Leadership Lifestyle

The Fabric of Friendships

A Practical Man – Mr.S.E.Ahmed

Ibn Dinar reported that a desert Arab met Abdullah b. ‘Umar on the way to Mecca. ‘Abdullah greeted him and mounted him upon the donkey on which he had been riding and gave him the turban that he had on his head. Ibn Dinar (further) reported: We said to him (‘Abdullah b. ‘Umar): May Allah do good to you, these are desert Arabs and they are satisfied even with meagre (things). Thereupon Abdullah said: His father was loved dearly by ‘Umar b. Khattib and I heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The finest act of goodness on the part of a son is to treat kindly the loved ones of his father. ((Sahih Muslim by Imam Muslim, translation by Abdul Hamid Siddiqui , Volume: The Book of Virtue, Good Manners and Joining of the Ties of Relationship (Kitab Al-Birr was-Salat-I-wa’l-Adab))

Two knitting needles crossed at the balls of wool to begin weaving the bond of friendship that would span decades. The two knitting needles worked to the bone and perishing in the greatness of mastering a magnificent tapestry had to leave the knitting to new needles to continue. The passage of time before their transition into the heavens above saw to the tapestry that spread across generations. They unwittingly established many a needle to begin mastering the fabric they started and, the knitting continues as clicks, weaves, twists and threads sounding into the heavens. The tapestry of their lives adorn the pregnant rain clouds whose pure droplets soak it and melt the millions colours into its raindrops that pitter, patter over the earth and soak into the hearts of people making good actions palpable and eventually actionable. Suliman Ahmed and Ali Bhai Sujee, the two knitting needles of the tapestry that we behold in our lives today.

Suliman Ahmed had to stop the knitting of life’s tapestry when called to Allah, the High the Eternal on Thursday, 23 July 2020 to join his friend Ali Bhai Sujee who left the knitting in September 1983. In their heavenly space they look upon us who continue to knit life’s fabric in the shades of our own personalities anointed with their influence, grace, charm, virtue, courage, grit, generosity, spirituality and wisdom. This moving finger types and in typing the tapestry of life takes on a new tincture of quintessence because their legacies are woven now by the very souls that passed through their hands when they were teachers. Behold! the tapestry of life because you have added a thread that will run-on until eternity and give you a means to heaven or hell, all dependent on who your friends are and were.

Woven very early in the knots of childhood my friendship grew with late Shamuun Ahmed, the beloved son of late Suliman Ahmed. Unknown then, today they lie as neighbours in the graveyard as father and son. Unique is the plan that the father lies behind his son and their meeting each other after this life was a span of three weeks. It is as if, the son like how he cared for his father in this transient world was preparing a welcome for his beloved dad. So, who is this practical man, Mr S.E.Ahmed? Indulge yourself from the perspective of his friend’s son.

Mr.Ahmed as how we know him began his teaching career with his friend, Ali Bhai and that’s how the story starts for me. A little boy then in awe of my late father’s friend who would come to Evaton and spend the whole day in the bliss of friendship and I, would happily leave that moment and loose myself in playing the whole day with Shamuun. Today, as I sit writing this memory, their presence is palpable, tangible and almost visible because the numbness of the loss has locked in. The release from the numbness is the pensive indulgence seeking solace in words that describe feelings, memories, sadness, regrets, love, attention and greatness of being.

Mr.Ahmed was my teacher of maths in grade 10, 11 & 12. Furthermore, he was my principal when I was a teacher at Evaton Madressah which changed to Sabeerl-lur-Rashaad, then he was my Principal when I joined Roshnee Islamic School in 2004 and how unique; when I returned from Johannesburg Muslim School to Roshnee Islamic School, I became his principal. This weaving and knotting of life’s thread of experiences bears testimony that companionship defies the chronology of age and the world of work levels the playing fields.

There was a charisma in Mr.Ahmed that attracted people to his presence and led to a friendship that he would cherish. A few incidents will punctuate this piece to illustrate the practical man – Mr.S.E.Ahmed. My Grade 12 year was rather eventful and Shamuun and I would talk of further studies and we had this sorted out, so we thought. My intended career then was to become a textile technologist and Shamuun intended to become an electrical engineer which he accomplished. I, however, was not successful at that choice because of reasons out of my control and lost the year. Mr.Ahmed made the time to address my career path into teaching and assist me in that crucial period to align my life and that is priceless. Today, I learnt that there are many young men and women that he assisted with bursaries. It would be an interesting exercise to actually find out just how people were assisted and eventually completed their studies on the bursaries he arranged.

