Madrasah tul Madina principal Sheikh Abdurahman May, 55, lived his legacy of setting up a school and empowering madrasah teachers to enthral pupils with the knowledge of Islam.
Sheikh May, from Morgen’s Village, died at Groote Schuur Hospital on Friday January 3 after being in hospital for more than two months. He was diagnosed with cancer in November last year.
His wife Mualima Fairouz May spoke to the Plainsman on Thursday January 9 about her husband and his legacy.
Madrasah tul Madina is a hafith (memorisation of the Qur’an) week-day school and a weekend madrasah based at 99 Korfbal Street in Beacon Valley.
Sheik May is survived by his wife and their five children, Mogammad Solaaguddeen, 19, Qudsiyyah, 18, Azaam Ghazalie, 16, Abdul-Hameed, 13, and Huthayfa, 8.
“He raised our children to take care of the madrasah when he is not here. They are young but are capable and excited to carry on,” she said.
Mualima May said this is because they have this belief and follow the teaching of Prophet Muhammed – that pious children, who continue to make duah (prayer) for their deceased parents, and who give charity on behalf of them or teach in the path of Allah – is a gift that lives forever.
Sheikh May was born in Claremont but raised in Bo-Kaap and Hanover Park after his family was displaced following the apartheid government’s implementation of its Group Areas Act.
He was inspired by a teacher while at Mountview High School, who explained the deen (way of life for Muslims) to him.
This also inspired him to become a teacher and make a difference in the lives of youth.
“He believed that school teachers can make that difference in the lives of their students,” said Mualima May.
He studied in Pakistan for six years and completed various courses, including commerce, media, psychology, education, Cape Muslim history, Islamic studies and Qur’an recitation across Cape Town.
The same subjects were covered in a free month-long madrasah teachers’ teaching pilot project, which was hosted at the Beacon Valley School in August last year.
Sheikh May’s father was friends with Mualima May’s parents and the couple was introduced in September 1991 and two months later they married.
“I was attracted to his intelligence.
“When we got married, we lived in Strandfontein, then we moved to Lentegeur, New Lentegeur and settled in Morgen’s Village in 2010,” she said.
Mualima May said her husband had lived his legacy.
“All these years he worked in the community,” he said.
He started the Lentegeur Youth Movement in 1992, with halaqat (teaching circles) which were held at his parents-in-law’s house in Madeliefie Road, Lentegeur.
Both him and his wife taught at Salaamudeen Mosque, in New Lentegeur, for 15 years.
They would have award ceremonies and goals, to which students would work towards, whether it was memorising a chapter or reading the Qur’an from cover to cover.
“Each tamat had to be different. There had to be an improvement and each time he would set the bar a bit higher,” she said.
In 1995, Sheikh May’s in-laws sent him on hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca because it was his heart’s desire.
She recalled that it was during this time that he had penned a letter to her, in which he expressed his desire to start a union for madrasah teachers or to do something for madrasah teachers.
Creative Madrasah Solutions was an idea he had and had worked hard to achieve.
“That only took place now,” she said. After years of canvassing and struggling, with me at his side. He had to explain his ideas and lobby for funding with businesses and organisations to understand his vision.”
Mualima May said between 2005 and 2009 they had an Islamic clothing and book store in Promenade mini mall, where parents sent their children to come and recite after school.
“He was a very approachable person and people would stop to speak to him when we were out, and ask him questions of deen,” she said.
The shop ran at a loss because Sheikh May would give away books if he advised people on literature.
Mualima May said she then said to him: “You continue to teach and I went on to sell samoosas outside Winners’ supermarket because both of us could not work for free,” she said.
In 2011 Sheikh May started weekend classes for high school pupils at Al Masjiduth Thanie, in Spine Road in Rocklands, but the classes outgrew the premises.
Sheikh May then lobbied for a businessman to buy the Beacon Valley premises in 2014.
In June 2018 the South African Muslim Charitable Trust (SAMCT) gifted the school a 14-seater van.
Mualima May said the youth were his biggest worry.
“He said they are lost and that parents were spending more money and put more emphasis on secular education and worldly stuff than their children’s relationship and belief in Allah,” she said.
“He always used to say it is not about what you teach but how you teach.
“He always made it exciting for the learners. Something had to be done to develop the child. We had to build up the child’s confidence and involve them in various programmes, speech writing competitions, poetry readings, eisteddfods, protests and discussions, to which they could relate.”
Their first challenges to the youth included memorising short chapters in the Qur’an, reading it from cover to cover and memorising their first juz (a collection of chapters).
All of which their daughter Qudsiyyah was the first to have achieved.
“It all depends on you as the parent to encourage your child,” said Mualima May.
The May couple went everywhere together, including business meetings and meeting politicians to secure funding or support.
Last year the madrasah also hosted its second career expo and its third annual madrasah teachers conference.
In 2015, together with Muslim Youth Forum, they hosted a five-day “Youth Agents of Social Change” programme with the support of the Western Cape Government’s Department of Community Safety’s Youth Safety and Religion Partnership (YSRP) programme in Beacon Valley.
Mayor Dan Plato, then the MEC for Community Safety, visited the programme.
Mualima May said her husband encourage others.
“He was a motivator, go-getter and always inspired one to do your best. He made you feel like you know everything and everyone is important,” she said.
Mualima May said for her and their children, while life would never be the same without him, “My children are ready to fall in their father’s footsteps.”
“I would like to say shukran to everyone, who came to visit him in hospital and came to the house to pay their respects. Shukran for the support you have shown to me and our children,” she said.
Sheikh May will be remembered for his good counsel, prayers and recitation of the Quran for his family, friends and strangers.