As he would take to the podium, the audience were
almost spellbound in anticipation of the gems of
wisdom that were about to flow. The accurate choice
of words, the captivating charm in his expression and the ability
to weave the flow of advices was an art that few scholars
possessed at the time. This was Moulana Muhammad Hassim
, whose oratory skills stood out amongst Ulama
especially at a time when there was a dearth of those who were
well-spoken in the English language.
The unique ability to bring together various factions of a
community, which could not see eye-to-eye for years on end, is a
legacy that he now leaves behind. This had perhaps been the
aspiration of many people of knowledge and wealth; however it
is credit to his name that few were able to achieve. Concern for
the well-being of every person, going the extra mile to attend to
the welfare of even the commoner and engaging every strata of
society were some of his hallmark achievements.
Moulana Muhammad Hassim was born in
PretoriaWest and schooled in Germiston. The foundation of his
Islamic education was laid at the Waterval Islamic Institute,
commonly known as Mia’s Farm. Thereafter, he moved on to
further his quest for knowledge and enrolled at the prestige
institute in Lucknow, India, called Nadwatul Ulama. During his
stay there, he not only was favoured to benefit from illustrious
teachers like Moulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi ,
rather he always took a keen interest in the welfare of his fellow
colleagues. For a considerable time, he spearheaded the
Students’ Association (Anjuman) and worked hard towards the
enhancement of his companions. Among his peers, he was
famed for his meticulous work ethic, sympathy in addressing
their needs and leadership role in overcoming their challenges.
By 1968 he returned to the shores of South Africa and almost
soon thereafter took up a teaching post at the then Actonville
Muslim Institute. This was the second Muslim organisation in
the town operating alongside the Benoni Muslim Jamaat (BMJ).
During the early 1970’s, Moulana was central to the merging of
these two major organisations by bringing the two groups
together and culminating the process by personally shaping its
For almost ten years, he was a teacher par excellence and the
quality of his efforts as a teacher is evident in the many proficient
students who fondly remember him. Later on, he also served as
the principal of the institute. The chairman of the BMJ, Dr Ismail
Mia, passed away in 1979 and in June 1980, Moulana
Muhammad Hassim was unanimously appointed
as his successor. In order to fully dedicate himself to the needs of
his new appointment, he immediately stepped down from his
post as a teacher at the BMJ and forfeited his monthly salary.
This was the beginning of his service to the organisation which
spanned over the next 25 years thereafter.
During his time in office, the BMJ made great strides and its
sphere of activities expanded tremendously. The Benoni Jami’ah
Masjid was renovated and extended. In addition, the Masjid Nur
complex together with its adjacent 40 classrooms and multipurpose
hall was constructed. The newly built Masjid Bilal was
also set in motion under the guidance of Moulana Muhammad
At the time of his election to the post of the chairman of BMJ, the
asset base of the organisation approximately a quarter million
rand and by the time he resigned three decades later, it had
increased to the value of almost four million. This was acquired
by working through periods of great financial challenges.
Among the key factors that contributed to his achievement was
his eagerness to interact with the professional and lay person
alike. He would lend a keen ear to all and then drive the
processes forward with much wisdom and tact.
Together with his remarkable oratory skills, Moulana
Muhammad Hassim was an avid reader and
always had his finger on the pulse of an array of topics. For him
reading was the secret behind a good command of the language.
His sense of humour and ability to sustain an audience was wellknown.
The classroom and interacting with the young folk always had a
special place in his heart. Even after retirement due to ill health,
he constantly expressed a yearning to get back into the
classroom. This dream of his was fulfilled about a year prior to
his demise. Despite his illness, he insisted in filling the post of a
teacher who was away on Hajj for a few weeks and this made
him beam with joy. Although he was out of teaching for thirty
plus years, his skill as a teacher remained par excellence.
He had earned himself recognised admiration among the
broader fraternity of Ulama and public in general. Moulana
Muhammad Hassim also played an active role in
various affairs of the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa, especially in
the 1980s. For several years, he served as the chief electoral
officer of the organisation in the appointment of its officials and
As a community and family person, he always strove to ensure
that everyone was happy and pleased. He made friends all over
the world, purely as a result of his nature and ability to interact
with humility to both young and old.
The last decade of his life was dotted with ill health and
challenges. In 2003 Moulana was diagnosed with throat cancer
and several other health complications followed thereafter.
These were accepted as the will of Allah with admirable
fortitude and patience and seldom complained of pain or
discomfort. Moulana Muhammad Hassim passed
away on 18 May 2012 and he is survived by his wife, a son and
Ar-Rasheed VOL 15 NO. 2 Ramadân 1433 July 2012