In 1995, Dr. Shiraz Datoo, who was then the Dar es Salaam
Tabligh Chairman, had a brainwave. Have an awayday residential camp for
two weeks of young boys with the objectives listed below. Dr Shiraz, and Maalim
Mehboob Somji, Tabligh Secretary, went on to plan and deliver the first camp
held at Nakuru, Kenya, in December 1995. Several more Camps were held
Some of the objectives were:
- Provide a friendly and productive atmosphere for learning and practicing Islamic values and manners;
- Raise an awareness of religious issues and refresh on Islamic history;
- Familiarise with Islamic laws as applicable to daily life and practice Islamic etiquettes;
- Enlighten on medical related issues and healthy diets;
- Learn how to mix and live with others from different Jamaats, backgrounds, social strata and respect individuals with different ideas and personalities.
All these objectives were met at the camp by a combination of different activities such as formal classes, Quran tafseer sessions, Debates, Sports, Outings (day and overnight), Team quizzes, Kitchen duties, Dormitory duties, Night camp-fire discussions and many more.
The first camp, in 1995, proved to be the trailblazer for other Jamaats world-wide to emulate. It even expanded to include the girls’ camp. Such camps have proved to be memorable and enriching experiences for the campers and many are still reminiscing their camping days with fond memories and are grateful for the chance to develop themselves and network with other community youths across their geographical regions.
In all these camps, it involved many personnel: learned religious scholars, jamaat leaders, secular educators, career advisers and administrators. The pioneers of the Nakuru camp set the standard and the models for many others to follow and emulate. The venue, Rasul-al-Akram School at Nakuru, was facilitated by Marhum Aliraza Mulla Nanji, Mulla Mujahid Sheriff and Mulla Mohamed Kassamali, the Trustees of the school. The ground arrangements and logistics were competently handled by Hassan Fazal, the then President of the Nakuru Jamaat.
Famous Buffalo Incident: In 1998, the campers had an overnight outing at a nearby Safari National Park. The next morning, a buffalo was grazing at quite a distance from the campsite. The boys in their zeal started shouting “hizo” at the buffalo, presumably thinking, it was far away to cause any harm. With the volume of “hizo” rising, the buffalo suddenly turned, and started galloping, at a very large speed, towards the campsite.
There was a line of boys who were straight in the path of the buffalo. Dr Shiraz, who was a distant back from the frontline, saw the coming danger. He immediately ran to the boys and pushed them aside and left himself exposed straight in the line of the speedy buffalo. The buffalo rammed into Dr Shiraz, throwing him up in the air, and then take a hard fall. The buffalo turned and ran in the wild, leaving Dr Shiraz with a fractured hip and in severe pain. We are sure the rough ride on the back of a pick-up to the Nakuru Hospital must have been very painful. He was then airlifted to Nairobi Hospital, for treatment. One unfortunate incident of Nakuru Camp never to be forgotten.
Reflection: Dr Shiraz Datoo (Nakuru Camp Originator, Chairman Tabligh, Camp Administrator).
It was not an easy task to introduce a completely new concept in the community, but the encouragement and support of the Jamaat Executives and generous donors who believed in the project gave us the strength to go for it.
The support from the Arusha Jamaat and Nairobi Jamaat should not go unappreciated as these two cities were our transit points en-route to Nakuru and back to Dar es Salaam. The Nakuru Summer Camps became synonymous with any camp in our community. Later in the years the Camps were held at other locations, but it was termed as Nakuru Camp in Arusha, or Nakuru Camp in Zanzibar. Over the years, the Nakuru Camp has evolved in other shapes and forms, but the philosophy, ethos and the objectives behind these programmes still echo Nakuru.
As to the buffalo incident, Alhamdulillah, I have never regretted it, as I feel that Allah (s.w.t) chose me to save the boys. Insha’Allah my broken hip and the limp may be accepted and rewarded.
Reflection: Mehboob Somji (Camp Organiser & Administrator)
This was one of the excellent exercises for the 16+ youths to leave their parents, homes and move to a remote place for two weeks to develop the SELF to become better human beings.
Till today, I am receiving feedback from many past campers. Over the years, the campers included boys and girls from almost 10 Jamaats all over East Africa and Madagascar.
The spiritual and social development in the campers has engrained into their hearts; they still remember what was taught to them. All Praise is due to Allah, who facilitated these camps and benefited campers to current times.
