In the early 1900’s an African Princess from a Zulu Tribe wed an Indian man in Natal.
He fell in love with her striking beauty and silent dedication to life and truth. He knew she would bore him beautiful children, filled tremendous inner strength, and her determination and drive would continue to flow through their veins generation after generation.
She fell in love with the powerful aura that seemed to float around his majestic built. She fell in love with his kindness and spongy soft heart. She fell in love with his religion, so much so that she threw her whole heart and life into this new religion that she had found through him, her Rajah.
People who didn’t know her thought that she was born into Islam, as she flowed so wholeheartedly into Deen (belief). She gave up her family wealth and disowned herself from them, she knew that far greater wealth awaited her in the Aakhira (Afterworld). She lived to see her children happy, to make sure her husband was always in comfort and to please her Allah! And when she died, the people who laid her down to rest got the sweet smell of musk and the pungent aroma of saffron from her grave. Allah had answered her duas that there be great Scholars of Islam from her progeny. There were Muftis, Alims, Hufaaz and Qaris (learned scholars of Islam). And there were doctors, lawyers and teachers.
But from this Zulu Princess’ children there was one who outlived all his siblings, and lived to soak up all he could, from all walks of life. He was born to her in the early 1920’s, olive-skinned like his father, tall and majestically built too. He possessed the strong-will and determination of his mother. Due to lack of finances he could not continue his schooling beyond the fifth grade, but his quiet drive to gain knowledge found him reading books in the street, stealing whatever light he could under dull street lamps.
History, geography, religion…his thirst for knowledge knew no bounds. As the years went by, he started building up his little library. One book here, another there. In between he took care of family, he grew up his nieces and nephews and looked out for his sisters. He travelled and made friends. He gained a wife that stood staunchly by his side and never wavered till her last breathe. And when she finally laid her head down for all eternity his heart had weakened. His library had grown to shelves and shelves of authors and biographies and encyclopaedias and holy books. And his three children had grown and had children of their own, some of which had children of their own.
Both his library and his family were bulging at the seams, but he missed his wife dearly and he was lonely. It was his books that gave him comfort, and that continued to help him live for the next five years without his life partner. He jumped at opportunity to show off his life-times hard work and collections to anyone that was interested, or wasn’t. And if they were not, the minute they stepped into that tiny room filled with thousands of books, they were immediately impressed by this man who had outlived almost everyone of his generation and could still read and continue collecting every piece of worthy information, book or article.
He was an inspiration!
Read! He advised his children.
Read! He advised his grandchildren.
Read! Read! Read!
And when he finally laid down to rest and took his last breathe, his legacy silently continued through the hearts of all those who knew him. He is an inspiration! He is an icon! He is a legend!
For every time I read and every time I put pen to paper in an attempt to scribble a few words that make sense I will remember that majestic Grandfather that was so strong-willed and had a fire for knowledge till his last breathe, and that will give me the determination to continue my story and seek the answers I thought were never there. But more than that, his 87 full years on this earth has given me an understanding that life is about more than fast cars and modern finishing’s in my home. It is about what you have learnt, the knowledge you have gained, and the basic teachings you will pass on to your own family. With diligence and perseverance nothing is impossible.
I am fourth generation of that striking Zulu Princess, but I can feel her quiet energy rippling through my blood. I can feel her drive and determination, it gets weak and isn’t as strong as hers was. It comes and goes, and I forget sometimes. But when I think about my Grandfather and his mother I am inspired and I can look at life with new meaning. I can wake up on a cold day and decide that I have enough warmth in my home if I love the way they did, if I gave more, with open arms, if I dedicate myself wholeheartedly to the causes I believe in. I can finally feel that fire beginning to ignite…
This is the story about the Late Ahmed Ebrahim (Mamajee) Laher! It is dedicated in honour of him and his life’s work, his pride and joy the “Abul Kalam Azad Library” (founded: Ramadhan 1394/ English year:1974) home to more than ten thousand books.