While surfing aimlessly through the T.V. channels, I finally found something worth seeing. A particular channel presented a documentary about a distinguished Muslim. It was unfolding the story of his life that was sincerely dedicated to revealing the truth of Islaam and spreading the message. My heart and mind were immersed in the documentary as I was amazed by this person's vast knowledge and generous contributions. I wondered, however, why I haven't heard of him before.
The documentary was about Ahmad Deedat [A’hmad Deedaat] from South Africa. Although I didn't come across the documentary from the start, I saw enough to become interested and to start learning more about him and his work. I saw his dedication to the message, I saw his expertise in Islaam and Christianity, I saw his fluency in speaking and I saw a confident pious Muslim.
Born in 1918 in the Surat district of India, Ahmad Deedat lived with his mother while his father moved to South Africa shortly after his birth. Due to extreme poverty and lack of formal schooling, Deedat moved to South Africa to be with his father at the age of nine in 1927. That was also the last time that he would see his mother as she passed away a few months later in India.
Life in South Africa brought many challenges to Deedat but form these challenges opportunities emerged. With no formal education and incompetence in the English language, Deedat strived to excel in school and he certainly did. The challenge of living in a new country and learning English did not hinder him from succeeding as he continued to prove his capabilities. Yet only one thing hindered this chain of success in school. It was the financial situation that led him to leave school at a young age.
It was therefore at the age of 16 that Deedat left school and worked at various jobs to earn money. His first jobs were in retailing. The job experience that mostly affected him was while working at a Muslim owned store in the Natal South Coast near a Christian seminary. There, Deedat would encounter different ideologies and his belief would be challenged . It was also there that he would take the first serious step towards Islaamic propagation.
The trainee missionaries from the Christian seminary would constantly insult Islaam during their visits to the store. Deedat was not the kind of person who would passively listen without speaking up for what he believed in. The more they insulted, the more he desired to prove them wrong. It was then unexpectedly that Deedat found a book that inspired him greatly entitled I’thhaarr Al’ha’q, which can be translated as The Truth Revealed. It was this book that helped set the foundation of Deedat's discussions and debates with the trainee missionaries.
I’thhaar Al’ha’q is a book that presents the successful methods of the Muslims in India in communicating with the Christians. It was in particular about the period of the British rule in India and the Muslim's techniques in dealing with the Christian missionaries. Deedat was influenced by the skill of debating to spread the message and interact with the Christians. With this exciting personal discovery, Deedat purchased his first Bible and began to debate with the trainees.
Holding debates and discussions with the trainee missionaries soon became less challenging. They would often walk out while Deedat would call on their teachers and some priests near by. He began stepping forward with da‘wah and dedicated himself to defending Islaam and revealing its truth. This enthusiasm never faded, as he was aware of the importance and need to dispel the distortions of Islaam created by the Christian missionaries.
Ahmed Deedat's devotion to da‘wah kept growing over the years as he began to give lectures, such as on Bible studies, and also established As-alam [Assalaam] institute to train Muslim propagators. With his marriage and the birth of his children, the zeal for da‘wah was passed on to his family. Together with his family, Deedat set up the buildings of the institute and the masjid (mosque).
Deedat was also a founding member of the Islaamic Propagation Centre International (I.C.P.I.) in 1957 and became its president. The Centre has a strong presence in the Muslim community in South Africa and has also extended its services worldwide. The Centre's role in da‘wah is evident in the many courses and lectures it delivers and in the free Islaamic publications it makes available to all.
Deedat wrote many books, including: "Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction", "Al-Qura'n the Miracle of Miracles", "What the Bible Says about Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him.)", and "Is the Bible God's Word?" He also presented numerous lectures all over the world and debated many Christian evangelists. One of the most remembered debates is that with Jimmy Swaggart held in the United States on the topic “Is the Bible the Word of God?” Another famous debate was entitled, “Was Christ Crucified”, in which he impressively debated Bishop Josh McDowell in Durban in 1981. The last lecture he gave was held in Sydney, Australia in 1996 and was known to be one of his most influential talks. It was in the same year that Deedat became ill.
By Allaah's will, Ahmed Deedat suffered a serious stroke in 1996 and was confined to bed since then. During those years Deedat received many letters of support and personal visits. His memory was still sharp and he communicated using eye movements. Even while being bedridden, Deedat continued to influence others as some entered Islaam through his talks or publications.
It was also Allaah's will for Ahmed Deedat to leave this world on August 8, 2005 at the age of 87. Some knew this was coming while some hoped that he would return to contribute to our oummah (nation). He was a voice that was greatly needed. His style of da‘wah was unique in that he relied on detailed analysis of the Bible rather than the traditional method of using the ’Qura~n and ‘Hadeeth to propagate. This method proved to be successful as the Christian missionaries he debated would often overlook certain Biblical verses that Deedat would highlight.
A few words would not do justice to what Ahmed Deedat achieved and to the vast knowledge he incredibly self-taught himself to become a scholar of comparative religion. Many people have entered Islaam having been inspired by Deedat. In 1986, he was awarded the eminent and prestigious King Faisal International Prize by the King Faisal Foundation for Service to Islaam, which was the first to be awarded to a South African. Deedat was focused on his mission and on the goals he strived to achieve. He also raised Islaamic propagation to a higher and international level.
What I have learnt about Ahmad Deedat had a profound effect on me. I was inspired by his knowledge. I saw his dedication to his goal and how he was focused on achieving it. I prayed that he would get better and return to us. I wanted to hear his voice again. I wanted to hear his opinion of what was happening in our society. I wanted to meet his wonderful wife who stood by his side. And I mainly wished that I could one day meet Deedat and simply say, "Thank you for your productive efforts."
Recently, as I was surfing once again through the T.V. channels, I finally came across something worth seeing. To my surprise, this particular channel was broadcasting Ahmed Deedat’s lectures and debates as a tribute to his work and efforts in da‘wah after he passed away. I soon became immersed in the lecture, listening attentively to his every word. I then wondered: will we have more Deedats?
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