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A look back at a year we will never forget

A look back at a year we will never forget

The 23rd of March 2020, was a day many of us will never forget. That evening, my father and brothers dropped me off at the airport, and before I got out of the car, they kept telling me to stay, as the president was about to make the announcement for a lockdown and I will probably be stuck alone in Joburg, for who knows how long. While in the plane, I remember some of the other passengers around me watching the president start his speech just before we took off. In a matter of minutes we went from freedom and the anticipation of a good year filled with great expectations to worry, anxiety, stress and fear. News reports came in almost every hour of new coronavirus cases, projections and estimates of the lockdown’s economic effect; and let’s not even start on the conspiracy theories and assumptions of where the virus came from or who created it to destroy the world.

We’ll never really know for sure in this life, Allahu A’lam. What we do know is that thus far South Africa has had more that 780 000 cases, of which Alhumdulillah, 730 000+ have recovered. We’ve lost more than 21 400 loved ones to this virus; mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, husbands, wives, and friends. With the lockdown, employees were being sent home, salaries were cut, businesses were closed and even at the SBC offices, there was fear and concern of the effect the lockdown could have on the operation of our projects. The fete was the first hard knock for us. For the first time in 19 years there was not going to be a SBC Fete, not in Johannesburg nor in Durban. Even the Gala dinners were cancelled. These were major events held each year to raise funds for the operation of our projects like the children’s home and the grant in aid project which sees to the basic needs of people in our community, who are in many cases completely overlooked and left helpless. Unlike most businesses, and regardless of the financial setbacks, we needed to continue going better yet, double our efforts. We had no choice, as lives depended on it. And as Sheikh described it, the Sultan Bahu Centre is like a running horse and wherever it stops, a new project will start. So this horse needed to keep moving. Unlike most businesses, and regardless of the financial setbacks, we needed to continue going better yet, double our efforts. We had no choice, as lives depended on it. And as Sheikh described it, the Sultan Bahu Centre is like a running horse and wherever it stops, a new project will start. So this horse needed to keep moving.

SBC continued with their outreach initiatives; whether it was running weekly meal drives in the surrounding areas of Mayfair during the first few months of the lockdown, or distributing fitra parcels during the month of Ramadaan, in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, and Pretoria. Every morsel of food that filled the tummy of a hungry child or elderly mother or father was a blessing not only for the Sultan Bahu Centre, but more importantly for our donors, sponsors, and duah givers who made it possible for us to sustain our work.

In the 76th chapter of the Holy Quran (Surah Insaan) Allah says:Indeed, the virtuous will have a drink ˹of pure wine˺—flavoured with camphor—˹from˺ a spring where Allah’s servants will drink, flowing at their will.They ˹are those who˺ fulfil ˹their˺ vows and fear a Day of sweeping horror,and give food to the poor, the orphan, and the captive,˹saying to themselves,˺ “We feed you only for the sake of Allah, seeking neither reward nor thanks from you.We fear from our Lord a horribly distressful Day.”So Allah will deliver them from the horror of that Day, and grant them radiance and joy,There they will be reclining on ˹canopied˺ couches, never seeing scorching heat or bitter cold.

May Allah make us of these special people, Ameen.

Although the dialysis programme has been in operation for more than 15yrs, it was our Sheikh’s vision for the Sultan Bahu Centre to run it’s own clinic. The patients at the clinic rely on their treatments, which can cost around R20 000 a month, to keep them alive. Most, if not all of the patients at the Sabera’s Dialysis Clinic cannot afford this treatment. For example, we have Charity, who is from Nigeria and has been suffering with this illness for a number of years now, she has 3 children, 11, 8 and 6. Apart from the everyday challenges that you and I all have, her illness comes with its own set of challenges as well. Forget about paying medical bills; just the cost of travelling to and from treatments is a challenge. Added to this is the pressure her condition puts on the family and as well as constantly feeling tired as a result of the treatments. But what choice does she have? She didn’t ask for this illness, but these treatments are what keeps her alive, and what allows her to continue being a mother to her children.

We also have a moulana who taught Hifz for many years prior to being diagnosed with kidney failure. After the school he was teaching at found out about his condition, they let him go. He has been receiving his treatment thrice a week now for the last 3 years. Today he still teaches the memorization of the holy quran from his home. Then there are the Rehab centres, where after the first drop in lockdown levels, the staff immediately returned to work, adopting all safety measures to protect themselves, but still putting themselves and their families at risk to save the lives of those desperately seeking help from the darkness and pain caused by drug abuse. Take Faaiq’s story for example. He was gripped by addiction after experimenting with substances as a teenager, and struggled with it from the age of 17 to roughly 35, with brief breaks in between of no more than a few months. He lost his marriage, his home, his job, and himself along the way.

Our cataract project is one of the projects that unfortunately took a hard knock as a result of the health and medical risk to elderly patients due to Covid 19. Though we did not screen any new patients since the lockdown, we did however attend to cataract removals for the second eyes of our current patients. But inShaAllah as the new year approaches, we hope to see the project fully operational again, where we will be back to completing hundred more operations and bringing sight back to as many people as we possibly can. Did you know that cataracts are the cause of more than 50% of the world’s blindness? A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to visit an lovely elderly couple who lived in a pension village, and who were so welcoming and kind to me. They had each suffered with cataracts for 4 to 5 years before being assisted by SBC. When executing simple everyday functions became very difficult to do, it was a blessing to hear the wife say that after the Sultan Bahu Centre assisted her with her operation, she can now read her Quran again.