This care and compassion is best encapsulated for me when my father passed away tragically in 1983. I was devastated and Shamuun was my friend that gave me the support. Mr.Ahmed made sure that whatever I needed for school was seen to and he would represent me at the school for parental issues. It was time and effort on his side but, it always felt so easy. There was also an issue that caused me great stress. I registered at a private college for a 6-8 month course in skills management and signed on the dotted line not paying attention to the fine print. The college turned out to be a disaster for me and there was no exit clause in the contract therefore, making me liable for the full fees. It was an exorbitant amount and again, Mr Ahmed came to the rescue and discussed the matter with my late father’s friends and the matter was resolved with a settlement that was way below the exorbitant amount. Again I thought I was the only person who he assisted in a similar situation but, I was wrong. There were multitudes. It dawned upon me then how Mr.Ahmed was practical on a Prophetic teaching and I, in turn internalised the teaching of the hadith that opens this article.

Mr.Ahmed was a devoted friend too and when he took me under his wing as a mentee, he gave me what he said my father gave him. These were values, interpersonal skills, managerial acumen and leadership training. All of this was further refined by the men who were once students of my father and Mr.Ahmed. In this circle of luminaries learning was an every moment experience to this day where I would ask, “How would Mr.Ahmed have solved this matter or, the prudent men around them?” The end result was always distilled with wisdom. The defining point of a man is where he stands in adversity or in a precarious situation. Imagine this: Mr.Ahmed applied to go for two-three week visit to Al-Aqsa when he was the head of Finance at the school. He did all the work and felt that the leave would be approved. Lo and behold! It was declined on very principle grounds and the Ameer took that difficult decision with fortitude. The men taking decisions were the very men that formed the tapestry to the establishment of the school and who put Mr.Ahmed in helm at one time. He accepted the decision with such maturity and never showed his disappointment but, came back the next day to work diligently. He refused that we feel sorry for him and mentioned to the best effect that leadership and management comes with the price of tough choices and setting high standards. Furthermore, he never broached the subject in meetings and Allah, the Gracious blessed him to spend I’itikaaf in Al-Aqsa. In the fabric of life it was weaved that him and I spent that time together. I witnessed his I’itikaaf and realised his spiritual discipline to be sage-like and his assistance to all and sundry prophetic. In summation of these two events, his denial of leave and his eventual fulfilment of I’itikaaf in Al-Aqsa, made me realise that Allah, the Planner had already knitted days for him in Al-Aqsa so that his caring hand would have touched the lives of people beyond the geography of Roshnee.

Mentoring is practical and when I experienced the above as his principal I knew that the circle of men were teaching me the power of decisions and the humility of obedience even with friends that became an authority over you in places of work. Mr.Ahmed’s acceptance and practice thereafter, set the tone for all these kind of leave requests because a man of principle followed through with discerning obedience. This kind of obedience is rare. This exemplified that he was living heroically everyday and preferred that silent passage of practical example. The age gap between Mr Ahmed and I spanned about 30 years but, in conversation and discussion, he made you feel an equal but, led you into the realm of wisdom. People learn with their eyes.

The eyes are the arrows to the heart and it never missed the target. On three Association of Muslim Schools National Soccer tournaments that were hosted by Al-Falaah College in Durban, Mr Reza Pahad and I witnessed the following and when we do meet, somehow these images conjure a humorous discussion. We always stayed at a hotel and booked the breakfast special at Jolly Grubber. I was a teacher at Roshnee Islamic School at the time. Each teacher was in charge of his team and had to manage them – it was like looking after steroid hyped frogs in shallow bucket. One in, one out…all the time. Here we see Mr.Ahmed patient, jovial and with not a hint of irritation, taking time with the little U/9 & U/11 kids to order their food, sit with them, see to their needs, tie their boot laces and even make a funny face with the kid who was in bad mood and did not want to eat. Mr.Reza Pahad and I would say, “Yoh!! I would lose my mind..” Some other words would punctuate that catharsis too. This patience and deliberate attention to each child is something that parents adored about him and that is why, parents loved this man. He loved children like his own and he never showed or displayed prejudice in this. These qualities exemplify a man who loved life but, was not intoxicated by it rather, he was intoxicated in doing good with the life he had.

