Rashid Bhikha – Socially-conscious Cinematographer

“If our youth arise and act, they have the strength and dynamism to create a huge transformation in society.” – Amma

All change doesn’t occur through dramatic public disquisition or on political podiums. Sometimes, change takes shape gradually and in an understated way, as displayed by Islamic singer-songwriter, Rashid Bhikha.

If his surname sounds familiar to you, that’s because Rashid is the son of world-renowned nasheed artist, Zain Bhikha. Surrounded by creativity and beautiful harmonies while growing up, Rashid started singing at just 7 years old. He debuted his melodious and youthful voice on a Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) album at a time when the famed singer was working with his father. Rashid also toured with the legendary singer, but his biggest highlight was performing in concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London – an incredible feat for someone so young. Rashid admits that his father didn’t push him to work in the Islamic music industry; his interest in music piqued from always being in that environment, and while he does sing as a hobby, his main focus is cinematography.

Rashid seeks enjoyment from working behind the scenes and studied cinematography to fulfil that passion. He was always fascinated by the field and gained experience from being on set during his father’s music video shoots. He established a production company called Bedouin Blue, where his days are fully occupied with editing videos, and filming new and exciting footage. Rashid has generated up to eight videos so far for his father, and in his spare time, enjoys spending time with his wife and family, and playing soccer.

 

His first solo album, ‘Degrees of Separation’ was a culmination of years of personal growth and songwriting. The name refers to the point that we are all connected somehow, through six degrees of separation. He says “It was the best thing I’ve chosen to do.” While working on the album which was released two years ago, Rashid sought the expert experience and lyrical talents of his father. He also collaborated with other incredible people like visionary producer, Idris Phillips and US-based nasheed artist, Khalil Ismail who Rashid credits as one of the best rap lyricists in the Islamic-music industry.

The 25-year-old describes his album as a vast mix of genres, with the crowd favourite being ‘Love can save a life’. Personally, his most treasured track is ‘Believe’ because it speaks about the youth of today and their lack of self-belief. It optimistically peddles the idea that things improve and there will be a better tomorrow. The footage for the music video was obtained from Islamic Relief SA and features some of their fieldwork from around the world.

Rashid also regularly teams up with Islamic Relief SA for philanthropic efforts and has travelled with them across many countries to carry out relief work. Locally, he works with the Two Oceans Leadership Academy in Manenberg, Cape Town. His work with the Art of Creative Expression (ACE), which was founded by Zain Bhikha, offers a creative platform for the youth to express themselves. The ACE workshops aim to uplift adolescents from ages 15 to 20+ by offering them artistic ways to channel their emotions through writing, singing, art and poetry. ACE provides young people, who are in a difficult transition period in their lives, with an alternative to negatively displaying their feelings and also helps them discover hidden talents.

His father has been a huge influence throughout his life. Zain taught Rashid the value of religion and brought him up to be compassionate and respectful towards others. Islam was a faithful pillar that held up the foundation of his life from a young age, and Rashid attributes this influence to his father who always reminded the family to read salaah, recite the Quraan, and follow the sunnah of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH).

His favourite Quranic verses are from Surah Al-Fil which connect him to this beloved grandfather who always recites it during prayers. Rashid draws wisdom from its meaning; “regardless of how much you think you have control over, Allah is the best of planners and he controls everything.”

Rashid views success as doing everything to the best of one’s ability and not half-heartedly. He recommends always trying to improve oneself, regardless if you think you’ve mastered your craft. He also links success back to emulating the life of the Prophet (PBUH) and using the Quraan as a guide.

Rashid thinks the idea behind Proudly Muslims of South Africa is amazing. “If you mention that you’re Muslim, people automatically associate you with terrorism. If you say your name is Mohammed – the best name in the world – people will say that you’re a terrorist. That’s something that really needs to change.” He believes that the Proudly Muslims of SA platform shows people that Muslims are not actually like that. “What you guys are doing is extraordinary… You’re really breaking barriers and showing that some of the best people in the world are Muslim.”

His advice to the youth: “The circumstance you’re in right now shouldn’t determine your circumstance in the future. It doesn’t define who you’re going to be.” He advises young people to try and always look on the bright side of things, and realise that everything you go through is a lesson that teaches you something. Rashid asks teens to keep their humanity in a world where people are creating robots to be more human and more humans to be like robots.

On role models: “The best role models that you should have are the ones raising you.”

The talented cinematographer says he is grateful to be alive, even though it seems scary in today’s world. “It’s easy to get lost in a world of technological advancements if you don’t know who you are and don’t hold on to your values.”

His famous last words would be: “Be good and do good.”

Rashid wants society to remember him as someone who was family orientated, very involved in the community, helped people and did good work all-round.

In an age where the media is inundated with less-than-ideal role models for the youth, Rashid Bhikha revives the hope we have for their future. If we have dedicated, caring and purposeful young activists like him around, the fate of religion and the world is surely in great hands.

Dr Shabbir Hussain – Ophthalmologist and Healthcare Humanitarian

While we may all hail from different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures and even different countries, our roots are innately human. Dr Syed Shabbir Hussain Gilani is the perfect example of someone whose rhizome is firmly implanted in humanitarian soil, with fibres that stretch across a vast sphere of destitute and forlorn souls. An ophthalmologist by profession, philanthropist by nature, Dr Hussain brings the gift of sight to those who can’t envision a future.

Originally from a small farming village in Punjab, Pakistan, Shabbir’s days were spent helping his family out in the fields. The role of Islam was always prominent in his life and he grew up attached to the local masjid where he was taught that “the purpose of a human being is to have sympathy for other human beings”. This is a belief which he still fondly carries with him, “Don’t only look after yourself, look after other people as well. Look after your family, friends, neighbours and the people of your city.”

Shabbir had an aptitude for academics and showed great intellectual promise from a young age. Under-resourced but overcome with determination, Dr Hussain graduated from Punjab University, Lahore, with a medical degree in 1985. His relocation to South Africa transpired six years later, where he specialised in Ophthalmology at the University of Witwatersrand in 2002.

Cataract blindness is rife in Pakistan, where the high temperatures contribute to this disease. Dr Hussain’s interest in becoming an eye specialist stems from his maternal grandmother who had always encouraged his medical pursuits while he was in high school. Sadly, she lost sight in both her eyes and told Shabbir that when he grows up to be a doctor, he will help restore her sight again. Witnessing his other grandparents struggle with their vision as well, he aspired to one day specialise and treat people afflicted by this condition.

Dr Hussain held true to his pledge and now resides as the Head of Ophthalmology at Leratong Hospital in Johannesburg. Shabbir spends his long and busy work days driving 40km every morning to run his department and then attends to his private practice in the afternoons. He dedicates weekends to the Cataract Project and performs between 40-50 eye operations for the underprivileged who suffer from cataract-led blindness. Nothing brings him more joy than the expeditious results of the eye procedures and seeing the look of happiness and amazement from his patients as they view the world in a new, positive light after having their patches removed. “The Almighty has chosen me in a way that I must do this work. Alhumdullilah,” he says with self-effacement.

