মঙ্গলবার, ১০ মে, ২০১১

Ahmed Hussein Deedat (July 1, 1918 – August 8, 2005) (Urdu: احمد حسين ديدات) was a Muslim scholar, writer and public speaker of Indian South African descent.[1] He was best known for his numerous inter-religious public debates with evangelical Christians, as well as pioneering video lectures, most of which centered around Islam, Christianity and the Bible. He also established the IPCI, an international Islamic missionary organization, and wrote several booklets on Islam and Christianity which were widely distributed by the organization. He was awarded the prestigious King Faisal International Prize in 1986 for his 50 years of missionary work. One focus of his work was providing Muslims with theological tools for defending themselves against active proselytizing by Christian missionaries. He used English to get his message across to Muslims and non-Muslims in the western world.[2]

Contents

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[edit] Biography

[edit] Early Years 1918–1942

Ahmed Deedat was born in the town of, Tadkeshwar, Bombay Presidency, British India in 1918.[3] His father had emigrated to South Africa shortly after the birth of Ahmed Deedat. At the age of 9, Deedat left India to join his father in what is now known as Kwazulu-Natal. His mother died only a few months after his departure. Arriving in South Africa, Deedat applied himself with diligence to his studies, overcoming the language barrier and excelling in school, even getting promoted until he completed standard 6. However, due to financial circumstances, he had to quit school and start working by the time he was the age of 16.
In 1936, while working as a furniture salesman, he came across a group of missionaries at a Christian seminary on the Natal South Coast. The missionaries, in their efforts to convert people of Muslim faith, often accused the Islamic Prophet Muhammad of having "used the sword" to bring people to Islam. Such accusations offended Deedat, and were to form a major influence on his subsequent interest in comparative religion.[4]
Deedat took a more active interest in religious debate after he came across a book entitled "Izhar ul-Huqq" (Truth Revealed), written by Rahmatullah Kairanawi while he was rummaging for reading material in his employer's basement. This book chronicled the efforts of Christian missionaries in India from a century earlier. The book had a profound effect on Deedat, and led to the purchase of his first Bible and holding of debates and discussions with trainee missionaries, whose questions he had previously been unable to answer.[4]
His foray into Bible Studies took a more serious turn when he started attending Islamic study classes held by a local Muslim convert named Mr. Fairfax. Seeing the popularity of the classes, Mr. Fairfax offered to teach an extra session on the Bible and how to preach to Christians about Islam.[4] Deedat and a few others were delighted at the opportunity. However, a few months into the project, Mr. Fairfax had to pull out of his engagement, and Deedat, who was by this point quite knowledgeable about the Bible, took over teaching the class, which he did for three years. He later crediting this experience for expanding his horizons significantly towards missionary work.

[edit] Early Missionary Work 1942–1956

Deedat's first lecture, entitled "Muhammad: Messenger of Peace", was delivered in 1942 to an audience of fifteen people at a Durban movie theatre named Avalon Cinema.[5] Over time Deedat's popularity as a public speaker grew in Durban, to the point that he was invited to speak in other cities in South Africa. A decade later he was filling City halls with audiences numbering in the thousands in cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town.
A major vehicle of Deedat's early missionary activity was the 'Guided Tours' of the Jumma Mosque in Durban. The vast ornamental Jumma Mosque was a landmark site in the tourist-friendly city of Durban. A sophisticated program of luncheons, speeches and free hand-outs was created to give an increasingly large number of international tourists what was often their first look at Islam. Deedat himself was one of the guides, hosting tourists and giving succinct introductions to Islam and its relationship with Christianity.[6]

[edit] IPCI and as-Salaam 1956–1986

By 1956 after frequent public speaking engagements and the popular guided tours of the Jumma Masjid, enquiries about Islam from the general public in South Africa were pouring in at an increasing rate. Soon it became apparent that working from the mosque office was not going to be sufficient to handle the demand for literature and the number of people with an interest in Islam.
Among Deedat's close friends were Goolam Hoosein Vanker and Taahir Rasool, whom many refer to as 'the unsung heroes of Deedat's career'.[7] In 1957, Deedat, together with Vanker and Rasool, founded the Islamic Propagation Centre International (IPCI) with the aim to print a variety of books on Islam and offer classes to new Muslims converts.[8]
In 1958 Deedat established an Islamic seminary called As-Salaam Educational Institute on a donated 75-acre (300,000 m2) piece of land located in Braemar in the south of Natal province.[9]
With these newly-founded missionary organizations as his backbone, Deedat engaged in a broader range of activities over the next three decades. He conducted classes on Biblical theology and conducted numerous lectures.[citation needed] Da`wah (inviting people towards Islam) became the dominant factor of his life, with audiences at his lectures often reaching in excess of forty thousand. He also wrote many booklets, distributing millions of copies of these and other free literature across the world.[citation needed]

