IHRC’s advisor and dear friend, Imam Achmad Cassiem has returned to his Creator in the early hours of 14 July, 2023. We pray that the Almighty grants him the best station in nearness, and grants his family sabr.
Imam Cassiem’s loss is immeasurable. We will be posting tributes, and an obituary here in the coming days. We hope that this will contribute in a small way to ensuring that his incredible life continues to inspire the coming generations.
Imam Achmad Cassiem, leader, veteran anti-apartheid activist, former Robben Island prisoner, revolutionary, advisor to IHRC, founder of Qibla and great friend, 12 December 1945 – 14 July 2023. Fateha.
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Farid Sayed, looks over IHRC advisor Imam Achmad Cassiem’s life and legacy
At a time when many young people were looking to give full Islamic expression to their role in the struggle for justice in this country, Imam Achmad Cassiem was a leader, teacher and a practical example for Muslims committed to social justice.
On Friday, July 14, Imam Cassiem passed away at the age 77 after a life-long struggle against apartheid and global oppression. The indelible legacy he has left is that not only can people of faith be part of the struggle for social justice, but their claim to be followers of the heroic examples of Prophets (peace be upon them) necessitates Muslims to be in the forefront of that fight.
His Janazah prayer was held at the Habibia Soofie Masjid in Athlone, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, immediately after the Jumu’ah salaah. The mosque overflowed with those who had come to pay their last respects to the iconic anti-apartheid activist.
Former student Sheikh Sa’dullah Khan, who led the Janazah salah, addressed the congregation before the prayers.
“We say farewell to a courageous man, a man of integrity, who stood by what he believed in, even if at times he stood alone. We bid farewell to a revolutionary leader, a principled fighter for justice, the voice of conscience, our inspirational teacher, the brave, heroic, gentle and selfless Imam Achmad Cassiem.”
Sheikh Sa’dullah recalled that Imam Cassiem was often “ostracised by those who were supposed to be his own”, and he was at times vilified by clergy which led to him being denied a platform at many mosques.
“Yet, he never compromised on principle,” said Sheikh Sa’dullah. “He died neither subdued nor conquered. He was uncompromising in pursuit of justice.”
Read the full obituary here.
From the office of South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa
PRESIDENT MOURNS PASSING OF FORMER ROBBEN ISLAND PRISONER IMAM ACHMAD CASSIEM
President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his sadness at the passing of Imam Achmad Cassiem, former Robben Island prisoner, Pan Africanist Congress member and founding member of the Qibla Movement.
Imam Cassiem passed away on Friday 14 July 2023, at the age of 78.
President Ramaphosa extends his condolences to the family, friends, comrades and associates internationally of the late political and religious leader who hailed from the Western Cape.
As a teenager, Achmad Cassiem was politically conscientised by the Pan Africanist Congress’s campaign against apartheid pass laws, motivating him to join the armed struggle at the age of 15.
He was a high school learner when he and his teacher, Sadiq Isaacs, were arrested for sabotage, detained and charged under the Sabotage Act.
His was handed a five-year sentence, which caused him to become one of the youngest prisoners on Robben Island.
Upon his release, he was issued with a banning order, which he defied to remain politically active, including his role in the establishment in 1979 of the Qibla Movement to promote and defend Islam in South Africa.
He was detained again for an extended period after mobilising learners during a protracted class boycott in 1980 and was later charged under the Terrorism Act for facilitating military training and infiltration into South Africa for Qibla fighters who had been trained in Libya.
Years after arrest for this action, Achmad Cassiem was sentenced to six years in prison, which was cut short his release in 1991, following the unbanning of liberation organisations.
In later years, he served as National Chairperson of the Islamic Unity Convention and as advisor to the Islam Human Rights Commission.
President Ramaphosa said: “Imam Cassiem lived a life of courage, principle and faith in mobilising communities on the Cape Flats and around the country against apartheid.
“Imprisonment, confinement to his home in Hanover Park and repeated harassment and detention by the apartheid security machine failed to extinguish the flame of resistance and revolution that burned in his being and which he ignited in everyone he inspired as an activist.
