By Nontobeko Mkhwanazi
Renowned Yemeni scholar, Shaykh Habib Umar bin Muhammad bin Salim bin Hafith received a warm African welcome by Muslim communities of KwaMashu and elsewhere when he addressed a “spiritual retreat”, coordinated by the Cape Town-based Mahabbah Foundation.
He told the attendees – who were also bussed from Inanda and Ntuzuma – that when the seed of Islam was first sown, people from Africa were among the first to embrace it. “Allah would have choosen any continent, but he chose Africa – and people from all walks of life should embrace that,” said Shaykh Umar.
He encouraged attendees to be inspired and motivated by the life of Sayyidina Bilal ibn Rabah (RA). Bilal (RA) who had the highest station with Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Umar further said, when Bilal (RA) was torched and burnt in the sun by disbelievers in Mecca, he was asked if does not feel the pain. “In his response Bilal (RA) said he had mixed the pain with the sweetness of the dhikr of Allah’s name, and the dhikr of Allah’s name overcame the pain. Again, like Bilal (RA), let the sweetness of the dhikr of Allah’s name conquer everything, be it pain or oppression,” said Shaykh Umar.
Sakeenah Phiri, who was among those who had attended the programme, said for some odd reason, most international Islamic scholars do not recognise Africa as a continent that has played a huge role in the spread of Islam. “Sayyidina Bilal (RA) is often not spoken about as an inspiration to Africans and other Muslims for the role he played during the times of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I am grateful that Umar mentioned Bilal (RA) in the presence of both local Muslims and non-muslims as it gives them a better understanding of the fact that Islam is for all races,” said Phiri.
Salma Mleleki, who was also one of the attendants, said she was very happy that Shaykh Umar visited KwaMashu. “Most scholars who visit South Africa tend to visit well-known places in urban areas, as if Muslims only live in cities and towns. They tend to forget about Muslims who live in townships and rural areas who find it very hard to attend such programmes because of financial constraints and transport limitations,” said Mleleki.
Noxolo Mpanza, who is a member of KwaMashu community says she is not a Muslim but
Shaykh Umar’s arrival really touched her. “I had always thought that Indian Muslims disliked black Muslims because I always saw black Muslims gather on their own or go to other places and gather with other Muslims, but I had never seen Indian Muslims visit Masjids in townships. This event changed my perception on race in Islam,” said Mpanza.
Moulana Habeeb Milanzi, who was one of the organizers, said it was an honour to be graced by a prominent and well-known guest of Allah.
“He brought us light and showed love to our community. We hardly get visitors in our community of such caliber and indeed it was a historical event and we hope to host more of such programmes in future.”
According to its website, The Mahabbah Foundation is an independent registered non-profit organisation. The foundation brings out local and international scholars to host spiritual retreats in various parts of the country.
The Mahabbah Foundation’s sole purpose is to connect people to Allah. Among other programmes, The Mahabbah Foundation also coordinates twice yearly local spiritual retreat events that are held over several days, including one international spiritual retreat, two dawah road trips and various fund raising initiatives.