Cii My Story | 17 March 2014/15 Jumadal Ula 1435
Maulana Saeed Ncane is the the first South African parolee who graduated in 2013 at the Darul Uloom Nu’maniya in Durban.
He was imprisoned in 2001, accepted Islam at the Westville Prison due to the efforts of the Muslim Prison Board in KZN. He was released on parole in 2008 and studied the Imaamat course at Madressah Taalim ud Deen in Isipingo Beach. Thereafter he began the aalim course at madressah Miftaahul Falaah in Harding from 2009 to 2012.
The first account in our new feature series titled MY STORY is a story of a hard crime prisoner who is now an aalim. Look forward to new installments of MY STORY weekly Insha Allah.
The reality of everything [my life] started coming to me when I began attending the programs which are conducted by the Muslim Prison Board KZN – Maulana Shabir Asmal, Sheikh Amir and they used to bring many Ulama, well known Ulama from the country and from out of the country, to the prison. From that I started collecting and trying to understand. I had Muslim friends around me and I started knowing that this must be the right way because we just spoke about God, the worship of God. I was doing intensive reading and I had the intention, previously I didn’t understand what Islam was about, only when I was in prison everything became clear. Every reception has an amir for Muslims, I spoke with the amir, he was also from Chatsworth, African brother. He clarified a lot of things for me and I took Islam and the Kalima under his guidance. Normally every Monday when the Imaam used to come, he’d have a group of maybe two, three, four or sometimes 10 people who accepted Islam. Normally every Monday I would notice a few people and I was amongst that group who accepted Islam. They had classes where they taught Quraan, Islamic history, and that’s where I started learning and I became very interested and learned a lot. There is also Taraweeh Salaah in prison, there are Huffaaz that used to lead the prayers but I also used to participate reading Salaah, the five times Salaah because I had so much love for Deen, I can’t explain it, but I was in the environment of Muslim brothers all around me, a circle of friends who was speaking about the love for Allah Ta’alah and leaving the things we used to do. After reading the Quraan and being in contact with all these brothers I felt like a new me and like a big burden came off my back. Even the sentence I was serving, I didn’t feel so hard about it, I thought that I had to be sentences because I’ve hurt so many people and committed so many crimes. I just felt fifteen years was nothing, I did so many things which I was not caught for so I really deserved this and I made a lot of taubah until my release.
In Umlazi in the yard where I was living, for close to maybe 18 years, there was a church inside the yard, and my father was a pastor, so I grew up in a church environment in a very religious and staunch environment. Although my neighbours, and friends and the society we grew up in were rough and criminal, my brothers and I were regarded as church boys. I think maybe within me when I was in prison was this thing that question how I ended up in prison, because I grew up in a family with good values of God. How did I find myself all of a sudden shooting people and hurting people? I asked myself. I thought I was dead. I thought I was in a dream, standing behind bars. I remembered my parents scolding me. Lots of things came to my mind. Like if we read stories of Qiyamah or of people standing in front of Allah Ta’alah, everything about your life will come to you. I can tell you standing in front of a judge telling you that you are sentenced for so many years and you aren’t coming back, many things start coming in to your mind and you start searching as to what went wrong, where did you go wrong and I realised that I went wrong when I did not listen to my parents, I was influenced by bad friends and started using drugs and firearms and I thought that had I listened to my father like my other siblings at home, living a church life I would not have ended up in prison. And I thought that maybe it was a lack of spirituality within me and when I got the Quraan from that prisoner, the whole focus of what was going on, about the prison and the sentence, it just shifted. I started reading the Quraan and the style, the poetry format, the reasons, I fell in love with the book the way the message was put. The message was not unfamiliar to me so I started searching for spirituality. My parents were spiritual people, I really let them down and I wondered how I could change my life. I found as I was doing this soul searching and becoming spiritual, I started getting confused so that year I did a lot of extensive studies in the prison library trying to find out how to get to God in the correct way. I found that with Islam it’s put in a very simple form that nobody needs to be worshipped, nobody deserves to be worshipped, except the Creator and everything else is His creation. This message really made a lot of sense to me. I had a circle of people around me that were Muslims and I was reading a lot of books. My mother is a qualified school teacher, I come from a family where my family went to university and they loved reading. I love reading also. Most of the reading material we were exposed to in prison was academic and religious. I also started doing some studies but I concentrated mostly on religious studies on my own and with the help of the Imaams, I used to attend the programs. I can say that because of my religious background, I was able to ask myself questions. I wanted to go back and do things right only to find that Islam is the correct way.
The Imaams that used to visit the prison made a lot of effort and they are still making a lot of effort. In my previous life, people who were my role models were people who were thugs. In prison I also had role models, like the amir of Westville medium B section. The amir is a big aalim and is also a prisoner, serving a 45 year sentence. He’s a hafiz, reads with tajweed, and used to read the Taraweeh salaah. He used to cry a lot in Ramadaan, we used to cry a lot. It was such an environment that when I left I couldn’t bring it back. It was very moving when we were inside, as prisoners, trying to repent for our past mistakes and trying to live a clean life. So he was very influential to me. I remember when I used to visit him, he was not living with us in the big sections where there are maybe 60 or 70 prisoners living in one room, he was living in a section where there were two prisoners in a room, the isolation section. Sometimes I used to visit him, sometimes I used to bunk school in prison and go to him. I learned a lot from him and I found that he had lots of books there, the big books like Mishkaat, and at that time I did not know what it was. I used to open all these big books written in Arabic and then he would quote for me. Not only me, there were many of us that would visit him and learn from him. But I visited him much more than the others and he really inspired me because I always wondered that he was African but he could read beautifully the Quraan, he can explain Arabic and even the Ulama of the prison board would bring a lot of guest speakers like Muft Menk and Maulana Yunus Patel. There were many, many influential and world renowned scholars that visited us. The Ulama used to inspire to such an extent that really I felt I wanted to become like one of these Muftis. Mostly the thing I really felt when I became a Muslim was that our people, African people, the indigenous people really need to know about Islam. It is true, it is Haq. It sets you free, whether you’re poor, whether you’re coming from any environment, just to know that there is One God and that you have to worship Him alone and abide by His commandments. It was some kind of freedom. Islam has Just principals, Allah Ta’alah says in the Quraan that “the most noble amongst you is the one who has taqwa”, meaning that the issue of race, status is not as issue. Amongst human beings it can be but in the court of Allah Ta’alah, Allah only wants taqwa. These Ulama really inspired us that no matter what background you came from, if you obeyed Allah Ta’alah, you are dutiful to Allah Ta’alah, you are conscious of Allah Ta’alah at all times, no matter how dark your skin is, or how poor Allah Ta’alah can raise you and be pleased with you. That made me feel so free and I felt that everybody needs to know about this. So I had the desire to come out and study when I was inside prison. I started learning Ahadith. The same Sheikh used to make me memorise short Ahadith. I can remember the first Hadith he told me was, “Salaah is the pillar of Deen”. He used to quote a lot of hadith, read Quraan and I loved it, I wished to be like him.
When I came out of prison, I’ll speak the truth I didn’t like going outside. Because I had a lot of fears because in my past life I used to rob people and make a living, it was a lazy life. And I thought about having to work and where I would start working. I had a lot of fears about how I was going to live. But Alhamdulillah the Muslim Prison Board was there, I went to their offices. Late Maulana Idris used to hold classes outside prison and he saw that a lot of the things they were teaching, I already knew. So he advised me to go to a shop and buy Islamic books. He wanted to teach me Arabic grammar and he began teaching me a little bit and then he advised me to go to a Darul Uloom and start an aalim course.