The Deedat Era 1959-1973
In February 1959 with the Blessing of Almighty Allah, Hajee Suleman Ismail Kadwa generously donated 75 acres of land in Braemar to the Islamic Propagation Centre for establishing an Islamic Seminary, the first of its kind in South Africa. On 19/08/1960 the Trust Deed of As-Salaam Trust was registered and the first 7 Trustees were A.H. Deedat, G.H.E. Vanker, S.A. Murchie and A.K. Salejee representing IPC, and G.H.S. Kadwa, G.H. Kadwa and A.S. Kadwa representing the Kadwa family.
The centre in Braemar was to be named As-Salaam after one of the attributes of Allah which means the “Source of Peace and Perfection”. It was the wish of the officials that graduates of the Institute would imbibe and impart the teachings of Islam, thus creating peace, harmony and love between man and man. Hence the designation As-Salaam was chosen for the first Seminary of Islam in South Africa.
Foundation Laying Ceremony – Sunday, 1 November 1960, was a historic day for As-Salaam when Mrs. Amina King, widow of the late Taher King, a pioneering missionary, laid the foundation of this unique organisation. The occasion was used to pay tribute to the late Rev. King who, on embracing Islam in 1927 during Khwaja Kamaluddin’s visit to SA, had dedicated
his life for the propagation of Islam. In his secretarial report dated 30/10/1960 Mr. GHE Vanker reported: “Al-hamdu-lillah, our building
project at Braemar is progressing in earnest. The prayer room, the ablution chamber and the minaret have been virtually completed. A cottage
for the caretaker and his family is already built and ready for occupation and the construction work has started on the dining hall cum kitchen and dormitories.”
The original objective of As-Salaam as expounded by the Trustees and which are relevant to this day we re:
– To equip missionaries of Islam to preach to the various peoples of South Africa and enable them to talk intelligently about Islam.
– To teach new Muslims the rudiments of Islam and stress the practical side of the religion.
The trustees envisaged that the facilities for the training of the reverts and children would enable them to take their place in the Muslim Community. The first phase of the buildings was completed in 1961 and a small group of students from all parts of the country began their studies in 1961. Classes were also held over week-ends for auxiliary staff and their children. The 1st Ustaad and Imaam of As-Salaam was Sheikh Yusuf Abdur Rehman while Ebrahim Gabella was employed as the daaee.
Deedats vision for As-Salaam was born out of his experiences at Adams Mission and Christian missionaries who were attacking and denigrating Islam. He wanted to replicate a kind of Adams Mission as a Muslim Mission Training Centre at As-Salaam.
Deedat was enthusiastic of the idea of As-Salaam as a seminary but not necessarily a pragmatist and sometimes plunged into projects without a proper plan of action. As-Salaam also did not have any source of income other than the donations which were hard to come by. The Muslim community at that time were also not encouraged to give to dawah and whatever they gave reluctantly causing great rivalry amongst sister organisations. Deedats approach was not favourable to the established business community as it did not have the support of the ulema and appear to create conflict with the ruling class of the country. The land itself was not very useful because of its topography and poor soil quality which was unsuitable for farming and As-Salaam was remotely located from the nearest city, Durban which was 90km away and in those years given the condition of the roads far removed from where the majority of the population lived and where dawah could have a more significant impact.
The As-Salaam Trust with Ahmed Deedat being resident at As-Salaam, managed the affairs of As-Salaam from its inception to 1973. On 16 August 1973 the affairs of As-Salaam were handed over to the Muslim Youth Movement, who ran it till 1977. After having spent 17 years at As-Salaam Ahmed Deedat moved to Durban where he ran the Islamic Propagation Centre which went on to make a significant impact for Islam not only locally but internationally as well.