“We are joined by supporters of our Struggle in Libya, Iran and other nations who had an impact on Imam Cassiem who in turn, had an impact on them.
“We are grateful for his life and wish him eternal, peaceful rest.”
From Massoud Shadjareh, Chair, IHRC
Imam was a dear and most valuable friend. It will be difficult to summarise all of his achievements
of – his efforts to establish and lead Qibla as an Islamic anti-Apartheid armed resistance group which defeated Apartheid, is one of the testimonies of his vision, his dedication and his methodology of resisting oppression and supporting the oppressed by being a committed Muslim and Imam.
We are inspired and grateful to him as a teacher, as an Imam and as a guide who showed us that Islam is the pragmatic answer and solution against all oppression.
Today, I cannot help hear over and over his famous saying, “Every day is a good day to learn and every day is a good day to die.”
From Nkosi ZMD Mandela, MP
South Africa has lost one of its most formidable sons. May Imam Achmad Cassiem rest in peace.
Mvezo Komkhulu (The Great Place), Friday 14th July 2023: South Africa has lost one of its most formidable sons, one who was fearless in his opposition to imperialism and their lackeys in the Apartheid State whom they supported.
Imam Achmad Cassiem will be remembered not only for being a member of the Pan Africanist Congress founder of the Qibla Mass Movement, founding member of the Islamic Unity Convention, and member of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, but he was also a fearless campaigner for justice, human rights and dignity for all.
He not only spoke about these apex values that form the foundation of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, he was the embodiment of dignity, good character, and selfless service. Our country needs more leaders like him.
He will be remembered for his tireless campaign for the liberation of Al Quds and for responding to the call made by Ayatollah Ruhullah Khomeini in 1979 to introduce the last Friday of Ramadaan as Al Quds Day. His name will be honoured amongst the fearless fighters for justice for the Palestinian people and we will celebrate him in a free Palestine.
It was in the home of Imam Achmad Cassiem’s father in District Six that Imam Abdullah Haron met activists of the Cape Muslim Youth Movement and the Claremont Muslim Youth Association that shaped the character and world view of a generation of Muslim Anti Apartheid activists. It is no surprise therefore that Imam Achmad Cassiem was ideologue, mentor, leader and a father figure to many in the anti-apartheid struggle and the fight against gangsterism and crime.
We salute this proud son of the African soil and express our heartfelt condolences to his wife Ghairunisa Johnson and the rest of his family, friends and loved ones.
May the doors of heaven open for his soul. May He be greeted by the angels with greetings of peace. May He be showered by God Almighty’s divine mercy, grace and forgiveness. This is what God most merciful has promised.
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji-oon- To Allah we belong and unto Him is our return.
From Abed Choudhury, head of IHRC Legal
With deep sadness, we receive the news of Imam Cassiem’s passing, and our hearts are burdened with sorrow as we must bid farewell to a charismatic figure who has left an indelible mark on our lives.
I had the privilege of meeting Imam Cassiem, and each encounter left a profound impression on me. His words carried a depth that resonated within my being, imparting wisdom that continues to shape my outlook and guide my actions.
What impressed me most about him was his embodiment of the values he preached. Imam Cassiem was a tireless champion of human rights, dedicating himself to the pursuit of social justice and equality for all. His unwavering commitment to serving others set a standard of selflessness that served as an inspiration to us all.
In losing Imam Cassiem, we have lost a true giant of our ummah. As we reflect on his remarkable life, we can only pray that we may aspire to achieve at least half as much as he did.
May Allah bless his soul and grant him eternal peace. Imam Cassiem, your legacy will forever remain in our hearts, and your example will continue to guide us in our journey toward a more just and compassionate world.
From Demir Mahmutcehajic, social and political activist in Bosnia, former IHRC officer
My teacher, Imam Achmed Cassiem, has passed away. He was a revolutionary, a fighter against apartheid in South Africa, a prisoner on Robin Island… Many learned from him what dignity is. I am humbly aware of the privilege of my life to have had the opportunity to listen to him. His guidance remains with me deeply: “One oppressor one bullet!”
