Shamima was an extraordinary human being
In knowing her as a friend and organisational colleague there were many
aspects of her personality that moved me very deeply: her passionate commitment and
idealism which translated into a continuous activism for social justice, her constant
transgression of religious and cultural traditions in critically constructive ways, her
fundamental refusal to be taken as a second-class Muslim because of being a woman, her
openness in engaging even the thorniest aspects of the women's struggle and her capacity
to extend sisterhood to women very different in beliefs from herself, her wonderful
laughter, generosity and hospitality (Shamima and Na'eem's home was an
"open-house", always full of people talking, eating, laughing, arguing), her
inexhaustible energy in both juggling motherhood, work, numerous political commitments and
an active social life.
All of these things are what defined Shamima, but most distinctive
for me were her incredible qualities of courage and spunkiness and it is with a multitude
of both that she faced her meeting with Allah - she never faltered in the face of death,
remaining true to her life commitments to the every end. Even in her death she made this
manifest - she requested that her janaza prayers be lead by a woman. Very few of us can,
at the age of 37, be able to stand before our Creator and be sure that we have fulfilled
our vicegerency in this world with the totality of who we are. I believe that Shamima will
be able to do so.
Dearest Sister Shamima, aluta continua. Go with the knowledge that
you have touched this temporal world in the profoundest way. Salaam-u-alaykum wa
rahmat-ul-allah wa barakatu.
On behalf of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference, I
wish to join our thoughts and prayers to yours at the commemoration of the passing of such
a noble and brave lady. Her going is a great loss to South Africa but still moreso to the
Muslim Community because of her work as a champion for Human Rights and Gender Equity.
Our sympathy and prayers are with her family and friends as well as
the Muslim Community and we pray that Allah may bless and console them and inspire many to
emulate her heroic example so that her spirit may be a living inspiration to all.
Sr Michael Doran
Secretary of the Department for Ecumenism and Inter-Religious Dialogue
Johnson Mkhabela (Mr)
I was deeply touched and saddened to hear of the passing away of
Sister Shamima a short while ago. I received a distressed call from my niece Shehnaaz.
We would like to convey our condolences to the family of Shamima,
and all of you at The Voice.
May Allah grant her high stages in Jannah, forgive her and shower
Blessings on her grave.
To you at The Voice, you have been most favoured and fortunate to
have known her, learnt from her and spent time with her. She will undoubtedly be a great
loss to you.
My niece and I were fortunate to have met her only on one occasion.
Despite her ill-health, her warmth, enthusiasm and energy were overwhelming. After hearing
her on The Voice, her views, her strengths and passion for Islam, we were determined to
meet her. I cannot explain enough in words the impact she has made on us. For me as a
progressive Muslim woman, I was inspired and energised by Shamimas vigour and
conviction and recommitted myself to my religious values, behaviour and actions.
She has had a direct impact on giving sound direction to my life.
May Allah reward her for that. I aspire to have her understanding and passion for the
Quran and Islam in general.
My niece has taken a serious interest in the station after having
met Shamima, whom she regards as a role model.
Although we have lost her, Shamimas memory and spirit will
live on within us and in our duas, and she will remain an inspiration to us.
I just returned to South Africa a few days ago after several weeks
away only to learn about Shamima's passing. I feel a sense of great sadness for her
absence and for the struggles ahead for you and the kids. Rarely have I known a couple so
clearly committed to each other and to a particular vision of living and work. What you
actualised in your love and camaraderie far exceeds that which most couples can expect to
experience in longer lifetimes.
Her dedication to ensuring the vitality of our din, without
arrogance and with honesty, will continue to be a resource for us all. I am sure that with
the suffering and emptiness that will surround you will also be the innumerable
manifestations of the ways your life has been enriched by this love, by her and that
knowing her, loving her has prepared you to take on new challenges and unanticipated
pathways where you will continue to call upon her and to know her. My dearest brother,
whatever I can, I extend to you, and may Allah be a reaffirmation for you of all that is
abiding and strong.