My chaste and righteous mother tells us how she appreciated his regular home visits to keep his friendship with his late alive though us. He would sit in the lounge and again, all of us, would leave everything and come and sit with him. In almost every visit he would mention something about my late father with relish and would pay tribute to what he learnt from him. His visits, which I recall were always accentuated with humour and light-heartedness. Again, I thought our house was the only one visited but, today we learn that he visited so many people regularly and he made them feel special and important. These noble qualities makes you see the practical side of spirituality and decorum of interpersonal relationships. This carries credibility.

When I assumed the Principal’s post at Johannesburg Muslim School in the third term of 2008, I had to deal with very challenging situations especially to establish credibility. I felt like a failure on so many fronts and suffered a blow to the confidence I had. It was then that I called Mr Ahmed to JMS to assess what I was doing. He came the one morning and spent the school day with me. In a judicious manner he inspected my files, records, systems, time tables, allocations, staff minutes and duty rosters amongst other things too and advised accordingly. He also gave me a written commendation for my report to the BOG on the work. The acclamation carried weight because the BOG knew the calibre of Mr.Ahmed’s work as a principal and as a member of the Association of Muslim Schools. This unselfish attitude only brought with it excellence. The excellence for me was that it rekindled confidence, credibility and spurred on the need to assist other principals. The legacy continues with the memories of those that worked with him at the Roshnee Islamic School.

In the knitting of the tapestry Roshnee Islamic School paid tribute to Mr Ahmed. The tapestry is now embroidered with a golden standard. The standard of wholesome friendships that weaved the hearts of men to rally to the call of service to humanity. In the call they found an empty tapestry which they filled with life’s experiences encoded for us to learn how to deal with the next century. One life, live it one stitch at a time and be the tailor of every action.

BOG NOTICE #1

24 July 2020

Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatu

We are numb and distraught at the loss of Mr S E Ahmed that words in themselves cannot express our grief. It does however give us perspective and therefore, we seek your indulgence to learn about a man who shaped the lives of many people. 

TRIBUTE TO AN IDEAL  MAN: MR S.E.AHMED.


If sincerity of purpose and integrity were to be personified, it would be Mr.S.E.Ahmed. Legacies are written in the actions of people. When these actions permeate the hearts of a great multitude of people, then it indicates to an excellent character that Allah, the High is pleased with. Mr.S.E Ahmed has a legacy of serving humanity through his integral role in schools as well as in our community. His immense passion for teaching leveraged him to touch thousands of individuals  in a way to inspire growth, sincerity of purpose and integrity. In essence, his dedication speaks unequivocally on his resilience to make life meaningful for the child in school and madrasah. Therefore, if his legacy and work does not inspire us to do more than the normal or, to begin something great we will live in more sadness and regret.

Today, we talk with a sense of regret because we could have spent more time with him and gleaned from his vast experience but, the sadness is more overwhelming because his loss is so immense. The initiatives of pupils (Class of 2003) who are planning to build a masjid in his name and to dig a borehole (Purple Bandage) in his name is testament to keeping his legacy alive therefore, please support it and encourage others. Furthermore, take the opportunity to start an initiative to benefit humanity because in doing so, you will be active on the legacy we are paying tribute to. The legacy of a man that started small things that led to tremendous achievements.

Mr S.E.Ahmed served Roshnee Islamic School from inception and laid the foundations of greatness which today is testimony of his perseverance, grit and  devotion. The School’s vision & mission statements then and now bear his goals and zeal therefore, keeping alive the need for constant striving to achieve excellence. Today, the Roshnee Islamic School pays tribute to all the  visionary leaders who played a role in laying the foundation of our school. 

Mr.S.E.Ahmed will be remembered for his jovial relationship he had with the pupils from Grade 1 to Grade 12. His warm  personality won the hearts of pupils such that today, people still called him ‘Sir’ with great affection. Added to that, staff members still revere him and acknowledge his humble disposition and spiritual demeanor. In the leadership of the School as Principal, he was open to advice, first on duty, last off the premises and generous with his time for the School’s success. 