[edit] International Fame 1985–1995

By the early 1980s Ahmed Deedat's work was beginning to be known outside his native South Africa. In 1985, for instance, he twice rented the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London to debate with Christian contemporaries in front of a packed audience. His international profile was significantly boosted when in 1986 he was awarded the King Faisal Award for his services to Islam in the field of Dawah (Islamic missionary activity). As a result, at the ripe old age of 66, Deedat began a new phase in his lifetime mission of empowering Muslims to preach to Christians, a ten-year long period of international speaking tours around the world. He travelled far and wide to Muslim communities from Australia at one end to North America at the other end. His tours include:
  • Saudi Arabia and Egypt (on several occasions)
  • United Kingdom (on several occasions between 1985 and 1988, including Switzerland in 1987)
  • Pakistan, where Deedat met Zia al-Haq,
  • UAE and Maldives Islands (Nov–Dec 1987), where Deedat was honored by President Gayhoom.[4]
  • US Tour Number 1 (late 1986 featuring debates with Swaggart, Robert Douglas and several lectures including two in Arizona)
  • Sweden and Denmark (late 1991 featuring three debates)
  • US and Canada Tour (1994 tour featuring debate in Canada and lectures in Chicago)
  • Australia Tour (his last tour in early 1996 just before his stroke)

[edit] Illness and Death 1996–2005

On May 3, 1996, Sheikh Ahmed Deedat suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed from the neck down because of a cerebral vascular accident affecting the brain stem, leaving him unable to speak or swallow.[10] He was flown to King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, where he was reported to be fully alert, and taught to communicate through a series of eye-movements via a chart whereby he would form words and sentences by acknowledging letters read to him.[10]
He spent the last nine years of his life in a bed in his home in South Africa, looked after by his wife, Hawa Deedat, encouraging people to engage in Da'wah (Islam propagation).[10] He continued to receive hundreds of letters of support from around the world, and local and international visitors continued to visit him and pay homage to his work.[4]
On August 8, 2005, Ahmed Deedat died at his home on Trevennen Road in Verulam in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. He is buried at the Verulam cemetery.[11] Hawa Deedat died on Monday August 28, 2006 at the age of 85, one year after her husband, at Deedat’s home.[12]

[edit] Debates

Video Cover of the Great Debate with Anis Shorrosh
Deedat's first well-known debate took place in August 1981, when he debated well-known Christian apologist Josh McDowell in Durban, South Africa.[13] Many of his debates were later broadcast online on Youtube, among other sites.

[edit] Debates with Anis Shorrosh

Deedat's memorable tussles with Palestinian-American Christian missionary Dr. Anis Shorrosh first came to public attention when Shorrosh appeared among the audience during the Q&A sessions[14] on two separate occasions during Deedat's summer 1985 tour of the UK (where he debated Dr. Floyd E. Clark in what is now considered another one of his early international works).[4] There was discussion between the camps of Deedat and Shorrosh, and two highly contentious debates were held. The first, entitled Is Jesus God?[4] took place right away in Dec 1985 at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London. The second debate was organized with much fanfare and held in Birmingham, UK on August 7, 1988, entitled The Quran or the Bible: Which is God's Word.[4] This debate spanned a total of 240 minutes including the Q&A session.

[edit] Debate with Jimmy Swaggart

Deedat's most famous moment[citation needed] came when he was able to arrange a debate with televangelist Jimmy Swaggart at a time when Swaggart was one of the leading faces of Evangelical Christianity. The debate entitled Is The Bible the Word of God?,[4] was held in Swaggart's hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana in November 1986 at the University of Louisiana, where it was attended by about 8,000 people.
Deedat never managed to truly capitalize on the international fame of his opponent, however, when over the following six months and subsequent five years, Swaggart was caught twice in damaging sex scandals and lost most of his international following and stature as a tele-evangelist. The debate, however, did capture the imagination of the Muslim world and the Muslim minorities in Europe and North America.

