To find an individual like mama Halimah, who at 69 years old, is making a positive change in the lives of the elderly and young alike, brings warmth to the soul and makes one question how much we are actually doing for society’s most vulnerable.
For mama Halimah, the day starts early. She rises at 2.52am to pray Tahajjud (optional prayer), then engages in zikr (remembrance of Allah) and waits for Fajr (pre-dawn prayer). She then heads to the kitchen and starts her cooking for the school children and pensioners she feeds daily. Her food preparation is done at night and in the morning her niece, Maryam, comes to help her. The pensioners and children from surrounding schools arrive at her home from around 1pm. It’s an opportunity for them to socialise and share a meal together. On Saturdays she takes food to Realogile High School to feed the matriculants who attend extra classes. She also bakes cakes for resale to sustain her feeding scheme and accepts donations of food items only.
In 1982, the Catholic born lady found herself relocating from Alexandra to Mogwase in the North West Province, to work as a data-capturer for African Explosives and Chemical Industries (AECI). Little did she realise the impact this decision was to make on her life.
She constantly had questions for her priest, who couldn’t always answer them and knew the answers could be found. She recalls with a smile, “Father Mckay once asked me why I don’t come to confession? I asked him why I should tell him my sins. ‘Why should I confess to you when God is all around us? Can’t I go to a corner and tell him what I did?’” And thus began her voyage of discovery.
It was in October 1990 that she declared her shahada (profession of faith). She went to the Mosque Plaza in Rustenburg, it was still early and all the shops were closed, except for Dawood’s Haberdashery and Material. She went in without knowing what she was looking for. A lady came up to her and asked if she could help. When Halimah expressed her desire to learn about Islam, “The lady’s face changed,” she says. “She was shocked and wasn’t expecting me to say that, I thought I had said something very wrong. She told me to wait there and walked away. Her husband came to ask how he can help, I gave him the same response and he too was shocked. I thought that I’d definitely done something wrong. The man left then returned and told me to come with him. At this point I was not scared, and got into this stranger’s car without question.”
They drove to the house of the late Moulana Mumtaz ul Haqq in Zinniaville. After a lengthy discussion and Moulana explaining the beliefs of a Muslim person, she asked how she could become Muslim. He said all you need to do is say Laa ilaha ilallah Muhammedur Rasool Allah and explained the meaning in English. She recited her shahada (profession of faith) and relays that “it felt like she had been sleeping the whole time [and now she was awake].”
She wrote to Sheikh Ahmed Deedat who sent her a pack of literature and she’s been conducting dawah (inviting to Islam) ever since. She laughs about writing her resignation letter to the church. She told the priest about the religion she found and hoped they would turn to the truth.
“Islam made me feel protected, I have a family now. Islam makes me feel so safe.”
Her favourite surah (chapter) in the Holy Quran is Surah Yaaseen, specifically verse 36 in which Allah says, “Exalted is He who created all pairs – from what the earth grows and from themselves and from that which they do not know.” She says that for her this proves that the Quran, this word of God that moves and overwhelms her at times, comes from Allah.
Halimah may be old but her goals are still bold. She would like to use Alex FM to preach and call those in need to her feeding scheme. One of her wishes is to play recordings from her role model, Mufti Menk, to the people of Alexandra. She also has plans to open up a Geriatric Day Care Centre for pensioners living in and around Alexandra, who need a place of distraction whilst their loved ones are at work. “It’s only for Allah, not personal gain, Allah sees everything, so don’t be tempted to enrich yourselves.”
When I asked her what she is most grateful for right now, her reply was, “My relationship with the Adamjee Foundation and their help in paving my way to Jannah (heaven). I can’t thank Allah enough for making me a Muslim.”
Halimah encourages people to use platforms such as Proudly Muslims. “I need to share my story and you have given me a voice,” she says.
Halimah is an inspiration to all, her parting words of advice were “Laa ilaha illallah…..make sure Allah knows he is the only one, there is nothing besides him that I think of. My mind is only Islam. When I die I don’t want people to praise me, just remember me as I am.”
For more information or to donate food items, contact Halimah Sebusi on 063 932 0557.