‘If I can’t break the fast, she gives me food’

This week Mus­lims ob­serv­ing Ra­madaan have reached the halfway mark of the holy month. SHIREEN MUKADAM went to break her fast with Mus­lims in Hang­berg and Blikkies­dorp. TRACEY ADAMS took the pho­to­graphs

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - Shireen.mukadam@inl.co.za

ONE of the ma­jor ob­jec­tives of fast­ing in Ra­madaan from sun­rise to sun­set is to know what it feels like to go with­out food. But for some Cape Town Mus­lims, there’s noth­ing un­usual about fast­ing, and there’s of­ten no food in their homes to break their fast at sun­set.

“Some­times there’s noth­ing,” says 16-year-old Naeema Bon­za­aier of Hang­berg in Hout Bay. Her aunt Gadija Bon­za­aier, 65, who lives with her, whispers: “We haven’t got such a lot of stuff.”

She has never been mar­ried, and to get by she does odd jobs like sewing pil­low­cases at the old age club.

Imam Haashim Peck of Masjidul Bahrain, the only mosque in Hang­berg, which over­looks the Hout Bay har­bour, says about 120 Mus­lim fam­i­lies live in the town­ship.

Wed­nes­day night was the 15th night of Ra­madaan, and to cel­e­brate reach­ing the mid­way mile­stone of this holy month, the mosque ar­ranged a com­mu­nity if­tar (break­ing of the fast) for the Mus­lims of Hang­berg and nearby Imizamo Yethu, in the form of a spon­sored din­ner.

The aroma of mut­ton curry filled the air. Women bus­tled around pots on gas stoves.

One woman dished rice with a saucer, then passed it to the woman be­side her.

An­other dished the curry. “Is dit die laaste rys? Dan gee ons brood,” she said. (Is this the last of the rice? Then we serve bread.)

The food was passed from hand to hand along a hu­man chain, un­til it reached the hun­gry con­gre­gants, sit­ting along a makeshift table­cloth made of pa­per, spread out on the car­pet.

For this com­mu­nity, plagued by un­em­ploy­ment, tik and teenage preg­nan­cies, the mosque is a source of so­lace – and this sup­per much more than they would eat in their homes.

Many live in crowded con­di­tions in shacks on the moun­tain­side of Hang­berg.

The pre­vi­ous night, said Toufeeqa Mo­hammed, her friend brought her a loaf of bread: “I was so blessed. I went on my knees.”

Mo­hammed, 34, lives with her boyfriend Ebrahim Wag­ner and her five chil­dren aged three to 18 in a cor­ru­gated iron Wendy house. Her el­dest son dropped out of school when he was in Grade 8 – just like his mother.

Mo­hammed left school to help her sin­gle mother. She be­gan odd jobs such as iron­ing clothes, cook­ing food and clean­ing for peo­ple, and even­tu­ally got a job at a chicken take­away fran­chise, which she left eight years ago. She hasn’t found a job since.

Her boyfriend, a brick­layer, is also un­em­ployed.

“If I’ve got bread, I put sand­wiches on the ta­ble,” Mo­hammed says. Some­times her boyfriend goes down to the har­bour and brings back a snoek head, or the in­sides.

“We cook that,” she says. “Some­times he comes home with a whole snoek. I don’t think you need a lot of food.”

Most com­mu­nity mem­bers are part of Hout Bay’s fish­ing in­dus­try.

Waseema Wyn­gaard’s mother worked in a fish fac­tory and her hus­band is a fish­er­man on trawl­ing boats.

“A fish­er­man’s got a hard life,” says the 36-year-old mother of two girls. “You live from day to day.”

An­other Mus­lim com­mu­nity liv­ing on the fringes of the econ­omy is in the Blikkies­dorp tem­po­rary re­lo­ca­tion area in Delft.

The only way to tell that a tiny shack in the mid­dle of the town­ship is a mosque is by a tall green flag with a cres­cent and star. This mosque is the cen­tral point for about 600 Mus­lim fam­i­lies in Blikkies­dorp.

“If you fast and don’t have food, you can break your fast at the mosque,” says Badroon­isa Mor­ris. “I do it ev­ery evening.”

Some­times there is soup and food, other times there are only dates and or­anges.

Mor­ris, 50, has six chil­dren. Her hus­band sells socks, gloves and scarves in Bel­lville.

“I don’t have food for tonight,” she says. “One day there’s fish in the wa­ter, one day there isn’t.”

Her friend Shameila Abrahams, 40, has five chil­dren aged one to 19. Abrahams and her hus­band are both un­em­ployed.

“We cope in Ra­madaan be­cause we’re used to not hav­ing food.”

She’s em­bar­rassed to ask for food, she says. “If there isn’t, there isn’t (any).”

Zuleiga Dy­ers, whose hus­band is a part-time painter, ex­plains how the com­mu­nity mem­bers help one an­other: “If I don’t have, she gives me. If her hus­band comes home with some­thing, then we share.”

Gadija Wil­liams, 41, who is a madrassa teacher in the mosque, and her 67-year-old pen­sioner hus­band live with their five chil­dren. They are joined for if­tar by 10 other chil­dren who have con­verted to Is­lam.

“Hulle mam­mies is op die bot­tle (their mothers are al­co­holics), and some sell drugs,” she says in a com­bi­na­tion of English and Afrikaans.

When she re­ceived two food parcels from the mosque, she shared them with her Chris­tian neigh­bours.

She doesn’t know where the food will come from, but be­lieves that it will come.

And when it doesn’t? Well, that’s when she phones her sis­ter.

“This is how we help each other,” she says.

ALL SMILES: Broth­ers Ab­dul Mu’iz, 7, and Mubashir Salahudin, 3, en­joy a com­mu­nal break­ing of the fast at Masjidul Bahrain, Hang­berg.

PLACE OF WOR­SHIP: The Blikkies­dorp Is­lamic So­ci­ety ja­mat khana is the only mosque in the area where 600 Mus­lim fam­i­lies live.

GET­TING READY: Yasser John­son,13, pre­pares for madrassa. He is sur­rounded by his mother Toufeeqa Mo­hammed, and sis­ters Maleeka (blue), 8, and Aee­sha John­son, 5, in the bed­room of their Wendy house in Hang­berg.

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