Maulana Ahmad Muhammad Garda (2 September 1919-18 August 2012)
A community leader of distinction
Maulana Ahmad Muhammad Garda passed away on the 1st Shawwal 1433 at 9pm, on the eve of Eid al-Fitr.
Born on the 2 September 1919 in Lachpur, Gujarat, India, Maulana Ahmad Muhammad Garda pursued his Aalim Fadil course at the famous seminary in the region, Jamiah Islamiah Dabhel. Upon qualification he taught in Lachpur for approximately ten years. Maulana Garda’s contemporaries from his student days were Maulana Cassim Sema, who established the Darul Ulum at Newcastle and Maulana Yusuf Bhoola from Roshnee and Maulana Ahmad Hathurani.
Maulana Ahmad Garda came to South Africa in October 1949 to join the Pretoria North Muslim Educational Institute (PNMEI) as a teacher (ustaadh). His services were secured largely through the efforts of Ebrahim Musa Bhana. Essop Moosa (Poppy) expedited most of his paperwork. The Trustees of the PNMEI at the time, who were instrumental in acquiring the services of Maulana Garda included: Ismail Hassen, Sulaiman Dockrat, Mahmood Nagdee, Ahmad Akojee and others. The Bhana’s, who were family to his wife’s grandfather, also offered to pay for his passageway from India. Maulana Ahmad Garda thus landed by ship from Lorenco Marques and after a brief stay at the Seedat’s there, boarded a train for Johannesburg. A delegation which included Ismail Hassein, Yusuf Muhammad Hassain and Sulaiman Dockrat received him and transported him to Pretoria North. Until his residence was built at the madrasah site he boarded at the residence of Ismail Hassan and thereafter at Muhammad Bhoola’s place. Three years after his arrival from India his family joined him. His starting salary for teaching at the madrasah was 15 pounds a month.
Under Maulana Garda, the madrasah in Pretoria North grew from the 36 students he started with, to a role of 60 by 1960 and the numbers reached 120 in later years. Maulana Garda taught with devotion in all the classes and in all the subjects. He was so particular of obtaining results that the examination team who would come from the Waterval Islamic Institute would marvel at his results, saying that Maulana could achieve the results single-handedly what four teachers could not achieve jointly elsewhere. It should be noted that Maulana Garda, by and large taught alone for most of his tenure in Pretoria North. He was only assisted for a few months by Munshi Bux, Munshi Muhammad Shafi Moolla and then by Munshi Ebrahim Dockrat (in the mid 1960’s). In addition to weekday classes, Madrasah ran on a Saturday morning from 8:00am to 11:00 am. At the time Maulana Ahmad Hathurani’s “Pati Patni” was prescribed as a Gujerati reader. The Jamiatul Ulama Transvaal syllabus was adopted at the Institute. Every year, a jalsa and prize giving ceremony would be held.
Maulana Ahmad Garda Sahib not only made his mark as an educationalist, but was also an able religious guide and leader. As the first qualified Alim of the Pretoria North Muslim Educational Institute, he was always well respected for his knowledge for which he was extensively consulted. His speeches were always well prepared and demonstrated his thorough research. He was called upon to speak on important occasions and regularly delivered the Jumah talk at the Jewel Street Masjid and the Mink Street Jamaat Khana. Maulana was very much a community person and would be present as a guiding light for all the Muslim families in the area. From the birth of the child, the tahniq and the aqiqah ceremony to the education, marriage, social problems, sickness and death of a community member, Maulana Garda would be part of the family. He would always be at funerals, visit the sick and would make himself available for community service at any time of the day or night. This devotion to the community and his caring for his congregation endeared him to one and all and he will always be held in high esteem in the memory of those who remember him.
In 1948 two homes were built near the school in Pretoria North. Maulana Garda took up residence in one of these homes and the other was let out for eight pounds and ten shillings a month. In later years some renovations were made to the building.
Since joining the Institute, Maulana Ahmad Garda Sahib kept the nikah register. The nikah register would also serve as a small source of income for the Institute, as parties using the register would normally give a small voluntary donation.
