Articles

Dec 2020

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.”

Nov 2020

Living through the loss of loved ones

Story of a cataract patient: Zeenat

We Begin in the name of Allah, Most Glorious, Most Kind. All Praise is due to Him (Subhanahu TaAllah). We send blessings upon His (Subhanahu TaAllah’s) most Beloved Nabi Muhammad Salalahu Alaihi WaSalam.

 

Standing in the office of a business associate and finding yourself drifting into a conversation about the recent loss of our Beloved Wife, I received a response that was something truly unexpected. Eloquently and without hesitation he said, ” I am saddened for your loss, however you are not the first to lose a loved one to CANCER and you will not be the last;  now is the time to determine the true grit of your character”.

 

By contrast, the first words of the oncologist shortly after Her passing provided a different form of comfort, ” Each one of us has an allotted time, it was Her Time”, and before we had a chance to exhale we were blessed to receive the words of a beautiful mentor, ” Don’t worry son. We are all here with You”.

 

I remember holding Her Hand as her last breath slipped away and thinking, ” I always hear of someone losing a loved one but today I am that person. What about our children? How do I tell them and what do I say”

 

The morning that followed saw me carrying out one of the most difficult responsibilities I think any parent has to bear; telling your children that their mom is no longer with us. 

 

To all those who have loved and lost; this story is part of our madness and by sharing it we pray that it brings hope to those darker days. There is light, love and beauty in this story. Be patient with yourself as this dance of madness and love unfolds.

 

” I miss Her my Lord. Oh My Creator, my heart aches for her, my very being misses Her presence. I miss her comforting words, her gentle smile and caring nature”. Is this what it feels like to have your heart broken? At times it felt like my heart was literally breaking; not only for me but also for the 3 precious children who I now had to raise alone without their mother. “Oh my Lord, what is this madness?” I would ask time and time and then one day, in the midst of a river of tears, sitting on my prayer mat, the first wave of answers came.

 

” Am I not You Lord?”

“Yes, You Are”

“Did your soul not Testify to that?”

“Yes, it Did”

“Whom is My Beloved?”

“Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)”

“Whom is He Created For?”

“For Mankind and as a Mercy Unto Creation”

“Do You not see, I sent My Beloved  to You, To Guide You, To be a Role Model”

“Do You not see, You were in My Presence and Yet I sent You into this temporary world”

“Do You not see, You miss Your Beloved and I miss You, to Return”

“So my servant, take your missing and yearning and Substitute all that pain, emptiness and heartache for me”

“I am teaching You, I am showing you by example that the pain you feel and yearning to return is for Me,  Your Creator”

“Come my servant, I miss You, I long for you, this is the way”

 

It was that day that the weight of the task ahead felt lighter and her passing began to show its purpose. Whether this conversation was merely the conjuring of a madman or the words of a loving Creator speaking to a broken heart, I will never know. All I knew was that it was what my heart needed to begin…

 

To begin the process of coming to the realization that all of this is His Will and any moment of growth and learning are His Graces and kind loving action towards us.

 

The reason I say ‘begin’ is because time and time again we hear, ‘be patient, make Sabr’. Instead, we have learnt we cannot suddenly be patient or make Sabr. It is not something that we can conjure; it is a daily, moment to moment task that is developed and painfully learnt. Sabr is the combination of exhausting days, unrested nights, streaming tears and daily heartbreak that molds those who have lost. It molds one into understanding and slowly accepting that everything has a time and a place, and that the measurement of time is by our Creators Watch and not ours. It is a lesson that slowly causes us to realize that we can only take one day at a time and even when we want to give up, we can not. We have to find the inner grit to continue because we have to honor our Creator and the gift of still being alive; being alive until our purpose here is complete.

 

So we Begin. We realize and then slowly understand that we are to humbly accept. We acknowledge that we cannot do everything alone, so we ask for help.  We have to humble ourselves and in the process find out how inadequate we are and how unequipped we are. We pause and note that everyone also has their own lives and while their intentions are noble, not everyone has the capacity to be leaned on or can help.

 

We learn to value the input and help our partner gave, although a lesson too late, we show others of how much a loving spouse is to be valued. We learn to take a more active interest in our children’s well being, their point of view, their aspirations and witness how they blossom into their own personalities.

 

We witness the beauty of being present, putting our cellphone down when talking to someone or making time to reach out to a heart in need.

 

We find beauty in small, random acts of kindness; selfless acts of consideration.

 

We start the days with the pact with ourselves, “Today we rise to serve our Creator by serving His Creation” 

 

All the while we fail; everyday we fail at something, but we learn to forgive ourselves and make a pact to try it again tomorrow, if not the next day.

