Zareef Minty – Entrepreneur, Lawyer, Thought Leader and Innovator

Not everyone can say that they started their first successful business at just 16 years old. Not everyone can say they’re a radio host and a best-selling author. Not everyone can be rated on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Not everyone can win a reality TV contest focused on leadership skills. Then again, not everyone is Zareef Minty.


Leaving his hometown of Klerksdorp in the North West Province to pursue an LLB degree at the University of the Witwatersrand, Zareef knew he was destined for great things. The youngest of three siblings, Mr Minty has always enjoyed the concept of breaking the conventional and disrupting the paradigm.

Shattering the myth that people from small towns are more relaxed and content with what they are doing and what they have, Zareef was led by his ambitious goals and dreams. He’s constantly innovating, changing and developing. “Regardless of where I grew up, I knew that I wanted to be impacting the lives of millions positively,” Minty reveals.

One of his career highlights was making the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, a remarkable feat for a young South African Muslim, and one that we can all be proud of.

In the midst of his entrepreneurial pursuits and promising legal career, Zareef makes time for this passion; philanthropy. He works very closely with Reach for a Dream and has also established his own charitable venture called the Build-A-School Foundation. This education-based initiative aims to build three schools by 2022. A recent partnership with Islamic Relief has fueled his enthusiasm to add as much value as he can through humanitarian work. “Their organisation truly changes lives and assists our brothers and sisters all around the world,” he states.

Named by Mail & Guardian as one of the Top 200 Young South Africans, Zareef has always believed that his purpose in this world is way beyond him. “It’s to inspire and change the lives of millions,” Minty is confident that if we change the mindsets of our youth, we can make a change to the world.

Islam is at the core of Zareef’s entire life. His principles and values are aligned to those of Islam. He faithfully mentions, “Many don’t really understand that God is everything. The role that God plays in our lives is incredible. Everything comes from him.”

Zareef’s most rewarding moment occurred during his television appearance on One Day Leader (of which he won season 4). It was his involvement in building a beautiful playground for underprivileged children in Kaya Sands that was most moving for him.

The 25-year-old says that his proudest achievement is his educational platform, The Generational Wealth Education. “I believe my proudest moment was that second when it hit me, thanks to God that I finally created something sustainable that will change the lives of millions of people someday. Insha-Allah.”


Wise beyond his years, Zareef says that the fear of failure is something that limits many of us. He advises that we need to get rid of that fear and build confidence and validation from within. Shedding his own fear, it was after being rejected by 19 publishers that Zareef was able to release his book, Empire. His self-belief never allowed him to give up and led to one of his biggest dreams come to life – having his book published and sold in Exclusive Books stores. During the first month, it became a national best-seller in South Africa. “Anything is possible if you believe in your abilities and talents,” he notes.

Zareef’s life motto: “Choose happiness. We underestimate the importance of actually being happy. Being happy with yourself, being happy with your journey, and being happy with your own life.”

The best-selling author is greatly inspired by his mentors. He’s also inspired by people like Cristiano Ronaldo because of his level of excellence and determination. “I am a huge fan of his humanitarian work too, especially with Syria,” Zareef goes on to say.

His favourite Quranic verse: “For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” (Q. 94:5-6).

He believes that in the remembrance of God, any hardship will be alleviated. “Every difficult moment will pass, and if you work hard and are extremely consistent, any difficulty can turn into an opportunity to dominate,” Zareef expresses.

Zareef finds that ‘success‘ is subjective. It means different things to different people. “For me, success is happiness. Success is convenience. Success is leaving a legacy for generations to come,” he explains.

Every year, the young lawyer sets 500 goals for himself. One of his major aims for the next 7-10 years is to delve further into politics and become the Minister of Education someday. He previously gained experience in the field as the National Youth President of the Patriotic Alliance.

He advises other budding humanitarians to “know your ‘why’”. Acknowledging why you’re doing something keeps one consistent and focused. While difficulties do arise and rejections from potential sponsors and donors can be demotivating, Zareef encourages do-gooders to be consistent and remember the end goal: benefitting hundreds of people and bringing ease to their lives. Insha-Allah.


