The Al-Waagah Islamic Institute for the deaf is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year.
It was established in 1995, after its founding member, Sheikh Nusrah Qaasim, overheard a woman saying deaf people did not have a madrassa.
According to Fadiyah Harris, the institute’s administrator, Sheikh Qaasim had then decided to find deaf people to teach.
Together with a team of people, he started a madrassa and they taught the deaf, from age five to 85, at the St Athans Road mosque in Athlone.
Most of them came from Athlone, Bridgetown, Mitchell’s Plain and surrounding areas.
Over the years, the Sunday class grew from 10 to more than 100 people, and they paid a non-compulsory fee of R15.
The institute caters for nikah (marriage), talaq (divorce) and reverts. There are Hajj and sign language classes, and it helps with grant applications and other social needs. Ironing and tailoring services cover some of its expenses.
Ms Harris said funding was the biggest challenge and the institute relied solely on public donations and volunteer teachers.
“The second challenge that we have is the need for qualified teachers who can teach Islamic education to the deaf,” she said.
“Religion is a fundamental tool in life – you need to feel like you belong somewhere. No matter what religion, you need to belong somewhere, and that is why this organisation is important in the community. The deaf are so mesmerised by the things they learn at the madrassa; they are extremely excited about attending every Sunday.”
This is one madrassa where you will see people reciting the Qur’an in sign language.
“One of the highlights was when we were in a workshop and a hearing person was asked to recite the adhan (call for prayer). We couldn’t understand that because the deaf people couldn’t hear it, but we didn’t understand the method behind it. The vibrations of the adhan touched their hearts, the atmosphere was different,” she said.
Ms Harris said the institute needed new premises and was always looking for volunteers.
“Most of our volunteers are full-time working people, so we need as many volunteers as we can get. We need expertise on life-skills projects and assistance with our events. Many people still don’t know about us locally or nationally. We need sponsorship for advertising. We don’t just want people’s money; we want them to become involved with the organisation.”
Call Ms Harris at 021 638 3368 for more information.