Dr AbdouMaliq Simone
School for Public and Development Management
University of the Witwatersrand
I am deeply moved by the two obituaries which reflect the strength
of Shamima as believer, as woman, as mother, leader and revolutionary, both in life and in
death. The way she passed on inspires me and I am sure so many others in a country
painfully struggling to emerge from its shackles of the past, and a community as painfully
battling to define its role and identity within this larger struggle.
Your own role as soulmate right up to the end, your own strength in
dealing with the challenges on the many levels throughout this period, your unwavering
commitment to the values and ideal you shared, your celebration of life and acceptance of
death right to the end, for me not only strengthens my faith, but compels one to reflect
more deeply about life itself and the many dark corners which we tend to evade all the
Thank you for the opportunity for having shared a brief moment in
your life and relationship. I feel enriched by them. I make dua not only for Shamima but
also for you. May Allah grant her Jannah and you the strength to continue the work which
both of you and the many other Islamic comrades valued so highly.
My warmest greetings and salaams.
Head: Information Highway & Governance Strategy
Technology Strategy Division
On behalf of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania, I would like to
take this opportunity to express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of our
sister in the struggle, Shamima Shaikh.
Shamima was known to us as a valiant fighter in the struggle for
freedom for women. When this world loses one of its fighters, we remain at a loss. But we
take solace in the words of the Qur'an which says "Say not of those that die in the
path of God that they are dead. No! They live on." The one way that we can make sure
that Shamima's spirit does continue to live on is by making sure that the work she started
is never allowed to die. The struggle for liberation of woman is far from over! So let us
today rededicate ourselves to continue where she left off. Let us make sure that the goals
that she strived for are fulfilled and her dreams are realised.
May the men and women of her community and all of Africa never cease
the fight against injustice and oppression. And so may the spirit of Shamima prevail.
Patricia de Lille
Member of Parliament
Dear Brother Naeem
On my return from abroad I was shocked to learn of the sad loss of
our dear sister Shamima. Please accept my deepest condolences on your sad loss. Sister
Shamima was undoubtedly a rare gem in our midst and her relentless and courageous struggle
for the oppressed people of this country and for the rights of Muslim women will be missed
by all progressive minded people of our land. Our hearts go out to you and your children
in your hour of grief and pray that ALLAH keep you and your family well.
With lots of Salaams
ANC Member of Parliament of the Republic of South Africa
It was sad to learn of the death of your dear wife, Shamima. Please
accept my heartfelt condolences.
A M Kathrada
Mail & Guardian January 23, 1998
It filled my heart with deep sadness to read Farid Esack's very
moving obituary to Shamima Shaikh. This is such a tragic loss, not only to her family, but
also to our country and to all humanity: that this fighter for gender equality has died so
What she has accomplished in her short life is absolutely
astounding. One is convinced that many more will follow her brave and dedicated path. In
these days of affirmative action in our country, one notices more and more people -- men
and women -- are getting involved in the urgent issue of gender equality.
Longfellow's words are very appropriate here: "There is a
Reaper, whose name is Death, and, with his sickle keen, He reaps the bearded grain at a
breath, and the flowers that grow between."
Maureen Auerbach, Berea
Please tell Shamima:
I love her deeply and that she had made a profound impact on me as a
person. I feel privileged to live in her time. I pray for her comfort.
Dr Ebrahim Moosa
Dept of Religious Studies
University of Cape Town
Dear brother Na'eem,
Our heartfelt condolences to you and your family. May God bestow His
grace and mercy on sister Shamima. We recently became aware of Shamima and her unfortunate
passing in an article that was posted on the web about her life and her tremendous
contribution to the cause of women's equality in South Africa. We, as well as many other
women to whom we forwarded the article, were unbelievably inspired by her courage and her
accomplishments. We regret that we did not have the opportunity to know about her sooner
or meet with her...
Muslim Women's League
Please accept from me and all of us at Yfm our heartfelt condolences
at Shamima's death. Long live her spirit!
Innalillahi wa inna ilahi raji oon..