The MYM Years 1973 – 1977
In 1970 November the Muslim Youth Movement was formed. The first convention was held in April 1972 at As-Salaam with Maulana Fazlur Rahman Ansari from Pakistan as the guest speaker. As-Salaam provided the ideal outdoor venue for the youth and the holding of such events. This was formalised into annual conventions, which attracted youth from all over the country. The conventions provided the youth and university students with the necessary inspiration to form a turning point in their perspective of Islam and their lives. It was also the first time that women were participating in an organised Islamic function in South Africa. This was unheard of previously. The conventions were followed by a lecture tour of the guest throughout the country thus attracting more youth to the MYM.
The 2nd convention had Dr Ahmed Sakr, president of MSA America and his wife Zuhar as the guest speakers. The MSA in America had programmes and ideas that appealed to the youth in South Africa and Sakr provided the necessary inspiration in galvanising the youth with the result that the Movement grew and many things started to crystallise. Ahmed Sakr was the guest speaker for the second time for the third convention – development of ideas in formation of programmes and projects like IMA, Sanzaf, Islamic Relief Agency, Amal, etc. Issues such as economics, banking which later culminated into the formation of Jaame and the role of women and their participation in mosques were discussed. These issues revolved around the ideas of Ikhwan al Muslimoon. The convention became an annual event.
Ahmed Deedat first approached the MYM in 1973 after the 2nd convention to take over As-Salaam. The MYM informed Ahmed Deedat that they were not keen to take over As-Salaam as it was outside the ambit of its programme. Ahmed Deedat then approached the other Islamic organisations to take over As-Salaam. All of them declined the offer. This was understandable as none of them were involved in dawah as part of their activities. The thought of closing As-Salaam down was not an acceptable option for Ahmed Deedat considering the enormous investment of the Muslim Community of South Africa in the project.
During the 3rd convention in 1974 with urging from Ahmed Deedat, Dr Ahmed Sakr persuaded the MYM to reconsider taking over As-Salaam as that would mean freeing Ahmed Deedat to run the activities of IPC in Durban. This was a critical moment for the MYM and one that was thoroughly debated. This was a historic decision with far reaching implications judging from the contribution that Ahmed Deedat was to subsequently make internationally. In June/July of 1974 the MYM took over As-Salaam and went into it without fully grasping the implications of their move. In the beginning the Movement used As-Salaam as a facility for smaller camps and conventions as their programmes became more focused. There were few resident students at the time Amongst the first people who were tasked with As-Salaam were: Mahmood Moosa, Ismail Darsot, and Yusuf Moosa. EV Mohammed who was appointed as the first full time caretaker and teacher. Later Ebrahim Amod became involved in the As-Salaam project 1975/77 but as such there was no resident program. Br Mahmood Moosa, then the vice president of MYM, had a great vision to make it into Islamic school modelled on the lines of Hilton and Waterford. Yusuf Moosa and Darsot were tasked to develop the potential of As-Salaam. They started some projects but the going was tough and this was abandoned. The place only received electricity in 1974, which was unavailable during Deedats stay because one of the neighbours had refused access rights for the supply poles and permission for electricity. There were no markets for the agricultural produce and the road was a major problem and deterrent to any development.
They employed educationist (Sheikh) Moideen with the idea of establishing an Islamic boarding school. He was passionate and thoroughly committed to the idea and worked on the plan but left for Haj where he suddenly passed away. The dream left with him. There was no one left to continue and initiate the idea any further but out of that came the need to establish some facility.
The only sustainable activity the Movement could justify for occupying the place was for its camps and conventions. In this regard the first leadership training program was held in December 1976, another milestone, with Jamal Badawi as the guest. He looked at the struggle against apartheid and Islamic response to it and out of this camp many people were politicised for the and emerged to form organisations like Qibla and the Call of Islam, two groups which represented a Muslim response to the Apartheid Government
In 1975 Muzammil Siddiqui restructured the convention and held camps in different venues. The convention was moved around the country and in different venues
– 1976 Easter program in Ladysmith Fatima Heeran and Badawi
– 1977 Leadership training program First ITP at As-Salaam
– 1978 – National Youth Camp
– 1979 – Yusuf Islam at As-Salaam
In 1975 the IMA was formed and first clinic with IMA and MYM was opened at As-Salaam to serve the local indigenous community. The only viable MYM activities at As-Salaam were the camps and clinics. The Movement was clearly out of their depth about what to do as it served only as a place of venue for a small part of its activities. In the meantime the financial burden of running the place was seriously eroding whatever the little resources it had.
