The Closing of a Chapter
The passing away of Hazrat Moulana Yunus Patel rahimahullah in the precincts of the Ka’bah in Makkah Mukarramah on 12 July 2011 heralds the closing of a unique chapter in the history of Islam in South Africa. An Aalim who had a hand in most of the different works of Islam in the country at some point or the other, Moulana Yunus Patel rahimahullah is acknowledged by Muslims across the spectrum in South Africa as a great personality.
This write-up merely serves to highlight a few aspects from his life and cannot do justice to the many facets of half a century of unparalleled service to Islam. There could be mistakes in the facts written here and we ask that any corrections be forwarded to us. Many facts are missing and will be made public as and when they come to light.
Moulana was born in 1946 in Stanger, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. He did his primary schooling and, in 1962 as a youngster he volunteered to be in the first Tabligh Jamaat with Haji Bhai Padia rahimahullah in Grey Street Musjid, Durban. He used to go in the initial Tabligh Jamaats that used to work in South Africa. Moulana used to also go with his uncle, Chota Mota Desai rahimahullah, the author of Taleemul Haq, to the indigenous areas and Moulana recounts that numerous people accepted Islam at their hands.
In the early 1960’s Moulana went to Darul Uloom Deoband in India as one of the early group of youth from South Africa, to study the Aalim course. Moulana was an outstanding student and also a confidante of many of his illustrious teachers. On returning to South Africa around 1969, Moulana served the community of Mooiriver as Imam and teacher. He went there despite being offered more lucrative posts in Transvaal because there was not a single Aalim between Pietermaritzburg and Newcastle. Moulana recounted to us how he used to hitchhike with his wife and baby from Mooiriver to Stanger to visit his parents. He lived in a tin shanty home in Mooiriver. The notes on Fiqh that he made while there formed the basis of the famous manual of Islam for Maktabs, the Taleemul Haq.
Moulana used to take many students up to Mia’s farm with Chota Mota (Haji Shabier Ahmed) rahimahullah to study Hifz and the Aalim course, laying the foundation of generations of Ulama and Huffaaz who served Islam in South Africa. Moulana was also involved in the discussions when the first Darul Uloom in South Africa in Newcastle was set up.
After four years, around 1973, Moulana moved to Durban and was instrumental in establishing the first offices of the Jamiatul Ulama Natal. For many years Moulana served the community under the Jamiat, later becoming the secretary general and president. At the Jamiat, Moulana was at the forefront of establishing and laying the foundation of the different activities of community service, including the supervision of Halaal and the setting up of an Ifta department. In fact, Mufti Ebrahim Desai, a senior Mufti whose Fatwas number in the thousands and are followed around the world, states that his taking up of the post initially at the Jamiatul Ulama in 1993 was at the encouragement of Moulana Yunus Patel rahimahullah.
During the famous Qadiani Dispute in Cape Town in the early 1980’s, Moulana was part of the team of expert Ulama who prepared the required expert evidence in the court case to defend the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam and Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah. Moulana established the first girls’ Madresa in Asherville, Durban in 1982. It is now a flourishing institute.
Moulana served as the Imam of Musjidun Noor in Asherville, Durban for many years until his demise. In recent years, Moulana strove for the unity of the Ulama and went out of his way to harmonize relations between them.
Moulana is the author of several books and his lectures and writings are available on his website. He traveled to many countries like USA, UK, France, Mauritius, Reunion, Kenya, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and southern Africa, as well as around South Africa, preaching Islam. He also had regular programs on local Muslim radio stations like Radio Al Ansaar, Channel Islam International and Radio Islam International. Through this and audio streaming from his website, Moulana touched the lives of thousands of people locally and internationally.
Moulana was granted Khilafah in spiritual reformation from Mufti Mahmoodul Hassan Gangohi rahimahullah and Moulana Hakeem Muhammad Akhtar. The last decade of Moulana’s life saw an emphasis of spiritual reformation of the community and hundreds of people became his adherents. Moulana loved the Harams of Makkah Mukarramah and Madinah Muawwarah and visited them many times for Umrah and Hajj.