 

 

So, while these lessons continue on an ongoing basis, we say to all that  have loved and lost, “Be Brave, show Courage. Try and if you fail, do not fall into dismay but instead mold your true character into a being of light for all those that enter your space.”

More than 40% of the world’s blindness is caused by cataracts, which is avoidable through a 30 minute surgery that can immediately restore one’s vision, but without access to the resources or funds to do so, many people unfortunately succumb to its long term effects and lose their sight all together. On the 14th of February 2011, the Sultan Bahu Centre launched the Cataract Project, whereby 63 cataract operations were completed in its initial year, in commemoration of the 63 years of the life of the prophet of Islam, Muhammad (SAW). Since then more than 2000 operations have been completed in service of those who cannot afford it, not only in South Africa but also in Zimbabwe, Somalia and Ethiopia. Below is the story of one of those patients.

My name is Zeenat, I am 42 years old and I’m a housewife. In December 2013,  I went for an operation and during the recovery period I had found that my eyes had gone weaker and blurry; I could not see well. Initially I thought perhaps it’s just part of the recovery process from the operation, and with time it will get better. Three months went by, six months went by and it got worse. Prior to the operation, I already had issues with my eyesight and used to wear contact lenses, so I thought the cause was my lenses, so I booked an appointment at the optician. I was shocked to hear the optician tell me. “You are building up cataracts in both your eyes.” At first I thought that he had made a mistake. At the relatively young age of 41, it seemed unlikely for me to get cataracts, as it usually only affects older people; or at least that’s what I thought, until the optician explained that cataracts can build up at any age. Even newborn babies can get it. He gave me a letter to go to any hospital and see where I could get an operation to have the cataracts removed.  Unfortunately, cataract operations are expensive for those of us who do not have medical aid; it really makes life difficult. 

I went to a few government hospitals but as expected the process was painstakingly slow and frustrating; my appointment just to open a file before seeing a doctor was months away. Fortunately, I spoke to some family members and friends who told me to contact the Sultan Bahu Centre as they have a cataract removal project. I then contacted their office and spoke to Tasneem and Muniera who made the necessary arrangements to put me on their list. A few months later they hosted the cataract camp and I was sent to see Dr. Bawa, who set my first operation date for November 2019 for my left eye because it was the weaker of the two. I  had my second operation for the right eye in June 2020.  

 

After the first operation, I could see clearly out of one eye but the other was still so blurry. Cataracts really disturbs your vision in so many ways. The finer things are difficult to see;  reading on the phone or on the PC, you can’t tell the difference between a 3 or a 8, or a 5 and an 8, and you end up making such silly mistakes, but it’s not you that’s making mistakes, it’s your vision. After my operation and gaining back my sight, I realized just how important one’s eyes really are.

Oct 2020

What is Heritage and does it still matter?

Every year on the 24 of September South Africans celebrate Heritage Day. But what importance does it carry, if any?

In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, former President Nelson Mandela stated: “When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation”.

South Africa is a vastly diverse nation with so many different cultural groups, including the various traditional african cultures, the indian cultures with its own diversity, and the ‘coloured’ community with its own traditions, to name a few. These cultural groups are intertwined with the larger religious dominations like Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam that bind the smaller groups together, each bringing its own cultural traditions. 

The dictionary tells us that heritage means, “something that is handed down from the past, as a tradition: a national heritage of honor, pride, and courage. Something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth; an inherited lot or portion.” When I read this, I was reminded of the elderly  uncles and aunts who were always so strict about following cultural traditions and who always spoke so highly of their background and the history of their culture, because it shaped their identity. But when I think about my generation and those after me, I see and feel so little of that cultural honour… Have we lost that identity or has culture changed?

In my humble opinion, I believe it’s a bit of both, but I’m two-minded about whether or it’s a good thing or not. On the one hand, having a clearly-defined identity, shaped by deep rooted cultural traditions, gives a firm, grounded view of who we are both as individuals and as a community. We made you in peoples and tribes so that you may know one another, says the Quran. 

What about the new cultural age that we find ourselves in? Where the internet gives instant access to information and exposure to the diversity of the world right at our fingertips. Where cultures mix into one pot of soup and cultural trends can change in a matter of days. One can say that this new age allows us to choose what we feel fits best for us and discard what doesn’t make sense, or it allows us to question and mold our own identity. There are benefits in this flexibility, but it can also be said that it removes a sense of pride or honour in where one comes from. It makes answering the question, who am I, that much more difficult to answer. 