Reflection: Hasan Fazal (On-site Nakuru Coordinator & Mr Fix-it-all)
We are all warmly reminiscent of the Nakuru Summer Camps. Looking back, this was a deeply enriching and unifying program for our community youths. Imagine spending two weeks filled with adventure, nature, and sports – all under the umbrella of spiritual teachings and in the company of well renowned scholars. The exposure and experiences that our youth had are unparalleled. This was truly a wholesome and all rounded initiative that I’m certain the attendees have benefited immensely from and enjoyed equally as much.
It’s very comforting and fulfilling to see that a lot of the participants of the Nakuru summer camps from many years ago have now grown into respectable gentlemen within our community. They are taking on responsibilities and leading our communities having evolved into role models for the next generation. I strongly believe endeavours such as the Nakuru summer camps will always be instrumental in bringing our community closer together and creating our future leaders.
Reflection: Dr. Mahmood Datoo (Camp Teacher)
The birthplace of this “mother of all camps”, Nakuru 1995, was to be my first participation as one of the Camp teachers. I have participated in the subsequent Nakuru ones and have been privileged to meet so many campers. I am still in touch with some of them, many years on.
The concept, organisation, the curriculum, and seeing the campers joy, bolted me to persuade the Council of European Jamaats to emulate Nakuru. The then CoEJ Education Chairman, Murtaza Datoo, supported by Muhsin Dharamsi, enthusiastically took on the project to literally copy Nakuru-style camp. The first one was at Kingwood, near Birmingham (UK). It then moved to continental Europe, in Sweden. Just as the African Camp was synonymous with Nakuru, the European Camp became synonymous with Sweden, and I was privileged again to participate in all Sweden Camps.
The Nakuru Camp was also emulated in Toronto, where Sister Jamila-bai Dewji ran the Al-Mahdi Camp, where I was also privileged to participate for a few of those.
It is my unshakable opinion and, and evidenced by the experiences of these campers, that such camps have a tremendous and incalculable benefits in the spiritual, educational, and social development of our youths. They should continue regionally in our worldwide Jamaats.
Zoom or Teams on-line gatherings just cannot replicate these camps. I recall what I said at the first Nakuru camp closing ceremony:
- Nakuru cannot be photographed, however focused the lens
- Nakuru cannot be written about, however expressive the words
- Nakuru cannot be talked about, however eloquent the speech
- Nakuru cannot be described, however articulate the language
- Nakuru cannot be shared, however social you are
- Nakuru cannot be discovered, however curious you are
- Nakuru cannot be painted, however colourful the brushes
- Nakuru cannot be felt, however sensitive you are
- Nakuru cannot be explained, however expressive you are
- “Nakuru HAS TO BE EXPERIENCED”
Reflection: Sameer Parmar (Nakuru Camper – from Dar es Salaam)
It was the first time ever for me to go away from my family for 2 weeks. Permission was granted because of the credibility of the program (organizers, teachers, success in past years). The programme was so balanced with other activities like sports and sightseeing. It was the first time and perhaps only time in life that I saw a hot spring which was very nicely connected to the magnanimity of Allah (SWT) by Sheikh Murtadha Alidina. The camp taught me responsibility, humbleness and observing time for prayers, meals, sports, bedtime etc.
Reflection: Dr. Mohamedali Peera (Nakuru Camper-from Dar es Salaam, now in Toronto)
The benefits I derived from my experiences at the Camp were Confidence Building, Life-long comradery, spiritual upliftment and knowledge enhancement
Reflection: Suhail Ratansi (Nakuru Camper-from Dar es Salaam, now in UK)
Nakuru is still my best school time trip. How can I ever forget sitting till late in the night making posters for the Camp, and then being woken up early! I remember Dr. Shiraz wake me up early in the cold Nakuru mornings to proclaim Azan. I made long and great friendship with campers from various Jamaats.
THANK YOU and You Will Not Be Forgotten
A big thank you to all the scholars and educators, who over the years, have shared their knowledge and experience with the campers and to all the volunteers, who dedicated their time and efforts to ensure the smooth running of the camps.
Our heartfelt thanks and gratitude go to the leaders who encouraged and supported these camps, and to the donors, who contributed unconditionally towards the running of these camps, recognizing the positive and lasting impact on the future generations of the community.
SOME CHERISHED MEMORIES OF THE VARIOUS NAKURU CAMPS
Article Source: Alhaj Mehboob J. Somji
ARCHIVES SECTION OF THE AFRICA FEDERATION
27th November 2021 / 21st Rabiul Akhar 1443 AH