Muslims from across the spectrum gathered to mark the official opening launch banquet of the Al-Ikhlaas Academia Library and Resource Centre at the Islamia College Complex on Wednesday evening. From its humble beginnings as the Islamic Library, the new library is seen as a significant achievement for the Muslim community in South Africa.
At the special gala dinner at Islamia hall, politicians, ulema, academics, community activists and businesspeople gathered to celebrate this milestone and to reflect on the importance of knowledge in Islam.
In his keynote address, Deputy Minister of Basic Education Mohamed Enver Surty lauded the executive committee and donors for having the “foresight to ensure that the doors of learning are open to all.”
Referring to protest actions related to the Fees Must Fall campaign, Surty said: “What hurt me most was when a library was destroyed.”
Islamic scholar and former judge, Advocate Hafiz Abu-Baker Mahomed, made reference to the illustrious and pioneering history of libraries as institutions of knowledge and information sharing in the Islamic world.
He said that he believes the Academia Library “will serve as a connector and collaborator for esteemed institutions” across the country and that it will help make Cape Town a “great Centre of learning in the African continent.”
Executive committee Chairperson Dr Elias Parker spoke about this passion for the project and the years of hard and tireless work behind the scenes, often at the sacrifice of family time.
“Today, we witness the launch of a ground-breaking project that holds true to the mission of the beloved Prophet (SAW), and which inspired his early followers to go to all parts of the globe in pursuit of knowledge,” he said.
He thanked the donors and the team who helped ensure that the Academia Library is ready to open its doors for their hard work and dedication.
Chairperson of the Islamia College Broad of Trust, Shaykh Sa’dullah Khan spoke about Allah’s first command ‘Iqra’, to read. The first revelation of five verses in the Holy Quran makes references to knowledge six times.
Khan said the beauty of ‘iqra’ introduced the message of the final Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and revolutionised the world. This, he said, had the greatest impact on civilisation.
“In keeping with the Islamic legacy of iqra, we are privileged to witness the conception of this library. Let me remind you, that a library is in reality, a conference of books,” Khan told the audience.
“Wise ones have said that a book allows you to hear another person and share that person’s thoughts. Perhaps someone deceased for 1000 years…across the millennia, the author speaks. The word is silent, but they are written permanently and speaks to you…”
“Reading is amongst the greatest of human actions, binding people together. People who never knew one another, when they read the same book, wherever they are, they are connected by that book. The book expands the mind and removes the shackles of the brain.”
The scholar highlighted the importance of the ground-breaking books to come from the Cape Muslim community, such as Al-Mufeedah by Sheikh MA Fakier and I am a Muslim written by the late Shaykh Abubakr Najaar – books which have become a daily part of the lives of Muslims. No mention of Islamic books can be made without acknowledging the contribution of Imam al Ghazali, the theologian, jurist and philosopher.
“Although they have met one another, we have met all of them through reading their books,” said Khan.
Far from just a simple library, the research hub will play a vital role in the access to Islamic knowledge and technology.
The Academia Library will afford the general public access to state-of-the-art amenities such as a digital online research system, an interactive audio-visual room, researchers’ hub, and computer workstations with high-speed Internet connectivity.
Referring to the fact that the Academia Library will also have shelf space for over 30 000 books, exco Secretary Shamima Nosaraka-Aziz, said: “Although knowledge and information can now be accessed in an instant by digital means over great distances, we remain deeply connected to the physical, tangible version of the scripture and other sources of knowledge.”
Social cohesion activist Yusuf Abramjee had a few words to say on his recent hajj and his idea to conceptualise his experience into a coffee-table book. This book called #Hajj2016 was handed over to the library, with Abramjee promising that over one hundreds copies would be donated to libraries around the country.
“This library is a good example of how we can take South Africa forward. We congratulate the entire team that made this project possible,” he said, before handing over a copy of the book to Dr Parker.
The event was supported by a number of charitable organisations such as Awqaf South Africa, who pledged R50 000 towards the upkeep of the library. Africa Muslim Agency handed over an ornate clock, as a token of appreciation to Dr Parker for his work on the project.
After the speeches, dignitaries were escorted to the library for the official ribbon cutting ceremony, which was broadcast live to the audience inside the main hall. Esteemed scholars and elders of the community blessed the ceremony with a dua, before cutting the ribbon.
Guests were then given an opportunity to visit the art museum and then roam the library. The art museum features contemporary Islamic art from local Muslim arts as well as Quranic artefacts and relics.
The library itself is modern and contemporary, and an intellectual paradise for the discerning reader on everything from religion, politics to social issues. For the younger reader, the kid-friendly environment for reading and play is colourful and enticing.
The Academia Library will afford the general public access to state-of-the-art amenities such as a digital online research system, an interactive audio-visual room, researchers’ hub, and computer workstations with high-speed Internet connectivity
Strategically situated at the Islamia College Complex in Imam Haron Road, Lansdowne, the facility will open to the general public at 4pm on Friday, 25 November. VOC