The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) not only celebrated its 75th anniversary on Wednesday 12 February in Cape Town but also honoured personalities who have contributed to the Muslim community on various levels.“The function was an expression of giving thanks to the Almighty for guiding the MJC all these years. We returned to the venue where the MJC was established 75 years ago. It was also an expression of harmonious coexistence with interfaith communities, something that is well established in the South African context. The recipients who were honoured were Judge Siraj Desai, Shaykh M Amien Fakier, Dr Ali Adam and Shaykh Abdul Hameed Gabier,” says Zaid Dante, an executive council member in the MJC’s office of the secretary-general.The MJC was established on 10 February 1945 during a meeting that took place at the St George’s Cathedral hall in Cape Town. The Muslim Progressive Society, a group consisting of academics, members of the community as well as Muslim scholars, identified the need for an organisation like the MJC to see to the religious, spiritual and social needs of the Muslim community as well as a body that would be able to ensure and monitor the availability of halaal nutrition for Muslim consumption. “The need for Muslim marriages to be recognised was one of the core reasons for the establishment of the MJC. Muslim education was a major priority and to provide formal Islamic education to Islamic schools or Madrasas was essential to the establishment of the MJC. Many of the challenges faced by the Muslim community at that time became issues the MJC was mandated to advocate on behalf of the Muslim community. The initiative was also an opportunity to bring Muslim scholars together so that their efforts could be united for the benefit of the Muslim community,” Dante says. He says the MJC plays an important role in ensuring the Muslim voice remains relevant. “It is responsible to ensure that whatever spaces Muslims occupy, that it is conducive for their religious needs. Unity is a major factor and the MJC was instrumental in the establishment of the United Ulama Council of South Africa (UUCSA), a national body consisting of the major Muslim theological organisations or councils in South Africa.”Dante explains the MJC has various departments, each concentrating on a specific societal need. These include: The Department of Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration which specifically deals with disputes that arise in the Muslim community, especially those on places of worship and educational institutions. The Department of Quranic Affairs which deals with matters relating to Islam’s holy book, the Quran. The Department of Social Development which deals with matters relating to marriage and divorce in the Muslim community. It also provides counselling on various issues such as marital and trauma. The Department for Religious Decrees which deals with Islamic wills and estates, and delivers religious decrees where needed.The Department of Education. The MJC established the Al-Azhar Institute of Cape Town which runs the Al-Azhar Primary and Secondary Schools. The MJC is also a founding member of the International Peace College of South Africa, IPSA. The Women’s Forum which provides programmes for women in the Muslim community and highlights the plight of women.Dante says the MJC also assists in the process of identifying Muslim chaplains in the SA National Defence Force, the police and correctional services. It also focuses on environmental issues with the MJC Environmental Desk that ensures that the body is up to date with environmental affairs.The executive council members are elected by the MJC general council members at an election every five years. At present, the executive council consist of Sh Irafaan Abrahams (president), Moulana Abdul Khaliq Allie (1st deputy president), Sh Riad Fataar (2nd deputy president), Sh Ishmael Gqamane, Dr Dawood Terblanche, Sh Faadil Abdul Latief, Sh Zaid Dante, Sh M. Ihsaan Taliep, Moulana Abdul Fattaag Carr, Dr Yusuf Arieff, Muallima Khadija Patel Allie, Sh Ebrahim Gabriels and Sh M Fadihl Emandien.