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O My Lord! I declare to Thee, O My Lord!  I declare to Thee that there is no god other than Thee, and I declare to Thee, O Allah, that Nabi Muhammad () is Thy Messenger.  He is the most honoured, most beloved by Allah. That is what the Shahadah means.

I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about something else.  In the time of Nabi Muhammad () there was a Sahabah, Sayyiduna Abu Dhar (r.a.). He was very well-known, a very pious man. Once he had a quarrel with Sayyiduna Bilal (r.a.). He was also very well known, very pious. During the quarrel he remarked to Sayyiduna Bilal (r.a.) about his blackness. Sayyiduna Bilal (r.a.) was very upset with Sayyiduna Abu Dhar (r.a.).  He went to Nabi Muhammad () and complained to him: “Ya Rasullallah, Assalamu alayka. Abu Dhar (r.a.) remarked to me about my blackness.” Rasullullah () said to him, said to Abu Dhar (r.a.): “You have traces of Jahiliyyah in your heart.”  Jahiliyyah was the time before Islam, the time of ignorance. He told Abu Dhar (r.a.) that he had traces of ignorance in his heart.

I want to talk a little bit about this. There is much talk in the newspapers about racism in the Western Cape. Racism is bad attitudes or prejudice towards people because of their colour, the nature of their hair, the shape of their noses, or whatever the case might be. We have in our community these bad habits, bad attitudes towards people because of where they come from and because of how they look. If they are black, we have an attitude towards them. We have bad attitudes towards people because they are from India, or from certain other parts of the world. Nabi Muhammad () said that these attitudes are from Jahiliyyah. This is not Islam.

During the early parts of the 1900’s a masjid was built in Salt River in Tennyson Street, a few kilometers from Cape Town. The business people of the area provided most of the funds. However, when the constitution was drawn up it stated: “No Indians allowed”.  This was the constitution for years. The Indian community then built its “own mosque” in another part of Salt River, in Addison Road. The non-Indian Muslims in the area called this mosque by a dirty racist term, die moore masiet. The one part of the community went mainly to the one mosque and the other mainly to the other mosque.  On a Friday they would walk passed each other with one group going to the one mosque and the other to the other mosque. Since childhood it was ingrained in us that we do not go to the “moore masiet” but to the other one.

On the wall in the mosque in Tennyson Street is the Qur’anic verse:

إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُوْنَ إِخْوَةٌ

The believers are but a single brotherhood (xlix: 10).

Despite this, that mosque had this racist constitution and the imams that I came to know of were drawn from only one section of the community. This has gone on until today. Only a few years ago, the young people in the area changed the racial stipulations of the mosque’s constitution. In Addison Road, imams were only drawn from the “Indian” section of the community. So we had in Tennyson Street only imams from the “Cape Malay” community, and in Addison Road only imams from the so-called “Indian” community.  What was this all about?  In fact now, only very recently, someone told me in the area that in Addison Road an imam had been appointed from the “Cape Malay” community because “they” could not find an “Indian” imam.  I didn’t say anything. I just looked at him, and thought: “O my word! Are we still busy with this?” Now I’m asking you, are we still busy with this?  Is there still racism in our minds, bad attitudes towards people for all kinds of reasons?

You know I was amazed, the other day in my investigation of Mawlana Abdullatief of Habibiyyah College I found that he went to great lengths to bring the two parts of the community together by appointing imams from the so called “Cape Malay” community. This was despite the fact that he had come from India. I had also gone to the Deeds Office to check mosque constitutions and I found mosques with “Malay” only trustees and mosques with “Indian” only trustees.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: Are mosques not religious structures?  Mosques are the holiest, most sacred structures in our community.  If in any place, in any place, we have to observe very strictly the rules and regulations of Islam then it has to be in the mosque. Under no circumstances are we allowed to bring Jahiliyyah attitudes into the affairs of our mosques.  A mosque is where we make sujud to Allah Almighty, in which we declare His Oneness, in which we glorify Him, and praise Him. How can we ignore His Sacred Words so?