Several of Maulana Garda’s students who studied under his guidance later went on to become huffaz and ulama. The following are some of them:
1. Maulana Muhammad Bhamjee
2. Hafiz Yusuf Ravat
3. Hafiz Musa Kholvadia
4. Maulana Abbas Ali Jeena
Maulana Muhammad Bhamjee, a resident of Marble Hall and Hafiz Yusuf Ravat, a resident of Brits, initially undertook their elementary Islamic education under Maulana Ahmed Garda until 1956. After this, both of them continued their studies at the Waterval Islamic Institute and then proceeded to Madrasah Miftah al-’Ulum in Taraj (India) for the first leg of their higher Islamic education in 1958. When they returned in 1960 as complete huffaz, Maulana Muhammad Bhamjee’s family had already moved away from Pretoria North, but Hafiz Yusuf Ravat’s family was still in the area. He was thus afforded the opportunity of performing the tarawih salat at the Queen Street Masjid in that year.
Hafiz Musa Kholvadia, had also completed his elementary Islamic education in 1956, proceeded to Mia’s Farm until 1959 for higher Islamic education. In 1960, he proceeded to Madrasah Miftah al-’Ulum in Taraj where he completed his hifz. From 1962 to 1965, he completed an Arabic course from Dar al-’Ulum Karachi in Newtown. When he returned to South Africa, he too performed the Tarawih Salat at the Queen Street Masjid alongwith Maulana Ebrahim Mia and Hafiz Muhammad Yusuf Mia in the Ramadan of 1966. The following year, he performed the tarawih in the Asiatic Bazaar alongside Maulana Muhammad Kaka and the local Imam. When the family shifted to Laudium in 1968, he performed the tarawih salat at the Laudium Islamic Circle (LIC) Jama’at Khanah at Handy Garments in 1969, accompanied by Imam Krauli and Hafiz Fullat. When the Jewel Street Jumu’ah Masjid was built in 1970, he too led the Tarawih with Hafiz Fullat and Maulana ‘Abbas ‘Ali Jeena for a few years.
The above three graduates of Islamic Studies were the first local huffaz of the Pretoria region. The community was much overwhelmed by their achievement, and a function was held at the Rabia Dada Memorial Hall in Marabastad to mark the occasion of the first three students of Pretoria to have left South Africa and qualify as religious leaders.
Other students who studied under Maulana Ahmad Garda, include Maulana ‘Abbas ‘Ali Jeena. He would travel by train in mornings from Brits in order to attend the school in Marabastad, and he would attend the PNMEI madrasah in the afternoons. He went on to become an aalim and mufti. When Maulana ‘Abbas ‘Ali Jeena left for Karachi from Cape Town in order to further his studies in 1968, the trip only cost him R113-00!!
There was no Jama‘at Khanah or Masjid at the Pretoria North Institute in which daily salat or Jumu‘ah Salat could be performed. Tarawih salat was only performed for two years in a classroom (Maulana Garda would recite the last ten surats) sometime in the 1950s. People would generally perform their daily Salat in their homes, and for Jumu‘ah on Fridays and tarawih salat in the month of Ramadan, they would attend the Queen Street Masjid in Central Pretoria. ‘id salat too was never performed in Pretoria North.
At this stage, there were only two qualified ‘ulama’ in the entire Pretoria region: Maulana Ahmed Garda and Maulana Isma’il ‘Abd al-Razzaq who took up his Imamate and teaching post at the Queen Street Masjid in 1957. Later on, Maulana Isma’il ‘Abd al-Razzaq left Pretoria in order to pursue higher Islamic studies at the Al-Azhar University, Cairo. Like the suburban Muslims, Muslims from the Asiatic Bazaar too would perform their Jumu‘ah and Tarawih salat in the Queen Street Masjid until 1960.
The only time when Jumu‘ah started being performed in Pretoria North was when all the Muslims had been relocated to Laudium. They used the residence situated at 509 Emily Hobhouse Street as a Jamat Khana. Maulana Ahmad Garda performed the first jumah salaah here in 1971.