Each cataract operation isn’t just a mechanised extension of his career. Every elderly patient that Shabbir assists invokes a weighty quiver of emotion and nostalgia, and reminds him of his grandmother. He sees her face in each one of them, and is grateful that he is able to help the older generation as they are the primary sufferers of cataract blindness. Dr Hussain enjoys spending time chatting and advising these patients during aftercare, and they are equally as appreciative of his life-changing surgeries. “We must help our elders,” he bids, adding that it doesn’t matter what city or country they are from, they are human beings.

Dr Hussain has expertly performed more than 5000 operations, and mentions that he’s very happy that Allah has made him a tool to provide this service to humanity and the underprivileged communities. He credits the generosity of the Cataract Project’s benefactors as the main reason he is able to continue his good work. Dr Haroun Tayob is one of those individuals who has supported him greatly in this cause.

Locally, Dr Hussain works with the Islamic Medical Association, Sultan Bahu, Awqaf South Africa, the Haroon Tayob family, Bliss Chemical, Caring Women’s Forum, PakSA Association, Islamic Relief SA, Helping Hands, Roshmed and the Gauteng Department of Health to help disadvantaged communities. He draws contentment from being able to use his skill and expertise to aid others. Even while at medical school in Pakistan, Shabbir lent his compassion and time to the Students’ Association at his university, raising funds for destitute students, as well as guiding and tutoring them. He says that this experience helped him to build his character and ingrained a sense of philanthropy in him, which spurred him on to get further involved in community work.

The father-of-four also manages to find time to work with the local South African-Pakistani community (PakSA Association). There are over a quarter of a million expats living in the country, and Shabbir aims to motivate and involve them in aiding disadvantaged groups in their respective cities and towns. The eye specialist has also established the Islamic Circle of Southern Africa, along with other colleagues, to create positive encouragement around southern African countries.

Islam is of immeasurable significance to Shabbir. He says that it teaches us “have sympathy for other people, show love to other people and give help to other people – without any discrimination.” He encourages us to take care of, not just our fellow human beings, but also the animals, water resources and the environment. He advises us to “work for humanity, love humanity, fulfil the needs of other people if you can, or if you can’t do anything, make duaa (prayer) for them… the Almighty loves people who are kind to his creation.”

Dr Hussain is no stranger to the atrocities of violence, and often treats victims of horrific criminal attacks who’ve been injured or lost their eyes. He strictly disapproves of people who use the excuse of religion for radical acts of terrorism around the world. “Islam is a religion of peace.” He refers to people killing each other for no reason and claiming religious motives for it in places such as Yemen, Syria, Kashmir, Palestine, South Sudan and Myanmar. He would like people to keep positive and educate others to be better human beings.

The Holy Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) is the role model that Shabbir wishes to emulate. He is inspired by the humble life of the Prophet who grew up without prosperity, struggled to uplift a debased community, and created morality amongst them.

His favourite Quranic verse exists in Surah Al-Imraan, where the underlying message is to have faith in Almighty Allah, retain deen throughout your whole life and create unity amongst yourselves.

Dr Hussain associates success with striving for a place in paradise. He views life as an examination that we write with our good and bad deeds. It’s most important to use our resources to help those in need.

Approaching 60 years old, Dr Hussain drops no hints of retirement. He’d like to continue with the Cataract Project and also start a youth outreach programme. He says today’s young men and women are frequently led astray by drugs, club life and marital problems. He wants to bring back the unity that Islam teaches us in order to help them live corruption-free lives.

Shabbir would advise his younger self and all Muslim youths to have a strong connection with the Quran and follow the rule of Allah in order to attain success. “Stay positive and work hard, you will achieve everything.”

Dr Hussain finds great importance in joining organisations such as Proudly Muslims of South Africa. He relates how Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said that we can’t live life alone, and we must lead a life with the community. Working together as an organisation is a manner in which to conquer all our problems. He adds that we must play our part to assist ‘good’ and stay away from ‘bad’.

He tries to live each day as his last, and mentions that his parting words of wisdom would be to love each other and the community and work for the people.

Shabbir would like society to remember him as someone who was integrated into the community, and as someone who loved and helped people. “The best thing which you can achieve in the world is to prepare the next person as a good person.” He says that he’s always trying to become a better person and seeks to create good amongst others.
The greatest gift to humanity is not sight, but vision. Dr Shabbir Hussain doesn’t just restore the eyesight of the underprivileged, but he also reinstates their vision of optimism and hope by giving them a life worth opening their eyes for each day.

For more information, please contact Dr Shabbir Hussain at:

Brenthurst Clinic on 011 6479232 / 011642 2333
or
Lesedi Clinic on 011 938 9044 / 011 938 9112.

Aishah Dimpho Majogo – Philanthropist and Founder of Nyota Collections

Popping up at local markets everywhere, the beautifully vibrant creations from Nyota Collections are hard to miss. They boast colourful modest wear and eye-catching accessories which perfectly mirror the irrepressible personality of the label’s founder, Aishah Dimpho Majogo.

While she may be taking South Africa by storm with her innovative clothing company, Aishah is originally from Lesotho. She was lovingly named Tshepo, after her grandmother, and Dimpho – an ode to her father’s side of the family. After accepting Islam in 2010, she chose the Arabic name ‘Aishah’, meaning ‘life’, which is most apt seeing how she encapsulates all that is wondrous and enthusiastic about being alive.

Coming from a Basotho-Christian background, Dimpho and her Muslim-Tanzanian husband struggled with the religious aspect of raising their children. She decided to try and embrace Islam to maintain the peace in her relationship, and ended up accepting and living it fully. This didn’t come without any setbacks. She faced many challenges as a new Muslim; she lost a few friends along the way, left her job as they didn’t allow her to wear hijab, and had to get her parents to finally accept her decision.

After moving to Laudium, Aishah’s children felt inferior to the rest of the community; her eldest son even tried straightening his hair in order to look like the other boys at school. Instead of compelling them to fit in, she wanted her kids to be Muslim and African. Aishah says that reverting to Islam was the best thing she’s done for herself and her children, “it was a choice I made for myself and not for anybody else.” She has even launched a campaign called ‘Unity through Diversity’ that contends with issues of race and diversity in the community.

Reverting to Islam made Dimpho realise that everything going wrong in the world is usually blamed on Muslims. She’s had to deal with people who base their opinions on unsubstantiated findings in the media, but she remains positive despite it all and advises: “When you’re human, you have to feel for the next person despite what race they are, or what religion it is.” She’s learnt to be strong emotionally, give support where she can, and pray for people suffering in the world.

Some of the beautiful creations from Nyota Collections

Her dreams of becoming an entrepreneur became a reality after embracing Islam. Fatigued by the endless array of black-only abayas which she was given while attending madressah, Aishah established Nyota Collections to bring a world of technicolour to the closets of Muslim women. The colour black is also associated with mourning in the traditional ideologies she grew up with. Aishah wanted to retain her African identity while being a Muslim. “Along my journey, I discovered I don’t want to lose who I am.”

On a trip to Tanzania, people were impressed with her vibrant hijab. Dimpho loves travelling and buying African-designed fabric, and so she got the idea to embrace all African fashion under one hub, thus blending culture with religion. Her brand idea started from there. ‘Nyota’, meaning ‘star’ in Swahili, shines a vivid ray on Islam-centric, African-inspired clothing.

