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Tributes for SA Muslim visionary and pioneer Dr Thokan

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The South African Muslim community is mourning the loss of Dr Shawkat Ali Thokan, a man considered the pioneer of the Islamic movement in South Africa. His death follows a period of illness. Dr Thokan was the driving force behind many of the national organizations in South Africa including Muslim youth movement, SANZAF, Islamic Medical Association and Awqaf SA. Dr Thokan played a pivotal role in the religious, educational and socio-economic progress of the Muslim community and society as a whole.  His contribution to Islamic organisations has transformed the Muslims community and has left a remarkable legacy.

“Shawkat, as we fondly called him, was not only co-founder of Awqaf SA but father, mentor, guide, over seer, always positively encouraging and motivating the establishment of institutions within the Muslim community. He stood firmly behind the establishment of Awqaf SA together with a team of dedicated and passionate professionals, businessmen, brothers and sisters,” says Awqaf CEO Zeinoul Abedien Cajee.

“At the outset, he provided the patronage and the platform through his Islamic Research Centre for the presentation of the blueprint for the most innovative and visionary institution that would impact not only on the lives of Muslims but also the broader community. And then also going beyond the borders of South Africa to many other countries. The seeds of waqf proliferation were planted deep…the trees never to be uprooted, still standing firm since 2000, still providing fruits, Alhamdulillah.”

Combining his medical practice with the demanding challenges of shaping the destiny of young Muslims via innovative socio-political projects which defined the dynamism of the MYM, was no easy task. Yet Dr Thokan excelled in doing so in his quest to make the voices and aspirations of the youth relevant, says long-time activist Iqbal Jassat.

“His humble demeanour and selfless commitment were outstanding qualities which endeared him to enthusiastic young members of the MYM, eager to confront societal challenges and injustices during the notorious era of apartheid,” he says.

Jassat says his legacy is the South African National Zakaah Fund (SANZAF), which today has become the dominant Zakaah institution in South Africa.

“It was a stormy ride, given the unfounded reservations by some clergy, but Dr Thokan weathered the storm in a calm and dignified manner. His leadership of the Islamic Movement which under the umbrella of the MYM gave rise and shelter to a host of national projects – from research to media, and from dawah to tarbiyya – was characterised by modesty, respect and integrity.”

Cajee says Sanzaf stands as a “monument and symbol of passionate persistence, commitment, dedication, vision and a yearning to succeed”.

“These are the values that he leaves behind… a legacy of a quiet and gentle soul…he was concerned about the trials and tribulations facing us both internally and externally. Even in his last years and days, he would still keep a caring eye over Awqaf SA and Sanzaf, attended meetings whenever he could or keep tele-contact, despite his illness. He even provided support to new initiatives such as The House of Ummah…an organisation that seeks to unite Muslims of all shades and colours … indeed a greater record of all his dreams, intentions, and deeds for the benefit of the Ummah and humanity are etched in his record with his Creator.”

In a statement, Sanzaf described him as a “great visionary” whose legacy will forever be engrained in the fabric and history of the organisation.

“As a deeply spiritual person with unwavering faith in Allah (SWT) his steadfastness and selfless service to humankind contributed to his founding of Sanzaf in the 1970’s. During his distinguished career, he was an ardent champion of those in need and worked tirelessly to further the advancement of the Ummah in creating unity and an environment for growth and development. He was an inspiration to both young and old and will be fondly remembered by all of those lives he has touched. This is not just a great loss for SANZAF but for the entire Ummah,” said Sanzaf.

Cajee says there are immense lessons to be learnt from Dr Thokan’s life and his broader struggles for humanity.

“Future generations must remember the sweat, blood, and tears, love and joy it took on his mission and journey in the path of Allah in the Islamic Movement his desire to support every positive action and activity within the Muslim Ummah.

“Dr Thokan has been an immense voice, strength and empowerment for our youth and community through the difficulties of the apartheid regime to overcoming the difficulties of poverty to this very day. He indeed has left a rich legacy of kindness, generosity and strength. He has lived this life with purpose, serving both Deen and the Ummah endlessly. He has left huge shoes with a remarkable example to those who continue to strive upon the path of our Beloved, peace and blessings be upon him,” said Madina Institute in a statement.

Dr Shawkat Ali Thokan was laid to rest at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg today.

May Allah SWT grant the good doctor Jannatul Firdaus Ameen and may these organisations be a form of Sadaqah Jariyah, Ameen. VOC


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