Deedat: the mission continues
Undeterred by a stroke which has left him paralysed, Shaykh Ahmed Deedat continues to inspire many from his bed in Verulam, KwaZulu Natal. Even now after his passing away 7 years ago, he continues to speak from his grave. Go on to You Tube and the the word shall pass by that the dead shall speak to the living.
On the 26th of October 2002, at 7.30 in the morning, Reverend Naidoo made his way to 49 Trevennen Road in Verulam, KwaZulu Natal. His mission was clear: to convert Shaykh Ahmed Deedat to Christianity.
“Mr. Deedat, can I pray for you in the name of Jesus?” he began. “If I pray for you in his name, you will rise up and walk. You will speak in his name.”
“Can I read for you from the Holy Bible a verse of inspiration so that he (Jesus) may heal you?” he asked.
Shaykh Aheed Deedat’s response, conveyed via eye movements, is recorded in a black notebook which lies at his bedside. “Mr. Naidoo,” he said, “Please read for me Genesis Chapter 19 Verse 30.”
Reverend Naidooo could hardly contain his excitement. “Dear Jesus, speak through the eyes!” he said, as he opened to the relevant page, and read: “And Lot went up out of Zo’ar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughter with him; for he feared to dwell in Zo’ar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father…”
Again, using a series of eye movements, Shaykh Deedat asked, “What is the moral of the story? What do you learn from it?”
Reverend Naidoo, rendered speechless, left, without answering the question, his mission having failed miserably.
Many before and after him have met a similar fate. Ringo, a young Christian bodybuilder, and owner of a gym, visited Shaykh Deedat, hoping to ‘heal’ him.
Claiming that the spirit of Jesus lived within him, he said he would perform a miracle at the bedside of Shaykh Deedat. “Jesus heal him! Rise up!” he shouted, simultaneously engaging in a series of hand gestures. Shaykh Deedat observed the proceedings form his bed, before communicating a message to Ringo. Again, his message came from the Bible: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in the day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart form me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew: 7)
“Why would Jesus tell you this when you came to do such a noble job?” he asked. Ringo said he would return within a few days, says Yousuf, Shayk Ahmed’s son.
And so in the seven years spent lying in his bed, unable to move, speak or eat, as Shaykh Ahmed Deedat, now 85 years old, sent many a Christian missionary packing. “Every week, people from different faiths and denominations, come in, or write in, to preach their religions to my father,” says Yousuf. “In every instance, he throws a scud missile at them.”
Many have been embarrassed and silenced, others have been inspired and mesmerised. Like Sabiha says meeting Shaykh Deedat, and reading his books, played a vital role in her reversion to Islam, 20 years ago. “I was in awe of the stately man who sat behind the desk,” she says, in a letter to him. “You epitomised what I expected Islam to represent – your calm demeanour and comfortable disposition encapsulated the essence of the dignity of Islam – and I left positively and pleasantly imbued with the spirit of Islam.” Sabiha made a decision to write to Shaykh Deedat on a regular basis, after visiting him at his home. From her letters it is clear that even in his present state of paralysis, Shaykh Deedat continues to inspire her. “No one can look as majestic or profound as you do on a sick bed,” she writes. “Surely that in itself is evidence that Allah is indeed well pleased with your life’s work.”
Tamara and Ahmed, are a young married couple, who have found their way to Verulam, using a map. Their lives, too, have been touched by Shaykh Deedat. “I had borrowed his tapes from a fried of mine’s in the States,” remembers Ahmed. “I couldn’t believe that someone who wasn’t born with the Arabic tongue, could have such a deep understanding of the Qur’an.” Ahmed, an Egyptian, met Tamara in the United States – she had gone there as an au pair; he was working in the franchising industry. Tamara, at the time a devout Christian, married Ahmed, and was first introduced to the works of Shaykh Deedat, shortly thereafter, when a colleague, who was a revert to Islam began lending her his booklets and video tapes. She later accepted Islam, and after the events following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Centre, moved to South Africa with her husband. “When I first met Ahmed, and told him that I lived in Durban, he was really excited and he said, ‘You come from Deedat’s city.’ I had no idea what he was speaking about,” laughs Tamara. “He couldn’t believe that I didn’t know.”
The many visitors like Tamara and Ahmed, are warmly welcomed at the Deedat home. Sundays, Yousuf says, is a really busy day. I find myself wondering if the endless visits tire Shaykh Deedat out; if they pose something of an inconvenience to him. But when I ask the question, I am met with resolute eye movement to the left – this means, “No.”
Unsatisfied, I ask, “What do they mean to you?’ I wait expectantly, anticipating a long and meaningful it is. His eyes spell out a single word: “Joy.”
Joy and blessing are concepts central to his world. I ask him how theses past seven years have passed him by. Surely it must be difficult for him to have spent decades travelling the world, delivering lectures and debating, and then to abruptly find himself confined to a bed?
“I count my blessings,” he says. Yousuf explains that his father is referring to one of his favourite verses in the Qur’an, from Surah Ar-Raman: “And which of the favours of your Lord do you deny?”
Amongst these blessings is an 80-year-old wife, unable to read or write, who single-handedly monitors his blood sugar levels, calculates the insulin he requires and administers his injections. It is difficult to believe that as a young man in his late twenties, Shaykh Deedat was initially reluctant to marry Aunty Hawa. She speaks Gujarati and Zulu fluently, and has managed to tell Tamara and Ahmed everything about the Deedat family, in broken English. The feast she lays out for us – samoosas, savoury rolls, cakes and cardamom tea – bears testament to superb culinary skills. And her exuberant personality overpowers even my five-year-old cousin Hamza, who seemed to have lost his tongue the moment he met Shaykh Deedat. She whisks him away into her lounge, and brings out a collection of her husband’s trophies for him to play wit, whilst feeding him from a bowl of fruit.
Yousuf Deedat informs us that his mother was actually the 34th woman Shaykh Deedat had been to see, when he had decided to get married. “The other 33 turned him down,” he laughs. He later informs me, that his father has told him to set the record straight: it was not the women who turned him down; rather it was their families who had refused him.
The sense of humour, which his audiences had grown accustomed to, is still there. More often that not, it is accompanied by a hearty, infectious laugh, which seems to emanate from the deep recesses of his throat. It is almost a guffaw – a mixture of a wheeze and a groan. It is the only response I get when I innocently ask a question, “Were you ever swayed by the arguments of your many Christian opponents?” The guffaw comes again when I comment on the Qur’anic ayah which is affixed to the mirror at his bedside: “And (remember) Ayyub when he cried to his Rabb, ‘Truly distress as seized me, but You are the Most Merciful’.” (Surah Ambiya:83) This time, the guffaw isn’t a laugh.
He guffaws too, when I tell him that an internet search engine calls up more than 12,900 web pages, when it is instructed to search for his name. This time I’m not sure whether it’s a laugh or a cry.
He asks me to tell the many who enquire and wonder about him, that he is ‘feeling quite well.’ He asks me to tell them to call people to Islam. “Read my books and listen to my tapes,” he says.
He doesn’t think back to the days of old, when he used to travel around the world, calling people to Islam, he says. Rather, he looks forward to the future. What is it that he’s looking forward to, I ask. This answer is considerably longer than the others. “My great lecture on the concept of God in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” Transfixed, I ask him where the lecture will be held, half-expecting him to say something like “In the hereafter,” or “On the Day of Judgement.” But there is nothing confusing about the answer. “All over the world,” he replies.