The period of direct control by the MYM in As-Salaam ends in 1977 when the president of the MYM, Dr S A Thokan coerced a group which included Dr Mohammed Khan, Khalid Tayob, Dr Goolam Hoosen and Suleman Cotwal to take over As-Salaam. These brothers formed a committee and suggested the establishment of a school to train madressah teachers and daaiees for the Islamic Centres located in the townships and rural areas. This came as a great relief to the MYM as they had at that time a debt of R3 300 which was huge considering their limited resources.
Yusuf Mohamedy the first secretary of MYM from 1972 – 1975 was a teacher by profession and he was tasked to become the Ameer at As-Salaam and that became part of his responsibility.
The As-Salaam Trust with Ahmed Deedat being resident at As-Salaam, managed the affairs of As-Salaam from its inception to 1973. On 16 August 1973 the affairs of As-Salaam were handed over to the Muslim Youth Movement, who ran it till 1977.
On the 13 August 1977 a committee comprising Dr M Khan, Dr GM Hoosen, S Cotwall, Dr S Thokan, K Tayob, E Jadwat, N Jhaveri and Y Patel took over the reins of As-Salaam. By October 1978 the following year the present organisation. The As-Salaam Educational Institute was constitutionally formed and took over the Management of As-Salaam. The first trustees were Dr M Khan, S Cotwall, Dr G M Hoosen, Dr R A Karrim and Y Patel. The first teacher and Ameer was Yusuf Mahommedy and Isaac Albertyn was the first resident caretaker. The first class started in July 1978 with 13 students.
In 1979 Br Yacoob Dube was employed to help the students with their secular subjects (which they were attempting via Correspondence
Courses). Br Yacoob also started conducting Class I for the local children. Initially the purpose of this class was to provide teaching practice for our trainee Madressa teachers. In 1980 Dawood Mdletshe took Br Yacoob’s place and due to his persistence and hard work the school grew from Class I to Std. IV over the next six years. The pioneering teachers trudged up and down the hills of Braemar visiting homes and urging parents to entrust their children to As-Salaam. Progressively the growth continued
until the first batch of matriculants wrote their exam in 1991.
The majority of the local population were farm labourers living in simple mud huts under primitive conditions and without basic facilities. As they spent most of their time eeking out a meagre living through subsistence farming, the idea of school education for their children had not occurred to them. Also, there was no state school for their children in the immediate vicinity.
The only nearby school charged a school fee and demanded a uniform. Many could not make any further sacrifices to ensure that their children received school education. This situation was conducive to perpetuating constant supply of cheap labour.
Education was provided free of charge. A number of parents seized this opportunity to have their children educated. Alhamdo-lillah with the blessing of Allah (SWT) and the support of the Muslim community the number of school learners increased gradually. School education
was offered progressively at higher levels in the succeeding years. By 1991 As-Salaam catered for learners from pre-school to senior certificate. This was the basis for the growth and development of the As-Salaam School.
When the present Management Committee took over in 1978 the following structures existed:
musjid and classroom, dormitory for 17 students, clinic, kitchen cum dining room and three staff quarters. In 1980 the first dormitories and additional staff houses were built by Brothers Uthman and Moosa Suamado from Mozambique under the direction of Yusuf Patel.
The growth and development of As-Salaam after 1978 was characterised by two parallel programmes namely:
- Continuation of Islamic Foundation and Dawah courses
- Emergence of school education for children from the local community.
