Muslim Views . January 2014
A tribute to Sharifa An activist with a Ahmed Choglay thirst for knowledge until the grave Yasmena Johnstone (1950 – 2013)
ON October 22, 2013, Sharifa Ahmed Choglay, co-founder and CEO of Good Hope Meat Hyper, in Salt River, Cape Town, was called to Allah’s mercy. Sharifa had a tremendous impact on the lives of many people around her, particularly the under-privileged in her community. An attempt to list her many achievements would be futile as the result would be something that more closely resembles a novella than a humble tribute. Nonetheless, we will attempt here to, at the very least, highlight her achievements as a means to celebrate her life and mourn her passing. Chief among her achievements was her instrumental role in ensuring that a great number of Muslims were able to undertake the holy pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah, through sponsorship and other means. Furthermore, she was integrally involved in fundraising initiatives for various masajid in the Western Cape, thereby playing a part in ensuring not only their survival but also their growth and expansion. Sharifa single-handedly spent thousands of rands to assist in the clearing up of the Mowbray kabrstan, as well as the clearing of the maqbara therein. Her passion and enthusiasm for promoting the education of the under-privileged youth was unmatched; this is borne out in the numerous meetings she had in the recent past with the former Minister of Education, Ms Naledi Pandor. One of Sharifa’s most prominent endeavours was her involvement with the Muslim Association of Red Children’s Hospital (MARCH). Rashieda Hashim, who worked closely with Sharifa on projects for the organisation, called Sharifa ‘very generous’ in her contributions for the organisation, and very ‘hands on’ in her actions.
DR MOGAMAT HOOSAIN EBRAHIM
Dawood Khan, a former Cape Town City councillor stated that ‘she was a remarkable woman and worked tirelessly in her efforts to assist the MARCH organisation’. She was a key component in the burgeoning success of Good Hope Meat Hyper, and was a pillar of strength to her late husband, Dawood Ahmed Choglay who passed away eleven years ago. She is mourned by her son Reaaz Ahmed, daughters Naseema and Fayrooz, as well as her grandchildren and the many people whose lives she touched every day. It is our duah that this servant of Allah will be blessed with the highest place in Jannah. Ameen.
Zainab Asvat, Doctor for the people, passes on THE first Muslim woman to graduate as a medical doctor in South Africa but more renowned for her role in our liberation struggle, Dr Zainab Asvat, passed away in London, on November 30, 2013. She was 93-years-old. She was hounded by the apartheid security police for her activism and was forced into exile in 1970. Zainab Asvat, daughter of Ebrahim Asvat, came under the tutelage of her father as a young girl. She accompanied him to political meetings and became fully conversant with the political situation in the country. In the 1940s, Zainab became politically active. At the time, she was studying medicine at University of the Witwatersrand but took a year off and went to Durban to be part of the Passive Resistance Campaign. On June 13, 1946, the first batch of resisters set up camp on the plot at the corner of Umbilo Road and Gale Street. They proposed to live there in tents until such time as they were arrested. There were eighteen resisters, six of whom were women: Zainab Asvat, Zohra Bhayat, Amina Pahad, Zubeida Patel of Johannesburg, and Lakshmi Govender and Veeramah Pather of Durban. Doctor GM Naicker, President of the NIC and MD Naidoo, Secretary of the NIC, were the leaders of the group. Zainab’s sister, Amina (Asvat) Cachalia, and her school friends went to the site after school to sing and cheer on the campaigners. Reminiscing about the protest a few years ago, Zainab wrote: ‘We drew a lot of attention from the local Muslims. Some
Zainab Asvat attending the Treason Trial, December 1956. Photo Muslim Portraits: The Anti-Apartheid Struggle, Madiba Publishers 2012
Muslim boys came, just to get fresh with us. They complained that I was cheeky. ‘I had two aunts in Durban. The one said that I was disgracing her because people were bandying ‘her niece’s’ pictures around. The other aunt, however, was supportive, partly because when she came to visit us at the tent, she found me reading Surah Ya Seen. She brought us ‘godras’ (eiderdowns) and food.’ On the Sunday night, June 16, white hooligans overran the camp, took away all
