When Muslims were being persecuted in Makkah, the companions were sent by the Prophet (PBUH) to Africa. Here is a summary of a lecture given by Hafez Ismail Khatib at Durban’s Grey Street Jumuah Musjid recently.
February is a month in our country where major decisions are made in respect of the way forward to better the lives of all its citizens with the SONA and the Budget Speech. As a society, we are at times dismissive of socio-political developments in our beloved country and often take the approach that it doesn’t concern us. Alternatively, we often seem to think that our solutions lie in taking a Eurocentric approach to solving our problems.
Let us reflect on our beautiful continent of Africa and the centrality of Africa, not only to Islam, but to development and human goodness.
The reality is that almost all of us are born in Africa and there is a 99.9% chance that the soil of Africa would be our final resting place. This is a given.
The African continent was at the cutting edge of Science when many parts of the world were still in darkness. The reality is that the African people were so advanced thousands of years ago. The stepped pyramid, built in 2700 BC, the pyramid of Giza in 2600 BC. These are masterpieces, wonders of engineering and ancient man’s achievement. These structures cannot be replicated today. A lot of the geometry and physics which was founded centuries later were already present in the pyramids of Africa.
Ancient African teachings, as far back as 2300 BC, advised…” Do not scheme against people, God will punish accordingly, if a man says he shall live by scheming, he shall lack bread for his mouth, people’s scheme do not prevail, God’s commands is what prevails, therefore live in the midst of peace, what God gives, comes by itself”.
This teaching is fully in line with our religion. It is no wonder that during the early days of Islam, when Muslims were being persecuted in Makkah, the companions were sent by the Prophet PBUH to, believe it or not, to Africa. The Prophet PBUH advised the Companions…If you go to Abyssinia, it would be better for you, for in it is a just King who will not tolerate oppression. Go until such time Allah SWT relieves you from your distress. It is a land of truth…Hiya Ardus sidq…a deep statement.
The companions left Arabia across the red sea as refugees into Africa. This has to be significant for us. That the land of Africa was chosen by the Messenger PBUH as a safe haven for early Muslims.
African society has always been, through the years, an example of goodness. Mansa Musa of Mali, possibly the richest man in history, on his journey to Haj, took with him so much wealth that he transformed the economies of every area he passed through during this journey improving the lives of all he came into contact with.
On his way back, Mansa Musa, brought with him scholars, engineers, architects and many other skills to assist in uplifting the areas around his home. He passed through Timbuktu, which was the centre of development and learning at that time. By the 12th century, Timbuktu had the Senkore University with 25000 students. They taught Islamic Sciences, Mathematics, Medicine and Astronomy and many other courses at this University. Gems of knowledge were preserved in many books that are still available up to today. The emphasis was on education, the first revelation in Islam, Iqra.
Another amazing example is the City of Harar, Ethiopia, which became the centre of Spirituality in East Africa. Great Daees, Scholars and Sayyids were in this city. This city has the most number of Masjids per square metre than anywhere in the world, 82 masjids in a circumference of 3.3km. A Masjid for every 40 families.
The Ahli system meant that each mosque had an Imam who counselled the 40 families that were part of the Masjid. This Imam was then part of the Majlis Shura, headed by an Amir, for the entire city and from this they should discuss the challenges faced by each society and jointly find solutions to it. They implemented the Ahli system, a family system. They take care of each other. If a person is sick, they visit him/her. If there is a fire to a home, the 40 families get together and rebuild the home – genuine concern for humanity. With this system, no one was destitute or went to bed hungry at night. This is in keeping with the Prophetic tradition, that one’s neighbours have a right over you.
Today as we reflect on the direction, we wish to take in this land of ours, we need to introspect and take lessons from the wonderful African examples of protection, knowledge, humanity, upliftment, brotherhood, freedom and care for its people. It was divinely ordained, that the Messenger PBUH directed the first group of Muslims to make Africa their home.