The mother-of-three is always trying to find balance in her day-to-day life. Aishah’s mornings begin after dropping her son off at school and then she is constantly on the road with her toddler in tow. (Her eldest son is currently at boarding school). She is back and forth between meetings and volunteer work, giving 100% of her passion and determination to every project. Aishah volunteers as a counsellor at Lifeline in Pretoria and also spends time at the Ma’had Deeni institute, where she does admin work and sits on the board. Ma’had Deeni is an organisation that seeks to build the community through education, networking and counselling. Her extensive work ethic and hours lie between Nyota Collections and the NGO organisations she works with. Making full use of her 24-hour days, Dimpho also recently joined the Salaamedia team as an on-air presenter.

Accessories by Nyota Collections

Aishah loves doing collaborations with different organisations, as this enables her to reach a wider audience. The #Riding4SAeducation campaign has had a great impact on her. Nyota Collections became affiliated with the Salaamedia project and was required to send a representative to ride on its behalf. She couldn’t find anyone and the start date was quickly approaching. One day, while driving with her friend, she noticed a white male cycling along the road. She turned her car around and began tailing him, dissolving into laughter as she imagined how crazy this must have looked – two hijab-clad African women in a Lesotho-registered car following an Afrikaans cyclist. They asked him to represent them in the campaign and he kindly agreed. Dimpho was amazed that a man who didn’t know them and knew nothing about Islam took time off work and left his family to cycle on behalf of a campaign he knew nothing about, with Muslims he had never met. His sacrifice taught her about the true essence of humanity. The most touching and fulfilling moment for Dimpho was seeing the smiles on the school children’s faces when the #Ride4SAeducation riders touched down in Atteridgeville.

She advises fellow philanthropists: “The change has to start with you first to be able to impact it on other people.” Being a humanitarian is about teaching skills to people that will allow them to sustain themselves. Aishah relates that it is better to be empathetic over sympathetic, as the latter doesn’t change a person, whereas, with empathy, you’re able to jointly try and find a solution.

Her role model is her mother because what she lives is what she is. Dimpho says her mother is the most genuine person, and she aims to be even half the woman her mum is when it comes to raising her own kids. Her mother raised her to be a strong independent woman and taught her about generosity, giving, and holding resolute belief in God. Aishah doesn’t believe in celebrity role models, “I’m a person of ordinary people.”

Her modest, African-inspired designs are a hit at local markets

The savvy entrepreneur says that success should be what fulfils you spiritually and being content with what you have. “My success is being able to say Alhumdulliah, I slept and I woke up.” She is grateful for each day, adding that success is not about the material things, as fortune can disappear at any time.

Aishah Dimpho Majogo (left) pictured with Proudly Muslims of SA’s Nina Bambeni (right).

Aishah supports platforms like Proudly Muslims of South Africa as it creates much-needed awareness. She says that once you engage with the community, people learn that you’re also just human, “People think Muslims are foreign. We want the same things for South Africa and for our children. We go through the same things and we want the best nation for all of us.”

Her favourite Quranic verse: “Verily with every hardship comes ease” Quran 94:6.

She would advise her younger self to continue with school before starting work, and to be more lenient, forgiving and merciful towards herself despite any mistakes.

Her life motto: “Just be who you are and let people love you for what you are.”

This 30-something businesswoman is grateful for life, her husband, parents and supportive siblings. She is also grateful for Islam, the people she’s met on her journey as a Muslim and all the people Allah has placed in her life who make it worthwhile. Dimpho is appreciative of her business partner, Mamolefe and her team for working with her on the Nyota Breadbasket Foundation and other social movements. “I don’t define people’s success by what they have.” She admires people who serve the community and give of themselves and their time.

Her final last words would be telling her husband how much she loves and appreciates him. Aishah is grateful to him for not caging her and for allowing her to give of herself to the community.

She wants society to remember her as a bubbly African-Moshoto Muslim woman, and also for the person she is and not what they think they see. She’d like them to know she’s still a down-to-earth rural girl. Most of all, Aishah would like for people to recall her humbleness and selflessness.

Dynamic, ambitious and caring, Dimpho Aishah Majogo uses her entrepreneurial platform as a launch pad to help others. ‘There is no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise’, and as Aishah and Nyota Collections ascend to success, she lights the path of those below with her incredible spirit and kindness.

Haroun Pochee – Roshgold Founder and Community Activist

If you haven’t already invested with Roshgold personally, one of your close relatives or friends probably have, or you may have heard about the Shariah-compliant investment company through different media avenues.

For its stakeholders, Roshgold Investment Holdings Limited provides stable, Islamic-suitable financial ventures that benefit the broader community. Behind the great returns, hospital savings plans, entrepreneur development programmes and investment portfolios, lies Haroun Pochee – the real heart and soul of the company.

A man who wears many hats, Mr Pochee defines himself first and foremost as the creation and servant of Allah, a father and grandfather second to that, and lastly, a businessman and community activist. He is a member of many local organisations and derives satisfaction from seeing social upliftment.

Growing up in the Vaal, in the south of Johannesburg, during the pinnacle of the apartheid era, there were no high schools in the area. Haroun travelled more than 36km daily by train to attend classes in the frontier town of Lenasia. He moved even further from home to attain his business degree at the University of Westville in Durban. While studying there, he interacted and conversed with a collective of young academics; future politicians and community leaders from around the country. These life-shaping interpersonal experiences impacted him tremendously.

Employed in a predominantly white workplace while still living on the coast, Haroun mentions that in order to prove himself, he had to work twice as hard. His experience there also exposed him to a side of finance which he found seriously lacking in local Muslim communities at the time. He eventually moved back to Johannesburg where his auditing career took him from Vereeniging to all parts of the city. The long and tiring daily commute finally took its toll, and Haroun decided to resign and start his own business instead.

What began with five friends who established a stokvel in Roshnee more than 30 years ago, is now one of the leading Islamic investment organisations in South Africa, with more than 3000 employees countrywide. The name ‘Roshgold’ is derived from a combination of its founders’ hometown, ‘Rosh’nee and ‘gold’, because initially, their idea was to invest in the precious metal only.

Haroun Pochee with the Proudly Muslims of SA team and Khalil Aleker of AccidentalMuslims.com

They pioneered the concept at a time when there were no Islamic financial institutions and faced much pessimism from the public, who had previously witnessed many failures in this field. “We had to make sure to develop an organisation that would stand the test of time but also show what it can do for the Ummah,” explains Mr Pochee.

Roshgold Investment Holdings Limited runs a very diverse operation. Community resources are pooled together to facilitate investments and spawn property syndication where shareholders contribute to new developments. Haroun says that what makes Roshgold flexible and appealing is that there is no compulsion to have structural savings. Investors only deposit an amount they can afford each month. There are no penalties if they miss a monthly payment or if they put in less than the agreed total.

They’ve also tapped into the bankable mining industry by introducing Roshmetals and Minerals to potential investors, offering them promising returns on mining resources and metal equities listed on the JSE.

The Roshmed Hospital Scheme is yet another of the group’s ingenious ideas. This unique medical aid is modelled on an Islamic ethos of compassion and provides the best services to members at leading facilities. In this day and age when medical costs are financially crippling, the hospital scheme remains affordable. The scheme also assists those in need, often partnering with IMA (Islamic Medical Association) to fund cataract operations on the West Rand.

