Remembering the Titans
“On 23rd January (Friday) 1959, a general meeting was held at Koinonia House with the purpose of deciding whether or not to form an Islamic committee (quasi-Dublin Islamic Society), which would organise Friday Namaaz/Salaat (Prayer), Eid Namaaz/Salaat and some lectures. Thirty-Three Muslim students from various countries attended the meeting. The matter was discussed and a vote was taken to finalise whether such a committee was necessary or not. It was unanimously accepted by the students that a committee should be formed.”1
These were the minutes of the first ever formal meeting of Muslims in the history of the Republic of Ireland.1 33 students, mainly from South Africa, formally gathered for what would be the beginning of the Irish Muslim community.1 Students from South Africa came to Ireland from as far back as the early 1950s due to the horrendous apartheid government which systematically crippled any window of opportunity for people of colour to study or work in any top tier profession, to mainly study medicine in the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland (RCSI).1 The South Africans predominantly lived in a Protestant hostel called Koinonia House where initial congregations were organised to observe some of the five daily prayers within the main sitting room of the accommodation and then subsequently in the basement when the numbers of participants grew larger, which eventually led to the inauguration of the Dublin Islamic Society (DIS) in 1959.2 Amongst those who participated and partook in this blessed gathering was Dr. Yusuf Vaizie. Born in Durban, South Africa, he was a renowned personality across the Irish Muslim community for his continuous meritorious commitments across a myriad of different projects.
During Dr. Vaizie’s student days, the RCSI previously forbade any performance of religious activities until the DIS with the help of the RCSI Registrar at the time Dr. Harry O’Flanaghan obtained permission for preforming Eid prayers in the College hall.2 With the passage of time Jummʿah (Friday congregational prayers) and Eid prayers were observed in a Ballet school (now the RCSI Pharmacy York House).2 The first Eid dinner for the community was held in place formerly called Molesworth hall and the first recorded Tarawīḥ (special night prayers during Ramaḍān) were held in the British Council Meeting on Leeson Street.2 In 1963, the DIS established a collaboration with FOSIS UK which later came to be known as FOSIS Ireland (although FOSIS Ireland was established as an organisational entity in the 21st century).12
Dr. Vaizie was an active member of the DIS as a volunteer and an executive member taking on the role as chairman in 1968. He helped organise communal events and would actively remind Muslim students towards acts of goodness such as attending Jummʿah prayers. To do so he would sometimes even go to the local dance hall to remind the Muslims who used to indulge in vice at the cost of 1 shilling! He collaborated alongside Muslim students from diverse nationalities to establish the first mosque in Ireland by working on necessary documentation and raising some initial funding.1 In 1976, the dream became a reality when successive members of the DIS under the leadership of Dr Ahmed Goolam Mohamed Adam opened the Mosque in No. 7 Harrington Street.1
Dr. Vaizie possessed stalwart characteristics such passion, determination and a no-nonsense attitude to anything other than perfection in refined manners. He would often mitigate any improper usage of formal language especially in dialogue, as he was from a generation raised with concepts such as chivalry, courtesy and decorum. The existence of these noble qualities is in peril in a decadent generation preoccupied with the self and its immediate gratification.
Years after graduating as a dentist from RCSI, Dr. Vaizie collaborated with Shaykh Muhammad Yusuf and Dr. Rashid Ibrahim to found the first ever Qur’ān school in Harrington Street, which subsequently moved to IFI Dublin mosque after the establishment of the latter.1 He further established a Qur’ān school in Naas. Although he was neither a speaker of the Arabic language nor had received any formal education in Islamic studies, he strove to enrich the lives of others by whatever portion of knowledge he possessed.