Respected brother Naeem,
It grieves me to know about the passing away of your beloved wife.
Shocking as the event maybe, nevertheless we can only praise Allah swt for His Infinite
Wisdom and abiding grace which keeps us strong ever in face of such trying circumstances.
Let me share your grief for the great loss with prayer for Allah's
Guidance and Blessings for the departed soul, May she rest in peace in the sacred
atmosphere of Jannah.
Innallaha ma as sakirin.
Ahmad Azam Abdul Rahman
Angkatan Bela Islamia Malaysia (Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia)
This is just a short note to say that you have been in my thoughts
for the last couple of days since I heard about Shamima's passing away. I remembered with
fondness the night I spent with you when you told me about her health. I regret so very
much that I did not get a chance to visit you both in your home before now. Please know
that there are many of us whose thoughts of love and kindness are with you and your
children now. I hope you will be able to take thanks and comfort from knowing that you had
the privilege of sharing your life with a most remarkable woman. I will be attending the
commemoration service on Saturday.
With much love,
South African National NGO Coalition
Dear Mr Jeenah,
I have just read Dr Esack's eulogy of your late wife in the MSANEWS,
and was very impressed to learn about her, her activity and her courage. Her struggles
reminded me very much of the struggles that I and my friends have, as Orthodox Jewish
women. It is very encouraging to learn about the existence and actions of Muslim women in
I hope you will have the strength to pass these difficult times, and
continue raising your sons, with the teachings and memory of their brave mother. May Allah
send you His consolation.
Dear Na'eem Jeenah
Greetings from Manila. My name is Chat Garcia Ramilo and I work for
ISIS International-Manila. My organisation is an active member of the APC women's program
and I am on the WCW email conference. Yesterday Marie Helene posted a tribute to Shamima
on the conference. While I do not know Shamima personally, I was moved and inspired by the
tribute that showed her strength both in life and in death.
I am writing to ask if we could print the tribute in our magazine,
Women in Action. I think it will be equally inspiring to share her story with other women.
Would it also be possible to have a photo of Shamima?
In doing this, we hope we can contribute to keeping Shamimas
spirit living on.
Thank you for posting this, Marie-Helene. I never had the honour of
meeting Shamima, but her husband Naeem worked at Sangonet and we met him during the
APC council meeting in South Africa. At that time they had decided to stop doing
chemotherapy and radiation because it was so painful for Shamima. I had no idea of the
level of work and commitment that Shamima had achieved.
Thank you for sharing this.
Programa de Apoyo a las Redes de Mujeres
From: Anne Murray <email@example.com>
Thank you so much for sending the story of Shamima. I appreciated it
for many reasons. I will be sharing it with others. Thank you so very much again.
Heartfelt condolences on the passing on of our sister Shamima. We
never met but we shared similar goals in the struggle for the emancipation of women and a
Strength to family, friends and comrades.
Maria Van Driel
SAMWU (South African Municipal Workers Union) Head Office
Thank you, Farid, for your memorial piece about Shamima Shaikh, whom
I had never heard about. I found it very moving and inspiring. She was clearly a
wonderful, living example of how we all can be. I am printing it off and passing it round
Yours in friendship,
Environmental Monitoring Group
Dear Farid Esack
Thank you for sharing this obituary with so many of us.
I (allow me to say a male Christian) found it inspiring and deeply
Stiaan van der Merwe
Iinnaa lillaahi wa innaa ilayhi raaji'oon
We were saddened to hear of your loss. May the Almighty shower her
with His mercy & forgiveness and reward her with Paradise. May He also grant you sabr
and compensate you with what is best for you in this world and the Hereafter.
Nuran 'ala nur
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un.
I receive today the very sad new about the passing away of your
wife. Please receive here my warm compassion and expression of sorrow for the loss
affecting you and your children. I pray that she will rest in peace and that you will find
the way to overcome this hardship.