As an indication of his extreme humility, Moulana used to tell me when I asked for his biography, that his life story could be fitted on the back of a postage stamp! Nothing could be further from the truth. It was the great good fortune of Port Elizabeth that Moulana’s daughter and her family settled in Port Elizabeth. This brought Moulana, who had great love for his family, to our city many a times.
Moulana used to not give the Ulama a chance to come and visit him first as he used to go and visit the junior and senior Ulama alike at their homes and places of work. The Ulama of Port Elizabeth benefited tremendously from Moulana’s advices especially with regards to setting up the Council of Ulama Eastern Cape. Moulana generally did not like to have a program prepared in advance in Port Elizabeth. His talks, announced late, drew good crowds for the city. A unique feature was that the audience always consisted of a large percentage of Ulama.
Moulana loved the poor and once, on a visit to Port Elizabeth, I pointed out to him a poor student from one of the countries in Africa who sacrificed a lot to come and study Islam. Moulana called him aside in secret and gave him some money.
On one occasion, the maid of Moulana’s landlord needed to go to hospital to deliver her baby in the middle of the night. When the landlord refused, Moulana, together with his wife, took the maid to hospital and waited for her to be discharged before bringing her back home. Moulana practically demonstrated the Islamic teachings of anti-racism and many a person from a different race group was won over by his impartial respect that he showed to one and all.
Anyone who saw him for even a little while would be impressed by Moulana’s adherence to the Sunnah and wonderful character. His granddaughter mentioned that in the months in which she lived with him, Moulana never once expressed anger towards his wife.
Moulana recounted that all his maids who worked for him over the years accepted Islam, with three months being the most time required. Moulana lived a very simple, frugal life. He was accessible to people from all walks of life at all times.
The death of Moulana was an indication of his love for the holy cities of Makkah Mukarramah and Madinah Munawwarah. He performed Tawaaf, read Maghrib Salaah and experienced a heart attack in front of the Ka’bah in the Mataaf area. He breathed his last in the Haram. His Janaza Salaah was performed by Sheikh Page 2 Untitled Shuraim at the Ka’bah. Moulana was buried in Jannatul Mualla, the blessed graveyard of Makkah Mukarramah, where Hazrat Khadijah radhiallahu anha is buried. This is extraordinary in itself as foreigners are not normally buried here. Moulana was 65 when he passed away. He had two daughters and a son. Moulana was not only a fountain of knowledge, wisdom and piety, he was also a pillar of strength for all, Ulama especially. I personally know many Ulama who relied on Moulana’s advices and support to continue their service of Islam. In fact, while the Muslims of South Africa in general feel at a loss on the demise of Moulana Yunus Patel rahimahullah, it is the Ulama who feel totally orphaned. Moulana had a knack of encouraging Ulama and directing them to better service of Islam. He was the confidante of the innermost feelings of many an Aalim.
The adoration of his followers is a reminder of how the Sahaaba adored the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. The sadness and shock at the news of his passing makes one think of how the demise of the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam affected those who loved him, the Sahaaba. He guided even the biggest sinner with a marvelous hand of wisdom.
The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam said: ‘Allah does not take away the knowledge by taking it away from (the hearts of the) people, but takes it away by the death of the religious learned men till when none of the (religious learned men) remains, people will take as their leaders ignorant persons who when consulted will give their verdict without knowledge. So they will go astray and will lead the people astray.’ (Bukhari 1:32)
‘This saint with Madinah Muawwarah’s love at heart, His praises we cannot fulfill; merely start. His character a reflection of he (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) who lies, Under the green dome, beneath Arabia’s skies.’ (From: An Ode to Moulana Yunus Patel rahimahullah)
We make dua with a sore heart that Allah Ta’ala unite us with Moulana Yunus Patel rahimahullah in Paradise and we can enjoy his blessed, graceful company once again, in the presence of his and our beloved Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam.
The Muslims of South Africa, from all their ranks and files, salute a man who gave his life to preserving and promoting Islam in this country. Many generations and a large portion of the Muslims of this country owe their adherence to Islam to this noble personality, this humble saint, this embodiment of living Islam. He evokes feelings in his bereft followers and those who loved and knew him that no king or president can even aspire to.