The imperativeness of inaugurating these indispensable Qur’ān schools was to allow future generations of Muslim youth to spiritually connect to Divine revelation, to learn the basic axioms of Islamic practices, to harness ethical values and instill virtuous principles as per mainstream Islamic ethos. There are numerous reports of the Prophet Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) emphasizing the stature of the Qur’ān such as:
‘The similitude of a believer who recites the Qur’ān is that of a citron which tastes succulent and has an aesthetic smell. The similitude of the believer who does not recite the Qur’ān is like a date which tastes succulent but has no aroma. The similitude of a hypocrite who recites the Quran is that of basil which smells pleasant but has a bitter taste. The similitude of a hypocrite who does not recite the Qur’ān is that of a colocynth (desert gourd) which tastes bitter and has no odour.’3
‘The Best of you are those who learn the Qur’ān and teach it to others’.3
‘Certainty Allāh The Exalted elevates nations with this book (The Qur’ān) and diminishes others with it.’3
The great scholar Al-Hafidh Ibnu Hajr comments on the brilliant rhetoric employed by the Prophet (Peace be upon him) in his speech in juxtaposing and comparing four different types of fruit with four types of people in respect to their relationship with the Quran.4 Most fascinating the citron which has distinctive features which are metaphorically comparable to a believing Muslim who observes their faith in sincerity and God consciousness.4 A citron has white coated seeds and the heart of a believer who sincerely worships Allah is pure.4 A citron has numerous traits such a delicious taste, softness in texture and other pleasant organoleptic properties just as a believer tries to sincerely adopt exemplary traits in all aspects of life4 such as compassion, mercy, confidence, honor, generosity clemency truthfulness, love, responsibility, justice et al.
The great polymath & reformer Imam Al-Ghazzali describes 10 actions that are pivotal in order for one to truly internalize and conceptualize the true message of the Quran.5 He postulates that understanding the significance of this lofty speech, magnifying The One (i.e. Allah The Sublime) whose speech it is, keeping one’s heart vigilant during recitation, contemplating solely on the recitation, grasping all the various concepts of what’s being recited, contextualizing and individualizing what’s being recited to the self, being conscious of different emotions experienced in different contexts, progressive self-development as if the reciter is hearing the speech from Allah The All-High directly and finally disavowal of one’s self from self-praise and vainglorious.5
The impact of such endeavor on both an intellectual and spiritual basis was the reason for the early success of the golden generations of Muslims. The 20th century Islamic thinker Sayyid Qutb remarks:
‘…The messenger of Allah (Upon whom be peace) intended to prepare a generation pure in heart, pure in mind and pure in understanding…This generation (The companions of the Prophet) drank solely from this spring and thus attained a unique distinction in history.’6
The famous traveler and thinker Muhammad Asad (formerly Leopold Weiss) articulated:
‘What I saw in the pages of the Koran was not a ‘crudely materialistic’ world view but, on contrary, an intense God-consciousness that expressed itself in a rational acceptance of all God-created nature: a harmonious side-by-side of intellect and sensual urge, spiritual need and social demand. It was obvious to me that the decline of Muslims was not due to any shortcomings in Islam but rather to their own failure to live up to it. For, indeed, it was Islam that had carried the early Muslims to tremendous cultural heights by directing all their energies toward conscious thought as the only means to understanding the nature of God’s creation and, thus of His will.’7
In light of this, the great Chaliph Umar ibnul Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) facilitated opportunities for easy accessibility for all citiznes in the Islamic empire in studying the Quran by instructing teachers to educate the masses in Quranic recitation, comprehension of its meanings and embodying the divine instructions.8 The renowned British Orientalist Sir Thomas Walker Arnold (University of London, UK) argued:
‘Islam is a religion that is essentially rationalistic in the widest sense of this term considered etymologically and historically…The Quran has invariably kept its place as the fundamental starting-point, and the dogma of the unity of God has always been proclaimed therein with a grandeur, a majesty, an invariable purity and with a note of sure conviction, which it is hard to find surpassed outside the pale of Islam.’8
Dr. Vaizie was involved in teaching the Qur’ān within the community since the 1970’s up until recently when his illness due to old age prevented him from continuing further. He persisted in working for the Irish Muslim community ever since that blessed Friday night gathering almost 60 years ago up until his final breath on the 4th July 2018.