A time ago I was in Port Elizabeth and was taken to Malabar. I was shown a 25 million (I think) rand project, a mosque, a madrassah and whatever else. Now that was very impressive, very impressive. Later I went to a place called Khayelitsha, not very far away. I was taken to the mosque there.  That mosque was a shack.  It was made of metal sheets and the roof was kept down by rocks. There was no water, no electricity, no toilets. In Malabar, a 25 million rand project. Why? Just further up, in Khayelitsha, a shack with no water, no toilets, no electricity. What kind of Islam is this?  I felt embarrassed and spoke to the people in the mosque. I told them that the first mosque built by our Nabi Muhammad () was built of clay and palm-tree leaves and branches, and I said that that mosque in Madinah produced the greatest generation of Muslims. When I spoke in Jumu’ah at a mosque the Friday, I asked the people: “What is the nature of the Islam we practice?” I asked: “What is the nature of our deeds?” “Is there no shame?” I asked!

Back in Cape Town, I decided to have a look at the religious structures in places like Khayelitsha and Guguletu. I should have done this years ago.  The first one I went to was a shack. I felt so ashamed that I instructed those with me to get money to upgrade this place.  How can we allow people to use this place for ibadah when I will not even use it as a toilet? We went from one shack to another to help them with upgrading, and a special committee has been appointed to see to that.

Let me tell you the saddest part of all this. I decided to write to twelve mosques explaining to them the situation of the servants of Allah Almighty in the black areas, saying please we need help!  Only three responded: this mosque that we are at today (Rondebosch East), Kensington and Goodwood.  Three answered! The rest were too busy with major projects, and other matters. Is this response because these are black people?  Is this the reason that they did not want to give help? I don’t mind. I don’t mind.  Allah Almighty has sent us money from different sources.  People are giving us the money to continue our projects.  So what is the point! The point is surely that all those mosques, in which people are making ibadah to Allah Almighty should have come running to me and said: “How can we help?”  Unless we believe, and I’m afraid of this, unless we believe that the people in the black areas are good enough for shacks or the other way round.

Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an:

إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُوْنَ إِخْوَةٌ

The believers are but a single brotherhood (xlix: 10).

Unfortunately, throughout the world it appears that the Muslim ummah has collapsed. The single brotherhood does not exist anymore. It is all gone. Do you know that when we are involved in the process of a person coming into Islam, whatever the colour of his/her skin, Allah Almighty pours Divine lights upon us for that major achievement.  It is a major achievement to be involved in the “bringing” of people into Islam.  Those people who live in the black areas, or any other areas, they are our brothers and they are our sisters, not only in Islam, but also as part of humanity.  Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an:

وَ لَقَدْ كَرََّمْنَا بَنِى ءَادَمَ

We have honoured the sons of Adam (xvii: 70).

  Who are these sons or descendants? They are all of humanity. In different parts of the world, Allah Almighty has given people different colours, different shapes of noses, and different faces. In South America you see people with certain features. In China people with other features. All over the world an assortment of features are found. All different peoples with different features but each person is an honoured member of humanity, honoured by his/her Lord. Allah Almighty honours and we dishonour.  We are so pretentious about ourselves that we treat those who are not “like us” with contempt.

I’ve spoken to certain people in the community about this, and they have all agreed, that despite the suffering of these poor communities, we are not prepared to throw our weight behind helping them with their religious structures.  There should not be, there should never have been a “moore masiet” in Salt River. It should NEVER have been!  There should NEVER have been a constitution in any mosque with only “Malay” trustees. This is not Islam.  There should never have been a constitution in a mosque that says Indians only.  It should NEVER have been like that. This is our Islam. This is our religion.  This religion is taking us from here to the Hereafter.

What are we going to say to Allah Almighty when we come there and He says: “What have you done about my black servants?” Are we going to have all kinds of excuses?   This will not be possible because there we will speak the truth. We will say: “O my Lord, they were black and we didn’t want anything to do with them. We took them to be inferior beings.” I do not want to mention the racist terms that were and are still being used for these people. I lived in Salt River at one time.  Many members of the community were in the building trade.  The worst possible racist terms were used in the building trade against black labourers. You know about that!  You know about that! Why was nothing ever done about it? Why not? I’m sorry to say this, but why didn’t the imams and mawlanas get up and say: “This is not permissible.” They never said anything.  Never! Never! Why didn’t someone get up in the Tennyson Street mosque and say: “This is not permissible, my brothers”.  Why didn’t they say that in the Addison Road mosque? Why has it never been done? And I’m worried because we point our fingers at other people when in our most sacred institutions we practice racism.  And you know, from your own experience, the large number of racist terms still being used in our community.

