A LEGEND FROM UNITED KINGDOM (HE IS MUSLIM)
(Mohammed) Marmaduke Pickthall (1875–May 19, 1936)
He was a Western Islamic scholar, noted as a poetic translator of the Qur’an into English. A convert from Christianity to Islam, Pickthall was a novelist, esteemed by D. H. Lawrence, H. G. Wells, and E. M. Forster, as well as a journalist, headmaster, and political and religious leader. He declared his Islam in dramatic fashion after delivering a talk on ‘Islam and Progress’ on November 29, 1917, to the Muslim Literary Society in Notting Hill, West London. He was also involved with the services of the Woking Muslim Mission in the absence of Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, its founder.
Marmaduke was born in 1875 to Mary O’Brien and the Reverend Charles Grayson Pickthall, a comfortable middle class English family, whose roots trace back to a knight of William the Conqueror. On the death of his father, when Marmaduke was five, the family moved to London. He was a shy and sickly child, suffering from bronchitis. Educated at Brondesbury, he left after just six terms.
Pickthall travelled across many Eastern countries, gaining reputation as a Middle-Eastern scholar. A strong advocate of the Ottoman Empire even prior to declaring his faith as a Muslim, Pickthall studied the Orient, and published articles and novels on the subject, e.g. The Meaning of the Glorious Koran. While under the service of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Pickthall published his translation of the Qur’an, authorized by the Al-Azhar University and referred to by the Times Literary Supplement as “a great literary achievement.“
When a propaganda campaign was launched in the UK in 1915 over the massacres of Armenians, Pickthall rose to challenge it and argued that all the blame could not be placed on the Turkish government. At a time when many Indian Muslims in London had been co-opted by the Foreign Office to provide propaganda services in support of Britain’s war against Turkey, Pickthall’s stand was considered one of great integrity and courageous given the war climate. When British Muslims were asked to decide whether they were loyal to the Allies (Britain and France) or the Central Powers (Germany and Turkey), Pickthall said he was ready to be a combatant for his country so long as he did not have to fight the Turks. He was conscripted in the last months of the war and became corporal in charge of an influenza isolation hospital. The Foreign Office would have dearly liked to have used his talents as a linguist, but instead decided to regard him as a security risk.
In 1920 he went to India with his wife to serve as editor of the Bombay Chronicle, returning to England only in 1935, a year before his death at St Ives. It was in India that he completed his famous translation, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”.
Pickthall was buried in the Muslim cemetery at Brookwood in Surrey, England, where Abdullah Yusuf Ali was later buried. His legacy is of particular interest to Muslim converts.
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A LEGEND FROM SOUTH AFRICA (HE IS MUSLIM)
Sheikh Ahmed Hussein Deedat (July 1, 1918–August 8, 2005) was a South African Muslim scholar, charismatic public speaker and Islamic missionary of Indian descent. 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 internationally renown Islamic missionary organization under whose auspices Deedat wrote and mass produced several booklets on Islam and Christianity.
He was awarded the prestigious King Faisal Award in 1986 for his 50 years of missionary work. Deedat aimed at providing Muslims with theological tools for defending themselves against the intense missionary strivings of many Christian denominations. He used English instead of Arabic or any other language to get his message across to Muslim minorities in the western world.
Early Years 1918-1942
Ahmed Deedat was born in Gujarat, India in 1918. His father had emigrated to South Africa shortly after the birth of Ahmed Deedat. At the age of 9, Deedat went to join his father in what is now known as Kwazulu-Natal. His mother died few months after Deedat left for South Africa. Applying himself with diligence to his studies, Deedat was able to overcome the language barrier and excel in school, getting promotions until he completed standard 6. He had to start working at the age of 16.
In 1936, while working as a furniture salesman Deedat came across missionaries at a Christian seminary on the Natal South Coast. The missionaries in their efforts to convert people of Muslim faith, would often accuse the Prophet Mohammad of having “used the sword” to bring people to Islam. Such attacks were a major influence on Deedat’s subsequent interest in comparative religion.
Deedat got his first break when, while rummaging for reading material in his employer’s basement, he came across a book entitled “Izhar ul-Huqq” (Truth Revealed), written by Rahmatullah Kairanhvi. This book which chronicled the efforts of Christian missionaries in India from a century earlier. This book had a profound effect on Deedat who then purchased his first Bible and began holding debates and discussions with trainee missionaries, whose questions he had previously been unable to answer.
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 his classes, Mr. Fairfax offered to teach an extra session on the Bible and how to preach to Christians about Islam. Deedat and a few others were delighted at the opportunity. However, only a few months into the project, Mr. Fairfax had to pull out of his engagement, and Deedat, who was quite knowledgeable about the Bible already, took over teaching the class. Which he did for three whole years and later credited for expanding his horizons significantly towards missionary work.
