Every waking moment for Invercargill farmer Reza Abdul-Jabbar is spent either farming or mucking in to help his community.
He’s Imam (religious leader) of his local mosque, which means from cradle to grave, he can (and does) play a part in most of life’s significant moments. Reza offers his service as a marriage celebrant in Southland, Queenstown and Wanaka, looks after burial ceremonies and helps to celebrate births in the community.
He gives lectures to schools, hospitals, and universities about dairy farming, sustainability, family values and Islam. He’s run a suicide prevention programme, he does marriage counselling and encourages the community to learn more about his religion to break down some of the barriers and misconceptions.
And somewhere along the way he finds the time to run a farm.
Reza and his family
Reza reckons he couldn’t do it all without his wife and business partner, Silvia, who keeps him organised and runs the accounts for the farm.
“Silvia’s busier than me. She’ll do the research and the groundwork, then I’ll do it – it’s a team effort.”
“We just go hard,” says Reza. “Who needs to watch TV? Our quality time is spent getting out in the local community. If not us, who else will do it? I believe we can all do more.”
Reza has always known he wanted to be a farmer. He was born and raised in West Borneo and moved to New Zealand aged 17 to pursue his rural career. He completed his Master of Agricultural Science at Massey University in Palmerston North, where he met Silvia at a university event.
At 22, he was second-in-charge of a farm near Hamilton, and within six months, he was promoted to farm manager. Fast-forward a few years and Reza and Silvia now run their own 1,200-cow farm in Invercargill, with their five children, Aisha (17), Hafsha (15), Maryam (12), Omar (9), and Talha (5), who all enjoy mucking in.
While Reza’s already well-known locally, last year his family’s busy approach to life also got national coverage when they were featured on ‘Country Calendar’. You can also tune in to Reza and Silvia’s radio show, ‘The Abdul-Jabbars’, at 11.30am every Saturday on Radio Southland (96.4FM).
Reza with Sir Timothy Shadbolt KNZM JP, Mayor of Invercargill
Reza and his Harley
Reza believes his role as Imam at the Southland Mosque aligns perfectly with his role as a Fonterra farmer.
“We are proud to be Fonterra farmers. We believe being a Co-operative is a Muslim value.
“Fonterra isn’t just a business. It’s a state of worship, because we work for the benefit of others. As farmers, we look after our animals and the environment, and we all pull in together – it couldn’t be anymore Islamic.”
And while Reza and his family do a lot for the community, he says it goes both ways.
“It’s really special aye, all throughout my career we’ve had lots of support. Thank God we had the right people around us – that support is worth more than anything else.”