The trailblazing entrepreneur is grateful for everything. “Every single thing. I’m grateful for the opportunity to wake up in the morning, I am grateful for having a bed to sleep on. Having clothes to wear. I’m grateful for mercy and for understanding. I’m grateful for wisdom and for my parents.”

His greatest life lesson is to be humble and grateful.

Zareef is an avid believer in the value of Proudly Muslims of SA, adding, I think it’s absolutely beautiful and incredible. We need more platforms to motivate and inspire our people. Thank you to PMSA for developing this platform.”

He isn’t concerned about being personally remembered by society, but hopes that the good work he does will. Zareef would like to help millions of people in the world. “I want what I establish for our people to be remembered, and for it to be extremely sustainable, so it helps even more people with time. Insha-Allah. It’s such a beautiful blessing to have the ability to bless others.”


At his youthful age, Zareef Minty has achieved so much more than most of us would in a lifetime. With his unstoppable passion, earnestness and energy, his faithfulness and trust in the Almighty, and admirable tenacity to make a positive impact on the world, Zareef has only one way to go from here… straight to the top!

Rashid Bhikha – Pharmaceutical Industry Pioneer and Healthcare Education Specialist

When paring off the many intricate and remarkable layers of Professor Rashid Bhikha, we’ve discovered that behind the accomplished academic, thought leader, healthcare enterpriser and learned businessman, is a man committed to family and philanthropy. Every step Rashid has taken in his life hasn’t been without discernible point; it’s been a purposeful and conscious stride in the betterment of South African healthcare services, education and training.

Chairman and founder of the Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb, Pretoria-raised Bhikha is passionately involved in improving the level of local healthcare and integrative medicine. During his early years as a pharmacist, Rashid built Be-Tabs Pharmaceuticals into the largest privately-owned generic medicine manufacturer in South Africa. In 2007, after 33 years under the Bhikha family leadership, Be-Tabs Pharmaceuticals was sold to an internationally-renowned pharmaceutical company. In 1997, after extensive research into Tibb (Arabic system of medicine), both locally and overseas, he founded the Tibb Institute to promote its teachings and practice in South Africa.

A sedulous learner by nature, after he qualified as a pharmacist in 1969, from the now University of KwaZulu Natal, Rashid attained several business diplomas and extensively researched and studied Islamic, Greco-Arab medicine (Unani medicine) and other complementary modalities. He established the training of Unani-Tibb at the University of the Western Cape in 2003 and completed his PhD in Education at the institution in 2005.


Professor Bhikha’s list of professional exploits is exceptional, to say the least. The considerable timeline that captures his life’s work underpins the theory about him being a diligent polymath and altruistic health entrepreneur.

1974 – Rashid started the first private and black-owned, pharmaceutical-manufacturing company in South Africa called Be-Tabs. The company was sold in 1997 to a leading multinational, and labelled as the largest independently-owned manufacturing company in Africa.

1997 – Founded the Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb (waqf), to promote medical practice and training of Tibb in South Africa.

1998 – 2001 – Established primary health clinics in partnership with local government (Kagiso, Leratonga, and an Aids home in Kathlehong.

2001 – Initiated recognition of Unani-Tibb as the 11th complementary health modality of the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa.

2003 – Started training of Tibb at the University of the Western Cape.

2005 – Assisted Tibb doctors in establishing clinics in King Williams Town, Butterworth, Pinetown, Cofimvaba and Mdansane.

2006 – 2008 – Tibb clinics were opened to facilitate practical training for UWC students in Mannenburg, Langa and Surrey Estate.

2007 – Established Tibb Health Sciences

2009 – 2014 – Launched Tibb School Programme.

2010 – 2013 – Institute upgrades AIDS home in Mayfair, trauma unit at GF Jooste Hospital, and Heideveld Home for women and children.

2012Tibb Institute produces 20 episodes of ‘Medicine of the Prophet’ for ITV.

2012 – 2018 – Tibb Lifestyle Advisors Programme for community healthcare workers / clinic health promoters launched. There are more than 5000 advisors trained.

2013 – Established 110 wellness desks

– Wrote and published seven books (5 consumer, 2 academic).

– Wrote, published and presented many articles and academic papers on Tibb.

– Recently co-founded the Asklepion School of Medicine in Greece.