Haroun has the Proudly Muslims of SA team in stitches.

Roshgold yields much more than financial gain and prosperity for their members. The idea behind it has always been to benefit the wider community and Ummah. Haroun and his team strongly believe in supporting and uplifting new businesses and young entrepreneurs. Growing Hands is a development program which Roshgold initiated to assist small home-based and informal businesses in terms of education, training, mentorship, support and finance. They encourage savvy entrepreneurs to compete for the annual Roshgold Young Business Achiever Award, and winners are offered a fantastic selection of prizes that will help boost their businesses. The group has also partnered with the ‘Jozi Books and Blog Festival’ for four years, to promote reading and writing.

Their catchphrase, “Your youth is our future” instils the notion of ‘saving’ from a young age. Haroun mentions, “If we don’t develop our young people, then nobody’s there to look after them”. The Roshgold Kidz Club offers educational programs, sponsors schools and shares expertise in different academic subjects. “The dynamism of youth makes us old people feel young again,” he laughs.

Islam waves a vast influential flag over his life. He says that being Muslim means that you adopt certain value systems which ensures that everything you do is for the pleasure of Allah. This moral guide separates the capitalistic side of business from the humanitarian one; instead of focusing only on maximum returns, Roshgold models their investments to benefit the entire community, and strengthen the ties of the Ummah. Haroun mentions a priceless business lesson imparted to him by a former mentor: “Look after peoples’ money as if it’s your own, if not better than your own”. Accountability is the key to the success of Roshgold Investments.

Khalil Aleker from AccidentalMuslims.com, pictured with Mr Pochee

When asked to define success, Haroun states: “Success is what you do for others. It doesn’t have to be with money. If you can just empower one person as you go along, that’s success.”

His aspirations for the future are to remain in good health and to continually develop Roshgold, the community and future leaders. Haroun would like to convey his sense of passion and commitment to the next generation so that the Roshgold legacy can live on for another 30 years.

Mr Pochee says he is a firm believer in causes like Proudly Muslims of South Africa because it facilitates networking, promotes the purpose of doing things jointly and introduces future contributors – volunteers and skilled professionals – to the field of operation.

He would use the last of his life’s breath to ask for forgiveness, as you can never be certain if there’s someone you may have wronged in the past. “No matter what we have, we go with nothing, we didn’t come with anything, Allah’s been good enough to give us whatever we have,” he adds.

Mr Pochee would like society to remember him as someone who tried to uplift those in need of motivation and help.

He advises the youth to “stop living for the now”, and rather invest wisely in order to develop, grow and sustain their businesses.

Haroun values time above all, since we can never have enough of it, and advises us to use it productively.

Started by the community for the community, Roshgold Investment Holdings Limited puts people first. Haroun and his team give entrepreneurs the tools to build their professional dreams and pave their unique roads to success. According to Mr Pochee’s remarkable insight gained through personal experience; every start-up and home-grown business has the opportunity to invest in themselves. “Start small, build and grow,” Haroun encourages everyone, young and old, to set aside their savings for a more prosperous future. 

May we all display a similar level of dedication and faith to draw inspiration from his success story and follow in his footsteps.

For more information, please visit www.roshgold.co.za

 

Ayesha Hoorzook – Devoted Educator and Counsellor

Most people would agree that all mothers – and by extension, grandmothers – already have an impossibly lengthy job description. While Ayesha Hoorzook fulfils both these roles comprehensively, she remains dedicated as a counsellor, training facilitator, educator, businesswoman and more.

Ayesha’s timeline began in Pretoria, during the heyday of the dehumanising Apartheid system. In a way that few born-frees may appreciate, she had to overcome many barriers to receive basic education. The vast distance she had to travel to get to school and back left no time for any recreational activities.

Apartheid also thwarted her early career ambitions; in order to attend a racially designated training facility in Cape Town, she would have to leave her home. Like so many young women of that era, Ayesha shelved her dreams while marriage and motherhood took centre stage, but unlike so many other young women of that era, she refused to let go of her ambitions. The opportunities denied to her during her childhood fired her passion in adulthood.

The many roles Mrs Hoorzook plays are all underpinned by solid theoretical studies and practical applications. She obtained her teacher’s qualification via a college diploma, and followed it up with further professional studies through UNISA. Her interest in academics never waned as she honed in on her field, achieving a qualification in ‘Special Needs Education’ from the University of Witwatersrand.

Ayesha is honoured by LifeLine for 20 years of service

In addition to her professional teaching qualifications, the now 64-year old pursued advanced studies in trauma counselling, substance abuse counselling, family counselling, etc. through recognised service providers like LifeLine and SANCA. She was awarded recognition by LifeLine in 2014 for 20 years of selfless and dedicated service. A paragon of virtue and compassion, Ayesha does both telephonic and face-to-face counselling for LifeLine, and also facilitates the training of new counsellors.

 

Ayesha supports a hamper collection drive

 

To the many people who walked through the doors at Nana Memorial Centre in Brixton on a Wednesday evening, “Aunty” Ayesha is much more than a founding member and head counsellor of Al Khaleel. The drug counselling centre will soon reach its second decade of providing support to addicts in recovery, as well as their families. Ayesha is a pillar of strength in this role, holding out hope for recovering addicts during their difficult journey, and empowering families to play a supporting role. She regularly represents Al Khaleel on radio shows and other public forums, and encourages other communities to form similar support groups.

An excellent communicator and highly-skilled facilitator, Ayesha has the innate ability to put people at ease and help them empower themselves. She maintains the perfect balance, displaying patience and deep compassion when required and yet also speaks her truth plainly when it’s appropriate to do so.

 

Ayesha Harzook (pictured far right), encouraged her students to take part in a charity walk for breast cancer.

 

Ayesha’s range of skills and expertise never fail to impress. Her passion for history led her to become a tour guide at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. The mother-of-three has facilitated workshops on the Women in Dialogue; an initiative spearheaded by the former First Lady, Zanele Mbeki. She has also enabled workshops and discussion groups dealing with issues around changing attitudes and prejudices in an attempt to break the legacy of the Apartheid era.

Despite being down-to-earth and unassuming, Ayesha has attracted attention both locally and internationally. Some of her notable achievements and accolades include:

  • Representing South Africa at the Junior Chamber of Commerce International World Congress held in Miami in 1992.
  • Facilitating workshops in Hong Kong as a PRIME graduate in 1994.
  • Facilitation of a workshop at the University of Concordia ‘Summer School’ program in Montreal.
  • Participating in a workshop on ‘Facing History and Ourselves’, run by a group based in New York.
  • Serving on the youth task team at the ‘World Conference against Racism’ in 2001.
  • Serving on the Forum for Democracy and Human Rights Education.

    Ayesha pictured with fellow philanthropist, Dr Ridwan Mia

Always putting the needs of others first, Ayesha quietly finds time to ferry the elderly to hospitals and clinics. Her limited downtime is spent doing yoga, visiting the gym and doing park runs. The patience displayed and sacrifices made by her late husband and children have allowed Ayesha’s good nature to be of benefit to many people in wider communities, which she continues to serve with selfless dedication.

