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.