Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Renowned S African Muslim cleric dies

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Famed South African Islamic thinker and preacher Shaikh Ahmed Deedat has passed away at the age of 87 after a long struggle with illness.

Deedat, who died on Monday in the South African city of Durban, suffered a stroke in 1996 and had been bedridden ever since.

His stroke came shortly after a trip to Australia, a momentous tour on which he gave one of his most passionate talks, Easter: A Muslim Viewpoint.

Known particularly for his work on comparative religions, Deedat was the founder of the Islamic Propagation Centre International (IPCI), the largest Islamic dawah organisation in the world. Dawah means to spread knowledge of Islam.

He published more than 20 books, and distributed millions of copies and audio tapes free in the hope of spreading knowledge. Deedat's debates have been translated into various languages in video and DVD format.

He delivered thousands of lectures globally.

"It is on this solemn occasion of his demise that we salute the courageous spirit and phenomenal work of this world-renowned personality, a hero of the Muslim world, nay, a true hero of believers all around the globe," a statement from IPCI said.

Big names

His career in comparative religion involved him in dialogue with the heads of the Protestant church in America and the late Pope John Paul II.

In the 1980s, Deedat was known for his debates with the priest Jimmy Swaggart and he had been refused entry to France and Nigeria on the grounds his opinions might cause civil unrest.

He was awarded the prestigious King Faisal Award in 1986 for service to Islam.

Deedat was born on 1 July 1918 in the Surat district of India.

He emigrated with his father to South Africa in 1927 and settled in Durban, where he will be buried later on Monday.

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