His index of outstanding achievements does not end there. The healthcare philanthropist has been duly recognised for all his contributions in the betterment of his field.

2007 – Acknowledgment of services rendered to the community by the Islamic Medical Association, Pretoria.

2008 – Presented with the Inyathelo Lifetime Philanthropy Award from The South African Institute for Advancement.

2008 – Recognition of services to Eastern (Unani) medicine from Hamdard, Pakistan.

2014 – Honorary award from the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa for contribution to the IMA and the community at large.

2016 – Commendation certificate bestowed in recognition and appreciation of valuable services rendered to Unani System of Medicine, National Institute of Unani Medicine from the Bengaluru Minister of AYUSH, (Govt. of India) at the International Conference on Unani Medicine.

2018 – Presented with the Ibn-E-Sina International Award for outstanding contribution for the inception, procreation, and research and development of Unani Medicine Globally in Aligarh Muslim University, India.

Like many of the most influential Muslim South Africans of our time, Prof Bhikha grew up during the apartheid era, when injustice associated with the system was pervasive. He initially wanted to retire at the age of 40 and get involved in community work. However, in 1989, one of his three daughters faced an agonising illness, which was the turning point in Rashid’s life, urging him to focus more on healthcare.

The devoted father-of-four has worked extensively within the charity sphere. Three of the most unforgettable projects he’s been involved in include:

1. The establishment of healthcare facilities in underprivileged areas:

  • Tibb Institute’s journey towards achieving its vision of assisting the Department of Health in accessibility to healthcare provision began when the first two primary healthcare outreaches were opened; in Kagiso (July 1998) and Leratong (April 1999).

  • Later, an AIDS home-based care centre was established in Katlehong (in July 2001), in cooperation with the greater Germiston City Council, and handed over to local government.

2. Educating and providing information on healthcare management, including lifestyle management for chronic pain/diseases etc.

  • An important aspect of the social responsibility programme is promoting empowerment in health matters through education and training at consumer level. Workshops on the role of lifestyle in health promotion and in the management of chronic illnesses including HIV and AIDS, hypertension and diabetes have been conducted since 2005 to more than 1000 participants, many of them representatives from non-governmental organisations or local municipalities.

  • From 2010, training in health promotion has been formalised into a Lifestyle Advisors Course, in partnership with numerous health-related NGOs, wherein Tibb sponsored and trained Lifestyle Advisors, and provided information on the prevention and treatment of both acute and chronic illness conditions. Integrating healthy living Tibb principles with conventional medicine, provides a better understanding of the causes of illnesses thus empowering patients to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

3. Projects aimed at spiritual, cultural and emotional development through Zain Bhikha Studios.


At 73, Prof Bhikha still works a full and very productive day. His dedication as a family man and head of the family business is resolute. His daily tasks involve all aspects of the Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb, and to a lesser extent, Tibb Health Sciences. He also spends time as an advisor on matters related to the South African Tibb Association.

Islam is the propeller with which he steers his life’s course, “in keeping with being a vicegerent (khalifah) to establish Allah (SWT)”.

Humanitarian work was always on his list of life goals. It became a reality with his daughter’s illness. “I am very dedicated to delivering effective, affordable healthcare to all South Africans.”

Prof Bhikha’s most emotional achievement: Starting Tibb in South Africa.

His most rewarding accomplishment: Working at a grass-roots level to improve lives via the Tibb Lifestyle Advisors Programme.

His most humbling achievement in philanthropy was receiving the Inyathelo Award in 2009. Developed by The South African Institute for Advancement, the awards are a way to recognise, celebrate and acknowledge people in SA who consistently utilise their personal resources to further social development in the country.

Another momentous milestone which Prof Bhikha recounts is the ‘The Memorandum of Understanding’ with the City of Johannesburg, where he (Tibb) entered into a partnership to introduce Lifestyle Advisors.


Rashid has experienced many significant moments that have inspirited him throughout his life. He recalls some of the most memorable as:

  • Starting Be-Tabs in 1974, during the political climate of the time.

  • Opening the Tibb institute in 1997

  • Being a part of his children’s lives and watching them develop

  • Witnessing his son’s (Zain Bhikha) career unfold

  • Being alive to see the birth of his first great-grandson this year.

