His life typified the first ever revelation recorded in the Holy Qur’an. He dedicated his life to learning. And with knowledge came the natural progression of its dissemination.
A scholar at heart, Shaykh Abdurraghiem began this journey of dedicating his life to the Din-ul Islam, in his birth town of Vrededorp Johannesburg. He was born on July 25, 1944, the eldest son of Hasan and Amina Sallie’s family of seven children. His father sent him to Bo-Kaap, Cape Town at the tender age of 12 to lodge and learn at the feet of the renowned Shaykh Muhammad Salie Abadie Solomon (Al Marhum) of South Africa. Not having children of their own, Shaykh Muhammad Salie and his wife became the surrogate parents of the young student. In 1958, they decided to take him on a sea voyage to Saudi Arabia where he furthered his Islamic studies.
Shaykh Abdurraghiem memorised the entire Qur’an by the age of 14, with the honour of finishing off his memorization in the Haram Al-Sharif of the sacred city of Makkah, at the feet of the esteemed Sayed al-Rahman Al-Maliki (Al Marhum). Sayed Al-Maliki was also the teacher of Shaykh Muhammad Salie Abadie. After two years, their time in Makkah ended abruptly, after King Saud issued a decree ordering all foreigners to leave the kingdom.
Shaykh Abdurraghiem had many teachers but was most influenced by his spiritual father, teacher and friend, Shaykh Mohamed Shakier Gamieldien. Shaykh Shakier was the first Al-Azhar University graduate from Cape Town. He entered the Al-Azhar University in 1928 and became one of the great luminaries of his time.
As an Imam, Shaykh Abdurraghiem took a central role in the development of the communities he served. A service spanning more than 39 years saw Shaykh Abdurraghiem establish numerous Madaris and educational institutions especially in the impoverished areas, such as Manenberg on the Cape Flats.
Maulana Igsaan Hendricks, the President of the Muslim Judicial Council, the largest Ulama body in Cape Town, said
any tribute to the ‘Alim would be incomplete without noting the significant role he played in the Bo-Kaap community, as the Imam of the Shafi’iy Masjid in Chiappini Street. The community of Bo-Kaap has great memories of the late Shaykh. I don’t think we can fail in our duty to recognise that Shaykh Abdurraghiem built a legacy around the masjid.
He also established a boarding school for students from outside of the Cape, who wished to memorise the Qur’an. An estimated 60 students from across South Africa attained the honour of Hafithul Qur’an under the tutelage of Shaykh Abdurraghiem – renowned for his strict emphasis on proper recitation with Tajwid. Not only was Shaykh Abdurraghiem versed in the Qur’an and fluent in classical Arabic, but through his study of the deen of Islam, became an authority on Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) specialising in Muslim Personal Law.
As a Faqih, Shaykh Abdurraghiem authored 30 books on various aspects of Islam such as Tauhid, Salaah, Zakah, Fasting, Hajj (from the viewpoint of all four major Schools of Thought), Maintenance and Child-care in Islam, Islamic Jurisprudence and Muslim Personal Law; including Marriage, Divorce and Inheritance.
The Comparative Study of Inheritance in Islam (376 pages), A Journey Through the World of Belief – A Book on Tauhid / Monotheism (377 pages), The Supernatural: Fact or fiction in Islam (96 pages) and The Laws pertaining to Mosques in Islam (176 pages). Shaykh Abdurraghiem’s final book published in his lifetime took seven years of research and writing. The Evolution of Islamic Legislation Volume One is a 606-page in-depth study of the development of the Shari’ah through the first three periods in Islamic history. Volume Two covering the fourth, fifth and sixth was unfortunately not realised.
Shaykh Abdurraghiem’s knowledge of Islam was recognised internationally. In 1996, he was a regular feature in the Saudi Gazette, the largest English newspaper published in Saudi Arabia.
As a religious authority, he was able to respond to queries of a religious nature from readers, at times issuing fatawa, when necessary. It was no mean feat for a South African who had to write for a readership in the Middle East. The regular feature in the paper was called Questions of Faith.
Always the ambassador for Islam, Shaykh Abdurraghiem also had a stint as presenter of the first-ever programme on Islam aired on an Afrikaans radio station in South Africa, namely Radio Sonder Grense translated as Radio Without Borders. The radio talk show, presented in Afrikaans, was titled Islam in Fokus (translated as Islam in Focus). The talk show was launched in 1996. It drew a large audience of non-Muslim listeners and is still currently on air.
True to his passion for learning and seeking knowledge, Shaykh Abdurraghiem journeyed to Egypt, at the age of 50, to further his study of the deen. There he learnt at the feet of Dr Taha Abdul Aziz Abu al-Fadl, a professor at the Al-Azhar College for Girls. Together they authored The Comparative Study on Inheritance in Islam. Shaykh Abdurraghiem sadly did not live to see a final book – to which he painstakingly dedicated his last few years – published. This book is in its last stages of editing.
The Muslim Judicial Council (largest ulama body in Cape Town), which Shaykh Abdurraghiem was also affiliated to at one stage, said in a tribute after his passing that
people would continue benefiting from the Shaykh’s knowledge through his valuable literature and his dedicated students. He was a giant and one of the most prolific scholars in South Africa.
The thousands who attended Shaykh Abdurraghiem’s janazah (funeral) in 2013, after battling a crippling illness is a testament to the legacy he has left behind.