Mr.S.E.Ahmed was instrumental in getting bursaries for pupils that wanted to study further. He ensured that the student was not left alone to fend for themselves but assisted with career guidance too. This was done at his own time after school hours which included weekends. Furthermore, he ensured that if the students needed some spending money, he would make the necessary arrangements. 

What is underestimated is his administration and management of Sabeerl-lur-Rashaad Madressah for decades. It was first called EVATON MADRESSAH where he served with my late father, Ali Bhai Sujee. He saw the whole madressah as a school structure from printed reports to exciting concerts/jalsahs. Furthermore, he was instrumental in giving free math lessons to pupils in a location not far from Roshnee which, in essence, had the impact of Da’wah therefore, strengthening the need to serve humanity beyond the scope of school and madressah. This extended service to people beyond the boundaries of Roshnee is what he wanted us to conceive as work too. His practical example led to this legacy.

The School has lost a legend who ‘raged against the dying of the light’, to teach, to serve and to lead. Surely, in his example, you will find the practice of deeds and imitation of a lifestyle like that of men around the Messenger (s.a.w.). Therefore, we  honour a role model who opened up glimpses of saints that walked the path of spiritual greatness. 

In closing we extend our gratitude to Aunt Julie for allowing us to have Mr Ahmed so often in countless ways to be there for the school. We also extend  our gratitude to Late Shamuun and his family in the same light because it ingrained loyalty to the school in the whole family. Furthermore, to the son Naseem and daughter Fatima, we acknowledge the support you gave your father too and we say that just as your late father extended his helping hand, we would honour that by looking after his legacy. May Allah the High the Great bless you all with abundance from HIS treasures and may HE shower his blessings and mercy upon all of you. 

We make dua Allah Ta’ala grant Mr. S.E.Ahmed & Shamuun Ahmed Jannatul Fiduas, fill their qabrs with noor and may they be resurrected amongst the Ambiyaa and the pious predecessors. Ameen.

Sincerely The BOG, SMT & STAFF

Sincerely,

The BOG, SMT & Staff

In midst of all people walked a Practical Man and so began the thread to the Tapestry of Life.
with each knit, knot, weave, pull and cut there came strife.
But the sanctified cloth of the Ka’bah did he once touch and pray
And the tapestry made way.
More was the prayer for you and I
thinking too much of himself made him sigh.
In the movement of the needles of stitch and time
did the Angel fill HIS command without rhyme.
A last stitch with the testimony of faith gave him the thread
that sealed his faith with Allah with no dread.
Laid to rest on the Friday night
is testimony of his destiny always in sight.
There he will dwell as practical
his life in hindsight was a spectacle.

Image: Mecca Wall Carpet Tapestry. Moroccan Decor.

Abdullah Sujee

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3 thoughts on “The Fabric of Friendships”

  1. We know not the depth of our love except at its hour of parting.
    It was with incredulity that I learnt of the passing away of this icon .Indeed sadly a posthumous icon. The gushing of emotions ,the numerous stories of his magnanimity, his indefatigable energy in service to the community, his compassion towards the elderly ,his love for his family , his forbearance, his pursuit of excellence ,his support of the youth his professionalism as a teacher and most importantly his love for his faith bear ample testimony to this larger than life individual, Suleiman Ahmed from Roshnee.

    Those who knew him would describe him as a self -effacing individual.A lot more has been learnt about him after his passing away.He was not one for fan- fare or rhetoric. Never ostentatious or intrusive. He had a fierce intrinsic drive to be good and to do good.

    May Allah ( SWT) grant this beautiful soul the highest status in Jannah.Ameen. May He reward Auntie Julie and the family for accepting this bereaved loss with patience.Ameen.This loss is even more exacerbated after losing their son just a few weeks ago.

    By Edris Khamisa.

  2. Truly an inspirational man whose absense from this world will be felt deeply.
    Could not have told this tale of two friends better.
    May we be equipped to use our words to inspire those who read them and immortalise those long gone.

    1. Thank you for the apt response. I pray that we do equip ourselves with his actions so that we enliven once again the actions of a practical man.
      Sincerely

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