We have to start to understand the nature of creation, start understanding that we all came from Nabi Adam (a.s.) and Sayyidatuna Hawa (r.a.).  We must start to understand that. Allah Almighty created human beings who have different characteristics in different parts of the world. We must start to understand that in terms of Islam, and in terms of humanity, all human beings on this earth belong to a single human race.  In Islam, race terms are not allowed in any form.  I don’t know what goes on in this masjid but if you come across any racism, stop it. You must say: “No! This is not permissible in Islam!”

I travel a lot in the Cape Peninsula and in the Western Cape.  I meet people and I listen to their racist remarks. Even teachers speak about “them” and “they”. Who are the “thems” and the “theys”? They are the children from the black townships. Some of us, in charge of the education of children, are unable to see children as children.

I wish to appeal to you. We are Muslims. We belong to each other…إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُوْنَ إِخْوَةٌ  means we belong to each other.  Each one of us, is the brother of everyone else in this masjid.  Each one is a brother or sister of every other person in Islam.  All of you are my brothers!  And the same applies to our sisters. We belong to each other.  We must not let what has happened in the rest of the world happen here. The ummah is crumbling.  There is very little left of the ummah.  That is why the Palestinian people are suffering like this.  That is why the Afghanistan people are suffering.  Nobody helps anymore.  Why are we like that? Why? We need help in Khayelitsha.  We need help in Guguletu.  We need help in Delft. Why do we not help? Why is it on the one side we can spend millions of rands for a mosque and then you go up the road and you find a shack as a mosque.  People have to pray in there, and there is no water, no electricity, no toilets. What is this? This is not Islam.  Are the people who pray there not our brothers and our sisters?  Are we happy that there are no toilets? Are we happy that there is no water? At the mosque in Philippi if people want to take wudu, they put water in a bottle and go somewhere amongst the shacks to take wudu.  I was sitting there. I saw it. If they want to go to the toilet, they must go somewhere amongst the shacks. That mosque is not far from here.

When are we going to go on our prayer mats, and say: “O my Lord!  These are my brothers as Thou hast decreed.  These are my sisters as Thou hast decreed. O Allah! Thou hast decreed that!”  Why can’t we do that? Why can we not say: “O My Lord, I raise my hand. I have accepted Thy decree.  Thou hast decreed and I accept. As a Muslim who has recited the Shahadah, I accept that decree.  And I embrace every other human being on earth, and I embrace every other Muslim on earth because they are my brothers.  They are my sisters.”  Why can’t we do that?  Why can’t we do that?  Why can’t we put up our hands at the right moment to declare our commitment to Allah?  We can easily get 10 000 or 20 000 or 30 000 people to march for some cause. Why can’t we get people to help in the townships?  Why can’t we get mosques to adopt other mosques?  Why can’t we delay the work at mosques outside the townships to give these people a decent place to pray in? You must go to these places. Go to Guguletu. Go to Delft. Go to Phillipi. Go to these places and see what’s going on. I’m shocked at the conditions people have to pray under and live under.

Perhaps those people in the shacks will be granted something special by Allah. Despite the shacks, despite the lack of water, despite no electricity, perhaps, you never know, Allah Almighty might call these people His servants because of the sacrifices they are making in order to serve Him, in order to sujud  to Him, in order to ruku’ to him, in order to satisfy Him. Perhaps out of these shacks, the first mosques for these people, will come the true community of Islam.  You never know.  I’m appealing to you.  We are brothers in Islam.  Don’t let us deny our brotherhood when it comes to people of different colours.  This is what has been bred in us in this country.  This is not Islam.

I want to end off by repeating what I said at the beginning.  Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an:

إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُوْنَ إِخْوَةٌ

The believers are but a single brotherhood (xlix: 10).

We must say in our hearts: “O my Lord! Thou hast decreed that and I accept that”.  And I’m going to ask Allah, when reciting Surah Fatihah, to make this verse strong in our hearts. Al-Fatihah

And Allah knows best, and I ask forgiveness for any mistakes or distortions in what I have said, Amin.

Selected Talks by Yusuf da Costa [Published 2008]

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