When I was 16 years old my parents decided to remove the television from our home. I protested vehemently as they droned on about how harmful television was blah..blah..blah. My eyes welled with tears as my father discarded the television set which to me was a link to a world outside in my stiflingly small town. Its sudden departure from our home had me declaring mournfully to my parents that this type of torture inflicted on me was unfair and I would never do this to my own children. I was furious and frustrated because I loved watching TV and most importantly I loved watching and catching up with the news.
One day my father brought home a big bulky radio, hooked up to speakers. This is a Channel Islam receiver he said, they are a radio station from Lenz. I rolled my eyes, thinking who in their right mind replaced a TV set with an archaic radio… receiver which will probably be filled with lecture upon lecture all day long. Mentally I counted the minutes until I could leave home and have TV’s galore in my own home. After the frustration of plugging in this bulky receiver we were met with strains of “bringing Islam to the world…..and the world to you….” The receiver was perched in our kitchen and to me served as a monument to the end of my television watching days.
One morning my dadi woke us for school and immediately switched on the receiver. We heard this very catchy nasheed early in the morning followed by a booming voice declaring “SABAAAAHUL KHAIR”, I couldn’t help but feel cheerful hearing this voice. And so as much as I hated it initially, Cii was a part of our lives. Our mornings were not complete without listen to uncle Ebrahim Bhai Gangat, I loved his political interviews, I loved the duas he made in the early hours of the morning. My absolute favourite thing in the world was on holidays, my granny and I would be preparing Jummah lunch in the kitchen and we would drop everything to hear the nikah announcements. We would smile when we heard nikahs of people we knew, and we would both tear up when we heard strains of “khuda hafiz e beti aaj tu”. I also began to become for cognisant of the consumption of my consumption of news (I was a dieheart fan of CNN and Christine Amanpour). I began to become more critical and analytical of the narratives fed to us by mainstream media. I started to really enjoy the television replacement in our home. From all the presenters at Cii the voice we absolutely loved was Ebrahim Bhai Gangat. His voice in entrenched in all my memories of Ramdaan. On Eid nights waiting for the moon announcement, my brother and I giddy with excitement and filled with sweetmeats. A voice that gave us company on early Eid mornings as we lay tables and set the beryani. It was Ebrahim Bhais powerful voice we looked forward to on the days of Hajj, we would sob uncontrollably as he anchored the dua from the plains of Arafah. His was a voice that made dua for the sick in our families and a voice that made heartfelt duas for the deceased. I looked forward to gripping interviews on Sabahul Khair after a big news stories would break. I was fascinated when my my father explained how at our families first home uncle Ebrahim who they called Baboo, would come for salaah. He was meant to be in this job my father used to say. Little did I know how much the person behind this voice would come to mean to me.
A few years later I left my home and went to Rhodes University, I loved being at Rhodes but I was also desperately homesick. I packed a receiver with my belongings during my second term of first year and spent hours in dorm room trying to set it up because Cii sounded like home.
One of the most exciting days of my life was when as a journ student I clocked hours working at the Cii studios on Gemsbok street in Lenasia. It was a dream come true working with all these personalities I admired over the years. On the first day I went to the studios I was nervous and scared. I was greeted in the news room by Uncle Ebrahim, he was unfazed by how young and nervous I was and how horrid I sounded on air. He spoke to me like I was an equal when inwardly I felt so out of place. He was genuinely interested in my course and reasons for journalism and encouraged me to continue my studies. I felt so good that someone who was so well known and fantastic on air, took the time to speak to me and encourage me even though I didn’t feel like I belonged on air. Even though I anxiously fumbled through my news bulletins, the experience of watching the team at work, the hard work behind the scenes, the effort that went into each of the shows, and just being on radio itself meant I was smitten. The radio bug had bitten me, and I left a week later only to return time and time again to a place that was my second home.
A few short years later, on a chilly Friday morning in Klerksdorp I sat with my loved ones as Uncle Ebrahim Bhai read my nikah announcement. Overwhelmed with emotion, that day remains entrenched in my memory forever. He said the nicest things anyone had ever said about me before, and his heartfelt duas for my marriage and happiness touched me deeply.
I continued working on and off for Cii, eventually settling into a full time post as the presenter of Lifestyle. This also coincided with one of the hardest times of my life. With my personal life in turmoil, I had no one to turn to and Uncle Ebrahim saw my visible distress. KAKAAAAAA… He would call me, and I spent hours in his office or the kitchen as he mentored and counselled me like a father. I was lost and unsure, and his council and advice gave me purpose and strength.
On the most difficult day when I had lost my dadi he encouraged me to be strong as I went on air (she was my ardent fan and going on air a few days after she was gone was extremely tough). I always remember him commenting on a status I had posted after she passed away “Your wings were ready… but my heart was not”.
We would debate, discuss content for my show, he stood up for me when I was in the firing line and being lambasted on a series I did with Zahida Khotu. He always encouraged me to do better on my shows and even arrange for us to do voice training. I feel so privileged that I got to work with such luminary in the world of Islamic media.
I was shattered when he left our station, and ‘flaked’ badly on visiting him at Salaamedia thereafter. I last saw him at a wedding in December and we fell into familiar conversation and he encouraged me to continue with my show and ‘keep pushing’.
On Monday I was dealt with a profound loss, last felt when my dadi left us. I cannot adequately atrituclate in words the loss of Uncle Ebrahim and what it means to me, what is means to our small Islamic radio community and what it means to the Ummah at large. He was one like no other, an on air personality that was the same off air. My heart is broken, and I can only imagine how painful this loss must be for his wife Apa Fazila, his beloved mother and his beautiful daughters. I also would like to send my condolences to his beloved colleagues especially Ponty Moletsane, Azhar Vadi and Hafiz Shamsheer Khan.
Allah has given Uncle Ebrahim a voice in this world, a powerful voice that has spoken out against injustice, that has made duas, that has spoken in solidarity with the marginalised in our community. May all his efforts elevate his status in Jannah.
His death has made me realise that the work we do is not futile, we have the ability and medium to change hearts and change lives. Irrespective of which media organisation we belong to, the work must continue. We must keep pushing, keep the content on air and keep our intention for the benefit of this Ummah.