With fourteen grandchildren who look up to him, Rashid’s life motto is “be good and do good.”

He defines success as living a life in accordance with the Quraan and Sunnah. “Humility!”

With much affection and admiration, Rashid regards his wife, Mariam Bhikha, as his biggest role model. Her dedication and integrity are much to be adhered to.

Looking to the future, Rashid’s goals include ensuring that his family stays on the right path. He also hopes to consolidate a partnership with the government for health provision, and ultimately to make a difference in healthcare.

He advises all other humanitarians to remain true to their heart and intentions.

Prof Bhikha is most grateful for the Almighty, his deen, wife and children, and his health.

His greatest life lesson: Everything is in Allah’s hands so never presume to be in charge.

Rashid believes that the youth can benefit most from the Proudly Muslims of SA initiative, as it inspires the younger generation to be the best versions of themselves and stay true to their beliefs.

He would leave his legacy with these final words: “As long as you perform your duty to Allah (SWT) and don’t harm anybody, Allah (SWT) will always take care of you.”

Prof Bhikha would like society to remember him as an ordinary person who tried to always be humble, sincere, just and empathetic.

It is with much gratitude to Rashid Bhikha that the future of integrative medicine in South Africa has been solidified. His comprehensive research and assiduity in making the Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb the success that it is today is a legacy that will benefit the destitute plagued by unaffordable medical costs, as well as healthcare graduates and professionals for decades to come.

Dr Zafreen Valli – Champion for Children with Special Needs

Not everyone has the courage nor patience to understand and work with special-needs children. Dr Zafreen Valli flutters her philanthropic wings as a guardian angel to these often overlooked individuals, using her expertise as a medical practitioner, her empathy as a compassionate Muslim woman and her concern and affection as a mother. Chairperson of Care4u2.Respite.Outreach, Zafreen spends every minute of her spare time finding ways to make the lives of these exceptional kids more comfortable, easier and full of joy.

Originally from Rustenburg, Dr Zafreen Valli currently resides in Johannesburg, and runs her medical practice from Emmarentia. She grew up in a home where community and social work played an integral part of her daily life and where giving back was taught to her at a very young age. This instilled core values, good morals and a sense of community in her.

Zafreen’s school teachers and principal always motivated her to reach her full potential and excel in everything she put her mind to. Learning about the Quraan and its principles from her moulanas and apas (Islamic teachers) in madressa – and living her daily life humbly – has helped her understand the purpose of life. Zafreen mentions, “Unknown to me, those days and those activities were guiding me into my very own path in doing community work.”


She recalls the valuable lessons from both her parents about respect, listening, understanding pain and grief, lending a hand whenever or to whomever it was required by, never turning a person in need away and most important of all; not to expect anything in return. She extends her benevolent hand to others “simply for the pleasure of the Almighty and with the hope that He accepts all of my efforts. Ameen. This in itself gives me contentment and purpose.”


Care4u2.Respite.Outreach was formed six years ago when a need was realised within the special-needs community. There were no avenues to turn to for much-needed help with various issues in their homes. Together with a group of talented and professional women, Zafreen has been on the organisation’s board since its inception and also serves as its chairperson. Care4u2 has steadily grown and expanded beyond the borders of Gauteng to other provinces across South Africa as well as Lesotho. Globally, they have assisted Syrian refugee families (living in Turkey) with special-needs requirements. Care4u2 works with Al-Imdaad and the IHH for Syrian refugee children.

Care4u2 services include:

  • The ‘Respite Care’ programme which gives exhausted parents and caregivers a well-deserved break by sending them away on a short vacation.

  • The ‘Outreach’ programme helps special-needs individuals and their families with the provision of food, clothing, specialised wheelchairs and assistive devices.

  • Learnership programmes and job placements are arranged for children afflicted by cerebral palsy, autism, spinal and muscular atrophy and dystrophy, etc.

A normal day for Dr Valli stretches across taking care of her children, running a home, attending to her practice and accomplishing all of this in between seeing her patients.


