PAYING RESPECTS: The funeral of Abbas Essop who was killed at the mosque in Verulam yesterday.
Durban - It took Verulam Moulana Ali Nchinyane feeling the pain of a knife at his throat to understand the meaning of Labayka Ya Hussain” (I am at your service, Oh Hussain) in spite of having preached it so often.

“I fought for my life. I did not want to die,” the young priest said, recalling the moment when three men walked into the Imam Hussain Mosque at Ottawa, near Verulam, and tried to slit people’s throats.

Nchinyane was speaking at the funeral of Assab Essop who did not survive the attack on the Imam Hussain Mosque on Thursday afternoon that has sent shockwaves around the country.

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The funeral was held on Friday evening at the same mosque in Verulam where, 24 hours earlier, three armed men allegedly stormed the mosque, stabbing victims repeatedly, as well as slitting two people’s throats.

Verulam moulana Ali Nchinyane feeling the pain of a knife at his throat to understand the meaning of Labayka Ya Hussain” (I am at your service, Oh Hussain)
Pictures: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (Ana)
Verulam moulana Ali Nchinyane feeling the pain of a knife at his throat to understand the meaning of Labayka Ya Hussain” (I am at your service, Oh Hussain) Pictures: Sibonelo Ngcobo/ANA

A fourth suspect was allegedly waiting in a car outside.

During the attack, Nchinyane, and caretaker at the mosque Mohamed Ali, were stabbed, while Essop ran from across the road to help when he heard a commotion going on. He was also attacked and died on the way to hospital.

During the Saff prayer session last night, Nchinyane appeared to battle slightly with standing up. This after bowing in prayer in unison with fellow devotees in the parking lot of the mosque beneath a minaret, palm trees and stars. He was still recovering from cuts on his hands and neck as well as injuries suffered while jumping from a window to escape.

The building itself could not be used because it was still a crime scene.

Mourners came from as far as London, as well as all corners of South Africa, to pay their respects to Essop, a mechanic, father-of-two and member of the congregation of the mosque a block away from his home.

Ali was still in the intensive care unit in hospital when the funeral took place, first at the Essop home and later in the car park.

The funeral of Abbas Essop who was killed at the mosque in Verulam.

Also absent was Essop’s mother, Fareeda, who is scheduled to return to Durban from Indonesia today.

She had been on holiday with a friend.

In his brief address, Nchinyane said that while the Shia branch of Islam believed in “a lifestyle of love and revolution”, those who attacked it would not be forgiven.

“And we’ll fight against them.

“Hussain taught us to fight until the end. Train yourselves mentally and physically. If something like this repeats itself, be ready,” he said.

A number of moulanas addressed the funeral, highlighting that Essop’s status was worthy of being elevated to that of a martyr.

Moulana Aftab Haider, national co-ordinator of Afosa, the Ahlul Bait Foundation of South Africa lashed out at the “evil” behind the attack.

“We are not fighting against anybody, any sect nor any religion, but against evil,” he said.

The ceremony heard that death was a cost all members should be willing to pay for Islam unity and brotherhood.

“We urge our society of Sunni and Shia to be calm, as much as they can,” said another moulana.

“All of our enemies are united to destroy us, to use us against each other. We should not let them. We should make them disappointed.

They further questioned what kind of human being could go into a place of worship to kill people.

eThekwini’s deputy mayor, Fawzia Peer, who was among the mourners, said she believed locals were behind it and that it was not an international terror incident.

“These are locals,”she said.

“We’ve got some tips. The Hawks are busy with it and I am sure there will be some good news soon.”

Peer condemned the religious intolerance around the attack.

Last night the Diakonia Council of Churches, which represents religions across the city, condemned the attack. In a press statement, they said: “We are shocked by the terrible attack which disregarded the sanctity of a place of worship.

“As an ecumenical organisation which has long worked with the interfaith community for justice and peace, we share the pain of loss and pray for the speedy recovery of the two injured men.

“To the bereaved family we offer heartfelt condolences on this devastating loss.”

The council also called for community dialogue between religious leaders, community leaders and local businesses to help the Muslim community “to get through this difficult period”, as well as calling for the “full force of the law to bring the perpetrators to justice”.

Hawks spokesperson, Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo said no suspects had been arrested as yet, but that the investigation was continuing.