His story reminds us all of the early cohort of companions (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhum) such as Khadījah, Zaid, ʿAlī and Abu-Bakr, to name a few, who believed in and supported the Prophet Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) during his early days in Makkah. His story resembles those of great leaders, thinkers and callers of this faith who left their comfort zones in order to serve, teach and preserve the Islamic tradition. The profound historian and ḥadīth expert Imām Ad-Dhahabi states in his historical magnum opus that the Spanish polymath Ibnu Rushd (also known as Averroes) engrossed his entire lifetime in seeking knowledge except for two nights: his wedding night and the night his father passed away. According to Professor David Levering Lewis in his book God’s Crucible-Islam and the making of Europe, 570-1215, it was scholars like Ibnu Rushd who sowed the seeds for the intellectual enlightenment of Europe which resulted in the Renaissance. Sayyid Abdul Aziz was a Yemeni merchant who, through his meritorious character and conduct, inspired the King and founder of Melaka (Malaysia) Parameswara to embrace Islām and subsequently the rest of the population.10
These legends and many more have carved their legacies in the golden pages of history by their continuous endeavors, refined focus, steadfastness and sincerity. The initial meeting in Koinonia house in 1959 paved the way for a myriad of different community facilities and initiatives such as mosques, Islamic cultural centers, Muslim Student Associations, youth projects, charity organisations and community volunteering. As the pioneers in their community, they will, inshāAllāh, share the reward in all the good that comes after them. Just as the Prophet Muḥammad (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said:
‘The one who directs towards goodness will receive a similar reward as the doer of the (righteous) action’.11
The question now arises for the remainder of us within the Muslim community of our roles and responsibilities towards our fellow Muslim brethren and citizens. Will we walk in the footsteps of the titans before us in order to reap the benefits in the hereafter or remain as bystanders? With a plethora of predicaments that stand before us whether it be social, fiscal, political or international; whether it be the challenge of raising our children and youth to the best of their potential; mitigating the rise of homelessness; addressing the depreciation in mental health; attending to the elderly; standing up to the rise of extremism from all spectrums of political thought and countering the constant vilification of Islām and Muslims. It is upon us to reevaluate our current situation and work selflessly in serving and contributing to the wider community.
May Allāh the most beneficent have mercy and be pleased with Dr. Yusuf Vaizie and grant him a place in the highest level of paradise. Āmīn.
- Patel A. Establishment of Islam in Ireland by Muslims from South Africa. International Symposium on Islamic Civilisation in Southern Africa. September 2006.
- FOSIS Ireland. Verbal interview with Dr. Yusuf Vaizie. November 16th
- An-Nawawi (d. 676H). 3rd At-Tibyan Fi Aadaab Hamlatil Quran. Dar ul Minhaj, Jeddah: 2015, P. 39-44. Saheeh Al-Bukhari 5427 & Saheeh Muslim 797; Saheeh Al-Bukhari 5027; Sahih Muslim 817
- Ibnu Hajr Al Askalani (d. 852H). 1st Fathul Bari bisharh Imam Abi Abdullah Ismail Al-Bukhari. Printed for philanthropy purposes by Prince Sultan ibnu Abdul Aziz Al-Saoud (Online edition): 2001, Volume 8, P. 696.
- Ahmad Al Shami, Saleh. 4th Al-Muhaddab Min Ihya Uloom Ud Deen. Dar Al Kalam, Damascus: 2014. Vol 1 Book 8 Chapter 3, P. 235-242.
- Qutb S. Milestones along the path. 1st Maktabah Booksellers and Publishers: 2006. Ch. 1 The Unique Quranic Generation.
- Asad M. 8th The Road to Mecca. Fons Vitae. January 2000. Ch. 7 Midway, P. 190-191.
- Arnold TW. The Preaching of Islam. Hardpress publishing. Jan 2012, P. 413-414.
- Ad-Dhababi. Siyar A’alaam An-Nubalah. Mussasah Ar-Risalah 2001.
- Islamic Exhibition. Melaka Islamic Musuem, Melaka, Malaysia.
- Al Jarbou’ai, A. 2nd Taqrib Mustalah Al-Hadith. Markaz Al Basaair lil Bahth al-ilmi: 2016, P. 60.
Figure 1. Photo of the minutes of the 1st ever recorded meeting of Muslims in Ireland in IFI, Dublin Mosque, South Circular Road.
On 23rd January (Friday) 1959, a general meeting was held at Koinonia House with the purpose of deciding whether or not to form an Islamic committee (quasi-Dublin Islamic Society), which would organise Friday Namaaz/Salaat (Prayer), Eid Namaaz/Salaat and some lectures. Thirty three Muslim students from various countries attended the meeting. The matter was discussed and a vote was taken to finalise whether such a committee was necessary or not. It was unanimously accepted by the students that a committee should be formed. The following students were elected as office bearers:
Chairman (President): Br. Hoosen Lockhat (South African)
Secretary: Br. Yusuf Jhavary (South African)
Treasurer: Br. Ismail Docrat (South African)
Plus 5 Committee Members:
Br. Zakideen Zaveri (Tanzanian)
Br. Ahmad Al-Atrash (Syrian)
Br. Ebrahim Mannah (Egyptian)
Br. Harith Lamki (Egyptian)
Br. Abdullah Al-Kathiri (Syrian)
Ahmad is a fan of food, politics, science, philosophy and exploration. He was an active member of FOSIS when studying medicine at university, and is active in da’wah in Ireland.