[edit] Other notable debates

In October and November 1991 Deedat toured Scandinavia, where he held three debates and several speeches. Two of these debates were held on successive nights against Pastor Stanley Sjöberg in Stockholm, Sweden. The first of these was entitled Is the Bible the True Word of God?[4] and the second debate was Is Jesus God?.[4][15] Deedat then traveled to Denmark, where he held a debate with Pastor Eric Bock in Copenhagen, entitled Is Jesus God?[4]

[edit] Deedat and the Pope

In 1984 he challenged John Paul II to a public dialogue in the Vatican Square, but the Pope did not accept.[4] When the Pope stopped answering, Deedat distributed a pamphlet in January 1985 headlined His Holiness Plays Hide and Seek With Muslims.[16]

[edit] His Writings and Speeches

Cover of Ahmed Deedat's book The Choice
Deedat published and mass-produced over one dozen palm-sized booklets focusing on the following major themes.[17] Most of Deedat's numerous lectures, as well as most of his debates in fact, focus on and around these same themes. Often the same theme has several video lectures to its credit, having been delivered at different times and different places.
  • Is the Bible God's Word?[18]
  • What The Bible Says About Muhammad
  • Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?[19]
    • several smaller spin-off titles on specific aspects of Crucifixion
  • Muhammad: The Natural Successor to Christ
  • Christ in Islam[20]
  • Muhammad The Greatest
  • Al-Qur'an the Miracle of Miracles[21]
Capitalizing on his popularity in the Middle East following his receipt of the King Faisal Award, Deedat secured a grant to print a collated volume of four of his popular booklets. 10,000 copies of this book titled The Choice: Islam and Christianity were initially printed on April 1993;[22] this book was very popular in the 1990s, available for free at many missionary outlets across North America. Subsequently, several printing houses offered to print more, and within two years another 250,000 copies had been printed in several print runs across the Middle East.
Later, a second paperback volume entitled The Choice: Volume Two containing six more of Deedat's booklets was published. Deedat also widely promoted a South African printing of The Holy Qur'an translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali with commentary and detailed index. This was widely sold at subsidized cost to the general public, and is often mentioned in Deedat's speeches.
Deedat also produced a booklet entitled "Al-Qur'an: the Ultimate Miracle" featuring the theory of 'the Number 19' that was popularized by Arizona-based Egyptian computer analyst Dr. Rashad Khalifa. However, this booklet was withdrawn after Dr. Khalifa disclosed some controversial beliefs, including his rejection of the entire Hadith literature of Islam.[23]

[edit] Criticism

Deedat's debates and writings have been labelled a form of apologetics[2] by Lloyd V. J. Ridgeon, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Glasgow.
Muslim scholar Farid Esack has criticized Deedat, comparing him to such fundamentalists as Rabbi Meir Kahane and Jerry Falwell, and writing:[24]
Deedat's multitude of anti-Christian, anti-Jewish and anti-Hindu videotapes have told us all that there is to be told about the other, and we are comfortable with that. There are times, of course, when questions surface about the importance of correct dogma, about the importance of labels to a God whom we believe sees beyond labels and looks at the hearts of people. Instead of pursuing these questions, we hasten back and seek refuge in "the known." We order another of those Deedat tapes.[24]
The Stephen Roth institute for the study of contemporary antisemitism and racism calls Deedat "anti-Jewish" but does not elaborate.[25] In France sale and distribution of his books has been forbidden since 1994 as they are said to be violently anti-western, antisemitic and inciting to racial hate. [26]
Following his 1981 debate with Deedat, Josh McDowell released a book which included criticism of a number of Deedat's arguments from a Christian perspective.[27] Deedat responded to part of McDowell's book in chapters 17 and 19 of "Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction".[28]
In his last tour to Australia, the publicity resulting from the presence of Deedat caused Franca Arena, member of the Legislative Council of the government of New South Wales to comment in her speech concerning racism:
Of course, other victims of racism are often Australians who are visibly different, especially women who wear Muslim attire. While I condemn such attacks, I also condemn attacks against Christians by Muslims who come to Australia to sow the seed of religious hatred. In this regard I refer to Islamic evangelist Sheik Ahmed Deedat, a South African who, on Good Friday, spoke about Easter, indulged in bible-bashing and incited racial hatred. I am all for freedom of speech, but our leaders should show some understanding and, above all, respect for the views and beliefs of others. Australia can do without people like Sheik Deedat. I do not know why he came to Australia or why he adopted such a confrontationist approach on Good Friday at a big public meeting at Sydney Town Hall when he disparaged the Christian faith. I certainly do not support such an approach.[29]
Born Ahmed Hussein Deedat
July 1, 1918(1918-07-01)
Surat, Bombay Presidency, British India
Died August 8, 2005(2005-08-08) (aged 87)
Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Ethnicity Indian
Occupation Missionary, orator, public speaker, writer, furniture salesman
Years active 1942–1996
Religion Sunni Islam
Awards King Faisal International Prize (1986)
Website
ahmed-deedat.net

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