IT is an honour and privilege to write a tribute to Yasmena Johnstone. She was not only a student but a friend whom I initially met seven years ago when she registered with International Peace College South Africa (IPSA). Yasmena died on Wednesday morning at 5.30 at her residence in Hanover Park and was buried the same day, December 4, 2013, at the Johnstone Road Maqbarah. Her Salatul Janazah was performed after Asr Salaah at Masjidul Mansur, in Mount View Estate. Yasmena was an active member of many Islamic organisations over several years and, therefore, it was no surprise to see members of these organisations at the janazah. She was born in De Korte Street, District Six, Cape Town, on September 2, 1950. She was the third eldest born to Zubair and Gadija Johnstone. Yasmena commenced her madrassah years with Boeta Braima and continued with several other teachers. She attended Trafalgar Junior and High Schools until standard eight, and completed her Senior Certificate part-time. She started to work in a factory known as Kelner where, after just a few weeks she was promoted and joined the office staff. Because of her acumen, her employer advised her to pursue her academic studies. She then studied part-time while being employed at various financial institutions. She studied at Institute of Shari’ah Studies for five years. Thereafter, she registered for the four-year course at IPSA, which she successfully completed last year, 2013. Though she spent seven years at IPSA, this did not bother her as she was actively serving the community. She also loved travelling; she spent a year in Egypt to concentrate on the Arabic language. Shaikh Dawood Terblanche, one of Yasmena’s teachers, noted: ‘As far as the favourite expression is concerned, it was literally learning from the cradle to the grave.’ Shaikh Fadiel Latief, another of her teachers, added: ‘Yasmena was a caring person who was concerned about the welfare of her fellow students. She was diligent and took a keen interest in her studies.’ Shaikh Ganief Kamaar, who addressed the mourners at the makbarah, quoted the following hadith: ‘Whoever seeks knowledge (for the sake of Allah), Allah will make his/ her path easy to Jannah.’ Ibtesiam Samodien, the librarian at IPSA commented: ‘Yasmena was a person who persevered despite the difficulty she experienced in her life – 15 years ago she had a
major operation, however, she continued her daily tasks, studying and being actively involved with Islamic organisations. She was like a mother to me.’ I had the honour of teaching her in three subjects this year and found her to be dedicated and passionate about her work. Her sincere personality and interaction with her peers always kept the class alive and interesting. Although she was not the eldest of the family, she was an example to her seven sisters and four brothers, and had the respect of all her family members. She took care of her grandmother Ayesha Weeder, who lived to the age of 104, until her demise. Ghairunisa, Yasmena’s sister acknowledged: ‘My sister was an activist, a member of Qiblah, and a founder member of Mustadafin. She was the head of Kauthar Study Circle for women. She was also the cocoordinator of the Islamic Unity Convention (IUC) Women’s Forum when it was established in 1994. Yasmena was a faithful person who lived a life of sincerity, dignity and, above all else, was conscious of her duties as a Muslim. She was proud of, and adhered to, the Cape Muslim culture. She frequented occasions such as janazahs, nikahs, arwahs and khatm al-Qur’an. May the Almighty forgive her sins and reward her in abundance for the sacrifices she made serving the community as an activist and serving on Islamic institutions. May Almighty Allah grant her Jannah tul Firdous and grant her family sabr, ameen. Our condolences go to her brothers and sisters and the rest of her family members: Farieda, Mymoena, Washiela, Nazeema, Haroun, Ghairunisa and Nathier.
the tents and some of the blankets. Zainab, Amina Pahad and Veeramah Pather were injured when tents fell on them. On Monday night, a meeting was called at the camp. Zainab made a fiery speech in which she denounced the violence and affirmed the resisters’ commitment and appealed to the people to remain calm. On Saturday, June 28, Zainab was arrested and released later the same night. On Sunday, she addressed a meeting of 800 women at the Avalon Cinema. Zainab’s courage and determination were inspirational and several women joined in the campaign as a result. In July 1946, Zainab led a batch of resisters, was arrested, sent to prison for three months and released in early October. Later in October, Zainab, Mrs PK Naidoo and Miss Suriakala Patel, were the first women ever elected to the Transvaal Indian Congress Committee. All three of the women had served prison sentences during the passive resis-
tance campaign. After 1946, Zainab returned to medical school to complete her studies. Towards the end of 1956, she became politically active again. The arrest of 156 activists in December, 1956, led to great hardship for their families, and Zainab set about organising a network of support. She raised funds, collected goods and distributed food, blankets and clothing to the families of the accused. Zainab also organised meals for the accused during trial sessions. In December 1963, Zainab organised a women’s march to the Union Buildings to protest against group areas relocations and the establishment of the Indian National Council. Soon after this, Zainab was banned for five years. After her banning expired, Zainab and her husband, Dr Aziz Kazi, who had also been banned, took exit permits and went to live in London. Courtesy: South African History Online Muslim Views