It’s your donations and your support that make little miracles like this possible; that change these individuals’ lives, and by extension the lives of those around them. Like the grant in aid programme that financially supports the needs of many struggling homes in secret every single month, that keeps a roof over someone’s head, and food on the table; or the warm blanket wrapped around the poor man on the street to help him survive the bitter cold winter nights. These are not minor contributions; these are efforts that affect and change the lives of souls in whose heart’s Allah resides. As Sheikh says, Allah lives in the broken heart.

3 months ago we started the school lunch project, called It’s A Wrap. We now send out 500 sandwiches everyday to schools in and around Mayfair. Can you imagine how appreciative that child must be who leaves home every morning with nothing to eat, and who may not have eaten the night before? He or she hopes to see that sandwich tray come into their classroom, with a sandwich that you provided for them through the centre, to fill their bellies and ease their pain of hunger,? Can you imagine the effect of that child’s prayer on you?

This year has neared its end, and through all the worry, pain, loss, fear and hardships, Sultan Bahu Centre is truly grateful for having been able to continue doing the work we could, despite all the challenges we faced. Lessons have been learnt, and changes will be made where necessary to improve our processes, such as increasing funding to expand our reach, and improving our quality of service to those in need in our country. In the new year, we envision expanding on the Learning Centre, another project started in February this year. Last week we celebrated the graduation of 8 dressmaking students who can now use that skill to generate an income. Next year, we intend to introduce new courses such as computer literacy classes, beauty therapy and a money management course. The Free Health Clinic is scheduled to open again early next year, offering basic testing and health advice to the general public. Our x-ray clinic has been in operation for almost a year now. While the lockdown made it rather challenging to establish ourselves in the market and keep up with the running costs of operating the unit, in the last two month our efforts have paid off.

Our x-ray clinic makes x-ray services accessible and affordable to the less fortunate. We also intend to expand on the school lunch project, by increasing the number of schools we serve and at least doubling the number of sandwiches we deliver everyday. As we improve on the performance of the Mayfair Drug Rehabilitation Centre, we will also look into expanding and opening centres in Pretoria and elsewhere in the Gauteng Province. There is also the intention to create a youth centre, dedicated to motivating and guiding our youth through workshops and guidance counselling, and cultivating a lifestyle of growth, success and service to those in need with good morals and love as its core principles.

However, we still need to keep in mind that the economic effects of the lockdown are far from over and we acknowledge the many challenges being faced by our donors, the community and the country at large. It’s estimated that we’ve already lost between 1.4 million and 1.6 million jobs in the formal sector, and another one million lost in the informal sector, and it may take us until 2024 to level out again. So we understand that many of us sitting here today or listening to this, may be struggling and so I’ll end off with the following story.

There is an interesting story about Mike Tyson, the once, world heavyweight boxing Champion. Mike Tyson was also called Iron Mike. Through his career he held a record of 50 wins and only 6 losses. And he was known for knocking out his opponents in the first 3 rounds. James Buster Douglas was also a heavyweight boxer, an average boxer with a decent record, and he was scheduled to fight Mike Tyson on 11 February 1990. At the time, Mike had won 37 matches before this fight. And keep in mind Mike had knocked out 22 of his 56 opponents in the first round of a twelve round fight, so if Mike knocked you down on the canvas, you were not getting up from that! Therefore it was safe to say that Buster Douglas was not seen as any kind of threat to Mike at all. Buster Douglas’s mother worked at a hair salon, and she kept telling the people that came in, that her son was not only fighting Mike Tyson but that he would beat him! When he heard this, he asked his mother to please stop because it might just provoke Mike’s anger, making his chances even worse at an already extremely difficult fight.

The night of the fight in Tokyo finally arrived. In the eighth round, Mike landed one of his power punches and sent Buster to the ground, and the crowd thought he was done for. As the count reached 8, Douglas, against all expectations, got back onto his feet and he was saved by the bell. In the 9th round Buster came back with ferocity and energy unlike ever seen before, and in the 10th round, he sent Mike Tyson to the ground for the first time in his entire career, and knocked out the world heavyweight champion and won the fight. Mike’s 5 other losses came soon after this fight, because his opponents realized that all they needed to do was out last him in the ring, to patiently ride out the storm in the first few rounds and then strike back when they were ready and he was weak.The question is how did Douglas do this??

You see a few weeks before the fight his mother got sick, she suffered a stroke, dying at the age of 46. And Douglas was very close to his mother. He said “She had been sick for some time, but it just got worse and worse. When she came over to my house about a week before I left to talk to me and see how I was mentally, she was really bad. She was telling her friends before she passed that I was gonna win. I got a call that she was going to the hospital. When I got over there, she had already passed. There were times when I was training, that I’d break down. After the workout, I would go into the locker room and my trainer would come in finding me bawling my eyes out.” What kept him going.. What kept him on his feet and pushed him beyond his limits was love.. the love he had for his mother.

You may be asking what does this have to do with the Sultan Bahu Centre and its projects. How often does Sheikh not remind us of how important love is, how often does he not remind us that love is the reason we were created, that love is what binds us to everyone and everything in this universe. our words, thoughts, giving and serving should be with love? Ibn Arabî (pubh) said: “My heart has become capable of every form: It is a pasture for gazelles, a monastery for monks, For the idols, sacred ground, and the pilgrim’s Ka’ba, And the tablets of the Torah, And the scrolls of the Koran. My creed and religion is Love; Wherever its caravan turns, That is my belief, My faith.”

So I end with this duah

“Oh Allah we seek from Thee Thy Love, and the love of those who love Thee, and cover us and adorn us with deeds which lead us to Thy Love.”

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