Cultural heritage does not define who we are, but it helps shape our understanding of how we came to be and provides a sense of belonging to something much greater than just the self. It tells me that I am connected to people, and when we see ourselves through that light, we feel a sense of duty to our community; to care for ‘us’ as a whole, and not just ‘me’ as an individual; and to hold onto family bonds as a unit. At the very same time it allows us to get to know others by their cultural identity and respect and love them for it. 

 

But I leave the decision up to you. How much do you know about where you come from? How do you define who you are? What is your heritage..?

The History and Heritage of the Sultan Bahu Centre

The word heritage denotes the history, traditions and qualities that a country or society has had for many years and is considered an important part of its character; as citizens of a country we look back to where we come from and who we belong to. In a multifaceted and multi-cultural country like South Africa, each of one us,  irrespective of race, colour or creed, all belong to that heritage, The ethos and the ground on which it functions is love and to be able to do good. As it is a divine command, those who believe and do good; their reward is with their Lord. Good is everything from a smile to a handshake; from a word of love to helping those that need to be uplifted; anything good that brings a positive difference to someone’s life. The real ethos is to be able to heal the hearts of others, because God lives in the broken heart. At Sultan Bahu our driving force is the motto to  ‘Heal a Heart’. The Sultan Bahu Centre began its life of service many years ago, with a vision of love; a vision to serve. What started out as an aim to feed the needy by serving marginalized communities in our surrounding areas, such as Poortjie, Ennerdale, Noordgesig and Eldorado Park, has since grown into a large NGO with its headquarters based in Johannesburg while operating many branches countrywide.

The heritage of our country is built on resilience, courage, giving, helping and on an ethos of love: to be able to love, to give and to serve. The fundamental function of the Sultan Bahu Centre is to heal the heart; to heal the heart of those who are in need, whether spiritual or material. It is to be able to help those who are in difficulty, to give love to those who seek love, to give joy to those who seek joy, to give happiness to those who seek happiness. For healing the heart of a human being is to gain divine pleasure and to gain presence to the Divine itself. To this effect, the Sultan Bahu Centre has for many years implemented and continues to be responsible for many groundbreaking initiatives, in order to exemplify this motto of healing a heart; from establishing feeding schemes to madressahs in lower socio-economic areas. By the Grace of Allah, our first madressah which was established almost 25 years ago in Ennerdale,  still exists today, fulfilling the role it was meant to carry out. At its initial stages of execution, many challenges were faced, but once you trust in the Divine and you give your all to Him, then He makes it easy and opens up all the doors for you. The founding of the Ennerdale Madressah eventually led to the establishment of madressahs in other areas. Today SBC has madressahs in Mayfair, and an Islamic school in Cape Town, where we are responsible for over 1000 children. This is where the joy and pleasure lies; knowing and being responsible for making a difference in somebody else’s life. This was what the Prophet (SAW) did whenever he had an opportunity; to make a difference in somebody else’s life, to give, to uplift and to help. This is the ethos and teaching we have to follow of the beloved Rasullullah Alayka Wa Salaam.  This is the heritage we have inherited from him, where to save one life is to save the whole of humanity and to take one life is to destroy the whole of humanity. His path and his sunnah is the heritage of the Sultan Bahu Centre. 

The many projects the Sultan Bahu Centre has embarked upon both in the past and present was to establish principles and values of honesty, integrity, professional ethics, social justice and equality, and a commitment to the education of children by starting the bursary programme. From the many projects we have established, the first was the Sabera’s Children’s Home, which was a vision of my late wife. Another project which has grown fruitfully is the Sultan Bahu Drug Rehabilitation Centres, where our mission is to provide comprehensive drug abuse treatment, preserve family values, improve communities and to rebuild lives: the lives of those living in darkness. We then opened the doors of our dialysis clinic, with the intention of assisting those who need dialysis treatment. 

We also have a food hamper distribution program that runs across the country; distributing necessities to households of the elderly, the needy and those in difficulty. The Sultan Bahu Centre is like a running horse: wherever it stops, a new project develops. At one of these stops, in celebration of the birth of the Prophet of light(SAW), it was decided to help give light to those who need light; those suffering with cataracts. In the year of the inception of the cataract project, we completed 63 cataract operations in honour of each year of the life of the Prophet (SAW). Today it is a well-established project with hundreds of people in our communities in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg who have had cataracts removed. 

In addition, there was the construction of the Sultan Bahu Masjid which was previously an unused church. After being purchased by the centre, the church was converted into a mosque over a period of 5 years, made possible through donations from the general public, revenues received by hosting events and lectures throughout the year. It became a centre of community life. An extension  to the masjid is the hifz school which houses roughly 20 students who are all memorizing the Quran. Recently we started a learning centre to equip struggling women with the skills to become dressmakers; however, this was unfortunately brought to a halt by the lockdown, but will reopen soon.  In the pipelines is a computer centre which is a vision for the future. 

