Remembering the life of Sheikh Ahmed Deedat

Sheikh Deedat was a charismatic, self-taught Muslim scholar from South Africa, most famous for engaging Christian evangelists in public debate. In 1986, he debated Jimmy Swaggart and even challenged the late Pope John Paul II to a debate in the Vatican Square.

His son, Yousuf Deedat, calls him a “lion of the stage”.

But while Sheikh Deedat was most famous for his sharp and impassioned debating style, he was also a prolific writer.

He published more than 20 books and wrote free literature and pamphlets, of which millions of copies were distributed across the globe.

Many of his publications were translated into other languages, and in 1986 Saudi Arabia awarded Deedat the King Faisal Award for his services to Islam

This impressive body of work made Ahmed Deedat a celebrated figure in the Muslim world.

Yousuf Deedat recalls how former South African President Nelson Mandela called his father during a presidential visit to Saudi Arabia in 1994, telling him that wherever he went, people inquired about the Muslim scholar.

“When he met youngsters, they all used to ask him: Mr Mandela, how is Sheikh Deedat? And when he went on television interviews, the first question the presenter would ask is: How is Sheikh Deedat in South Africa?”

A self-made scholar

August 8 marks 10 years since Deedat’s death of kidney failure at the age of 87. He was bedridden for the final 10 years of his life, after suffering a stroke that left him paralysed and unable to speak.

Though doctors initially gave him little chance to live, Deedat continued to engage in religious work until his death – communicating by using a grid of the alphabet, which he used to spell out words letter-by-letter by signalling with his eyes.

Such tenacity was a defining characteristic of his life.

An Indian immigrant who moved to join his father in the South African city of Durban at the age of nine, Deedat proved himself an excellent student before poverty forced him out of school and into work.

Without formal education past age 16, “he was self-taught through experience and a penchant for reading, debating, discussion, and a profound sense of commitment to a mission and goal”, according to the Islamic Propagation Centre International (IPCI) website, an organisation Sheikh Deedat started with a close friend Goolam Hoosein Vanker.

Today, institutions such as IPCI continue his missionary work through training, lectures, mosque visits, inter-faith debates, literature and videos

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Source: islamicnewsdaily

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