Compiled by Channel Islam (Cii Radio)
Introduction: It has recently been announced that the tenure of Moulana Ihsaan Hendricks, as the President of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) will in 2016 come to an end. Hendricks has announced that he is not stepping down, but instead respecting the constitutional ruling of the MJC that only allows individuals to serve as president for no longer than two consecutive terms.
Moulana Hendricks has served as president for 10 years (2 terms) and 7 years as deputy prior to that.
To offer our readers a better insight into the life story and vision of this respected scholar, Cii Radio has compiled the following narrative, based on a biographical interview that Moulana conducted with Cii Radio in 2010. (The narration is in the first person, drawn from Moulana’s exact words, with some adaptations for brevity)
I have an obligation to start my story with that of my elderly father and elderly mother. The reason for starting with both my parents is that all of us know the status of our parents according to the Glorious Quran.
I am not saying that my parent’s story is unique, but for me, they are absolutely unique.
My father embraced Islam at the age of 12. Two families dwelt in the Bo-Kaap region of Cape Town. One was the Hendricks family and the other the Suker family. From the Hendricks family, were 5 children – 2 brothers and 3 sisters. My grandmother happened to be a worker at 5 Roses Tea.
The Suker family was a Muslim family. Through the good example of the Suker family, my father embraced Islam at the age of 12.
My mother happened to be the only child of her parents. My grandfather from my mother’s side happened to be the founder of the Protestant Church in Worcester, and is still celebrated there until today.
When my father proposed to my mother, it was very difficult – but eventually my maternal grandmother consented to the requirement that my mother become a Muslim.
In 1964, I was born to the parents, Mohammed Salih and Ruwayda Hendricks, in the Boland town of Worcester, where I did my early schooling.
Growing up, from the political angle conditions were difficult, from an economic angle it was also challenging, and from the social perspective it was even harder. I have no option but to take a great pride in my father and mother who remained strong Muslims during these years. My father made sure that from a very early age, Madressah education was a very important part of our educational programme. the identity of Islam remained a very strong identity in our homes.
One of the aspects about my father that I noticed growing up was that he was a very disciplined reader – he was a tailor who barely completed Standard 5 in school, but he was an ardent reader particularly of Islamic materials. So from a very early age, I saw my father reading very impressive Islamic books, and over the years I just saw those books accumulating on his desk and tailor machine.
My father had a system: We needed to be in the Masjid, especially for Salatul Maghrib and Isha, keeping in mind that for the rest of the day, we were in school and madressah etc. The discipline of going to the Masjid as young people was highly emphasized upon us.
Thirst for knowledge
In my pursuit of Islamic knowledge, the role of one of my early Madressah teachers, Sheikh Mohammad Shah Khan needs to be acknowledged. He still resides in Worcester and has the honour of being known as the Muallim of almost 90% of the children of the area.
He hails from a family that is very known for its Islamic contribution to the city of Worcester. His brother, Sheikh Ikramudeen Khan also did great service for Deen up in areas such as Rustenburg, Bosmont and Newclare for a number of years before migrating to Canada and passing away there.
Through the teachings of Sheikh Mohammad Shah and the influence of Sheikh Ikramudeen, I found lots of inspiration. Eventually in late 1979 I decided to further pursue my studies, and took my journey from Worcester to Newcastle.
This is where I came in contact and into the hands of our great Sheikh and teacher, the late Moulana Qaasim Sema RA.
I spent a complete 3 years in Newcastle. Besides the great Moulana Sema, the time I was in Newcastle coincided with the return of Mufti AK Hoosen from Pakistan. He was one of my great teachers and I have very fond memories of him. There was also Moulana Sulayman Goga, the two famous Pakistani teachers – Moulana Manssorul Haq and Moulana Mumtazul Haq, and so many others.
After 3 years, I decided to go on further overseas, and I was greatly inspired by the life story of Sheikh Abul Hasan Ali an Nadwi who happened to be the rector of Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama in Lucknow, India.
Thus, in 1983 I left South Africa and went to further my studies in the famous city of Lucknow in India.
If I have to make a special mention of a colleague since my study days in Newcastle and in India, I have no other choice but to mention Moulana Ahmed Mohammed of the Ennerdale Islamic Society and the Al Quds Foundation. Myself and Moulana have maintained a relationship from more than 3 decades.
