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Shaikh Yusuf Booley

Shaikh Yusuf Booley- Fifty years in the service of the Qur’an

On the 28th day of Ramadan (January 17 1999) Shaikh Mohamed Yusuf Booley, 68, was honored by the Rahmaniya Ahmedi Social Society for reciting the Holy Qur’an in Taraaweeh for 50 years in succession. This is a tribute to a master of Qur’anic recitation and a scholar who remains committed to serve the community.

Imam Cassiem Ishack Zalgaonker, chairperson of the Grassy Park Mosque Soiciet, said they had decided to organize the event in recognition of Shaikh Booley’s outstanding contribution to one of the most fundamental practices in Muslim society. Shaikh Booley has been leading Taraaweeh prayers at the Ahmedi Mosque in Grassy Park for the last ten years.

“We are very fortunate to have Shaikh Booley with us in the last years of this important period of his life,” said Imam Zalgaonker. “He is a great teacher and many huffaz have graduated from his classes over the years,” he added.

Some of the most renowned graduates of his classes were Advocate Abubakr Mohamed, Dr Ahmed Omar, Moulana Ahmed Omar, Moulana Ebrahim Khan and, more recently, Shaikh Abdullah Bayat.

Shaikh Booley estimates that about 30 huffaz graduated from his tutelage, in addition to numerous others, who in turn were taught by his students.

The Shaikh is a scholar of distinguished deportment and a similar eminence rolls from his measured and sonorous speech. He has had many memorable experiences in his long and illustrious career, too numerous to list.

However, he recalls how, after qualifying as a hafiz in 1949, he had the honor of leading Taraaweeh in the Haram in Makkah in 1950.

“In those years Taraaweeh was recited in smaller groups in the Haram and three blind huffaz stood behind me to rectify me if I made a mistake. This experience broke my in and did away with the stage fright. It is the kind of breakthrough that every hafiz needs in order to recite in front of a crowd, he reminisces.

Another highlight in his career was a period since 1952 when he led Taraaweeh prayers at the Grey Street mosque in Durban for five years. He also served as deputy imam of this mosque. In those years the Grey Street mosque was the largest in the southern hemisphere and a crowd of 2 500 worshippers was considered extraordinarily large. He started teaching Hifz at this mosque in 1956.

In 1998 Shaikh Booley was privileged to meet and travel with another great scholar of the Qur’an, Shaikh Ahmad Naa’ina.

Whilst in Johannesburg and Durban with his distinguished guest, he was approached by a number of huffaz and students he had never taught or met. However, they seemed to know him. He was pleasantly surprised to discover that they were in fact students of his students. The Shaikh is grateful for the blessing of this chain in which the tradition of hifz is transmitted.

Shaikh Booley’s reputation as a leader in hifz stems not only from his own achievement as a hafiz, but more from the very exacting standards he has established as a teacher of hifz. Perhaps perfectionists are never satisfied with mediocrity, but Shaikh Booley is more than a perfectionist. He believes that when one teaches the kalam of Allah, one must adhere to strict discipline, strive for excellence, and approach the task of committing the Qur’an to memory with devotion, sincerity, and humility.

A sponsored student from Uzbekistan was once sent packing back to the then socialist republic because the teenager had been ill mannered and lacked discipline.

The Shaikh was deeply disappointed because the lad showed great promise and was beginning to gain vocal mastery of Quranic recitation. Nevertheless, such lack of restraint does not lend itself to the study of the Qur’an.

However, it is not only the ethic and propriety of recitation that concerns Shaikh Booley. He is also concerned that there is not adequate coordination of our huffaz in Cape Town.

Shaikh Booley values huffaz as a resource pool that holds obvious spiritual benefits for the community. But in order for us to benefit as a community, there has to be a set of strict and acceptable standards for teaching and learning hifz. There also has to be coordination with respect to teaching facilities, the distribution of huffaz for Taraaweeh in Ramadan and an initiative to encourage the completion of the Qur’an for Taraaweeh at every mosque.

These are the Sheikh’s ideals and he remains a tireless worker in the service of the Qur’an. At present, he is the Chairperson of Jamiatul Quraa, the first formal hifz school established as far back as the sixties. His ultimate ideal seems to be the establishment of a hifz school in Faure, near the tomb of Shaikh Yusuf, complete with boarding facilities. The Hifz School in Faure is regarded as a milestone for Jamiatul Quraa although it is still in the planning stage. This project can be brought to fruition only if the entire Muslim community supports such a noble venture.

After 50 years of devotion to work that one loves, it seems perfectly reasonable that retirement from the profession is virtually impossible. Besides, how does one retire from a love of the Qur’an?

At present, he still teaches from home and hopes to continue his Taraaweeh recitation for as long as his health permits.

Muslim Views salutes this great teacher and make du’a that he may long continue to work and be enriched by the rewards of service to the community.

Update: The organization, Jam’eyyatul Quraa (JEQ) has since become the biggest hifz institution in Cape Town. It has two huge facilities for the memorization of the Quran in Schaapkraal- one for boys and the other for girls. The boys’ campus comprises a boarding facility as well. Shaikh Yusuf, who oversees all the projects of JEQ has since retired from fulltime teaching due to ill health. He is, however, still much involved in the propogation of the Qur’aan...


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