With warm regards
Marie Helene Mottin-Sylla
SYNFEV - Synergie Genre et Developpement - Synergy Gender and Development
ENDA - Environnement et Developpement du Tiers Monde - Environment and Development in the
And thank God for Shamima. She is already in my classes. She
continues to inspire. And humble. Her gifts are innumerable and expanding. Thank you.
Professor and Graduate Director
Department of Religious Studies
University of South Florida
Having known Shamima, I really feel sad! I did not know. I feel
sorry for you and the kids, please accept my condolences. Reading the obituary I have the
impression that she is standing right in front of me. We shall all pray for her tonight.
ENDA-TIERS MONDE / ENDA THIRD WORLD
It is with sadness that I received the news of Shamima's passing on.
Although we did not maintain contact, I have continued to think of you both and was happy
when I saw Shamima on TV, heard her on the radio or read about her work in the newspapers.
I recently saw Dr Digby in Cape Town and wondered how she was doing, since it was you who
recommended him to me. When I think of my mother, I also remember with gratitude the
effort you both made to come and recite at her khatam. So although we do not maintain
regular contact, you have been, and continue to be, in my thoughts.
I pray that the endurance which Shamima faced, which you shared as
her husband and which your children had to experience has not been in vain. I believe, and
I'm sure you do too, that the ability to endure through adversity is the challenge which
life presents us. My prayer, therefore, is for your (and your childrens) continued
ability to face those challenges with your characteristic strength and character. I also
pray that the blessings of the Almighty shine upon Shamima's soul and that what she lived
for continues to inspire us.
Our heartfelt condolences for the loss of your dear wife. Farid had
often spoken to us about her and her strength and courage. We will pray for the progress
of her soul tonight.
Novin & Juliet Doostdar
Dear bro. Naeem
Assalaamu alaikum wrt.wbt.
I just received the very sad news of the demise of our beloved
While her demise may be a great loss to you, it will be an even
greater loss to the ummah, since she has always been very active in so many projects.
Hence at this time, we can only pray that Allah, in His infinite Mercy, grant her Jannah.
Please accept my deepest condolences, and please convey same to her family.
Your brother in Islam
Shamsoodien and family
International Islamic University Malaysia
My very dear Na'eem
I was deeply saddened by news of the passing of Shamima. I will of
course never know your and the kids' pain and grief. But Shamima was a tremendous fighter
and seems to have taken everything in the greatest of spirit. I wish I had seen more of
you and her, especially as the fantastic partnership you were and will always be. We pray
so that you and Minhaj and Shira go well during these trying times.
"Due is to Allah that which He has taken away and His is
whatever he has given. With Him, everything has an appointed term; so have patience and
seek reward from Him."
Dr Shamil Jeppie
Department of History
University of Cape Town
Brother Naeem Jeenah
A Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu
I have just returned from abroad to learn of the sad passing away of
your beloved wife, Shamima. I personally believe that we have lost a great mujahida, and a
thinker and strategist of the Islamists. The Ummah, especially in South Africa, will be
poorer at her untimely death.
We pray that Almighty Allah will grant her Jannatul Firdaus in
Yours in Islam
Dr Ebrahim Dada
Islamic Dawah Movement of South Africa
Thank you for sharing this beautiful message. As an African-American
living in South Africa, I have found peace and joy in many people from different
backgrounds and cultures here. Although I did not know this lovely spirit that God loaned
our world, I am encouraged by her legacy. The struggle for equality requires leadership
and sacrifice; she appears not only to have achieved these two objectives, but also was
able to keep her family together. May God Rest Her Soul, Let Her Spirit Live On...
Douglas Motusi Guy
It was with great sorrow that I came across a cross-posting which
you wrote on the demise of your wife, Shamima. I was very moved by your obituary and I
know you and your sons will miss her immensely. I just wanted to pass my condolences to
you and to let you know that I understand what you are going through and it is extremely
difficult. One may think that one can prepare oneself but you never can for this kind of
eventuality. My prayers are with you and your children at this very difficult time.
Epsilon & Omega
Please accept our deepest condolences on the sad departure of
Shamima from the life of this world to the eternal life. May Allah grant her Jannatul
firdose and may He grant the family sabr.