Of course, there are many other colleagues that we still continue to maintain friendships with, but the case with Moulana Ahmed is unique. In fact, in recent years, our families have bonded very closely – my children have come to know his children, in some instances they are studying together. My parents came to develop a strong relationship with him and his family – so truly, this type of brotherhood we have built up during the days where we studied together, is the bond that continues to benefit our children, others in the community, our friends, our families and the circle is expanding.
I recall the great Dua and advice we always received from the late Moulana Qaasim Sema RA who always used to say: You can study as much as you want, but you must continuously make Dua that Allah SWT takes Khidmah from you for the sake of Deen
So, all the time as an individual I was conscious of the fact that we have to be in the Khidmah of this Deen. when I came back in 1987, my community received me, and under the tutorship of the great Sheikh of Worcester, Sheikh Mohammed Laatoe, for a period of two years until the Sheikh guided me through and requested me to take a position in one of the neighboring Boland towns called Wellington.
This was the first time I held the position of Imam, and Alhmadulillah I served the community for a period of approximately 5 years, leading upto the early 90′s.
In 1993, I left South Africa to Malaysia and joined the International Islamic University for post graduate studies in Malaysia.
Concern for Palestine
I took great inspiration in the writings and activism in the writings and activism of the late Sheikh abul Hasan Ali an Nadwi RA. There is a small booklet that this great scholar wrote in the early 80′s based on the massacre of Sabra and Shatila. The booklet is still with me. It is known as al Ma’saat al Filistiniyah – The Brutal Massacre of the Palestinian People.
In fact if I still read this booklet of Sheikh abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, it is as if it was written a few hours ago.
Thus, inspired by the works of Sheikh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, when we returned to South Africa, we always kept our eyes very closely on the Palestinian struggle.
I also had the honour that some of my colleagues and friends from student days in India became leaders and prominent activists of the Palestinian struggle and are now even professors at the Islamic University of Gaza.
When invitations arrived at the MJC for international conferences, the late Sheikh Nazeem RA never attended many of these conferences himself, but instead would give preference to other members of the MJC to attend. And he would also say that I wish many of the organisers of these conferences in the Middle East can actually take the monies of these conferences and help the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom. He also used to always express the hope that the MJC one day set up a dedicated Palestine desk.
Alhamdulillah, it was not too long after the demise of Sheikh Nazeem RA that we journeyed for a very special journey to Palestine and for the first time we attended this huge Mahrajaan – Al Aqsa fi Khatar(Al Aqsa in danger) under the leadership of Sheikh Raed Salah.
It was from that time that we decided to intensify our activism. Sheikh Raed left us with a very emotional message that indeed Masjidul Aqsa is in danger, the Palestinian people are in danger, the Zionists are occupying more land, they are scarring the Palestinian Islamic identity of the city of Al Quds, and the world is silent.
I went to Palestine for the first time in 1988, after my Hajj journey, and at that stage got a good idea of the plight of the Palestinians – this was at the onset of the first Intifada.
It was then, when we came back to South Africa and intensified all our activities around the Palestinian struggle, Alhamdulillah.
We have to prioritise: More of our planning and resources has to go around our youth. In the words of Sheikh Kamal Khateeb: We should find ourselves in the business of Bina ur Rijaal( building of men) i.e. preparing men and women as leaders for tomorrow.
I served as an Imam for a brief period in Potchefstroom, and it was during this time that I was inspired by the friendship of Abdus Samad Gabru, his wife and children, as well as the community, to draw up something for the benefit of the youth. And with the coming of the millennium, we distributed some 5000 copies of my booklet for the youth: ‘Muslim Youth in the New Millennium’. And I conducted many empowerment sessions for Muslim youth around the time
30, 40 or 50 years from now, the community must be able to taste the fruits of many of the efforts on the youth, as we today are the fruits of many of the unselfish dedicated efforts of our predecessors, Alhamdulliah
Going forward, we have to share the message of Islam with the wider South African population, and particularly intensify our campaign amongst the indigenous people of this country. Islam will be in good hands, Insha Allah. The Islamic developments that we have seen in the last 15-20 years, the establishment of Islamic institutions and centres, the emergence of great scholars and leadership among both males and females, is a great basis for this community to continue to thrive for the future Insha Allah.