The Jamiatul Ulama South Africa was formed in 1923 as the Jamiatul Ulama Transvaal and was established for the purpose of servicing the religious needs of the Muslims. Alhamdulillâh, it has been 90 years since its inception and has been fulfilling this duty ever since.
The great scholars who rejuvenated the organisation in the mid 1930’s were people like the late Maulânâ Muhammad Mia RA, Muftî Ebrâhim Sanjalvi RA, Maulânâ Muhammad Akhalwaya RA, Maulânâ ‘Abdul Qader Malikpuri RA, Maulânâ Mûsa Nana RA, Maulana Sâleh Mangera RA, Maulânâ Sulaymân Annandwi RA, Maulânâ Ismâil Yûsuf Gardee RA, Maulânâ Ismâ-îl Kachwee RA and many others. Many ‘Ulamâ, too numerous to mention, spent their lives serving Islam and the Muslims through the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa. The late Muftî Sanjalvi RA, for instance, served as the Mufti of the organisation for approximately 40 years until he passed away.
While the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa paid attention to the overall Islamic needs of the Muslims, the initial emphasis was on education. As early as 1951, we find the drawing up of a syllabus for the entire former Transvaal region, and correspondence on the suggestions of various ‘Ulamâ like Maulânâ Ahmad Hathurani on the improvents to the syllabus is on record from as early as 1946. Since there was always an ongoing concern to improve the standard of education in the madâris (religious schools), in 1961 the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa hosted a seminar under the auspicies of Qâri Muhammad Tayyib RA in which a resolution was passed to adopt a unified syllabus for all madâris in the region. Of late, members of the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa have played an active role in the establishment of Muslim schools, and the syllabus of the organisation is being largely followed in many of these schools.
As early as 1927, the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa published its first book designed for Shâfi-‘î students and adults guiding them in the manner of performing Salâh (prayer). In 1938, the famous Nasbur Râyah (an essential reference book on al-Hidâyah – a leading Hanafî Fiqh text) and Faydhul Bârî (a commentary of Sahîh al-Bukhârî written by the world reknowned scholar 'Allâmah Anwar Shah Kashmirî) was published. These books enjoy international recognition in academic circles. In the late 1950’s, the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa arranged for the translation of a book called Talimul Islâm, which is a widely acclaimed text on basic Fiqh (jurisprudence) authored by Muftî Kifayatullah RA. This was intended for implementation in the affiliate madâris. Since then, the organisation has kept up a continuous string of publications and pamphlets, motivated only for the Islâh (reformation) of the Ummah.
In the 1950’s, the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa took up the cudgels with the Nationalist Government against the Group Areas Act and succeeded in defending our masâjid (places of worship) and madâris from the bulldozers of the oppressive regime. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, while the emphasis was still very much on education, interaction with government on Muslim affairs, like Muslim Personal Law, and the need to monitor halâl and harâm (permissible and impermissible food consumption) more closely became increasingly necessary. By the late 1960’s, proper hilâl (moon-sighting) procedures were already in place and radio announcements of the starting of Ramadhân and ‘Eîd were already aired by the mid-1970’s.
In the mid 1970's, a film titled "The Message" with dipictions of the Sahâbah radhiyallahu anhum was released in South Africa despite it being banned in many other parts of the world. The Jamiatul Ulama South Africa took up the matter with the Films and Publication Board and following two weeks of hearings the film was banned. Two Ulama from the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa were sent to Zimbabwe at the time where they assisted the Muslims in appealing the film and successfully getted it banned there as well.
As the needs of the Muslim community grew, the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa correspondingly responded. The 1980’s is noted for the leading role the organisation played in the infamous Qâdiyânî case in the Cape along with the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC). It was also in the late 1980’s, that more branches and representatives were needed to service the ever-growing and geographically diverse Muslim population. It was just not possible to service the entire former Transvaal Muslim community from one Head Office. Several more branches came into existence, and today, the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa has seven fully operational branches and six zonal representatives, AlhamduIillâh.
The need of a newsletter was also consequently felt and in February 1989, the quarterly Ar-Rasheed, was launched.
The 1990’s inaugurated the organisation into a completely new era: an era of rapid change, expansion, and diversification. The need for providing counseling services for the Muslim community was realized in 1992 by three Muslim women who had identified the demand for professional psycho-social services in the community. This prompted a partnership with the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa and thus the establishment of the Islamic Careline.
In 1994, the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa was one of the prime movers in the formation of the United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA), a national ‘Ulamâ body representing Muslims on national issues. Today, the council has seven ‘Ulamâ bodies as its members. In the same year, a high powered ‘Ulamâ delegation under the auspices of UUCSA also met with former President Nelson Mandela, who gave his personal assurance that his government would ensure that all obstacles are removed in the path of Muslims for the recognition of Muslim marriages.
Among the many researched memorandums which the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa submitted to the government included the issue of pornography, abortion, the introduction of religious education in state schools, capital punishment and many others.
Over the past two decades the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa’s commitment towards bringing the work of Da’wah to a wider audience has seen the formation and significant growth of their radio station, Radio Islam 1548. Although the radio station was established in 1993, it was only granted a license in April 1997 and its first signal broadcast was on the 10 April 1997. The station has an extremely wide listener base, with its programming content appealing to both young and old. Through the air-to-air medium the Ummah has now the ability to interact with each other over broader issues. In essence, Radio Islam has become the focal point as a learning channel for many families.
As a result of a range of challenges in the Halaal regulatory industry, a solution was realised in the amalgamation of all role players in the monitoring and certification of Halaal. This arduous and momentous task reached fruition after almost two years of vigorous consultation and negotiation. 95% of stake holders embraced this noble national initiative and against all odds SANHA (South African National Halaal Authority) was finally launched on 20 October 1996. The Jamiatul Ulama South Africa played a significant role in the establishment of this organisation and continues to serve on the executive board of SANHA.
The Transvaal appellation has since been dropped in the official name of the organisation in line with the new political dispensation, hence the new appellation Jamiatul Ulama South Africa.
The expansion of the organisation warranted the need for a bigger and more condusive premises to ensure that the activities of the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa are carried out more effectively and effeciently. In 2001 the Head Office was relocated to Baitul Hamd, 32 Dolly Rathebe Road, in Fordsburg. Ever since, the membership of the organisation has also grown with an excess of 300 members attending the Annual General Meeting each year.
The executive of the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa realized the need to established an institute which would provide such education that would rekindle a holistic scholarship within the disciplines of Arabic and Islamic Studies. After consultation on the matter with various leading international scholars such as Muftî Nizâmudeen RA and Moulana 'Abdullah Kaporawi, it led to the formation of Jâmi‘ah al-Uloom al-Islâmiyyah in 2005. It was envisaged that the institution would provide quality education within a context where Muslim scholars are challenged with understanding Islam in a world where rapid developments have brought about changes of varying types.
The year 2013 marks 90 years since the establishment of the organisation. The Jamiatul Ulama South Africa in no way regards its activities as solely fulfilling all the needs of the Muslim Ummah – far from it. Much is being contributed by other structures of the Ummah and all these activities must complement each other while working in their respective areas of activity. While the need constantly rises, more manpower and resources are needed.