Imam Gassan Solomon
(1941 – 2009)
Gassan Solomon, the son of Abdurrahman and Gasena, was born on 6 January 1941. He matriculated from South Peninsula Highand earned a social science degree from UCT. Imam Solomon’s activism
began during his student days when he was inuenced by the ideologies
of the Unity Movement and PAC. The death in detention of Imam Haronin 1969 deepened his anti-apartheid commitment. In 1980 he becameImam of the Claremont Mosque and his leadership helped to galvanise the youth politically. He was a founding member of the Call of Islam in1984. He was swayed by charterism and joined the UDF in 1983. He was a prominent leader of the inter-faith solidarity movement and led marcheswith the Reverend Allan Boesak.
Professor Aslam Fataar of Stellenbosch University described him as ‘ aman who provided an example of a seamless marriage between his Islamic commitments and his commitment to non-racialism in the heroic fight
against apartheid.’ On 10 August 1985 Imam Solomon was part of a group
that deed a government ban and entered Gugulethu to attend the funeral
of youth activist Sithembele Mathiso. There was a large police presence and 19 leaders were arrested. Under police scrutiny, the Imam escaped to Zimbabwe and from there went into exile to Saudi Arabia.
He returned to South Africa in 1991. Imam Solomon was appointed to parliament in 1994 and was a member of the justice portfolio committeewhen Dullah Omar was minister of justice and also served on Parliament’sEthics and Constitutional Review committees.
He served as an ANC MP from 1994 to 2009. He was a driving force in the Zakaah Fund and was national chairperson of the South African National Zakaah Fund. He was a founder member of the Voice of the Cape Radio Station. The Imam
accompanied Mandela on an official ANC visit to Saudi Arabia and Iran
He passed away on 28 October 2009 from prostate cancer.
PTMellett was among those who attended the Imam’s janazah: ‘At 12:30 pm today I was amongst a huge throng of people who gathered on the old Solomon’s land, off the Spansjemacht River Road in Constantia to say ourfarewells and to bury our comrade, friend and great community leader ImamGassan Solomon, a descendent of Tuan Guru…. Amongst the speakers paying tribute to Imam Solomon’s role in the struggle, the formation of theUDF and his role as an ANC MP, was his old friend and comrade, formerFinance Minister Trevor Manuel. Imam Solomon’s comrade and life-longfriend Sheikh Gabier also paid a memorable tribute to his friend as did theImam’s son Nasser. To the end he displayed the courage that had been ahallmark of his life.’‘His life was one of a carefully balanced service to the communities ofCape Town, to his family, to his community of faith, to the UDF, to theANC, to the electorate, to the MJC, to his Claremont Mosque, to the ZakahFund, to Radio Voice of the Cape, to the youth and so much more. He was also a dedicated gardener and pigeon man. I remember Imam Solomon as a humble man who always greeted one warmly with a smile clasping your hand in both of his hands. He had a way about him that told you that everyone was equal in this man’s eyes and he was someone who always made time to stop and smell the roses. It was men like these that led us inthe struggle against apartheid. He was often on the run from the police,changing his appearance frequently.’‘Imam Solomon was a man of practical faith. He lived the Muslim path,emphasising the simplicity of the faith by underlining its spirit throughhis service to people. His was not a faith and politics of making a loud noise and shouting radical slogans. It was one of carefully laying sound foundations for us all and laying cement and brick, one by one to build a solid structure for future generations. May the peace of Allah and the spiritof Gassan Solomon envelope his wife Amina and his sons and daughtersin this time of grief. We’ve all lost a great brother. But his life and legacyis our gain and the gain of future generations.’
Sources: PT Mellett, ‘Farewell Imam Gassan Solomons,’ http://cape-slavery-heritage.iblog.co.za/2009/10/29/farewell-imam-gassan-solomons; Kgalema Motlanthe, ‘Tribute to ImamGassan Solomon,’ ANC Today, Vol 9, No 44, 6 November 2009.