Through these early years the school was under increasing pressure to provide additional classrooms and related facilities. From a humble beginning and simple structures a new school building was erected in 1987 through the generosity of the Islamic Development Bank (Jeddah)
through the intervention and support of Dr Saleh Samarai who had visited the institution previously. The IDB also funded the extension of the dormitories and dining room. Coincidentally both these projects were built by Ahmed Kadwa, the grandson of SI Kadwa who had donated the land to As-Salaam assisted by Uthman Suamado who had stayed on at As-Salaam in his capacity as estate manager.
It was during this period that the membership of the Management Committee was extended to include additional members with extensive
experience in education management. They provided professional support to the staff at As-Salaam and paved the way for the introduction
of senior secondary classes.
However towards the end of 1993 with the political changes taking place in South Africa, several factors combined to create a crisis at As-Salaam. Student indifference, violent militancy and lack of financial support due mainly to a declining economy compelled the management to close down the secondary school. This was a very painful decision taken with a heavy heart.
The Islamic Foundation and Dawah course on the other hand attracted some promising scholars during this period and many students actively involved in Islamic work today had their education at As-Salaam.
During the period 1978 – 1995 the following people served in their capacity as Ameer/Principals at As-Salaam:
- 1978/82 Yusuf Mohamedy
- 1983 Fareed Essack/Adnan Ebrahim
- 1984 A.K. Tayob
- 1985/86 Moulana Ihshan Fortune
- 1986 Riaz Agjee & Essa El-Seppe
- 1987 Moulana Suleman Goga
- 1988 Moulana Muneer G F Soofie
- 1989 Yusuf Mohamedy & Yunus Desai (Principal)
- 1991/93 Hilal Motala
- 1993/95 Sheik Issa Sardar
- 1995 Zeenat Ali (acting)
After the departure of Sheikh Issa Sardar to Malawi in 1995, Sister Zeenat Ali assumed the role of acting principal for the rest of the year. In 1996 Br Ebrahim Majam who was part of the Management Committee of As-Salaam and retired from his post of Chief Superintendent of Education (Academic), House of Delegates was coerced to take over the reins at As-Salaam. He was tasked to improve the standard of school education and to introduce skills training in the program.
In 1996 Riaz Jamal served as a deputy principal and he brought fresh ideas to the curriculum and provided strong moral support to the principal. As As-Salaam was set in a rural environment away from the major urban centre it was difficult to recruit suitably qualified personnel for As-Salaam
In 1997 Akbar Khan, also a member of the Management Committee and former deputy principal at Truro Primary School joined the staff at As-Salaam as deputy principal. Together with Ebrahim Majam they broadened the curriculum and initiated partnership with Coastal College KZN for the skills training and WAMY for the Islamic Duat Training Program.
In 2002 the skills centre was added to the existing school building. This extended the course level and variety of subjects taught at As-Salaam. This facility was opened by King Goodwill Zwelithini in 2003. Student numbers by then have grown to over 500 with facilities for 80 resident students. In 2004 the Oasis Group funded the building of the Ismail Adam Ebrahim Dormitory block increasing the resident facilities to 120, officially opened by Mrs Mariam Ebrahim on 28th October 2006. Both the extensions to the skills centre and the new dormitory block was built by Ahmed Kadwa with Uthman Suamado as his foreman.
To address the problems of recruitment of teachers As-Salaam started their Teachers Training Program which has had a significant impact on the quality of education and attraction of students to As-Salaam.
1996/2006 Ebrahim Majam (College Campus Manager), Akbar Khan (School Principal), Khatija Bux, Hajra Allijan, Yasmin Essop (Heads of Department) Zaid Langa (Head Islamic Studies), Muhammad Amra (WAMY), Imtiaz Jhatem (Islamic Leadership Course Facilitator), Sheikh Yusuf Sultan (Head Dawah) Mohammed Kadwa (Head Estate Committee) Ebrahim Osman (Head Education Committee) Suleman Vahed (Head Finance Committee).
This piece is taken from the website of As-Salaam Educational Trust.
See on-line at: http://www.assalaam.co.za/history.html