All these projects serves one need:  to heal a heart and to be able to do something good in somebody else’s life, to make a difference so that we are able to give love, to give joy, able to cover an individual with the light of love, with a light of care and a light of laughter. May Allah Subhanallahu Ta’alla in His Care and His Love, Cover all of us in His light; all of those who are part of this programme at the Sultan Bahu Centre. Allah bless them and bless their families, bless their homes with light and may this work of healing a heart be a vision for those who work here and their families and their children for many years to come. And may we be able to restore and give happiness to those who are in need, to give joy to those in need, to give love to those in need. In the end we pray a prayer of love; of the Prophet of love (SAW) when he prayed: Oh Allah I seek from Thee Thy love and the love of those who love Thee, and adorn us with deeds which lead us to thy love. And seeing that we are celebrating the teaching (and heritage) of the Prophet of light, who taught us to believe and do good, we end this with a prayer of light of the Prophet of light (SAW), who prayed. Oh Allah let there be light above us, let there be light below us, let there be light in front of us, let there be light behind us. Ya Allah let there be light on the right of us, let there be light on the left of us, let there be light in our seeing, let there be light in our hearing, let there be light in our speech, let there be light in our holding, let there be light in our walking, let there be light outwardly, let there be light inwardly, Oh Allah make us a light..

Sept 2020

My Quivering Hands

I awoke to the sound of  birds chirping and the air filled with the freshness of a Spring morning.
“You are  going to be on leave from today and you can stay in bed till late from tomorrow,” echoed the words with some motivation behind them.
So unfolded the morning that would be etched into my memory forever.
On the morning of September 19th, 2019, I drove Ebrahim to his shop, waited a few minutes until he unlocked his gates and opened his business and wished him a wonderful day.

At 8am, I received a call “Ebrahim has been shot “.My heart sank and my mind entered into a sudden numbness. 3pm, 20 September 2019, he had passed on and I was left to contend with individuals showering me with their opinions of where I should be and how my life would play out or should play out. Being abruptly forced out of my comfort zone, how does a newly widowed woman make her own decisions? If she does, was she going to be opening herself up to scrutiny, criticism and all the negativity the world around her could offer? That realisation shattered my very existence, and sank deep into my gut and far deeper into the crevices of my mind. Frozen by my circumstances and not having the support of the very people I had spent decades being submissive to, broke me. I was lost. I was hurt. I had let myself down. This person that was breaking inside of me, was no longer familiar.
A leave of absence from my fast-paced career, was the order of the day and I made my way to a place quite aptly known as the place where the sun rises- the province of Mpumalanga;  place that welcomed me to new adventures, encouraging me to take decisions on my very own.
Being a woman and making life changing decisions affects every cell in your body. You sometimes wish you could go back, because it is just easier.
My journey began the moment I faced my fears. Hands quivering, jaws locked, bare feet ,no sense of what the future holds, was just what I needed.
I began to live for myself and for other women; empowering women through my life coaching programme to begin their own journey. A woman has the ability to trust and fight against all odds for the ones she loves, yet it sometimes takes her a lifetime to find that beautiful person inside of her.

Role of Women in Society

The stereotypical cultural terms such as oppressed, inferior, subservient, to name a few, in describing the rights of women in society, fail to recognize the superlative role they play in everyday life and society in general. From the mundane to the spiritual, their role in society personifies dignity, esteem and honour. Women fulfil the goal required of every individual, which is to uphold and preserve their pure state by beautifying their inner beings with good and virtuous moral traits. 

 

A woman plays a fundamental role in shaping a healthy family and community structure by means of projecting her distinctive and unique qualities to those around her. This includes but is not limited to providing a spiritually uplifting and nurturing environment for her children, through her title of ‘mother’.

 

It is essential to note the diverse roles and responsibilities that women play in society, as well as the influential impact that they have on so many facets of life. The first person to accept the message of Islam was a woman, Mother of the Believers, Bibi Khatija (Allah be pleased with her) . The first matyr in Islam was a woman, Hazrat Sumaya (Allah be pleased with her). In education, Hazrat Bibi Ayesha (Allah be pleased with her), regarded as a great scholar of Islam, played a pivotal role in the dissemination of knowledge.