Dr Valli uses her knowledge as a medical practitioner to deal with special-needs children and their families with a much better understanding. On a daily basis, this includes trying to raise funds, monitoring all projects, attending meetings, ensuring that all the specs for the wheelchairs are correct, that all deliveries are made on time, and that the wheelchair fits the child perfectly.

Religion is the nucleus upon which Zafreen rotates her life. “Islam is truly a way of life. It teaches us unity, love, respect, tolerance and no prejudice and discrimination towards each other.” Her work with special-needs individuals spans across all races and religions, and exemplifies what Islam stands for; striving to serve all of humanity.


Dr Valli describes the most emotional project she’s been involved in: being able to assist a Syrian refugee and father of four children with cerebral palsy (who now live in Turkey). On hearing that they could give each of his children a wheelchair, he thanked the team profusely and most humbly declined, saying that just one chair would do. He said that the organisation should rather give the remaining three wheelchairs to other children in need. When asked why, he replied that there will never be a time when he and his wife will be able to take all four of his children out together. Since the children are severely affected by cerebral palsy, they would rotate the wheelchair among them for separate outings. His humility broke Zafreen’s heart, and we can fully understand why.

Her proudest philanthropic moment can be tracked to when Care4u2 helped Syrian refugees during its fifth year of existence as a welfare organisation. Alhumdulillah.

This mum of two boys experienced her most rewarding project when handing over an electric wheelchair to a twelve-year-old child with cerebral palsy. The little girl was completely fascinated by the hooter on her new chair. Her innocent laughter and excitement on hearing that beeping sound, and being able to press the button and achieve that result made Zafreen realise that all that matters in life is exactly this; a child’s smile at every accomplishment – a simple task for us, yet a huge task for her.

Zafreen’s biggest role model is her dad. To this day, he is very involved in community work and carries it out with such passion, that she cannot help but admire his enthusiasm and positivity for every project.

Her life motto: “Be passionate about what you do, persevere and never give up. Ask for guidance from the Almighty and have faith in Him always.”

Her favourite Hadith: ‘Innamal a’malu binniyat’. This translates from Arabic to “Indeed all actions are based on intentions.” Zafreen truly believes in these words and tries to lead her life by this principle.

Her favourite Quranic verse: Surah Al Fatiha – the opening lines of the Quraan. To Zafreen, a human’s entire being exists in this verse. She says it reminds us of how merciful and gracious Allah is, and that He is the master of the ‘Day of Judgement’. “We should worship and ask for help from Him only; to Guide us to the straight path and the path of those who he has blessed, not of those who have strayed.”

Zafreen is most grateful for having spent every single day with her mother for what was the last three years of her life. This experience taught her that the human mind is the most powerful tool in being able to cope and adapt to any situation and condition.

Her greatest life lesson: “Whatever happens to you happens with God’s will, not a single second earlier or later. What is meant for you will be.”

Dr Valli supports initiatives like Proudly Muslims of SA, as we play an important role in showing the world that Muslims and Islam are not what is portrayed out there. Islam is a religion of peace and teaches us all to love and live together with tolerance. Organisations like this one show our positive actions and portray how much good Muslims do in their daily lives.

If today was her last on earth, Zafreen would encourage others to remain steadfast in their beliefs. “Prayer and faith guides us and is the answer to everything. Also be the best person who you can be.”To Zafreen, success is based on our actions, mannerisms, relationships and keeping to your word. “These profound abilities are free and make one extremely wealthy in all aspects of your life,” she adds.

Her future goals include growing the Care4u2 initiative from strength to strength. Insha-Allah.

She advises other welfare workers to accept being judged and criticised, but to remain humble. “Have passion and continue to strive because every little bit that you do is changing lives and making a difference.”

Dr Valli hopes to be remembered as being part of an organisation that made a difference in the lives of special-needs individuals worldwide. Insha-Allah.


Making every day an outstanding one for children with specials needs, Dr Zafreen Valli seeks to change the world for them and their families. She helps provide them with mobility to make significant strides, nourishment and care to live longer, healthier lives and encouragement and education to uplift them to new heights.