A saint to some, a caring maternal figure to others, and a true inspiration to us all – Ayesha Hoorzook is an exemplar of compassion and a treasured member of society. Mrs Hoorzook does her best to motivate others to find and develop their own strengths. She imparts hope to her patients and students by assuring them that their circumstances will improve, and gives them strength to maintain faith until it does.

 

*Special thanks to Yunnus Bismilla for his contribution and nomination of this profile.

Moulana Ahmed Namutamba – Islamic Educator and Executive Member of the National Muslim Prison Board

Taking on the challenge of counselling and rehabilitating prisoners is by no means an easy feat. We’re often presented with many terrifying news stories excavated from inside prison walls and we rarely, if ever, hear about the few glimmers of positivity that merge from these concrete cages. Moulana Ahmed Namutamba readily lights the flame underneath those briquettes of hope, doing his best to give Muslim convicts a second and better chance at life.

 

Chair of the Gauteng Prison Board and educator at Azaadville Muslim School, Ml. Namutamba had a very different life planned as a young boy living in Zimbabwe. His aspiration to study law led him to register at Westville University in Durban, KZN, when he arrived in South Africa in 1994. While waiting for the university year to begin, Ahmed spent a week visiting his friend, Shuaib Ungwere, at the Darul Uloom in Newcastle. Ahmed was invited to attend a few classes during his visit, which intrigued and inspired him to such an extent that he decided to put his college career on hold and study an Aalim course instead. Moulana Ahmed promised his parents that after he completed his Islamic education, he would return to university. This is a promise which he held dear, so he completed his degree at the University of Johannesburg as well as his Masters in Business Management.

Moulana Ahmed spent ten years of his life as an Imaam within the community of Kagiso, Krugersdorp, and got involved with many youth development programmes. His involvement with prison welfare began while he was still a student at Darul Uloom Newcastle, where he accompanied Moulana Sema to correctional facilities. He felt gratified by helping prisoners in need and carried his invaluable patronage over to a prison in Kagiso. He became a fortifying strength for Muslim prisoners there, both emotionally and spiritually, guiding them through their vulnerabilities and allaying any doubts they may have had about religion.

As an executive member of the National Muslim Prison Board, Ml. Namutamba realised that by banding people’s skills together, so much more could be achieved. They are affiliated with many other local organisations including Jamiatul Ulama, SANZAF, Al Imdaad and Ashraful Uloom.

Working in a challenging, depressive environment doesn’t deter Moulana Ahmed in the least. He helped Muslim prisoners to overcome the problems they faced by educating correctional services staff about Islam. This included matters regarding halaal food and how they could team up to correct behaviour and rehabilitate prisoners. Moulana helps provide inmates with the necessary skills required to meaningfully contribute to society after their release. The National Muslim Prison Board now has representation in all nine provinces, which structure relations with governmental correctional services and advises on new policies that affect incarcerated Muslims.

The 45-year-old’s greatest achievements include completing his Aalim course and Masters degree. On a more personal note, Ml. Namutamba takes pride in seeing his students give back to humanity and achieve success in their lives. He also finds fulfillment in witnessing how ex-prisoners turn their lives around after being released. He relates how an ex-convict he mentored left the prison a changed person, and this convinced his entire family to revert to Islam without any formal or verbal coercion. His family members said that there must be something very special about this religion if it had the power to change who he was after his release.

“Islam is like a thermostat – it regulates your life”, the father-of-two wisely dispels. He mentions that once you have an in-depth understanding of our religious purpose and the obligations of being a Muslim, then everything falls into perspective. 

The MBA-graduate advises: “Don’t work for the money, work for the pleasure of Allah.” Moulana Ahmed goes on to say that we’re on the right track as human beings if we make a difference that will benefit people’s lives for generations to come.

Moulana Ahmed favours the Proudly Muslims of South Africa initiative, stating that it will break barriers in our communities, where people will get to know what contributions Islam has made to humanity. The public is misinformed about our religion, and this platform will create an awareness of the good work that Muslims are doing for the advancement of society.

Ml. Namutamba’s goal for the future is to put all his energy into praying for and trying to achieve peace in this world. He wants to educate Islam’s greatest enemies and detractors about our religion being non-threatening, and even with the differences we have, we can live together peacefully.

His greatest life lesson learnt was to treat human beings and all of Allah’s creation in a manner set out according to the guidelines of Islam. Moulana Ahmed advises us to always appreciate the gift of Imaan and heed the lessons of our elders and the Sahabah.

His life motto: “We are different, and with those differences that we have, only something positive can come out of it.”

Moulana would like society to remember him as a good human being. He would like people to make dua (prayer) that he remains steadfast in the good work he does, and hopes that whatever positive impact he’s made on people, that they will carry it forward and continue to make a difference in the lives of others.

 

It takes exceptional courage and strength of conviction to be in the humbling shoes of Moulana Ahmed Namutamba. He treats every inmate with the utmost respect and dignity, nurtures their abilities and encourages them to be their best. Moulana Ahmed brings out the best in even the most hardened of souls, inspiriting them with confidence, virtuousness and hope for a better future.

 

Yusuf Mohamed – CEO of Islamic Relief South Africa

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare

While we can argue that Yusuf Mohamed falls into all three of these categories, the last phrase truly defines where he is today. Standing at the helm of Islamic Relief South Africa, Mr. Mohamed takes the notion of ‘greatness’ and zealously amplifies it.

The life we meticulously plan for ourselves isn’t always the life Allah has ordained for us. Yusuf can firmly validate this thought because ten years ago, he would’ve never imagined himself as the local CEO of one of the world’s most well-recognised and highly-acclaimed humanitarian agencies.

The Cape Town born-and-bred altruist defines himself as three things:

  • A traveller, as narrated in a Hadith of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), explaining that we should reside like travellers in the temporary abode of the world, with all actions targeted towards gathering provisions for the journey to the Hereafter.

  • An activist, as he constantly reflects on his purpose in this world and tries to make a positive difference in the lives of everyone he encounters; and,

  • A father, who has the loving support of his three wonderful children and wife.

Graciously accepting the CEO position at Islamic Relief South Africa in December 2016, Mr. Mohamed cherishes the opportunity to contribute in any way he can with the capabilities Allah has given him. Yusuf has the strong belief that “meaningful change starts with yourself.” He doesn’t sit in the passenger’s seat in life’s kinetic carriage, but rather opts for a more purposeful and proactive approach.

Prior to working in the humanitarian field, Yusuf helped run his family’s supermarket business and worked in Project Management. While at university, he became involved with the MSA (Muslim Students Association) which was introduced to him by the head of Africa Muslim Agency’s Cape Town office at the time, Mohamed Lamesh – more fondly known as Abu Usama. His MSA membership led him to participate in projects supporting the Hospital Welfare and Muslim Educational Movement (HWMEM), Palestinian solidarity groups and Islamic Relief. The Economics-graduate shared many noble ventures with like-minded individuals through his college aid-work and established strong bonds and life-long relationships with them.