 

As a mother, a woman’s status is highly elevated in society. Her lap offers virtuous attributes such as love, mercy, kindness, care, education, justice, attentiveness, joy and truth; all qualities necessary to experience the Divine Presence. Emphasizing the importance of mothers, the Prophet Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam has said :  

Paradise is under the feet of the mother.’ 

 

 

Women are active and valuable participants in the cohesive functioning of society. From trade to education to motherhood, they hold an honoured and dignified stature in society. Allah bless our mothers and sisters and women in general for the dignified role they play in the Divine Scheme of things.

Aug 2020

A Story from the Children's Home

Over 2 decades ago, our founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Sayed Ally Chopdat and his late wife Apa Sabera (Rahim-u-allah) had a dream and a vision to open a children’s home and that was how Saberas Children’s Home was established.

Sabera’s Children’s Home, one of our many community outreach programmes, is a Child and Youth Care Centre registered with the Department of Social Development since 2001. Our aim is to provide a safe and nurturing home for destitute and helpless children who are in need of care and protection according to Section 150 of the Children’s Act No. 38 of 2005 (as amended). 

Raising a vulnerable child requires more than providing them with food, clothing and shelter. It requires love, attention, discipline and commitment by seeing to their emotional, spiritual and mental needs. Our priority is to provide these children with a loving and stable home environment; thus giving them the opportunity to build healthy, warm and positive identities that will ensure they grow up to be valuable and capable citizens with a promising future. Our ultimate goal is to provide every child at our Home with tertiary education or skills training so that they become skilled, well-rounded and independent members of our society. 

Although we offer residential care, our long term ambition with Statutory Social workers is to reunite the children with their biological parents, direct or extended families and where not possible, we support their foster care or adoption placements in stable, and caring homes. For many children, Sabera’s Children’s Home becomes their forever home where we shower them with a lifetime of love, support and a sense of belonging through the Family Home Care Model. 

 

One such child is Sara Daniels and below is HER STORY

“ I had it all;  a mum, a dad, a family, happiness and most importantly LOVE. It was  not just me. I have siblings too;  a big sister, a younger sister and a baby brother. Our lives were perfect. We went to bed with goodnight kisses and woke up to warm hugs filled with love. It was The Daniels world filled with euphoric moments where rainbows didn’t need rain to shine; where there were cotton candy skies, where mermaids existed, where animals could talk, where humans could fly, where the only pain we knew was to see my mum cry and my dad weak.

My family was as close as chained souls; it was really all we knew at that age.

 

My mum never really had an easy life. She had an abusive mum and a no-show dad. She grew up in an orphanage with her 3 or 4 other siblings. She was the oldest and so she had to take care of them before she could take care of herself. It was not easy for her; she was a child but had to be a mom at such a young age. She ran away from the orphanage when she was sixteen hoping to make a better life for herself. That is when she met my Uncle’s wife. They eventually became good friends. My dad took one glance at her fragile soul and loved her with all her broken pieces. He understood her pain, he did not know it, but he understood, because he too did not have life served to him on a gold platter, but that is another story and  I do not want to get too deep into that.

They got married and had a beautiful baby girl, my older sister. It was not easy for them in the beginning. My dad and my two uncles were working at a supermarket with my mum and my Aunty. Four  years later my mum and dad had me. We then moved to another suburb where my dad and mum both worked in a bazaar opposite each other. My dad worked in a luggage shop and my mum in a clothing store. 3 years later I was blessed with a baby sister. Life was good but my mum and dad needed more financial help, and turned to selling Mandrax for extra income to support a young family of 5. When my mum’s two brothers got kicked out of the orphanage, they moved in with us and overnight our family became bigger. My parents had to now look after a family of 7 and to take care of my grandparents and my mother’s younger sister. With the pressure of having to financially support so many people; they soon started using their own supplies. Time went by as it always does, my mum left her job, and my dad started working with an import and export company that required him to travel all the time. We hardly saw my dad.  Soon after my family was blessed with my baby brother. That’s when the situation got worse. It felt like hell on earth.

 

From what I could recall as a child, everything that glittered was gold; I did not know what God had planned for my family and I. We were a typical family: there were the occasional fights in the house, we used to receive frequent visits from my mom’s and dad’s family, and everyone in our neighborhood adored my mum and dad, because my mum and dad would be there for them when no one else was. The harsh reality is that no matter how much good you can do for people; at the end of the day the real monsters are humans.

 

I got to an age where I could see behind all the fake smiles and words. It all went down hill when my dad got locked up. We lost it all. My dad was the glue that held my family together. We had no place to stay. Where was everyone when my mum needed them? It was not easy going from goodnight kisses to seeing my dad through a glass. Few people would ever understand how it feels to see your hero who personified the perfect blend of toughness and pain, shed a tear. It is a memory I am desperate to forget.