I am sure that the movement is going to feel the loss of her
Zeinoul, Amina Cajee and family
Lenasia, South Africa
My heart felt condolences go out to you and your family over the
loss of your wife, Mrs Shamima Sheikh. From what we have read about her, she seemed to
have a zest and fighting spirit in her so lacking in many women today.
May Allah bless her and give her Jannat. AMEEN
Mohammed and Aisha Chishty
United Arab Emirates.
Anriette forwarded to me Shamima's obituary. I am deeply saddened by
your loss. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.
Please know that you and your family are in my prayers.
I read with deep regrets the passing away of your wife, in the last
posting to the Africanlink-l list by Jeff Cochrane.
From Cameroon, I wish to send you and your sons my condolences, as
well as prayers for God's Guidance and protection, now and in the years to come.
May Her soul rest in Perfect Peace.
Derek Ajesam Asoh
I read the news from Jeff Cochrane's e-mail message. I am VERY sorry
to know about. I wish you all the courage necessary.
I learnt about you beloved wife through Farid's message.
As a Muslim man I am deeply saddened by her physical departure from
this world. Souls like hers contribute to the well-being and enlightenment of men and
women alike, Muslims or non-Muslims alike.
In her life she has acted for the cause of good. The respect women
rightly deserve to pray beside their brothers, fathers, sons or husbands is a simple and
yet powerful right that all women should possess. It is a sad commentary on Muslims that
there are not enough men and woman who do not see the grave injustice caused by such
She will live in the hearts of people not only by name but by her
My prayers for her departed soul, and for your family!
Karim-Aly S Kassam
Theme School in Northern Planning and Development Studies
Arctic Institute of North America
University of Calgary
I hope you will remember me, and this message will not disturb your
days as it came from a stranger... Mo and Marie Helene from Enda told us (the APC women's
programme) about your wife.
I remember you talking about her and your work together, explaining
to me things about Muslim religion and traditions. I remember how bright were your eyes
talking about her, and I hope that brightness will not disappear. I hope you will preserve
it in your heart and in your life as the best way to remember her...
All my love and support are with you and your family, and don't
doubt to write to me just if you need some stranger to listen...
As salaam alikum Br Na'eem:
I have just read the posting on the MSA News (USA & Canada) by
Dr Farid Esack about the tragic loss of your wife, the late sister Shamima Shaikh. Inna
lillahi wa'inna ilayhe raje'oon.
I was moved by what I read of the struggle conducted by Sr Shamima
to release the ummah from the shackles of unIslamic cultural practices that are oppressing
Muslims all over the world. Her example should be an inspiration to generations of Muslims
- male and female. I will do what I can to circulate Dr Essack's moving obituary to as
wide an audience as possible so that her example may be known.
May Allah grant to you, your children and your family
strength in the face of your immense loss. We pray that a place of high honour is reserved
in Jannat for departed Sr Shamima.
May Allah help you in these difficult times and for the loss of your
dear wife Shamima. And may he give you in Minhaj and Shir'ah the strength to stand and
raise them in the manner mom wanted them to be.
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun.
Assalamu Alaikum wa rehmatullah,
Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon.
We in the USA did not know her. It is sad to learn about people and
their contribution only after they pass away. But thank you for your obituary. It indeed
inspired me to learn more about her.
What will be the best contribution to her memory but to share her
writings with others? What goes on in the South African Muslim community is hardly known
here in the US. I think English speaking Muslim minority communities need to share their
thoughts and experience with each other.
I know almost all the editors of Muslim magazines here in the US and
am also in contact with sister's groups who might be partners in struggle with sister
Shamima. If you send me the material, I promise I will share with you.
Abdul Malik Mujahid
Because our paths had not crossed for some time I only heard of
Shamimas passing after it happened. I would have wished to attend the memorial
service had I known of it. The moving tribute in the Mail & Guardian and the Sunday
Independent prompted me to write to you.
