History of NZMA (New Zealand Muslim Association)
Marhum Sulaiman Ismail Bhikoo, the third eldest son of Marhum Ismail Ahmed Bhikoo, started trading from the premises on the corner of Napier and Franklin Roads, Ponsonby. In 1950 Marhum Sulaiman was inspired to fulfil the third Pillar of Islam. He started fasting in Ramadan (month of fasting) of that year and when the moon was sighted for Eid-ul-Fitr, he closed his shop for that day and invited the 25 to 30 Muslims he knew in the area to come and celebrate Eid-ulFitr (prayer) with him.
The centre portion of his shop was cleared, blankets were laid out and the first Eid Khutba (sermon) took place in his shop. The Khutba and prayer were led by Marhum Yusuf Patel, who was visiting New Zealand at that time. The glory and Barakah of the first Jamaat salaat (group prayer) touched the hearts of those who participated. Their elated spiritual feeling lead them into ideas of forming a more permanent place for prayers.
Birth of NZMA
This exquisite feeling of ‘a salaatin Jamaat’ and the traditional six (6) Eid takbeer of, “Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest), touched their hearts and motivated them to have their first meeting in the same year, of all the Muslim brothers who were present. After a lively discussion on their dreams and aspirations the meeting terminated with some firm resolutions on hand. They had resolved the establishment of New Zealand Muslim Association (NZMA). “Muslim organisation began in New Zealand in 1950 with the formation of the New Zealand Muslim Association in Auckland” (quoted by Prof.W Shepard – pp 153). This name was selected, as it was intended to serve all Muslims in New Zealand.
They further resolved that a membership of 1 pound per year be levied and a collection fund was set up. Marhum Sulaiman Ismail Bhikoo was elected as the first Chairman and the very able Marhum Ismail Ali Moses (Grandson of Essop Moses) was elected as Secretary of this newly formed Association. The other members present served as committee members. Some of the names in the first committee mentioned to me were Marhum Sekumia Tosammiya, Marhum Khalid, Marhum Kareem M Rasool, Marhum M Khan, Marhum Amrulamia, Marhum Kedarmia, Marhum Yusuf Bhikoo and Ebrahim Bhikoo, Hassan Bhikoo and Abdul Samad Bhikoo.
In 1956 NZMA achieved their first milestone by inviting all other Muslims living in Auckland to a meeting. This meeting took place in Pitt Street, Auckland and Muslims who were originally from Turkey, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania and from India attended it. They gathered under the banner of Islam. Lively discussions resulted in NZMA opening their membership to all with a 10 shillings per month membership fee. However due to unknown reasons the results of this venture ran into a cul-de-sac.
Hargreaves Street Property
A more notable milestone was achieved in 1957; with 1400 pounds in the kitty NZMA took a bold step and negotiated for a property in Hargreaves Street, Freemans Bay. The purchase price was set at 1500 pounds and the shortfall was made up by a loan from one of the brothers. NZMA occupied this house in 1957. Part of the house was used for Islamic activities and part of it was hired out to supplement the income. Thoughts were now directed towards the Islamic welfare of their children. They invited a religious teacher (Mollie saab) from India to come and see to the religious needs of their children. As NZMA was not financially strong enough to sustain the wages of the Mollie saab they requested him to come to New Zealand to earn his own living while fulfilling the Islamic needs of the children. With this arrangement the first teacher that took up the challange was Mollie saab Ahmed Said Mollie saab. When he arrived in New Zealand in 1960 he was housed in Hargreaves Street. He arrived here in his thirties and was very determined to start the madrassa Quran classes. When he found employment at Donaghys, the rope factory, he was set to fulfil his mission in New Zealand.The full atmosphere of Ramadan (blessed month) was experienced in 1960 when the first Taraweeh prayer(Ramadan prayer) was held at the centre. Every night during this month the taraweeh prayer was led by the Mollie saab and the 8 to 10 musalees (regulars) participated with enthusiasm and gratification. In later years some ladies also attended the Taraweeh prayer in a separate room at the centre. In 1966 the Molliesaabwas registered to perform marriages under the New Zealand law (Prof W Shepard Pp213). The ‘salaat in jamaat’ (congregation prayer) although not fivetimes per day, became a more regular feature at this centre.
Muslim Burial Ground
The NZMA approached the City Council in 1966 to acquire aspecial area reserved for the burial of Muslims. Their motivation in this direction stems from the fact that Muslims were buried anywhere in the Waikumete Cemetery as well as two plots had to be purchased to fulfil the Kibla (direction) needs of the Janaaza (corpse). This permission was granted and a special area was set aside within the cemetery as a Muslim burial ground. The first Muslim to be buried in this area was a revert to Islam.
Pompallier Terrace Property
With the growth of the Muslim population in Ponsonby, the funds in the coffers of NZMA also grew. When sufficient funds were available a second property for $4,000 was purchased in Pompallier Terrace, Ponsonby. Some alterations had to be made to accommodate the ever-increasing number of musallees. The Hargreaves property was now fully rented out and part of Ponpallier Terrace was used to accommodate the Mollie saab (priest).
In 1971 the Qur’anic ayah (62:9), “O you who believe. When the call is proclaimed for the prayer on the day of Friday (Jummah Prayer), come to the remembrance of ALLAH and listen to the religious talk (Khutba) and pray ………….. ” was given expression by conducting the first Jumuah prayer during a public holiday. This event took place after a Jamaat (Group) from South Africa encouraged this event.
