“Africa has made Islam its own, from the very beginning when the African Christian King Negus and Abyssinia gave protection to the followers of Prophet Muhammed. That example of respect and cooperation points to the role religion can play, and the spiritual leadership it can provide, in contributing to the social renewal on our continent.
“Now that South Africa is free, the ties which the Islamic Community has always had with other parts of our continent can flourish and enrich our nation without restraint or distortion. They are part of our common African heritage.”
The above words were spoken by none other than the late esteemed world leader Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (a.k.a. Madiba).
This was part of an address that he presented in Johannesburg, South Africa on Jan. 30, 1998, to a gathering of Muslims.
Mr. Mandela not only demonstrated respect for Muslims and the religion of Al-Islam, but he was highly respected by Muslims throughout the world for his courage, tenacity and his moral fortitude.
In September of 1994, he was honored with the Yusuf Peace Award by the Muslim Women’s Federation in South Africa.
The former President of South Africa had met and established relationships with a number of Muslim leaders over the years.
This list included but was not limited to: Sheikh Nazeem Mohammed (Bo Kaap – Cape Town); Dr. Faisal Suliman (South Africa); Imam W. Deen Mohammed (U.S.A.); Yassar Arafat (Palestine); and Sheikh Ahmed Deedat (South Africa).
We are all aware that Mr. Mandela spent 27 years of his life in prison fighting for a cause that he was literally willing to die for. One prominent American recounted the words of Mandela, saying that the prison helped to shape him into maturity.
When this writer reflected on those words it brought forth the process involved in the making of a diamond. This precious stone that we know as “diamond” is created from a rock that has been under the weight of the earth for hundreds of years. It’s the pressure (oppression) that eventually transforms the rock into a precious gem.
The oppression of a racist system called apartheid coupled with extreme conditions in the prison environment molded Nelson Mandela into a precious gem with magnificent brilliance and beauty. His life subsequent to this helped to cut and polish him even more, and now he is held up as a symbol of human excellence for the whole world to see.
President Mandela transcended racial, religious, and cultural boundaries and rose to world leadership. It is because of this that his passing is now being celebrated by kings, queens, presidents, the rich and the poor people throughout the world.
The pages of his life’s book are still being turned, and the words that emanated from his soul, will continue to evoke lessons of wisdom for centuries to come!
We should thank G-d for putting a man like this among His creatures for all of us to emulate and learn from.