 1989,” said Al Amreeki. He said that he “fell in love with the Haram and at least once a month, he spends a weekend in Mecca or Medina.

“Comparing the two cities, they are as different from chalk to cheese. They say that New York is a city that does not sleep. That is not true; Mecca is the place that does not sleep. Throughout the day and night, you will find people at the Kaaba. “While Medina is a peaceful city, people are calm and they go about their business at their own pace. The presence of our Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) is very evident,” said Al Amreeki.

He married and settled in Riyaad and worked as a teacher and spent his spare time doing Dawah. Then in 1991, when Sadam Hussein invaded Iraq, more than one million United States soldiers were stationed in Saudi Arabia. Never before, he said, that there were no many non-Muslims in Arabia.

“I decided to do Dawah among the Military and while my first two efforts to get into the camps failed, I was successful when I allowed to pitch a small tent in a military base. It could not accommodate more than a dozen people. But we were not short of military people who came to fight a war who sought information about Islam. Our tent had to be extended, over and over again. At one time, we ran Dawah classes day and night.

“If there were 10 000 people in the camp, 6 000 became Muslims. The white women were the majority who accepted Islam followed by black men, then white men and the smallest group was black women. The success we enjoyed was enormous and within a few months, Sheikh Ahmed Deedat arrived at the camp where he ran a campaign which was an overwhelming success,” he said.

Al Amreeki continued his dawah work and now almost three decades later, he visited the headquarters of the IPCI, the institution founded by Sheikh Ahmed Deedat. “It has been a great honour for me to be here to share knowledge and to learn. I hope that I will be able to return to South Africa and to do even more dawah work among the greater community. I return home with many positive memories and enriched with knowledge to continue my work in Saudi Arabia which is also undergoing great changes, especially with so many non-Muslims now entering the country to work,” he said.

While in Durban Al Amreeki and his colleagues were able to visit various religious institutions, charity organisations and were also able to confer with leaders across Durban.

Al Amreeki singled out Mohamed Khan of the Islamic Propagation Centre International for his dedication, commitment and leadership, which brought so much value to their lives. – Farook Khan – Islamic Forum.

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