My tears  dried up making me feel somewhat courageous and I began to slowly  let go of a small fraction of pain in my dad’s absence. As the saying goes, time heals all wounds and so the fresh beginnings of our journey at a children’s home began. I remember my mum telling my siblings and I that we are going to be safe now from the cruelty of this world but as a child I was confused because I thought it was cruel that she dropped us off in a strange place.

My older sister who was 12 at the time had to take the role of a mother. She always tried to let us see the bright side of it all. It took a while but eventually a bright light of understanding and kindness unveiled itself in the children’s home. Under supervision, my siblings and I were allowed to visit my dad. My mum would visit us on weekends. At first I allowed my mind and pain to get the better of me. I became angry with myself, with my parents, with the whole world. I did not understand why Allah would put us through all of this! I was questioning a lot at that age. I was 8 years old and so much was happening and every time I would find that little hope and faith in life and in Allah, it would dissipate. But today, I can fully understand the quote, “Allah gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers”.

I was given unconditional love, understanding and kindness by Sheikh and Apa Zaytoon and I thank Allah for them everyday. They saw the pain and resentment in me and got me professional help from a psychologist who was a blessing from Allah. She helped me overcome a lot that was holding me back. I slowly let go of that which held me back and brought me pain and nightmares that would keep me up at night.

 

Today I am 22 years old, studying Design, and I thank every person that walked alongside me to help me become the person I am today. If there is something that I learnt and cherished ,it is that even the smallest of actions will have an impact on someone’s life. Sometimes all one needs is a smile or a hug to brighten one’s day in the moment of one’s darkest times. Always remember that it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows and if you are going through a storm now, it will not be raining forever. I am Sara Daniels, and this is my story.”

The Well-Being of Children

The Noble Quran Kareem informs readers of the Divine Love associated with the wellbeing of children, especially vulnerable and orphan children, “And worship Allah, and associate nothing with Him, and be good to parents, and to relations and orphans, and the needy, and the near neighbours, and the distant neighbours, and the companion of your side, and the wayfarer, and to your male and female servants. And surely, Allah loves not the arrogant, the boastful,” (S4 V36). According to the tafsir in Kanzul Imaan, ‘an orphan is referred to as a child whose father is deceased’. The tafsir uses the analogy of a pearl in an oyster to depict the status of an orphan child. The lonely pearl in the oyster demonstrates the condition of orphan children, and these lonely pearls in their oysters are considered priceless and valuable pearls, and so is the orphaned human child as mentioned in the Noble Quran Kareem. 

 

The Beloved Messenger of Divine Love, Nabi Muhammad SAW’s father Hazrat Abdullah left the world prior to the birth of his son, and mother Hazrat Bibi Amina (AS) left the world when her son was at a tender age of four or six years. At the age of eight, Nabi SAW’s grandfather Hazrat Abdul Muttallib also passed on. The beloved uncle, Hazrat Abu Talib of Nabi SAW then rendered exemplary care of his nephew. The blessed verse, “Did he not find you O Muhammad SAW an orphan, so he gave you shelter” (S96 V6), indicates as noted by the tafsir, that Nabi SAW, a matchless pearl, totally unparalleled and unique, was taken care of and granted special proximity and closeness to Allah Almighty. The wellbeing of vulnerable and orphan children is further accentuated by Nabi Muhammad SAW. In compensating for the loss of parental care, the guardians and sponsors of vulnerable and orphan children are promised a great reward. A reward of the pleasure of the company of Nabi SAW himself in Paradise, (Narrated Sahl bin Sa’d in Jami’at – Tirmidhi). 

 

Secular scholars on the concept of childhood wellbeing propose that “Child wellbeing and deprivation represent different sides of the same coin. From a child rights perspective, wellbeing can be defined as the realisation of children’s rights and the fulfilment of the opportunity for every child to be all she or he can be. The wellbeing of children has evolved as an overarching concept which generally refers to the quality of their lives. There is consensus in literature that childhood wellbeing is multi-dimensional. The wellbeing of children should be contextualised; and should be considered in a holistic way, taking account of both changes at different stages of a child’s life and young people’s development and transitions in other aspects of their lives. The wellbeing of children comprises two measures. The objective measures consist of the household income, educational resources, and health status while the subjective measures are indicators of the fulfilment of spiritual, personal, and social goals. Promoting wellbeing of children involves understanding and addressing child, youth, and caregiver functioning in the educational, cognitive, physical, behavioural, social, psychological, and emotional areas. These factors should be central to the different children’s wellbeing policy and programme initiatives.