For more information on how you can help, visit the Care4u2 website



Moulana Suhail Wadee – Humanitarian and Custodian of Ashraful Uloom


The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as a person who is involved in or connected with improving people’s lives and reducing suffering. This one simple, yet powerful word is what describes and fully encompasses the values, morals and life’s purpose of Moulana Suhail Wadee. Currently at the helm of Ashraful Uloom Madrassah in Marlboro Gardens, Johannesburg, Ml. Suhail is an unsung champion of the destitute, as well as a religious leader and transformative stalwart of charitable enterprises.

Originally from Lenasia, Moulana Suhail’s family moved to a number of places before settling down in Marlboro, where he completed his matric. As a young child with big ambitions, he had no intention of becoming a Moulana or working at Ashraful Uloom, and would have preferred to go to university and study to become a doctor. Before Ml.Suhail did that, he decided to follow a friend to the Darul Uloom Zakariyya for a year to study hifz (memorising of the Quraan), and then decided to study further with Moulana Yahya Bham in Lenasia. During this time, at the young age of 19, his father sadly passed away while attending to some relief work in Mozambique. He denotes this as a life-changing event that altered his outlook on existence and thrust him into taking over Ashraful Uloom.

Allah chooses who he wants. Allah took me by force and put me in this work,” he says. With the support of his mother, who ran Ashraful Uloom at the time, he completed his hifz with Mufti Ahmed Moosa Data. At age 23, he married a woman that would support him in his journey and help him to grow Ashraful Uloom into the organisation it is today.

Moulana Yusuf Wadee from the Jamiat in Lenasia has been an inspiration to him and one of his greatest mentors. “He does remarkable work and you’ll never see his name in many of the projects he’s involved in. This shows his sincerity and dedication for the work that he does. When you sit and talk to him, you’ll never suspect the magnitude of the work that he does.” It was Ml. Yusuf Wadee who suggested that he study to become an Aalim, and Moulana Suhail took his advice. In 2010, he completed his Aalim course with Moulana Yunus Daya.

Water delivery in Hankey, organised by Moulana Suhail.

Allah has blessed me, Alhamdulillah,” he says. As a young boy, he relied on his intelligence to get him by and didn’t need to study as much for matric as the other students did. As people say, the smart ones are usually the naughtiest ones, and he jokingly says that “when people refer to Moulana’s children as the naughtiest children, I think they were referring to me.” His lack of ambition and nearly straying down the wrong path himself is what gives him the ability to empathise with others and understand their challenges in a non-judgemental way.

Becoming a Moulana was never on his list of professional objectives, due to witnessing the financial and community challenges his own father experienced. “It’s very selfless work that is often not appreciated.” After being suddenly plunged into the position, his perspective has changed, and today, he is awed and inspired by his father. He understands now that his dad was living for a higher purpose, a greater cause, and admirable principles and values.

Losing people closest to him has been a real eye-opener. Moulana Suhail’s brother passed on from leukemia as a child and while that was shocking to him, his father’s passing was truly unexpected, as well as a revelation. In hindsight, it was a turning point in his life that pulled him back from going down the wrong path as a young man. His son’s passing due to cancer, just a month away from his 7th birthday, was a painful time that solidified his belief in the fleeting moments of our lives. “You can go at any point. Within a few weeks, he went from being healthy to passing away,” he says, emotionally. The reality of how short life is made him want to do good work in this world while he is still here.

Ashraful Uloom was originally established in 1995, by taking in a few boys and allocating them to a home in Marlboro. In a short space of time, it grew and became a humanitarian organisation. At the peak of their work, while Moulana Suhail’s father was still alive, the organisation collaborated with the South African and Mozambican governments to fly in three cargo planes of relief aid every week. His father passed away en route to one of these relief projects in Mozambique.

The great work carried out by Ashraful Uloom has helped many disadvantaged communities.

Many organisations offered to take over the relief work during this revered family’s trying time, but Moulana Suhail’s mother, Apa Wadee, took the bold decision to continue the work at the organisation with her son. The relief work was then scaled down to focus on South African operations only; madrassah classes, training, seminars, business development, prison work, relief, welfare and community work, blanket drives and charitable missions in the townships. The organisation is now 23 years old and is growing exponentially; they have 35 permanent staff members and 100 volunteers on various projects. As part of the National Muslim Prison Board of South Africa and acting educational coordinator, Moulana Suhail develops educational programmes that are rolled out in prisons throughout the country. The Department of Correctional Services has also acknowledged their invaluable work with inmates in the country.