Yusuf rests his life’s achievements and inspiration on the benevolently broad shoulders of his late father, Mohamed Saleh Mohamed, a man whose indestructible faith as well as spiritual conviction and virtuous teachings have been a blueprint for Yusuf’s own existence. His father had a holistic approach to Islam and chose to promote the religion through social activism and uplifting the lives of the less fortunate. His humility is something Yusuf affectionately remembers as he remained steadfast in living simply and modestly, even after successfully building his supermarket chain from the ground up to thirteen branches. He would conscientiously plan his entire workday around salaah times and filled his home with the encouraging words and practice of Islam. His father taught him that no matter what you achieve in life, it shouldn’t affect the values you hold important. Yusuf is ever grateful for having his dad as an irreproachable role model and finds fortitude in his words: “Your connection with your Creator is the key to everything.”

Islamic Relief is the largest Muslim NGO in the world with offices in 42 countries. Yusuf serendipitously crossed paths with Islamic Relief founder, Dr. Hany El-Banna in 2002 during his visit to South Africa and was inspired by his passion for serving humanity. Yusuf tried to convince him to open a local branch in Cape Town, however, due to logistical considerations, the South African office officially opened its doors in Johannesburg in 2004.

Islamic Relief resolves to develop and create sustainable long-term solutions for impoverished communities, and not just hand out provisional hampers. They are the largest NGO currently operational in Gaza and have the largest field office in Bangladesh. They empower Bangladeshi women by helping them set up small manufacturing-based businesses, so that they’re able to earn a reasonable income for themselves and their families.

Islam is about empowering people,” Yusuf says, and that in order to break the cycle of poverty, we need to make the destitute independent. The 45-year-old attributes his own philanthropic aspirations to the foundations of compassion and kindness laid out by his father, adding that he’s blessed by Allah in being able to recognise his responsibility to society.

In March 2017, Islamic Relief was nominated in the Top 500 NGOs in the world, where Swiss-based NGO Advisor ranked them in the Top 20. This ranking is based on governance, impact and innovation. With millions of relief organisations around the world, this is a remarkable accomplishment for Islamic Relief. Yusuf says that this amazing feat was only achieved through the sincerity in which the organisation was started, the dedication and commitment of its field workers and the sacrifices its members make to alleviate the plight of people. Their accountability framework is something that Yusuf is very proud of, mentioning that being accountable for anything they receive from donors is the key to the organisation’s success.

Yusuf’s best tips for a sustainable NGO:

  • Do everything with sincerity and for the right reasons. If you’re doing it for publicity or thanks, it’s the wrong reason. Do it for the sake of Allah.

  • Always keep in mind that we are accountable to Allah, ourselves and our donors.

  • Complete every task to the best of your ability and with the utmost effort.

Mr. Mohamed believes that platforms like Proudly Muslims of South Africa actively promote the positive contributions Muslims make to society and the needy. Islam commands us to assist all people in need – irrespective of religion, nationality or race. He says that Muslims shouldn’t isolate themselves from their communities, but rather integrate with them, without comprising on Islamic values. With global negativity shadowing Muslims everywhere, it’s important to showcase our developmental efforts in South Africa. This will inspire other Muslims and the general South African public to do better.

Yusuf advises prospective philanthropists: “Don’t overlook any opportunity to do good.” Allah gives each of us an opportunity every day to make a positive difference in the world. Referring to the beloved Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), Yusuf says that it took just one person to sow the seeds of Islam and create change.

Looking to the future, Yusuf aims to develop himself further in order to maximise his potential and live up to the high standards he has set for himself.

His favourite Quranic verse: “If Allah assists you, who is there that can harm you? If Allah forsakes you, who is there that can assist you after Him? And in Allah alone, let the believers put their trust.” Surah Al-Imran (3:160)

His philosophy: “Wherever you can make a positive difference – do it.” These are the words he personally lives by, and mentions that giving someone a smile or a kind word doesn’t cost you anything; it’s an act of charity.

Yusuf Mohamed breathes life into the theory that greatness exists in all of us. He positively shapes the world with each determined step he takes, pausing along the way to help every indigent being he comes across. From a simple smile which brightens up someone’s less-than-ideal day to a magnanimous task such as delivering relief to refugees, Yusuf readily and most obligingly lends his capabilities to uplifting people in any way he can.

We wish him every success in his significant position as CEO of Islamic Relief South Africa.

Azhar Vadi – Acclaimed Journalist and Salaamedia Co-founder

Global change isn’t always found in the pockets of generous benefactors or in the promises of politicians. Sometimes, it takes a person with the strength, conviction and initiative to change the way the world thinks. Azhar Vadi is that person – a man who uses the power of media and his own influential voice to reshape the viewpoints of society.

Esteemed journalist and humanitarian of note, Azhar Vadi co-founded the independent broadcast agency Salaamedia with other likeminded altruists, bringing together both of his life’s passions; philanthropic work and reporting of the truth. A bold, yet brave shift from traditional media platforms, Salaamedia justly pursues the accurate portrayal of Muslims in the news, advocating ‘humanitarian journalism’. 

Azhar calls Lenasia home. His early years were spent growing up in the poor, gang-infested and drug-plagued district of Greyville, in the south of Johannesburg. His family then moved to Extension 11 in the year 2000, where they still reside. Education formed an important part of this childhood since both his parents being teachers, although his father went on to become a parliamentarian. Azhar describes them as strong individuals who put their lives on the line during the anti-apartheid struggle. He recalls accompanying them to rallies and events as a young boy in the 1980’s, where they were often pursued by police and the state. Their fight for freedom and crusade for humanity are qualities which have inspired him throughout his own life.

 

The 34-year old is well-recognised for his early work on Radio Islam and Cii Radio, which gave him incredible opportunities to grow and extensively stretch out his own journalistic wings. He was, with much gratitude, mentored by Ismail Variawa, a seasoned figure at Radio Islam. Mr. Variawa helped to develop his practical skills and prowess as a journalist, providing Azhar with valuable hands-on experience and wisdom that can’t be found in the pages of university textbooks. As Head of News at Cii Radio, Azhar honed his reporting skills even more by travelling to international war-torn territories and interacting with foreign locals. Many of the news stories he’s covered involved working with the destitute in poverty-stricken areas. Personally and emotionally afflicted by their suffering, Azhar questioned what more could be done to help them. These grave experiences magnified his efforts and support for humanitarianism. 

Azhar reached his breaking point during a visit to the Gaza Strip at the end of the war in 2009. Accompanying the Gift of the Givers, he describes his first experience as a conflict reporter to be a very difficult one. The devastating after-effects of the war and the state of its survivors shattered him and stirred his conscience. He mentions that although South Africans suffered at the hands of Apartheid, the consequences of war are a grievous calamity that we can’t even imagine.

Launching Salaamedia nudged Azhar out of his comfort zone because it goes against the standard definition of ‘journalism’. The essence of truthful reporting usually gets lost in orthodox media broadcasting, with news agencies harbouring secret agendas and airing articles based on their own prejudices and ideologies. Salaamedia, on the other hand, has been founded on the principles of justice, equality, freedom, dignity and democracy. They create an awareness around non-discriminatory news and humanitarian projects in South Africa, the African continent and overseas.

A 3000km Ride for SA Education saw avid cyclists from Salaamedia cover a distance of 2000km on a cycle tour from the top of the country to Cape Town. This visionary project was in aid of raising funds for education. Azhar and his team are passionate about developing sustainable academic systems in South Africa because once you gift a child with knowledge, they will reap the benefits for a lifetime. Salaamedia also teamed up with Jamiatul Ulama to open a computer lab at a school in Atteridgeville last month, and continually hold campaigns for books, stationery, school shoes and uniforms.