 

Globally there are many situations where children’s optimal development, learning and wellbeing is compromised when the above-mentioned factors are deprived. UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) in a comparative study of child wellbeing, included children living in homes below the poverty line, children in homes where there was no employed adult, and children in homes where there were few education resources, as indicators of low wellbeing within the domain of ‘material wellbeing’. Children are especially in need of care and protection when faced with difficult circumstances such as trauma, vulnerability, deprivation, abandonment or being orphaned. 

 

UNICEF is of the opinion that the true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children, their health and safety, their material security, their education, socialisation, their sense of being loved, valued and included in the families and societies into which they are born. The focus on child wellbeing is encouraged to be an important and integral dimension of all aspects of child welfare services. The Sultan Bahu Centre is one such welfare organisation that provides for the wellbeing of vulnerable and orphan children. This journey of promoting the wellbeing of vulnerable and orphan children comes with many painful and challenging ramifications, as well as with many beautiful and precious encounters and moments for the Sultan Bahu Centre, as those who earn the closeness to Nabi SAW strive to fulfil their Islamic roles and responsibilities.

 

The Noble Quran Kareem emphasizes the wellbeing of orphan children. The blessed verse, “Indeed, you do not honour the orphan,” (S89 V17) indicated by the tafsir in Kanzul Imaan infers that the upbringing of orphans, giving them good education and correct training is the highest form of worship and a religious and social obligation. According to the tafsir in Kanzul Imaan, when wealthy people would be on their deathbed in the holy city of Makkah, Abu Jahl and others would request that the dying person leave their children and wealth in their custody. The dying person would concede and after the death, these people would take full control of the deceased’s wealth. In the process they would abandon or neglect the orphaned children. One such oppressed orphan complained about this mistreatment to Nabi SAW and together they approached these people and Nabi SAW said: “Do you not fear Allah and the Last Day?” 3 These people began to make fun of the Day of Judgement. Nabi SAW came back dejected and in response to these actions, Allah Almighty revealed the first part of Surah Al-Ma’oon, “Well, have you seen him who belies the Religion? That is, he who drives away the orphan, and does not urge the feeding of the needy……” (S 107 V1-3). 

 

Wellbeing is thus a conscious active process through which individuals become aware of and make choices towards a more successful and fulfilling existence for themselves, their families, and children. 

Some of the dimensions of wellbeing that can be nurtured are: 

• Spiritual Dimensions – knowing that life is meaningful, purposeful and that our goal is to worship and please Allah Almighty. 

• Psychological Dimensions – being in touch with one’s own emotional presence, having the emotional skills to express thoughts and feelings and to cope with the projections of the feelings and thoughts of others, and self-motivation. 

• Intellectual – being able to engage and connect with others in the world, continued learning, problem-solving, processing and creativity. 

• Physical – maintaining sound physical health through regular exercise, proper  nutrition, sleep, and good habits. 

• Environmental – healthy work ethic and discipline, respecting nature, and your surroundings. 

• Social – social wellbeing refers to relating, interacting, and communicating well with others. 

 

The Islamic tradition of child wellbeing sponsorship or guardianship of unparented, vulnerable or orphaned children is a long-standing child-care practice throughout Islamic countries and societies and is consistent with Divine Law. A guardian in an arrangement is a means to provide for the vulnerable and/or orphaned child their basic wellbeing and needs. Being a guardian of a child or children, including fostering a child, is considered a virtuous act in Islam, as Nabi SAW too was cared for in this manner. “They ask you (O Muhammad SAW) as to what should they spend, please declare (O Muhammad SAW): “Whatever you spend of good in charity. The most deserving are your parents and near relatives and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarers” and whatever good you do, surely, Allah is fully aware of it,” (S2 V215). 

 

Children who enter institutional care in a group home environment such as the Sultan Bahu Centre typically live there until the age of maturity. Many of these children cared for by the Sultan Bahu Centre, regardless of the child’s background, are considered either deprived, vulnerable or orphaned children. The most agreed upon human rights instrument in the world, which is grounded on the principle of the, ‘best interests of the child’ states, the best interests of children must be the primary concern when making decisions that may affect them. All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children. 

