Assalamu alaikum

    In my previous article I stated that “One alim or alimah may serve to influence many villagers and congregations, equipping them with accurate knowledge and practice, thereby mobilising true Islamic values across the districts.”

    Sometimes with ‘tongue in cheek’ I ask young people to question their parents that with all their lifelong efforts related to masjid, madressah, orphanage, welfare society and so on, how many Hindus ever became Muslim? As you would expect in every case the answer is none.Young people are then urged to consider all the good work and projects that they have inherited from their parents and elders, however imperfect, and then to develop suitable strategies that may spiritually and intellectually stimulate the modern congregations and thereby create a legacy that their children could be very proud to inherit. Put simply if the old folks left behind land and houses, we must endeavour to leave behind educational and vocational values that can make us proud and help our children become exemplary role models for the future.

    Born to Hindu parents, when their father died, with discreet permission of their mother, four brothers and a sister in Bangalore converted to Islam. At the time Maulana Ismail Rajah of Chasa Village used to travel to Bangalore for performing Taraweeh during Ramadhan. The eldest brother, Yusuf Bhai, who later became a Khalifa of Maulana As’ad Madani (RA) asked Maulana Ismail Rajah to take the youngest brother, 6 years old Ilyas, to Gujarat and provide him with Islamic upbringing and education.

    Ilyas Bangalory soon became Hafiz ul Qur’an at Degham Madressah, studied early alim course at Ashraful Uloom in Gangoh, and completed the alim course at Darul Uloom Deoband. When I came across his student days, he was a charming young man, very popular on the campus, but crucially showed every promise and enthusiasm of serving the Deen. He was academically gifted and became extremely articulate in both Gujarati and Urdu in his discourse.

    For any child, let alone an orphan child, the traumatic experience of losing a parent, the physical and geographical dislocation from family and the city of birth, compounded with the unusual experience of embracing a new way of life would be extremely challenging. Ilyas Bangalory was no exception; however, he was patient and resilient in his efforts to remain on the noble path of seeking Deeni knowledge.

    Most of us will agree that we are usually forthcoming in offering financial support to needy children and bereaved families; however very few amongst us take personal responsibility for their food, clothing and shelter. To ‘add insult to injury’ rarely do our institutions, madressahs and orphanages, provide emotional and psychologicalcomforting and counselling programmes for these vulnerable individuals. Instead of subjecting them to harsh treatment, physical and financial indiscretions, perhaps an overwhelming dose of empathy and compassion be sincerely administered. May I suggest that this matter is prioritised across our communities and our Deeni institutions as a matter of utmost urgency, inshaAllah.

    Meanwhile Maulana Ismail Rajah emigrated to become Pesh Imam at Leytonstone Mosque in East London. He continued to support Maulana Ilyas Qasmi through his studies, organised a Deputy Imam position at the Leytonstone Mosque,and fully trained him for the top job. Maulana Ismail Rajah later returned to India to run a Darul Uloom for Girls in Jogwad.

    Having quickly learnt English from his students, Maulana Ilyas Qasmi developed command of delivering speeches in Urdu and English. He became a popular teacher with his students and with his unique recitation style and a great sense of humour he was effective in engaging the diverse congregation.Maulana Ilyas Qasmi served the Leytonstone Mosque with tremendous dedication for about 25 years when one day he became ill in the masjid, was admitted to a Central London hospital, and sadly passed away leaving a widow and orphan children. May Allah Ta’ala reward him abundantly and elevate him in Jannatul Firdous. Ameen.

    Maulana Ilyas Qasmi’s personal journey and transformation from a Hindu childhood was immense. This true story reflects how a rescuer and a rescued are such amazing unsung heroesof our community. It clearly illustrates that beyond giving charity to someone, albeit that is admirable, sometimes it takes courage and personal responsibility to educate and develop an individual. A gifted and talented child, whether born a Hindu or Muslim, if nurtured correctly and supported adequately, can become a true servant of our community and our faith.

    Please send your comments about this article via email: salaam@talktalk.netNext time, if readers are interested, I would like to share my memories of Maulana Ilyas Qasmi’s inspirational widow and orphan children.

    Also please encourage your family and friends through social media to sign up for FREE newsletter.

    Shakeel Hafez
    14thRamadhan 1437
    19thJune 2016

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