I did know of her illness that much our contacts had taught
me. But I did not know her well, nor of her wonderful work of which I have now learnt at
least a little. I am sure her example and memory will inspire many others, and not only
women, to continue the struggle for gender equality.
Let me end by again expressing my profound sympathy with you and
your children and family, and the hope that you will derive some consolation from the many
tributes paid to Shamima. It is a Jewish custom, at a time of death, to wish the mourners
"Long Life". So I wish you "Long Life".
Jewish Board of Deputies &
World Conference on Religion and Peace
As Salaamu Alaikum
It is fitting that at this moment Brothers and Sisters have gathered
to commemorate the passing over and celebrating the life of a personality that has made a
great contribution in the debates around Muslim issues in South Africa.
It is a pity that some of us, myself in particular, cannot be with
you at this moment, due to some constraints. But be assured that we are together in spirit
. May Allah reward Shamima generously and grant her Jannah. Insha Allah.
By her successor
BISMILLAHIR RAHMAN NIR RAHIM
I seek refuge from Allah against a cursed devil, peace be upon Nabi
(saw) and his progeny.
I write about the person who was not only a Muslim activist but a
visionary in the struggle against colonialism and any form of injustice perpetrated by
anyone, whether Muslim or non-Muslim in this country. As it is a human thinking to pause a
little and think about the past in events like this, let me remind us what this woman has
done for me and my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters in the Free State. She visited my
region not for material gain but because she was concerned about the growth of the Muslims
in this part of the region. They left Johannesburg as a family to Bloemfontein and most
unfortunately they were involved in a car accident. Most of us will recall how they
suffered from injuries for our spritual development and how they tried to uplift us as a
nation in the region.
Hopefully Na'eem is not going to abandon the dream they had as a
family, for today I proudly stand as a liberated Muslim and the president of the Muslim
Youth Movement out of what I learned from that couple.
There are other regions that need your help in this country; keep up
the good work. Her role is not going to be easily forgotten by the MYM as an organisation
and its National Executive. We recall all the projects she ran for this movement as an
executive member and as an individual. As a visionary she led the MYM in championing the
womens struggle in this country, leaving the men of knowledge shivering with fear as
women took over their positions in the masjids both in the so-called Indian and African
She was challenged several times by the media and articulated our
positions as an organisation quite well, even if sometimes it meant discrediting her as an
individual. The MYM again became vocal on the Muslim Personal Law Board because of the
effort she made in representing the organisation. She also put Al-Qalam at the top as
editor of the paper. The radio station called The Voice could not get off the ground if
Shamima was not part of the process that led to its establishment.
The MYM was even more honored when this strong young woman came to
the ITP in KwaZulu-Natal at a critical stage for her last year. She was a real soldier in
the path of Allah willing to sacrifice even the last of her breath for us all. No one will
replace this gallant fighter and we pray that Allah grants her Jannah.
(President - Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa)
The ITP women
The dawn left the sky on that Saturday morning
And the birds stretched their wings in praise of Allah the almighty
Trees swaying in all directions confirming His greatness
I saw the worshipers coming out of the holy house
Blessed were the children of Africa at the ITP
As they drink from the new Zam Zam in the lips of Issa
There in front of me moved the women
So beautiful like the blue African sky
Tiktenkie singing courage in the hearts of the cowards
Women in Africa as beautiful as they were
As much strong as the machines of the far West
Women and virgins of my country
I saw them coming
In hijabs the cloth of the wise old
All I could say was "Ya Allah! Ya Allah!"
So difficult to understand the creation
And the wisdom behind the making of a woman
Among them all I noticed Maletsatsi
The maiden so beautiful and strong
Still on her wheelchair but smiling
Allah has given men gifts of life
The name was never rich in English
It symbolised hope in the speech of my people
Shamima, Maletsatsi, Shamima, Maletsatsi
I wish I will not forget the ITP
from Salman Letlatsa
Dedicated to Shamima Shaikh
What Cancer Cannot Do
Cancer is so limited
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot destroy peace,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot steal eternal life,
It cannot conquer the spirit
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