Vermont Street Masjid
Accumulated funds and the growth of the Muslim population forced NZMA to look for bigger premises for their ever-increasing needs. Negotiations for the larger property at 17 Vermont Street were underway. The house which was divided into two flats and a batch on this property, priced at $22,000. The properties at Hargreaves Street (now Industrial) and Pompallier Terrace (bought by the school for their needs) were sold to pay cash for this site. With the capital that was left over they renovated the front flat and converted it into a salaat area and wudu (ablution) facility. The second flat was used for accommodation.
Jummah (Friday prayers) was regularly conducted with the five times salaat per day. Hafez Sidat who arrived from Fiji in 1971 conducted the Jumuah salaat regularly. In his absence Abdus Samad Bhikoo took over this task. The original plans for the new Masjid was drawn by Abdus Samad, one of the early reverts to Islam. When Abdus Samad visited the site together with Hafiz Sidat he decided on the circular shape ofthe Masjid as it would accommodate the maximum number of musalees considering the direction of the Kibla. At that time Abdus Samad was working for the Auckland City Council. As it had to be approved by the City Council, the services of Abdul Aziz, working for the architects, James Stiffe & Associates were engaged for a fullset of drawings.
On 30 March 1979, after the Jummah salaat, Marhum Sulaiman Bhikoo was given the honour, as the first Chairman of NZMA, of pouring the first foundation (at the mehrab). “Laying the foundation was a very emotional event. Our elders and the Muslims who attended this function shed tears of joy when the concrete was poured into the trenches of the first fortress of Islam in New Zealand. A large crowd gathered to be part of this historic occasion,” said Abdul Raheem Rasheed, the then President of NZMA. With $20,000 in the coffers of NZMA, Spur Construction and Development Company, owned by Br Feroz M Ali Khan was engaged to build this project. The Herald quotes a figure of $500,000 while Hafez Sidat says it was in excess of $1 million, which came from Australia, Malaysia, Pakistan, England, Saudi Arabia, and Fiji. Abdul Raheem Rasheed, together with the Treasurer, Hadjee Husen Shahib, and others were instrumental in obtaining finance from overseas.
“Another spectacle that created a lot of interest was the lifting of the dome onto the walls of the Masjid. The speculation that the crane will collapse while lifting the dome brought the TV and the News paper media to the site. The dome came from the engineers in four sections to the site. It was welded together into one piece and the moment had arrived. The crane went into operation, hoisted the dome and much to the disappointment of the media it was placed in position,”said Hafez Sidat.
On a cold winters morning in August 1979 and with the help of afew heaters the first Taraweeh Salaat took place in the new Masjid. The foundation stone for the hall was laid in 1984 and completed by 1990. Presently at Ponsonby they have the Masjid, the adjoining hall, a library, a Janaza facility for ghusal and a living quarters for the Imam.
“I want to pass my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to my team of dedicated workers who saw this project through regardless of many, many difficulties. One of our biggest problems was to convince a group of people who preferred us to first build the hall instead of the Masjid. Their change of heart and the support we received from all allowed us to complete this project,” were the concluding remarks of Br. Raheem Rasheed.
We are aware that a number of other people played a very active and prominent role in the Ponsonby Masjid. Please forgive us if we have overlooked you and the valuable contributionyou have made to NZMA. May ALLAH(SubhanahuWaTa’ala) reward all of you for your effort in fortifying Islam in New Zealand and also creating the first Dome of Islam. A symbol and reminder we are very proud of. To all those who contributed to this article we wish to say thank you for your cooperation, contribution.
MESSAGE FROM ABDULLAH DEEDAT TO THE NEW ZEALAND MUSLIM ASSOCIATION
The time has come for Muslims world over to project Islam in the fullest dynamic dimensions. Islam has reached New Zealandand has a substantial number of faithful followers(Al HamduLillah). Islam exists in every part of the globe and New Zealand seems to be one of its remotest out post. Remember that it was from a remote region of the earth – Arabia – that Islam emerged some 1400 years ago to have a population today of some 1.2 billion souls.
The New Zealand Muslim Association and its members have for the past fifty years held high the flag of lslam. Progress has been made in every field. New endeavour in New Zealand for Islam and new zeal are always to be sought to promote our deen. The Muslims of your country are going to be the first to see the dawn of the year two thousand, which coincides,with the 50th anniversary of the NZMA.
May ALLAH (SunhanahuWaTa’ala) make you the leaders of the new awakening of the Ummah of our dear Nabee Muhammad (Salallahu Alayhi Wassalam) and may you make an everlasting impact on the rest of the global community of the Muslims.
Presidents of NZMA
We the Muslims of New Zealand pay tribute to thePast Presidents of the New Zealand Muslim Association. If we have omitted to include some of the name please forgive us, as it is not an oversight’ on our part. We were unable to place our-hands on the actual records of NZMA but had to rely on the memory of the past Presidents and some of the Secretaries we interviewed. We also tried to arrange them from the earliest to the recent serving President. Although their names appear once there were some of the Presidents who served for more than one term in office. Here too, we could not get a confirmed order. If some of our readers have old records in their possession we would appreciate copies of them to update our History of NZMA.
- Marhum Sulaiman Ismail Bhikoo 1950 -1960
- Abdus Samad Bhikoo
- Marhum Ebrahim Bhikoo
- Marhum Nazmi Mehmet
- Mazhar Krasniqi
- Mahmood Bhikoo
- Marhum Raheem Rasheed
- Imtiaz Bhikoo
- Mehboob Hussain
- Haroon al Rasheed
- Faiyam Khan
- Sahil Shah
- Anees Jalil
- Mohammed Bashir
- Haider Lone
- Imtiyaz Ali
- Haider Lone– 2011-2013
- Firoz Patel -2013 -2015
- Ikhlaq Kashkari – 2015 -2019