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. 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 often their first look at Islam. Deedat himself featured as one of the guides, hosting tourists and giving succinct introductions to the Islamic Religion and the relationship between Islam and Christianity
IPCI and as-Salaam 1956-1986
By 1956, missionary work in the form of frequent public speaking engagements and the popular guided tours of the Jumma Masjid had begun to pay dividends. Enquiries about Islam from the general public in South Africa had started to pour 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 to facilitate an increasing number of people showing more than simply tourist level 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’. In 1957, Deedat, together with Vanker and Rasool, founded the Islamic Propagation Centre International (IPCI) with the aims to print a variety of books on Islam and offer classes to new Muslims converts.
In 1958, Deedat also established an Islamic seminary called As-Salaam Educational Institute on a donated 75-acre piece of land located in Braemar in the south of Natal province.
With these newly founded missionary organizations as his backbone, Deedat engaged into a broader range of activities over the next three decades. He conducted classes on Biblical Theology and conducted numerous lectures. Da`wah (inviting people towards Islam) became the dominant factor of his life, with the audiences at his lectures reaching forty thousand. He later also went on to write a large number of booklets, distributing millions of copies of free literature and pamphlets across the world, conducted classes on Bible studies and also delivered numerous lectures and held debates on varied topics of Islam, Christianity and Judaism to large numbers of audiences.
International Fame 1985-1995
By the early 1980s, Ahmed Deedat’s works was beginning to be known outside his native South Africa. In 1985, he twice rented the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London to debate in front of a packed audience. In 1986, he was awarded the King Faisal Award for his services to Islam in the field of Dawah (Islamic missionary activity). The award squarely brought Deedat into the limelight and the attention of the international community. At the ripe old age of 66, Deedat began a new phase in his lifetime mission of preaching to Christians, a ten-year long period of international speaking tours around the world. Travelling far and wide to Muslim communities from Australia at one end to North America at the other end. Some of his known tours include:
- Saudi Arabia and Egypt (on several occasions)
- United Kingdom (on several occasions between 1985 and 1988)
- Pakistan, where Deedat met Zia al-Haq, UAE and Maldives Islands (Nov-Dec 1987), where Deedat was honored by President Gayhoom.
- Switzerland (March 1987 where he spoke in Geneva)
- 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)
- Australia Tour (his last tour in early 1996 just before his stroke)
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, and which also meant that he could no longer speak or swallow. He was flown to King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, where he was reported to be fully alert and hence taught to communicate through a series of eye-movements via a chart whereby he would form words by acknowledging individual alphabets read out to him; this way he would form complete sentences.
He spent the last nine years of his life in a bed in his home in Verulam, South Africa, encouraging people to engage in Da’wah (Islam propagation). He was looked after by his wife, Hawa Deedat, and was reported to have no bed-sores at all. He continued to receive hundreds of letters of support from around the world, but was a target to many missionaries who tried to convert him to Christianity, to which he replied -via head and eye movements- with verses from the Bible. In October 2002 Deedat was visited by Reverend Naidoo who requested Deedat to let him read a verse of the Bible in order to inspire him and pray for his healing. Deedat in turn, through his eye-movements—the sole method of communication he had been taught at King Faisal Specialist Hospital after being paralyzed—asked him to read out and explain the moral of the event described in Genesis 19:30.For this the Reverend had no answer and thereafter left the place. A similar later attempt at converting Deedat was made by a young Christian gym owner named Ringo who claimed he could heal Deedat through a miracle by saying “Jesus heal him! Rise up!”, however Deedat quoted Matthew 7:21 and then asked him “Why would Jesus tell you this when you came to do such a noble job?”
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.
His Writings and Speeches
Deedat published and mass produced over one dozen palm-sized booklets focusing on the following major themes. Deedat then proceeded to record video lectures on the same topics, multiple copies of which are available featuring different locations from his many tours mentioned earlier. Most of his debates also focus on and around the same material below.
- Is the Bible God’s Word?
- What The Bible Says About Muhammad
- Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?
- several smaller spin-off titles on specific aspects of Crucifixion
- Muhammad: The Natural Successor to Christ
- Christ in Islam
- Muhammad The Greatest
- Al-Qur’an the Miracle of Miracles
In using the Bible as his primary source of evidence, Deedat in his writings on Crucifixion subscribes to the swoon hypothesis.
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 booklets. 100,000 copies of this book titled The Choice: Islam and Christianity were initially printed in a very high quality HB ‘silk paper’ edition with a striking burgundy cover with gold embossed title. This book was very popular in the 1990s, often available for free at missionary outlets across North America.
Later, a second volume in plain PB entitled The Choice: Volume Two came out featuring six more of Deedat’s booklets collated together. 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 made available at subsidized costs 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 later withdrawn from circulation after Dr. Khalifa publicly disclosed some controversial beliefs including his rejection of the entire Hadith literature of Islam.
In 1987, Deedat refuted rumors in South Africa that he was a Qadiani and was distributing a Tafseer of the Qur’aan attributed to a well-known Qadian, Muhammad Asad, by issuing a public statement clarifying his stand, re-stating his view that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad al-Qadiani was a ‘Kaafir’ (i.e. non Muslim), and so were his followers.
