Ahmed Said Musa Patel

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Ahmed Said Musa Patel (16 January 1937 to 8 September 2009) was the first Imam (Muslim cleric) in New Zealand and served as the principal spiritual and religious advisor to the Islamic community here from 1960 to 1986.

The first Imam of the Ponsonby Mosque, the oldest in New Zealand, was Maulana Ahmed Said Musa Patel. Born on 16 January 1937 in Kaphleta in Surat, Gujarat, western India, Patel was one of seven sons of a farmer turned restaurant entrepreneur named Mohamed Musa Patel and his wife Khadijah. The Imam also had six sisters. Between 1949 and 1951 he studied Arabic, Urdu and Persian at the Darul Uloom Ashrafia Arabia, Rander, in Surat. Between 1951 and 1959 he studied at the Madrasa Jami-a-Islamia Talimuddin, in Navsari, Gujarat province. On 27 July 1957 he married. Between 1959 to 1960 he was a lecturer at the aforementioned Madrasah (Islamic seminary) before accepting an invitation to serve as Imam to the nascent Muslim community in New Zealand.

On Sunday, 18 September 1960, Patel boarded the P&O SS Strethmore in Bombay and journeyed to Auckland via Sydney, arriving there on 9 October. His primary task initially was to teach Quran and Islamiyat to the Muslim children of Auckland. The regular Quran classes at the new 17 Vermont Street property became busier. According to the records of the “Madresa-E-Islamiyah Auckland” there were exactly 23 pupils at Patel's class on 2 July 1972. By the end of the year examinations on 12 December there were 27. These figures increased steadily through the decade until by February 1978 there were a total of 43 students attending the Madrasah.

Maulana Patel was also expected to lead the prayers at the newly acquired (1959) Islamic centre on Hagreaves Street. However the New Zealand Muslim Association (NZMA) was unable to afford a regular salary and he was obliged to work – first at a wool store, then at Donaghys rope factory, then as a welder and packer at an electrical utilities factory. In 1963 he was part of a delegation to the City Council requesting a separate Muslim burial plot – the first such in New Zealand.

On 25 August 1966 Maulana Patel was authorised to conduct marriages pursuant to the Marriage Act 1955, and on 17 June 1968 he was formally naturalised as a New Zealand citizen. In 1972 the Juma Salat (Friday congregational prayers) became regular at the Islamic Centre with Maulana Patel and Hafiz Sidat from Fiji taking turns at leading prayers until Patel retired from the rope factory four years later. Hajji Abdul Samad Bhikoo also led prayers on occasion.

In 1975 Maulana Patel oversaw the amalgamation of the Fijian Muslim organisation Anjuman Himayat Al-Islami into a reconstituted NZ Muslim Association. The following year he was appointed Patron of the Association and in January 1977 he was made "Religious Advisor". In November 1978 he performed the Hajj and was a member of the NZ Muslim Association Executive Committee over 1981 to 1982.

On 30 April 1987 he suffered a serious stroke and was seriously incapacitated. On 8 September 2009 he died peacefully after a sudden cardiac arrest at his residence in Grey Lynn, Auckland. His funeral took place at the Waikamete Cemetery the day following his death. He was 72.

Resources[edit]

  • Bishop, Martin C. '“A History of the Muslim Community in New Zealand to 1980”, thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of M.A. in history at the University of Waikato' (Waikato University, 1997).

Drury, Abdullah, Islam in New Zealand: The First Mosque (Christchurch, 2007) ISBN 978-0-473-12249-2