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The Gift of Sight

Yumna Emeran

The 13th and 14th of March marked a momentous occasion for 46 underprivileged, mostly aged, individuals in Leratong, south of Johannesburg. This was their time to show bravery and courage in having to undergo – some perhaps for the first time – surgery that would provide them with the gift of sight again.

The Cataract Camp Discharge Ceremony held on the 15th March was a culmination of month-long waits and clinical planning by the many role-players that made this particular camp a reality. Covid-19 put a stop to many elective surgeries and hampered the efforts of those who want to see the eradication of treatable blindness.

Prevalence of Blindness

Blindness is a significant health issue with approximately 26.3 million people in Africa affected with some form of visual impairment. The World Health Organisation (WHO) further estimates that 15.3% of the worlds’ blind population reside on the African continent.

Poverty plays a leading role in the high prevalence of age-related visual impairment, indicating the lack of eye care services in the low-income or previously disadvantages communities, along with the inability to pay for eye-care. Loss of vision can affect all ages, yet majority of people with vision impairment and blindness are over the age of 50.

With the understanding that 80% of blindness is treatable, a group of like-minded individuals and institutions collaborated to solve this pressing condition in South Africa. The Islamic Circle of Southern Africa, Awqaf South Africa, The Islamic Medical Association, Sultan Bahu, the Haroon Tayob family, Bliss Chemicals, Caring Women’s Forum, Pakistan SA Association, Islamic Relief SA, Helping Hands, along with the Gauteng Department of Health and Leratong Hospital convened a solutionist platform that continues to serve the disadvantaged communities in eradicating treatable blindness. A key driver of the initiative, Dr. Syed Shabbir Hussain Gilani, practices at the Leratong Hospital where he shares his passion and love of the programme as Head of Ophthalmology. He espouses the belief that the renewed gift of sight is only by the Will of Allah, and that recipients of this gift are to use it for the good of society. He challenges these individuals, who have so much wisdom to share, to encourage others to enroll in the cataract programme camp and advance benevolence in their communities. Yet, more importantly, Dr. Hussain and his team take their time to connect with recipients through Dawah.  A significant portion of the Discharge Ceremony is dedicated to advancing Monotheism and sharing a love for all the Prophets, from Nabie Musa (AS), Nabie Esa (AS) to Nabie Muhammad (SAW). Encompassing this is a narrative of caring for humanity as it is one of the maqasid’s (objectives) of Islam.

The gift of sight, enables an individual, and in particular an aged person to be more independent. Thereby, potentially alleviating the need for a full-time care-giver. Yet it also strengthens that individual by giving back their dignity. Looking across the sea of faces that day, was such an uplifting moment. These individuals could share in and witness the smiles of their family members’ once again. As the saying goes, the eyes are the window to the soul, and as a bystander, it was such a wholesome experience to see the joy these eyes held. Their disability, that once hampered their contributions, could renew their hopes and allow them to once again add value to society.  

This-is-upliftment, this is what Awqaf SA strives for when undertaking its investment initiatives. By using a waqf endowments, Awqaf SA supports initiatives that contribute meaningfully towards the development of disadvantaged communities and alleviating poverty. As a community development agency, intentional and purpose-driven collaborations are key to solving pressing issues in our communities. By convening these platforms of engagements, AwqafSA realizes that without the complementary services and skills of other role-players, none of the development work can take place adequately.

Funding is a critical component of Awqaf SA as it embarks on an ambitious funding strategy that is intended to revitalize its investment programmes and improve engagement with Muslims in South Africa. The strategy aims to highlight the benefits of Waqf and showcase Awqaf SA’s expertise in managing this perpetual charity investment on behalf of individuals that will benefit the Muslim long after he/she has departed this Dunya.

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