Sheikh Ntsikelelo Nazeem Ntintili, a former devout Christian who lived in Crossroads, began his journey into Islam in 1992 with his soccer pals from Mitchells Plain.
His friends would show up in their thobes.
“They looked so pure and clean, so I thought to myself I needed that. I eventually asked them to take me to a mosque,” he tells the Weekend Argus.
Ntintili is now on a mission to change the ways of Harare’s youth at his Harare Masjid and Islamic Learning Centre.
“I was also stuck in my ways. I partied a lot and there were criminal elements in the things my friends got up to, but eventually I met Islam and immediately saw change in me. I want the same for most young men and women in Khayelitsha,” he said.
His work with the Khayelitsha community attracted an invitation from the King of Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj in 2015, where he rubbed shoulders with former boxing world champion Mike Tyson and Proteas batsman Hashim Amla.
“That was a beautiful feeling and experience. It’s not easy to get there. My belief in the religion was strengthened there,” he says.
Since Ntintili’s return from the Hajj, more residents in the immediate community also started embracing Islam. He believes the Muslim community is booming in Khayelitsha.
In 2012, Ntintili bought the shebeen for R18 000 on the busy Mew Way Road in Harare.
He slowly started converting it into a masjid for about 50 members, as well as a madrassah with 45 young boys and girls, and has opened a soup kitchen.
A number of shebeens in the area have since closed down.
Several fatal incidents had occurred near the shebeen with drunk people walking into the main road and being mowed down by speeding cars.
“A lot of people died here, and I’m glad our presence has brought about change,” the holy man says.
Resident Imam Xolani Donyeli is a witness to that change.
“I used to spend all my hard-earned money from my job as a security guard here. Meanwhile, my children in the Eastern Cape went hungry because I would spend everything on booze and snooker,” he said.
Donyeli, who lives just a stone’s throw away from the mosque, said he converted to Islam after receiving a calling one day.
He was hesitant at first, fearing that residents would gossip about him because he was a regular at the shebeen.
Ntintili can be contacted at 078 362 7822 for help with his soup kitchen.