 

The wellbeing of these children equated to lonely pearls in a shell beneath the deepest of oceans is an obligation conferred by the Divine. Guardians, professional health care providers, sponsors, and community workers should provide what parents are usually expected to provide for their children as a means to reach the Divine through the promise of the company of Nabi Muhammad SAW himself in paradise. May the Sultan Bahu Centre for vulnerable and orphan children continue to grow in Divine Love, Mercy, Gratitude and Splendour. _________________________________________________________________________ References Quran (Kanzul Imaan), Hadith (Jami Al Tirmidhi), UNICEF Articles, Psychology Articles

July 2020

The SBC Drug Rehabs

Initially, substance abuse rehabilitation was an unheard concept in many impoverished communities. In many cases, concerned community and neighborhood watch members who would patrol the streets and monitor any suspicious acts or behaviors embodied the only forms of intervention. It was during these deprived years that perhaps the minimum level of intervention offered was by individuals who were making use of any facilities available, including their own homes. This carried on for a number of months until the SBC team came across an article on the need for empirical-based research by Bronwyn Meyers. Eventually the team came upon the realization that a bigger and more specialized facility was needed. The centre opened its doors in 2005 and has thus far, up to July of 2020, attended to approximately 9096 clients. 

The SBC Rehabilitation Centres and its staff share the view that the centre can best be described as offering not an out-patient based service but rather a full day intervention program. A client enrolled at the centre would start the day off at 8am and end at 5pm. The centre’s staff view addiction as a biopsychosocial illness; therefore, the community-based service of intervention was formally adopted and implemented as a viable and holistic approach in dealing with afflicted clients. While in the program, a client will have access to group psychotherapy sessions, psycho-education, one-to-one counseling sessions, family sessions and a myriad of additional psychological intervention initiatives that are geared towards substance abuse intervention, relapse prevention, and ultimately the maintenance of sobriety.

In addition to the regular day program, clients currently in the program and clients who have completed their treatment have the benefit of attending aftercare sessions, which are held twice a week. The aftercare sessions consist of relapse prevention sessions, client support groups, relapse intervention initiatives, coping mechanisms and life skills pertaining to living a practical and sober lifestyle.

The treatment program also accommodates the families of clients afflicted with substance abuse disorder. Family counseling sessions during the course of the six-week treatment program are offered. In addition to this, the center also propagates family information sessions, which is an eleven-week course  of lectures by a registered counselor. These sessions cover a wide range of issues such as co-dependency, the dangers of enabling behaviors, addicts and co-occurring disorders, families in recovery and various other related topics. With the facilitation of a social worker or registered counselor, families are also afforded the opportunity to join support groups that are run by parents or loved ones of recovering addicts who have been through the trials of addiction. The overarching goal of intervention at the Sultan Bahu Rehabilitation Centres is to equip the client with the necessary skills to facilitate successful  social reintegration.

Simple but powerful lessons for living with Addiction

While boredom seems harmless at face value, it’s often one of the strongest driving forces that propels us into old, and detrimental habits. And when addiction and the accompanying behavior that goes with it has been part of one’s life for years, guess what we end up thinking about? The brain automatically recalls its strongest memories, which is often determined by the amount of dopamine released when doing a certain action. What’s dopamine? In simple terms, it’s a chemical that helps us feel good when we eat our favourite food. Now imagine that feeling amplified 500 or even 1000 times. That’s what happens to someone taking drugs; however, the brain isn’t actually built to handle that much dopamine. This is where tolerance comes in and it is frequently described as the reason why addiction becomes progressively worse over time. Some specialists believe that 2 of the greatest risk factors for teenage drug abuse are too much stress and boredom. And unfortunately, these two factors are unmistakably present during lockdown.

What can we do to overcome that?

  • Get creative – there’s no better time than now to pick up a pen and write, draw or create something that stimulates positive brain activity.

  • Exercise – I can’t stress this one enough. Most of us right now are just lying around all day or sitting at a table and only moving from the desk to the kitchen or bathroom. This is not at all conducive to our health, and only increases the risk of our bodies not being able to fight off sickness. Spend a little time each day doing simple exercises such as squats from the chair or couch you’re sitting on. Play outside with family members. Get active. These simple activities will cause dopamine to be released which can be a positive effect on those in recovery. 

  • Be productive – You’ve had roughly 90 days now of extra time on your hands. Traveling alone has probably saved you at least one hour every day. That’s 90 hours saved just on traveling. Have you done anything truly beneficial with that time; something that could benefit or change not only your life but the lives of those you care about? Or has it been wasted away on Netflix, social media and over-thinking? Stress is caused by constantly thinking about a problem and not having tools to solve it. Stop thinking about the problem and equip yourself with the skills and tools needed to change the situation. Yes, it might take you a long time to get there, but it’s definitely not going to change if you don’t start today. 

 

A conscious effort to incorporate positive habits in your daily life, will result in a positive change to your mindset; a mindset which will ignite a flicker of hope that will eventually burn bright enough for you to see the light at the end of the tunnel.