The most emotionally touching project for Moulana Suhail is their children’s home. It’s the closest to his heart because of the way it began with his father, and due to the knowledge he has about each boy’s difficult circumstances. “They come from challenging backgrounds. Some of their parents are on drugs, some are from abusive homes, some are orphans. They come to us for a safe haven and just seeing them play, laugh, joke and happy gives me the most pleasure.” The organisation houses and takes care of 24 boys, ranging from ages 7 to 18.

The work we do is because of Islam. The true essence of Islam is about helping and serving humanity and realising that you have an obligation to Allah Ta’ala. We do what we do because of Islam,” he passionately reiterates.

A project collaboration with Mincasa (Masjids and Imams National Advisory Council of South Africa) and IMASA (Islamic Medical Association of South Africa) has been one of his proudest moments. The organisations have jointly managed to support 200 ulema (body of Muslim scholars), muezzins (men who conduct the call to prayer) and apas (female Islamic teachers) with medical support. These individuals have really low incomes; some only receive as little as R700 a month and visiting a doctor is next to impossible. Seeing what his father went through as an Islamic teacher, Moulana Suhail says that being able to help people with similar struggles really means a lot to him.

When asked about his definition of success, he says: “Success can only be gauged once our eyes are closed for good. We don’t know if we are successful until we meet Allah. We can just have hope.”

His future goals are to develop and expand an institute that is next to a masjid in Mozambique, and as it is close to where his father passed away, he feels that it would be very apt to run a project there. He believes that a skills-development and women’s training centre would really benefit the community in this area.

Moulana Suhail recently arranged for water donations and distribution to the destitute.

Whatever you can do in this world, you must do it.” That is Moulana’s advice to others. “Every good action is a charity, it’s a reward and you don’t know what may be your ticket to paradise. To those who are already involved in doing this sort of work, continue to do what you do. Don’t ever become despondent because your (greater) reward isn’t here in this life, it is in the Hereafter.”

He is most grateful for his wife, children, parents and step-dad. He is also very appreciative of the family, friends and community that surrounds him. “They make life so much easier,” he says, and they inspire him to keep going.

He finds initiatives like Proudly Muslims of South Africa very important to encourage collaborations between organisations. “Everyone wants autonomy and that is understandable. We can keep the autonomy and still collaborate to have a greater impact. Ashraful Uloom works with many organisations and is open to working with others.”

We asked him if today was his last day and he could only say a few more words, what would these be? “Meet you on the other side,” he says jokingly, “but in all seriousness, consider your life very short, so do the most that you can in the life He’s given you.”

Bettering the lives of others is the driving force behind Moulana Suhail’s ambition and determination. It is with much humility and fortitude that he continues to inspire and improve the circumstances of the disadvantaged. While Ashraful Uloom was established and grown by his father, it is Moulana Suhail who persists in holding its name up to the highest merit, integrity and moral virtue.

For more information about Ashraful Uloom, please contact Moulana Suhail Wadee on

Dr Jameel Desai – Maxillofacial Surgeon, Lecturer and Humanitarian

Dr Jameel Desai considers himself to be ‘an ordinary bloke’, but after having spent some time with him, we label him as ‘extraordinary’. This selfless maxillofacial surgeon donates his time and expertise in disaster areas and sacrifices financial gain to be of service to the larger South African community. In the face of tragedy and despair, he rebounds at life with a humorous and light-hearted outlook.

Jameel was privileged to have obtained his qualifications from two prominent South African universities; the University of the Witwatersrand and Stellenbosch University, and while his medical interest started early on in life, his desire to branch into facial pathology and surgery developed during his years as a medical student. He owes his inspiration to Dr Hafiz Kola, a family friend who is also qualified in the field, and in this way gets to positively impact the lives of people who’ve had to endure life-changing facial trauma caused by disease or injury.

His decision to give up private practice and work in a state setting was to fill a bigger role in society, but this did not come without challenges. He states that one of the biggest hurdles which South Africa faces is that state settings do not enjoy all the resources that private settings have and this results in a general apathy and negative mentality. “Trying to motivate and inspire people is a huge challenge,” Jameel says.

