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Ahmad Deedat: Man of mission

By Abu Tariq Hijazi | ArabNews | 22 Feb 2012

Ahmad Deedat is a name which suddenly brings to mind the picture of a smiling white-bearded man fluently speaking in English about Islam. We find him debating with Jimmy Swaggart in the US, or challenging Palestinian American missionary, Anis Shorosh in UK or lecturing in Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Australia or visiting Maldives, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

He was a man of mission. He dedicated his life for the defense of Islam. Though he did not graduate from any university, the prestigious Faisal Award was conferred upon him in recognition of his great services to Islam. His first public lecture to fifteen people was delivered in 1942 at Durban entitled “Muhammad: The Messenger of Peace.” Later he delivered hundreds of lectures around the globe and published thousands of his books and videos which are distributed for free in the East and the West. Several thousands of people have entered the fold of Islam through his efforts.

He was born in a poor family in Surat, India. His father, who was a tailor, migrated to South Africa after his birth. He could see his father only at the age of 9 when he went to Natal. He joined the school, established his worth but could not continue after sixth standard because of financial handicap. He started a private job at the age of 16. In 1936 he was working on a Muslim-owned store near a Christian seminary. The young missionary trainees, taking him a Muslim, hurled a number of insults upon him. Whatever they were taught in the classroom against Islam or its Prophet, they bombarded it upon him. He, being a simple Muslim, was perplexed with this sudden attack. But it infused a stubborn flame of desire within the young man to counter their false allegations.

He tried to search for proper books and fortunately he found a marvelous treatise named Izharul Haq (Truth Revealed) by Maulana Rahmatullah Kairanvi who already had a challenging debate with Bishop Fender on April 9, 1854 at Agra. Young Deedat began to study this book in the basement of his employer and purchased his first Bible to attest the references. The next week he was able to defend himself and counteract the trainees in a befitting manner.

He got another opportunity when a new Muslim convert Fairfax began classes on Bible and on how to preach Islam to Christians. Ahmad Deedat joined the course but after few months Fairfax left the classes and surprisingly Deedat who was by that time quite competent in the subject took over the class as their tutor which he continued for three years. Now that was his most favorite subject. He began to lecture in Natal and then in nearby cities. A decade later, thousands of people were filling city halls in Johannesburg and Cape Town to hear his dissertations.

Ahmad Deedat also conducted guided tours of the vast ornamental Jama Masjid Durban which was a popular tourist spot. A sophisticated program of luncheons, speeches and free handbills was created for the international tourists which was often their first contact with Islam. By 1956 his activity increased many folds and it was felt necessary to establish a separate dawa (preaching) center in the city. He was supported by two of his friends named Ghulam Husain Vanker and Taher Rasool who supported him to establish the Islamic Propagation Center International (IPCI) for publication of books and arranging classes for the ever increasing Muslim converts. The Muslim community of South Africa supported his efforts. A generous Muslim brother donated 30,000-square-meter plot where he established the Al Salaam Educational Institute at Braemar.

In 1985 he started his real career as champion of global Dawah work. He rented the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London twice to debate the world-famed Christian contemporaries in front of packed audience. As a crown of his successes he was awarded with King Faisal International Prize for the service of Islam in 1986.

The main subjects of his debates were “ls the Bible True Word of God?” and “Is Jesus God?” which he discussed with Swaggart in US, Anis Shorosh in UK, Pastor Stanley Sjoberg in Stockholm Sweden and Pastor Erick Bock in Copenhagen, Denmark. These debates were recorded on video and distributed in the thousands throughout the world. He was bold enough even to invite Pope John Paul II to a public dialogue in the Vatican Square but the pope did not accept as explained in Deedat’s pamphlet “His Holiness Plays Hide and Seek With Muslims”.

He was a prolific author. He wrote the following concise and impressive palm-sized books which were printed and distributed in the millions around the globe.

• Is the Bible God’s Word?
• What The Bible Says About Muhammad
• Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?
• Muhammad: The Natural Successor to Christ
• Christ in Islam
• Muhammad The Greatest
• AI-Qur’an the Miracle of Miracles
• What is His Name
• What was the sign of Jonah
• Resurrection or Resuscitation

The collected version of his four books appeared in “The Choice: Islam or Christianity” in 1993. Later another collection of his six books was published as “The Choice Volume Two.” He also wrote a “Combat Kit” arming the young generation against the Bible thumpers.

In 1996 when he was at the climax of his activity, he suffered a serious stroke and remained paralyzed and bedridden for nine years. He was unable to speak or write. Even in this situation he received dozens of letters and visitors daily to pay him respect and homage to his great contribution and he (through signaling) encouraged them to continue the noble work in future. Sheikh Ahmad Deedat breathed his last on 3rd Rajab 1426 (Aug. 8, 2005) at his home and was buried at Verulam cemetery in South Africa. His wife Hawwa Deedat expired at 85 after a year on Aug. 28, 2006. May Almighty Allah bless his soul with Jannatul Firdous for his path-breaking and excellent efforts for dawa of Islam worldwide as well as re-igniting the spirit of self-esteem and renaissance amongst millions of Muslims around the world.

Though he could not speak since 1996, he could still be seen on his videos in debating halls and his voice is heard loudly inviting the masses to the truth, in the UK and US, in Sweden, in Canada and Australia. His eternal message is “Come to the light or stay in the dark, the choice is yours.”