Looking back at Islamic society’s early days

Moosa Aysen, president of Mitchells Plain Islamic Society, and Abdurahgiem Hermans, burial society administrator.

Even though some sponsors and donors were uncertain whether the goal to build Mitchell’s Plain’s first mosque would be realised, they helped to establish the Mitchell’s Plain Islamic Society (MPIS).

And six years after the society’s first meeting at the Visitors’ Centre, on the corner of Dagbreek Avenue and Koornhoop Road, in Westridge, on Sunday September 5 1976, Masjidul Jumu’ah, in Shepherd Way Westridge, was completed.

This milestone was marked about a year before the launch of the United Democratic Front (UDF), a stone’s throw away at the Rocklands civic centre in 1983 – and just in time for launch event delegates and participants to sleep over.

In celebration of their twentieth anniversary in 1996, the society produced a prospectus, which highlighted its sacrifices and achievements related to building five masajid (mosques), three education centres, a burial society and a beitul maal – catering facility – for the poor and a relief fund.

Today 43 years later, they have more than doubled the number of mosques, added another learning institution, and continued to serve an ever growing population.

Moosa Aysen, president of the society at the time, told the Plainsman how they had travelled across the country with photographs, plans and proposals to attract financial support “to build up our Islamic infrastructure in the area of Mitchell’s Plain”.

“People gave, mostly those from the Transvaal and Natal, and we had to be sure we delivered,” he said.

Their first port of call had been the 41 families in Westridge to establish a “solid Islamic foundation”.

Mr Aysen said while the society built the build mosques, they handed over the responsibility for their maintenance to the communities they served.

“They would take ownership of the day-to-day running of the place and the properties would be kept in a trust,” he said.

Later that year it was agreed that each family would be taxed R2 a month and by the end of the year members would also establish a burial society.

An education board was established on July 3 1977, to see to the religious needs of the community.

Board member at the time Abdurahgiem Hermans and now an administrator for the society said they were proactive in procuring the plot in Shepherd Way, Westridge, which was the second biggest plot, initially earmarked for a church.

The society engaged directly with the Council of Cape Town at the time, to acquire four additional plots — in Eastridge, Portland, Rocklands and Lentegeur — at a cost of R2 each.

“We told them we were men of honour and that we would do what was agreed upon,” he said.

The late Sheikh Nazeen Mohamed, President of the Muslim Judicial Council wrote in their prospectus: “This society gave every impression of having foresight and have proved themselves to know exactly what they envisaged to be beneficial to the Muslims and people of the area.”

He added: “The MPIS is regarded as one of the most progressive organisations of the Cape.”

Masjidul Jumu’ah, in Westridge, will hold its annual food fair at the mosque’s complex from after jumu’ah on Friday November 1 and Saturday November 2, from 10am until late.

For more information, call Faldelah Mackenzie on 083 354 0959.