A typical day for Dr Desai starts with fajr salaah (morning prayers), a protein shake and a long drive to Pretoria from Johannesburg. He arrives at work in time to do his 7am rounds checking up on patients who’ve undergone surgery and inspect any new cases that have landed on his desk. A day of back-to-back theatre procedures sees him put the scalpel down at 5pm, but on days when surgery is not scheduled, he spends his time imparting his knowledge and skills to aspiring youth. Passion is etched on his face as he talks about teaching energetic undergraduates whose spark and vibe fills him with hope for the future of our country. “There are very talented and bright young people in South Africa,” he remarks.

An opportunity to assist overseas was presented to Dr Desai and his accomplished wife, Dr Shafeeqa Mayet (an anaesthesiologist), by Dr Qasim Bhorat, a core member of the Gift of the Givers medical team. A year after the war broke out in Syria, he contacted Jameel to ask the couple if they would contemplate risking their personal safety to donate their time and skills to help the victims there. This decision was not an easy one to make. The couple had to consider their children, but in the face of fear for their lives and their future, they put their faith in the Almighty and decided to answer this calling.

The Syrian crisis stands out in the doctor’s mind as the most brutal and horrific experience he has ever lived through. “To see the number of children being displaced, savagely injured, psychologically scarred and emotionally traumatised is something that continues to haunt me until this day.” He describes it as a genocide and not a conflict. He recalls an incident when a young boy stumbled into the hospital in Darkoush after having been shot in the chest. The Gift of the Givers team relentlessly worked on the boy for about an hour, but tragically lost the battle as he succumbed to his wounds. The boy’s father sat watching in a corner while an unbroken stream of tears flowed down his cheeks. His wife entered the hospital and responded to her husband’s embrace by beating him with her fists unable to contain her excruciating grief. The team discovered later that the husband was a part of the Free Syrian Army and that he had accidentally shot their only child.

After his service in Syria, Jameel subsequently travelled to various other disaster zones, including Gaza and Nepal. He is now on standby and forms part of the core Gift of the Givers medical team. He encourages those who would like to play a bigger part or assist in any way to never underestimate the value of their input and service since all these issues need funding and awareness. He also finds that a significant amount of word-of-mouth awareness is spread by the well-informed ‘aunty’ who is at home listening to the radio, chatting on the phone or online. “They awaken the communities around them,” he says.

Being Muslim is important to Dr Desai because it instils an obligation to live life with integrity and compassion, and to give of oneself unconditionally for the pleasure of the Almighty. He says that it’s a constant reminder that we are here to serve a purpose, and that Allah (SWT) has given us gifts which we should put to good use.

His definition of success is ‘the amount of free time you are able to generate and give of yourself without financial pressures and constraints’. He jokingly remarks: “Once I reach that stage, I will let you know.”

Today’s youth is at a delicate crossroads in that they are recipients of a culture of callousness. He feels that there is a lack of self-respect and respect for others. The youth need to recognise that they are the value of this country, the future of this country and they should conduct themselves accordingly. Upon reflection of his younger days, his advice to his young self would be to take better care of himself, and to come down to earth and get rid of arrogance at an earlier age because the biggest stumbling block is one’s ego.

When it comes to society, he doesn’t feel that he is important enough to be remembered but he would like his close family and friends to remember him fondly and say that he was a good guy, a gentleman who fought for what he believed in and fought righteously.

He says that it’s great to have organisations like Proudly Muslims of South Africa because it is important that society knows that even as a minority we make a sizeable contribution, and that Muslims are governed by a specific set of rules in Islam which forces us to be a people of integrity, compassion and love. “Muslims in SA are committed to the cause of bettering the community as a whole,” he confirms.

We’re all born blessed with a special gift or talent bestowed on us by our Creator, and while we may not all have the stamina and aptitude to specialise in the complexities of maxillofacial surgery, it’s clear that Dr Jameel Desai is indeed fulfilling his destiny as both a world-class medical professional and brave humanitarian. May he continue to touch the lives of hopeless patients and victims, and give them reason to admire themselves in the mirror and smile once again.

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
Lesedi Clinic on 011 938 9044 / 011 938 9112.

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.