The first madrasah in Laudium was established by the Laudium Islamic Circle and classes were held from 1962 to 1970 in the classrooms of the Andrew Anthony State Indian Primary School. This was the first school built in Laudium after the forced displacement of Indians to Laudium in 1958. Maulana Ismail Abdur Razaaq was instrumental in the establishment of this madrasah and the Maulana Goolam Hoosein Abed and Aapa Aisha Joosub were early teachers at the madrasah. Maulana Ahmad Garda was appointed as the first Principal of this madrasah. When the PNMEI established a madrasah in 1970, both Maulana Ahmad Garda and Maulana Goolam Hoosein Abed served as the first teachers. This madrasah was run out of the Jacaranda Primary School and Mr Goolam Ebrahim also helped out for some time in the initial years. The madrasah continued to operate here from January 1970 to December 1989. Maulana Ahmad Garda was a capable administrator. He retired from teaching in February 1987. Mufti Azizul Haq Dockrat took over the principalship until his demise on 15 April 1995. Maulana Farhard Dockrat took over as principal until November 1998. Mufti Abdur Rahman Kholvadia become the next principal. Under the principalship of Maulana Garda Sahib the role had reached over 500 students and there were 26 ustaads.
Maulana Ahmad Garda also served as a Trustee of the Pretoria North Muslim Educational Institute. He was also an active member of the Council of Muslim Theologians (Jamiatul Ulama South Africa)
Maulana Ahmad Garda taught generations of students. The following eight were the first Class Seven group at the madrasah in 1970:
Abdus Salaam Garda
Abdus Samad Kholvadia
Muhammad A Dockrat
On his retirement, Maulana Garda wrote the following words about his students:
“I am glad that so many pupils have passed through my hands. Fathers, mothers and children. Some of them have become very successful in various fields of life, and some have even become ustaadhs, hafez and aalims-and these aalims are now teaching with me. “The lamp of learning must keep on burning”.
Maulana Ahmad Garda Sahib always had a great deal of time for his friends and showed them honour and respect. Omarbhai Jalapor, Muhammad S Dockrat, Hassanbhai Suliman Muhammad, Muhammadbhai Kholvadia, Yusuf Hassan (Uncle Joe), Ahmadbhai Dockrat (ParkTown), Maulana Ahmad Hathurani and others were his close associates.
In all this while Maulana Ahmad Garda provided sound leadership to the community he loved and served. He served a single institute with unflinching dedication for more than four decades.
His life is one of compassion, piety and dignity. He lived a very disciplined personal life. He was known for his punctuality; he would be careful with his diet and exercised regularly and vigorously into his old age. He always had an attachment with his books, was studious and could respond to religious queries very ably. Maulana Garda’s spent his life in selfless dedication and commitment.
Maulana once wrote: “Now that I am retiring there should be no regrets. We should submit ourselves to the will of Allah. It is part of the natural order of things. Our beginnings lead to endings-and our endings are mere beginnings. In Islam there is no retirement. Work carries on ceaselessly. Life leads to Death, but that is no end….it is merely the new beginning. Thus we are to be full of hope and promise. And we do not pray for only small material benefits in old age. The pray is constantly for Life, Death and the Hereafter.”
Maulana Ahmad Muhammad Garda was 93 years old at the time of his demise. His janazah salaah was led by Maulana Abbas Ali Jeena immediately after the Eid Salah at the Eid Ghah held at the Darus Salam Centre. Thousands attended the salaah.
Maulana Ahmad Muhammad Garda is survived by his brother Maulana Yusuf Garda who resides in Lachpor, India and his sister Rabia Patel (Birmingham, UK) his daughters; Tahera, Halima and Hajira and sons; Abdussalam and Abdurrahman. Maulana Ahmad Muhammad Garda’s influence and legacy will live forever.
May Allah Ta’ala reward him in abundance and May Allah Ta’ala grant him Jannatul Firdaws. Aameen.