On Friday 1 June, 2012, the pre-khutbah lecture at the Claremont Main Road Masjid (CMRM) was delivered by Dr. Hisham Al-`Alawi, Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq to South Africa. Dr. ‘Alawi is a doctor by profession, and has been involved in politics for the last 25 years.
Dr.`Alawi was accompanied to jumu`ah at CMRM by an Iraqi delegation who are in South Africa to study the process of national reconciliation and to learn from the South African experience in building democratic institutions. The delegation included, Mr. Jabbar Al-Kanani, a member of the Iraqi Parliament, Mr. Samir Adnan and Mr.Walid Khalid, advisors to the Iraqi Prime Minister, and Ms. Thura Safa, a diplomat at the Iraqi embassy in Pretoria.
In his pre-khutbah address, Dr. `Alawi, reflected on three important messages from the Glorious Qur’an that can be derived from Surah Ali-`Imran, chapter 3, verses 103-104, wherein Allah, the Sublime, proclaims:
“Hold fast onto God’s rope all together, and do not split up into factions. Remember God’s favour upon you, for you were enemies but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace you become brethren, and you were on the brink of falling into a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it – in this way God makes His revelations clear to you, that you may be rightly guided.
Be a community that calls unto all that is good, urging what is right, and forbidding what is wrong. Those who do so are the successful ones”
The first message he said, is to remember that all human beings are either our brothers and sisters in Islam or our brothers and sisters in humanity. Hence, we must stay united and avoid divisions whether of a sectarian or religious nature. The second message is not merely to preach about Islam but to truly live out its teachings in our interactions with other people. Dr. `Alawi lamented the fact that many Muslims are not living up to the teachings of Islam and consequently have not presented a good image of Islam. The third message is that we have to take our social responsibilities seriously. In this regard Dr. `Alawi commended Muslims in South Africa who contributed to the struggle against apartheid and called on us all to continue to take our social and civic responsibilities seriously in the democratic South Africa.
In the second part of his address, Dr. `Alawi provided the congregation with some examples of positive developments in post-Saddam Iraq. He started by reminding the congregation that Iraq occupies a central place in the history of Muslims and humanity at large. Iraq was the seat of power of centuries. Many creative human innovations originated in Iraq. All of these historical achievements make Iraqi’s optimistic about their future.
He acknowledged that historically Iraq, like South Africa, has faced many challenges, theirs resulting from dictatorships, meaningless wars, tough economic sanctions and finally an American invasion and occupation followed by terrorist retaliation. Encouragingly Iraq has now a new constitution and had two general elections that were deemed free and fair, resulting in a broadly representative parliament, one quarter of which consists of women. Moreover, despite the challenging global economic climate, Iraq’s economy has been growing at more than 11% annually and the new democratic government has been able to make substantial progress in reducing unemployment and poverty levels.
In the past year, Dr. `Alawi and his colleagues at the embassy in Pretoria have dedicated a lot of time to forging bilateral co-operation between Iraq and South Africa in various sectors. They have not only been engaging with government officials but also non-government organisations, universites, Islamic institutions and businesses. Dr. ‘Alawi is particularly excited by agreements to be signed in the near future between Iraq and South Africa on economic and technical co-operation and education and cultural co-operation. He hopes that this will result especially in more exchange programmes between Iraqi and South African students and academics. As ambassador he has undertaken to make visa applications easier for people wanting to visit Iraq, and ecouraged us all to take up this offer to visit Iraq and learn more about the new developments taking place there. He reminded us again of the many holy shrines housed in Iraq, such as those of Shaykh Abdul Kader Jilani, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Ali and Imam Husayn These, he said, are just some of the many attractions that make visiting Iraq worthwhile.