From Raza Kazim, head of IHRC Trust
Imam Achmad Cassiem was an inspirational revolutionary. His gentle demeanour belied the monumental jihad that he had undertaken over his lifetime against the apartheid regime. His jihad was not limited and thus included the armed struggle. Through the work I was involved in with IHRC I learnt that while he could talk the talk he had also walked the walk and sacrificed in the way of Allah. In an era when talking about the walk can become contentious to the point of people losing their livelihood he was an inspiration. He talked the talk. He walked the talk. He talked the walk and walked the talk. One of the most memorable moments was when he was speaking in Trafalgar Square, London, England at a rally for Palestine. He concluded his speech with the trademark revolutionary fighter slogan from the days of the anti-apartheid struggle, “One oppressor, one bullet.”
From Ahmed Uddin, IHRC Management Committee Member:
I often noticed before Imam Cassiem spoke in a public setting or a workshop, he would pause for a few moments before his salawat; his eyes would get teary. I asked him once, I always observe that you would get emotional and teary before you spoke. He responded with, “we fought for the cause so that we can preserve our hearts”. I know now know what he meant by that, the verse in the Quran:
“But only he (will prosper) that brings to Allah a sound heart” – Chapter (26) sūrat l-shuʿarā (The Poets)
It is a sound heart (Al-qalb al-saleem) that recognizes life for what it is: a test for the believer, a place to worship and to practice patience while the promise of happiness awaits in the hereafter. Indeed Imam Cassiem never wavered in his principles and sacrificed everything for Him. I know with certainty he has returned to his Lord, with a sound heart, all the signs are there.
May we have the honour of being a companion with him and the likes of him in Jannah.
From Mohideen Abdelkader, Citizens International, Malaysia:
Imam Achmad Cassiem was a commited revolutionary fighting for truth and justice. I met him only a few times during the Universal Justice Network conferences and we had many discussions about his experinces in the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa. It was highly inspiring and should be shared with the present handphone-addicted generation obsessed with chasing pleasure. His life of selfless sacrice in the cause to forbid evil and enjoin the good must inspire us to action to make this world a better place.My deepest condolences to his wife and family.
May Allah swt shower His blessings on Imam Achmad Cassiem’s soul and place him among the pious in Jannah.
From Imam Muhammad al-Asi, elected Imam, Washington DC Islamic Center, advisor to IHRC:
I first met Imam Ahmad Qasim during the years of struggle against Apartheid. I knew him from that time until my last visit to South Africa a couple of months ago. In all those years of personal contact, friendship and brotherhood he remained a man of his convictions and uncompromising character. He lived a life of Islamic principles in a world where many “leaders” are swayed away from their Islamic principles. Petro-traps are all over and Imam Ahmad Qasim was not one to fall for those traps. Racism and sectarianism were also ensnaring “leaders” and Imam Ahmad Qasim would have non of it. My heartfelt condolences to all who knew him. May he rest in everlasting peace. Ameen.
[WATCH] “We’ve lost an icon in our community, a principled man, a man who stood by his principles even if he was going to stand alone,” said Nazier Paulson (MP) at the funeral of Imam Achmad Cassiem. The former Robben Island prisoner and member of the armed struggle is remembered… pic.twitter.com/6hYgB983lF
— Salaamedia (@salaamedia) July 14, 2023
The funeral of Imam Achmad Cassiem held on Friday the 14th July 2023. Robben Island’s Ex Political Prisoner, Freedom Fighter, Teacher, National Secretary General for the PAC and Founder of Qibla, Cassiem was one of the youngest individuals to be imprisoned on Robben Island. pic.twitter.com/i6DJRLb9Tw
— Robben Island Museum (@robben_island) July 16, 2023
— Salaamedia Stream (@SalaamediaLive) July 14, 2023
Photo, Video & Audio Gallery: In Memoriam