Sheikh Irafaan Abrahams, the new president of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), was inaugurated at the City council’s office in Athlone on Wednesday, June 1.
Mr Abrahams, 57, takes the position as the president of the 72-year-old organisation, after previously serving under six presidents – Sheikh Shakier Gamieldien from 1955-1970, Sheikh Ighsaan Gamieldien from 1970 to 1978, Sheikh Abubakr Najaa from 1978 to 1982, Sheikh Nazeem Mohamed from 1982 to 1998, Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels from 1998 to 2006, and Maulana Ihsaan Hendricks, from 2006 to 2016.
The MJC, which opened its doors in 1945, had previously appointed chairman Sheikh Shakier Gamieldien to head the organisation, but after a visit from Maulana Aleem Siddiqi, who suggested they appoint presidents, they did so and appointed the first president in 1955.
Mr Abrahams was born in Surrey Estate and left South Africa in 1978 to study in Medina, Saudi Arabia. He completed his studies in 1987 and became part of the MJC in June that year, after having led the Darul Islam mosque in Surrey Estate. A year later, after leading the mosque, he accepted a post at Portland Mosque in Mitchell’s Plain.
He lives in Surrey Estate, is married and has 13 children.
Mr Abrahams has served on the MJC’s executive council for 29 years and on the senior council for the past two years.
“People have been tested before us and will be tested after us,” he said during his inaugural address. “This is our journey. I want the community to know that we are not sitting here on our laurels; we are working. There will always be something that we can improve on, but we are working. “We will be paying visits to the abattoir very soon to see what work they have been doing.
There will be many challenges but it is about how we overcome those challenges. The MJC is here to serve the community.”
He said they would visit crime-stricken communities and speak with gangsters to ask them to embrace Islam and turn away from violence. He also wanted to help the poor and needy in the townships.
He is planning a trip to drought-stricken Brandfontein and Loeriesfontein in the third week of June, where the MJC will give food parcels to more than 3 000 people and also pray for rain in the area.
“The direction that our youth is going in is of great concern. The youth and the women must take first priority in the MJC. I am done talking, the time for talking is over,” he said.
Former president Maulana Ihsaan Hendricks said the community should approach the MJC with questions instead of talking about it.
“The MJC has taken a lot of abuse from the community, but we have taken note of those who abuse the MJC. My advice to the president is not to engage himself in social discussions. Stay in your home, because that’s where you are safe,” said Mr Hendricks.
Mr Abrahams said: “We are respectable people, because our mothers and fathers were respectable. Long before we became leaders, we grew up in homes with respect. Today, we celebrate leaders but very seldom do we celebrate their parents. It is not the title of presidency that gives you strength, it is the strength of your parents.”
Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels said he was certain that Mr Abrahams would be a successful president.
“We know that Sheikh Irafaan will make a success of his position.
“At the age of nine years old, he had so much respect for the MJC. It had to be that he has become president of the MJC. He has proven himself that he is a member of the community,” said Mr Gabriels. “The MJC belongs to the community. Any person is most welcome,” he added.
Deputy president of the MJC, Sheikh Riyad Fataar, said he planned to visit colleges, universities, and schools, to build closer relationships with the community. “A lot of work has been done already but sometimes the community doesn’t know what is happening in the MJC. “We will come out to each of you,” he said.