Another successful charity project: Salaamedia hosted the #WalkforSomalia and #WalkforRohingya campaign which helped raise funds for these ailing countries. Azhar is amazed by our local communities’ support and willingness to get involved in these type of projects. He looks forward to working with them, especially the youth, on many more to come.

An incident that emotionally impacted Azhar was a trip to Rohingya, where driving through the refugee camps with the windows down, the roads were lined with little children who extended their hands in the hope of receiving some money. It was heart-rending to Azhar, that while he was able to physically touch the fingers of these kids as he drove by, he couldn’t offer them even a single Bangladeshi Taka (less than 20c), due to strict governmental laws and the fear of being arrested for it. Azhar mentions that it unsettles him to think that some of these children get kidnapped, exploited and become victims of human trafficking, never to be seen again.

 

The Communications-graduate is a staunch believer in ‘acting’ over ‘giving’. He says that while many of us contribute financially to human aid, we need activists to stand up for our principles and say “No” to atrocities. Salaamedia plans to bring activism to the forefront: “There’s only so much of money we can give, but we can give of ourselves and of our time.” 

His thoughts on Proudly Muslims of SA: Azhar says there’s so much goodness and positivity out there which needs to be transferred to the wider public, and a platform like this one will amplify the message. It gives us the chance to tell our stories in our own unvarnished words and dispel the negative untruths that are so freely portrayed in the media.

The father-of-three describes himself using the terms: simplicity, passionate and striving for equality. 

 

Mr. Vadi’s most treasured Quranic verse: “Don’t despair in the mercy of Allah.” When it’s difficult to stay positive amidst the tragedies that surround him, he explains that Allah has provided so much hope in this verse.

His advice to aspiring philanthropists: “Get involved and start. That’s the most important thing.” He advises people to start helping in their individual capacity if they don’t want to be part of a large organisation. Humanitarian work is as simple as picking up litter off the ground.

Azhar’s goals for the future include continuing with humanitarian efforts both locally and abroad. They are currently focused on the Rohingya struggle, but are always connected to projects in Palestine and Syria. He hopes to establish a pediatric hospital in Somalia in time to come. His work in South Africa will fundamentally remain in the educational sphere, as he believes in the long-term benefits that a good academic grounding can bring to our youth. He hopes to inspire them to take on challenges faced by their own communities. “Education is key for us.”

His life motto: “Every strand pulls the plough of rebellion.”

Azhar wants to be remembered as somebody who was of service to others.

He is most grateful for, first and foremost, being a Muslim and for having wonderful, supportive parents and a superb wife who is his pillar of strength. 

The first South African journalist to enter Syria, Azhar Vadi constantly puts his life in peril to bring us the facts from the firing lines of war. The intrepid reporter goes above and beyond the call of duty to earn justice for the innocent and voice the words of those who are silenced. 

To follow Azhar’s philanthropic efforts and pursuit of truth, visit salaamedia.com

Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman – World-renowned Philanthropist and Founder of ‘Gift of the Givers’

Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes, their attire comprises a dark green golfer unassumingly stamped with the words ‘Gift of the Givers’, and not any of the famous superhero emblems we’ve all come to recognise. The humble wearer of this unpretentious, non-lycra costume is the preternatural hero himself, Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman. One of SA’s busiest and most hard-working human-aid advocates, Dr. Sooliman share’s his philanthropic voyage with us.

No stranger to being in the public eye and the subject of many print, radio and TV interviews, Dr. Sooliman is a household name synonymous with outstanding humanitarian work. From his early beginnings in Potchefstroom in the North-West province to commandeering the largest disaster relief organisation in Africa, Imtiaz has always been keen on taking on new challenges. His dreams of becoming a doctor took him 625km away from his hometown to the coastal city of Durban, where he completed high school and thereafter attended medical school. After graduating in 1984, Imtiaz completed his community service at King Edward Hospital, then moved to Pietermaritzburg where he opened up a private practice in 1986.

The real-life chevalier doesn’t practice medicine anymore but says that his medical knowledge has been immensely helpful in his field of work, which includes setting up hospitals and aiding the ill or wounded. If he wasn’t out saving the world each day, Dr. Sooliman would be practising martial arts – his life-long aspiration.

Social work has been a high priority for him since the beginning of his career; he became involved with the Islamic Medical Association (IMASA), and provided assistance during the Gulf War and the catastrophic Bangladesh cyclone, both in 1991. While travelling to the disaster-hit cyclonic country via Turkey, a fortuitous meeting brought Imtiaz face to face with a Sufi sheikh and spiritual teacher; a confluence that changed the course of his life forever. The learned sheikh taught him to understand the spiritual side of Islam, stating that “love, compassion and human dignity override every other law in Islamic teaching.”

Under the advice of his sheikh, Dr. Sooliman started Gift of the Givers in August 1992. Building this colossal organisation from the ground up 25 years ago, Gift of the Givers has made far-reaching changes to the lives of the needy and destitute in South Africa and the rest of the world. With 21 different categories of assistance, the NGO has delivered aid to blocked regions in Yemen, drought-lashed countries in Africa and currently runs two of the biggest hospitals in northern Syria, managed by 230 staff members. A recipient of countless awards and honours, Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman’s respected and celebrated status does little to alter his lack of pretension. Instead, he’s most grateful to be given the opportunity to help people, and his biggest fear lies in it being taken away from him.

Imtiaz was deeply affected by his experience working in Somalia, where he witnessed children and their families walk hundreds of kilometres to get to his hospital. The children related their anguishing journey, having no choice but to leave a parent, sibling or relative behind along the way, as they were too weak or hungry to continue walking. These innocent kids face a burdensome paradox – staying behind could lead to death, but continuing their expedition meant someone they loved would be left behind to perish. Dr. Sooliman mentions that this is a common occurrence for thousands of Somalis.

“I’m very proudly Muslim,” Imtiaz affirms, explaining that Islam isn’t what people think it is – 1.6 billion people are certainly not terrorists. Less than one per cent of Muslims may engage in deranged, inexcusable behaviour, however “it’s not the behaviour of proper Muslims.” He says that Islam is a religion of peace, love and service to mankind. Imtiaz is inspired by the incredible example set by Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), who never had any hatred against anyone and was never harsh nor vindictive. He relates that the Prophet and all the other khalifs (Islamic leaders) always portrayed exceptional qualities of gentleness, compassion and forgiveness.

The 55-year-old describes himself as dedicated, determined and hard-working. Islam is what drives him as it makes him conscious of what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s fair and what’s just, what’s balanced and what’s imbalanced, and what’s honesty and integrity. He earnestly wades through the pages of the holy Quraan and uses it as life’s ultimate textbook on what rules to follow.

To the aspiring philanthropist, Imtiaz advises that money isn’t a requirement to help people. Imparting your skills or knowledge to others is just as important. He mentions that the youth can empower other students simply by tutoring them as this will have a positive impact on their lives.

When asked about his future goals, Dr. Sooliman replies that he has no worldly desires and the only thing that satisfies him is serving others. “The less you have, the better it is. I have no desire for other stuff because it’s not real. Human suffering is real.

