Tuesday, August 09, 2005
By Fatima Asmal, Islam Online Correspondent
DURBAN, South Africa, August 8, 2005 (IslamOnline.net) - Hundreds of people are expected to attend the funeral of South African caller to Islam Sheikh Ahmed Deedat, who passed away in the early hours Monday, August 8.
Sheikh Deedat, 87, passed away at his home in Trevennen Road, Verulam in the province of KwaZulu Natal at 7 a.m.
His son Yusuf told IOL that the cause of his death was heart failure.
The family was not in a state of shock, said Yusuf. “As Muslims we believe that every soul shall taste death.”
He added that the last moments of his father’s life were peaceful, and coincided with the commencement of a recitation of "Surah Yaseen" on an Islamic radio station.
“Channel Islam had just introduced and begun to play Surah Yaseen when the throes of death began,” he explained. “My father just looked at us and then passed away.”
Sheikh Deedat will be buried in the Verulam cemetery after Salaatul-Maghrib (Maghreb prayers) Monday.
Hundreds of people from around the country are expected to participate in his funeral prayer, and his family says that people from across the world, such as India, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been calling to convey their condolences.
“His death comes as a shock to us,” Maulana Ahmed Kathrada, of the Jamiatul ‘Ulama (Scholars' Group), a local theological body, told IOL.
He added that Sheikh Deedat had served not only South Africans, but the Muslim Ummah at large, for many years.
“We pray that Allah Grants him a lofty position in Jannah (Paradise), and that He Grants his family patience, especially his wife who has endured so much during the last few years.”
He was bed-ridden for almost a decade.
Mrs Hawa Deedat, who had spent the last nine years nursing her husband and administering his daily injections, was present at her husband’s side at the time of his death, and she is well, said Yusuf.
“She is the wife of a soldier, and can therefore only be a soldier herself."
Several other religious leaders and political figures expressed their sadness at the news of Sheikh Deedat’s death.
Mr. Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the South African Hindu Maha Sabha, said that Sheikh Deedat would be missed by Muslims worldwide and the greater South African Muslim community.
“I think that the Islamic community has lost a great man, who was totally committed to the cause of Islam,” he said.
Mr. Trikamjee said that Sheikh Deedat had made a huge impact on constructive religious debate.
Mr Riaz Jamal, a director of the Al-Ansaar Foundation in Durban, South Africa, who had done a thesis on Sheikh Deedat as part of his Masters in Islamic Studies, said that there was a need for the Muslim and Christian worlds to continue to bring audiences together for religious debate and dialogue.
“Sheikh Ahmed Deedat was a global caller to Islam,” he said.
"I don’t think any other Muslim wrote to the Pope, inviting him to Islam, but Sheikh Deedat did. It’s our responsibility to continue in propagating his message.”
Sheikh Deedat’s health had been steadily deteriorating in the last few months after he had suffered various complications related to the lock in syndrome stroke which had left him paralysed and bed-ridden for almost a decade.
His death marks the end of an era of Da’wah in which his name became synonymous with breaking down inter-faith barriers.
Born on July 1, 1918, Sheikh Deedat arrived in South Africa, from India, as a nine-year-old in August 1927.
Although he hadn’t previously been exposed to the English language, he learnt it in six months, excelled at school and finished top of his class.
However, due to financial considerations, his father removed him from school during his early years of secondary schooling. He was sent to work in a store in a rural area, where his mission of Da’wah began.
Students from a Christian missionary school would visit the store preaching their beliefs to him, and knowing little more than the shahadah (testifying that no god but Allah and Muhammad is His prophet), he found it difficult to defend his beliefs.
He then stumbled upon a book which carried a religious dialogue between a Muslim imam and a Christian priest, and this proved to be the first of many books which he would read on the subject.
He began researching both religions and recording his findings in a notebook, after which he started delivering lectures in South Africa.
Deedat became famous for a debate with US Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, on the topic “Is the Bible the Word of God.”
His first lecture was entitled “Muhammad (peace be upon him): Messenger of Peace,” at it was delivered in 1940, to 15 people at a cinema in his province.
Within a short space of time, the numbers grew and people crossed the racial divides which were then prevalent in apartheid South Africa, to listen to him, and to participate in the questions and answers sessions which followed his lectures.
Although some Christians and Muslims felt that his style was blunt, many others reverted to Islam, and Da’wah soon began to dominate his life, with the audiences at his lectures reaching forty thousand.
In 1957, Sheikh Deedat, together with two of his friends, founded the Islamic Propagation Center which printed a variety of books and offered classes to new Muslims.
In 1986, he visited Saudi Arabia for a conference, and in his first television interview, enthralled the Arab world with his dynamic personality and in depth knowledge of comparative religion.
He then visited the United Kingdom, Morocco, Kenya, Sweden, Australia and Denmark on lecture and debating tours.
In the United States, he became famous for a debate with the American Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, witnessed by 8,000 people on the topic “Is the Bible the Word of God.”
On May 3, 1996, Sheikh Ahmed Deedat suffered a stroke which left him paralysed from the neck down, and also meant that he could no longer speak or swallow.
He was flown to a hospital in Riyadh, where he was taught to communicate through a series of eye-movements.
He spent the last nine years of his life in a bed in his home in Verulam, South Africa, encouraging people to engage in Da’wah.
He continued to receive hundreds of letters of support from around the world.
Kehilangan besar di dalam dunia Islam, seperti perginya Allahyarham Ahmed Deedat dan Allahyarhamah Zainab Al Ghazali pada 3 Ogos yang lepas.
Moga Allah kurniakan rahmahNya pada roh mereka berdua.