The Muslim Judicial Council mourns the passing of a dedicated individual in Imam Yaseen Harris. Imam Yaseen was the youngest person elected as a member of the MJC and the first Imam to be elected to its Imaarah (Senior Council). At the time of his passing, Imam was 84 years old and held the position of Chairman of the Imaarah (Senior Council) and Board Member of the MJC Halaal Trust.
Imam Yaseen was born on 11th October 1934 in Woodstock, two years of his father — Imam Sulaiman — established the Sulaimania Pre-School which served as the first Madrassa in the area. His father, in conjunction with the Woodstock congregation, bought a four-bedroomed house at 19 William Street and built a Masjid on it.
At only 15 years old, Imam Yaseen was appointed as khalifa (teacher) of the Madrassa and became the Imam of the Masjid upon his father’s death in 1963.
Imam matriculated from Livingstone High School and then pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree with an LLB specialization, but did not complete it.
As with many Ulema at the time, Imam did not go overseas to obtain a degree in Islam but rather studied under the tutelage of local scholars. Imam Yusuf Salie and Shaykh Abduragmaan Dollie taught Imam the recitation of the Holy Quraan whilst his father, Imam Sulaiman and Shaykh Moghammad Abbas Jassiem taught him Islamic studies.
Writer Jasmine Khan describes Imam Yaseen in the 2016 Kayfee edition, “I found it refreshing to hear from a man who is over 80 that one never stops learning. Unlike many who feel that they know it all, Imam Yaseen contends that his life is a constant search for knowledge that will benefit him as well as those he engages with.”
When his father became ill in 1958, Imam Yaseen took over his duties as imam at the Sulaimanyye Masjid, William Street Woodstock. He was also forced to work, as the family needed another income, and took up a position at Pepsi Cola Company as an Accountant and later at Monviso Knitwear after the former disinvested in South Africa in protest against Apartheid. He worked at Monviso Knitwear from 1974 to 1984.
He was persuaded to leave Monviso to take up full-time employment at the MJC on the behest of the then MJC President, Shaykh Nazeem Mohamed.
Life at the Muslim Judicial Council
Imam Yaseen had a long and loyal history with the MJC which started with his father, who was one of the founder members of the organisation in 1945. Imam Yaseen assisted his father in administrative duties at the organisation and subsequently became the MJC’s youngest member at the age of 26.
He was the MJC’s first Secretary-General and also supervised Halaal meat at Maitland Abattoir. When the MJC Halaal Trust was formalized in 1986, Imam was one of the founding trustees as well as the Director of the Halaal trust until 2010, when he resigned due to ill health.
In an interview conducted with Voice of the Cape Radio in 2015, Imam Yaseen spoke about his contribution to the Halaal sector.
“I took over the halal inspections in 1984, and we are now accepted as a member of the world halal council…We are in the minority part of South African citizenship, yet we can dominate the food fraternity. Most of the foods today are certified halal, primarily because of the MJC.” He added.
Imam Yaseen leaves behind his wife, Kamillah, 4 children — 3 sons and one daughter.
May Allah Almighty grant Imam Yaseen Harris Jannah-tul Firdous and sabr (patience) in the hearts of his family, colleagues and friends, Ameen.