29 September 2009

Grahamstown Moli

Grahamstown Moli saab: From Russia to Israel to Joburg to Azaadville to India and Pakistan!

Maulana Amir Sherman has been living in Grahamstown for almost two years. He was born in Yahud, a city in Israel in 1973.

“My parents were from Russia and had immigrated to Israel the year before I was born,” he said. They lived there for 12 years and then moved to South Africa in 1985.

“I was schooled in Johannesburg and went to Technikon there where I studied many things – mechanical engineering, computers and electronics. I also used to do tricks on horses for the circus.

While at Technikon I met Muslim friends whom I became very close to. We used to smoke, drink, take drugs and womanise together,” he reminises.

In the 10 years they were friends, he would occasionally accompany them to the mosque for prayers on Fridays.

“They used to speak about the practical aspects of Islam - cleanliness, shaving of pubic hair, prayer and so on.They also told me that Moses, the Jewish prophet, was mentioned more in the Q'uran that the Prophet Muhammad himself,” he said.

“They were not practising Muslims but what attracted me to them was that they had warm hearts, good characters and when I was high on ecstasy, they used to comfort me.”

When his parents got divorced, his dad moved back to Israel and his mother and sister moved to Germany. He was 25 years old at the time and moved in with one of his Muslim friends who was living in Johannesburg.At this point he started asking himself questions about life and death and what happens to a person after they die. He wanted to worship but had no Jewish friends to show him how to pray.Sherman was then employed by one of his friends who ran a business selling, among other things, air fresheners.

“This friend of mine then went on the straight path, grew a long beard and started wearing a robe. I used to be with him most of the time and visited the mosque with him,” he said.

In this way he was invited to Islam, after returning from missionary work in the Indian sub-continent.
“My friend saw that I was inclined to Islam as I visited the mosque with him regularly.

He said to me that I needed to choose whether I wanted to remain a Jew or become a Muslim,” said Sherman.

“He also said that whatever I choose, he would still be the same friend to me and this touched my heart.”
“I decided that I was ready to become a Muslim and said to myself that if there was anything I didn’t like, I could always turn back,” he says of the time.

He then became a Muslim in June 1998 and joining the missionary work that his friend was involved in. It was here that he met a group of Maulanas (Islamic scholars) who had just returned from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“I spent 40 days with them and this was the best time of my life,” he said. “I saw these scholars standing and preaching and prayed in my heart that that was what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.

When he returned from the missionary work, he joined a Muslim seminary school in Azaadville near Johannesburg. He studied there for seven years and then went on missionary work in the Indian sub-continent. There he met an American born Muslim man living in Pakistan that had a Jewish father and Christian mother. Sherman married this man's daughter while he was in Pakistan and moved back to South Africa with his new bride.

On his return to South Africa in December 2006, he worked at a motor spares shop in Johannesburg during the day and taught Muslim children in the afternoons. In March 2008 he moved to Grahamstown where he engages in some social work during the mornings and teaches Muslim children in the afternoons.

“I lead the prayers and I am a spiritual leader for the Muslims here,” he said. He feels that the Muslim community in Grahamstown is growing with people moving here from other places and some locals embracing Islam.

“I like Grahamstown. It is very peaceful and green and the people here are kind, hospitable and helpful,” he said.

This article first appeared in Grocott's Mail: http://tinyurl.com/gtwnmoli


Steven Lang said...

nice article Bilal - so how was Denmark?

Bilal said...

Thanks Steven. Denmark was cool - will email you...