Imtiaz is always emotively struck by the selflessness of people. While the affluent may donate millions from their inexhaustible resources, the penniless who give their last R10 to someone worse off than they are, have the kind of qualities we need to be mindful of.

To this lionhearted altruist, success is not defined by material evaluation. Success means gaining God Almighty’s acceptance of your good deeds.

Imtiaz believes that we can’t separate our identity as Muslims because we are all human, created by the same God. We shouldn’t assume that we’re better than anyone else as Islam has no place for ego. “We are proudly human” he declares, “and it’s important for us to respect our own belief systems as well as the belief systems of others.”

His favourite Quranic verse: “Verily we have created man into toil and struggle.” 

His last words in life would be: “Continue serving people.” He believes that the fastest way to attain spiritual growth is through service to mankind.

His life motto: “Serve people.” A powerful sentiment put simply, Imtiaz says he has everything in life to be grateful for and that “there is no greater gift than contentment.” 

Dr. Sooliman would like to leave his legacy as a reminder to people to do good for others. He doesn’t wish to be celebrated in any way, saying that “Everything I do is by the grace of Allah.”

A luminary whose brilliance and enormity cannot be perceived in just one interview, Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman is a man veneered in kindness and who lives his life solely for the benefit of others. Selfless, commiserative and open-handed with his abilities and humanitarian aid, Imtiaz is the existential archetype of what a true Muslim is. He lends credence to Islam’s greatest critics, while his love and consideration for all of mankind – regardless of religion, nationality or race – is an unparalleled quality which we can all learn from and aspire to.

Zaheerah Bham-Ismail – TV Personality and Philanthropist

Tune in to ITV Networks on a Thursday morning and you will be cordially greeted by iTrend presenter, Zaheerah Bham-Ismail, a woman who’s inner and outer beauty transcend the glaze of your LCD. While Zaheerah is usually the one asking all the questions, we’ve turned the lens around to unveil an empirically personal side to the adored public figure. 

Zaheerah could write a comprehensive reference book on multi-tasking, successfully juggling a family life with children, a TV career, social work and her day job as a Speech and Hearing Therapist. If that isn’t enough to encouragingly jolt you off your chair, the 39-year old also makes time to perch on the Commonwealth Businesswomen Africa Board.

Before commencing her career in Speech Pathology and Audiology, Zaheerah attained a BA degree in Psychology and English, then acquired Montessori certification and studied Human Resources and Marketing. She made her television debut while still at high school, moving on to the Voice Radio Station and eventually found her métier at iTrend on ITV. Zaheerah believes that “If it’s meant to be and the opportunity is right, it will present itself.”

 

Married at 19, Zaheerah says that a union of longevity relies on sharing similar value systems and identifying one’s moral compass. Celebrating 20 years of matrimony, Mrs. Bham-Ismail advises our betrothed youth to go for pre-marital counselling which will greatly assist in adequately preparing them for marriage and provide them with essential problem-solving skills.

A leading figure of the Islamic television industry, Zaheerah describes herself in three words; sensitive, loyal and honest. While we may add many more positive attributes to that list, Zaheerah mentions that she prefers to keep her private life secluded from the prying gaze of the social media matrix. She adds that these digital outlets often provide a ‘filtered impression’ and not a realistic view of someone’s life.

Zaheerah is fortunate to have been surrounded by many exceptional influences and mentors throughout her life, starting with her (late) father who taught her the importance of social work, and thereafter her father-in-law whose knowledgeable perceptions helped frame her pre-conceived notions about the world. Edris Khamissa, Ashraf Garda, the late Shamima Sheikh, Suraya Nawaab and Dr. Shaheda Omar are all incredible individuals whom she looks up to, stating that she learns from everybody she comes across. “Allah sends people in your life that you can learn from,” she expresses.

Zaheerah takes solace in the wisdom and inspirational words etched in her memory by her late father. His death ten years ago and her sister’s passing last year mark two of the most despairing, life-changing points in her life. She stresses the importance of spending time with loved ones, especially the elderly, as they have an amazing treasury of experience and insight to share. The tragic losses she’s endured has made her grounded and more appreciative of each moment. Zaheerah says that she’s so grateful for Imaan (faith) because it’s a rope that you hold on to, and it pulls you through and gives you hope.

 

She defines success as ‘contentment’ and dusts away the idea that monetary success is a benchmark for happiness. Zaheerah indicates that to her, true success lies in how you make other people feel and the respectability with which you raise your children to have. She teaches her daughters that “If you can go out there and treat everyone with the same amount of dignity, regardless of who they are or what the person has, then that is success.”

This working mum-of-three balances her countless duties and activities by praying to Allah for barakah (blessings) in each day and leans on her extraordinary support system – comprising of close friends and family – to get her through it all. She says that as women, it’s okay to ask for help every now and then. We’ve been indoctrinated into thinking that by accepting assistance, it would declare us bad mothers or wives, however, with the innumerable tasks we have to manage every day, having help is quite necessary.

In her downtime, Zaheerah loves reading, citing her favourite books as Forty Rules of Love by Elif Safak and Desperately Seeking Paradise by Ziauddin Sardar. Quranically, the powerful verses of Surah Ar-Rahman and Surah An-Nur always provide her with a sense of hope, light and mercy. The talented presenter says that she lives every single moment of her life thankful to Allah. 

Zaheerah’s work as a philanthropist deserves its own Wikipedia page, her adolescent hopes of becoming a counsellor led her to work at Islamic Careline and the Teddy Bear Clinic in her younger years. She chairs the Caring Women’s Forum (which is in it’s 22nd year of operation), she’s on the Board of the Islam Charity Network and is a non-executive member of Crescent Haven Children’s Home as well as the Pulmonary Hypertension Kids of South Africa Foundation. Zaheerah’s passion for humanitarian work also seats her on the Board of Madressah IHSAN, an organisation that caters for adults and children with disabilities. She says that even on a bad day, spending time at the institute centers her, and teaches her gratitude and appreciation. 

 

“I believe anybody can do anything. Charity is small bits that we do every single day – it doesn’t have to be anything huge.” Zaheerah is astounded by the charitable work being done by women, especially in smaller towns, as these are the unspoken heroes who are making groundbreaking changes in South Africa.

Her advice to the youth: “Stay grounded.” Living in the age of the digital fishbowl, it’s easy to get lost in the hype and try to fit in. However, Zaheerah encourages them that it’s actually better to be different and stand out. She advises the parents within her generation to spend quality time with their families, even if it’s spent doing the simplest of things.

Her life motto: “Live for now.” Acknowledging that life is temporary and that there are no guarantees, Zaheerah makes the most of every moment and teaches her girls to harness the ‘power of now’.

Zaheerah would like to be remembered as someone who tried her best. The women she’s inspired and the charity groups she supports will emphatically bear testimony to this fact.

Even if you’ve met her for the briefest of moments, Zaheerah Bham-Ismail is someone who will leave a lasting and magnetic impression on you. The notable media presence and philanthropic legacy she’s built is a stepping stone for women in South Africa, proving that with the right attitude and dedication, we can achieve anything. Family-orientated career girl, goal-digger, dynamic orator, selfless social worker and overall superwoman, Zaheerah plays many roles, each one with grace and honourability.