Deedat also held a combined lecture with ex-missionary Gary Miller (now Abdul-Ahad Omar) and ex-Catholic cleric James Cunningham -who converted after debating with him- about Islam and Christianity (Please visit this site to know more about Mr. Deedat – www.ahmed–deedat.co.za & www.peacetv.in )
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A LEGEN FROM UNITED STATES OF AMERICAN (HE IS MUSLIM)
Brother “YUSUF ESTES”
He was born on 1st January 1944 in Ohio, grew up in Texas.
He is an American convert to Islam and former National Muslim Chaplain for the United States Bureau of Prisons and Delegate to the United Nations World Peace Conference for Religious Leaders.
Yusuf Estes was brought up in Houston in a Protestant Christian family; members of the Disciples of Christ.
From 1962 to 1990, his career was in the music industry, entertainment, marketing, as a music instructor and music minister and owned several musical instrument companies including the Estes Piano and Organ Company. He produced and directed live entertainment programs throughout the United States from the mid 1960’s until his last endeavor for cable TV in Florida, entitled ‘Estes Music Jamboree’.
Conversion to Islam
In 1991, Estes had business dealings with a Muslim named Mohamed from Egypt. In trying to preach Christianity to Mohamed, Skip Estes learned about the religion of Islam first-hand and then converted to Islam. He has since pursued Arabic language and Qur’anic studies in Egypt, Morocco and Turkey.
Since 2004, Yusuf Estes has been regularly appearing on Islam Channel in the UK, as well as Peace TV and on Huda TV which are 24/7 Islamic channels broadcasting in many countries around the globe, via satellite and the website WatchIslam.com TV Channels.
His latest efforts are directed toward English speaking Muslim youth and include Muslims sharing videos, and Muslim Chatroom and for young children Preschool Learning
His latest Television series is aimed toward English speaking children of Muslim parents and is entitled, “Qasas Ul Anbiya” – Stories of the Prophets.
His Islamic activities have included:
- Volunteer Imam in a Texas military installation.
- National U.S. Chaplain for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, starting 1994.
- Delegate to the United Nations Peace Summit for Religious Leaders in August 2000.
- University guest speaker ( including Carnegie Mellon Qatar)
- Television program producer and director, preacher, syndicated television programs on satellite and cable networks.
- Developing many hi-tech Islamic websites, including chatrooms, video conferencing, news sites, reference sites and entertainment sites for youth.
- Estes takes a dim view of public education in the United States for Muslim children, and recommends schools where they might receive an Islamic education as well as a more advanced scholastic education too. (Please visit to this site to know about Mr. Yusuf Estes www.islamtomorrow.com & also See in Peace Television)
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A LEGEND FROM INDIA (HE IS MUSLIM)
Dr. ZAKIR NAIK – PRESIDENT, IRF
A medical doctor by professional training, Dr. Zakir Naik is renowed as a dynamic international orator on Islam and Comparative Religion. Dr. Zakir Naik clarifies Islamic viewpoints and clears misconceptions about Islam, using the Qur’an, authentic Hadith and other religious Scriptures as a basis, in conjunction with reason, logic and scientific facts. He is 43 years old.
Dr. Zakir is popular for his critical analysis and convincing answers to challenging questions posed by audiences after his public talks. In the last 12 years (by the year 2008), Dr. Zakir Naik has delivered mo re than 1200 public talks in the U.S.A., Canada, U.K., Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, South Africa, Italy, Mauritius, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong, Thailand, Guyana (South America), Trinidad and many other countries, in addition to numerous public talks in India.
He has successfully participated in several symposia and dialogues with prominent personalities of other faiths. His public dialogue with Dr. William Campbell (of USA), on the topic, “The Qur’an and the Bible in the light of Science” held in city of Chicago, U.S.A., on April 1, 2000 was a resounding success.
His Interfaith Dialogue with prominent Hindu Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on the topic ‘The Concept of God in Hinduism and Islam in the light of Sacred Scriptures’ held at Palace Grounds, Bangalore, on 21st Jan. 2006, was highly appreciated by people of both the faiths.
In the issue dated 22nd Feb. 2009 of the Indian Express list of the “100 Most Powerful Indians in 2009” amongst the billion plus population of India, Dr. Zakir Naik was ranked No. 82. In the special list of the “Top 10 Spiritual Gurus of India” Dr. Zakir Naik was ranked No. 3, after Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, being the only Muslim in the list.
Dr. Zakir Naik stood out most eloquently for Islam and Muslims in the present times on one of the leading and most respected News Channel of India, NDTV 24 x 7, during the ‘Guest this week’ interview programme “Walk the Talk” conducted by host Shekhar Gupta (Editor-in-Chief of Indian Express) telecast on 7th and 8th March 2009.
Sheikh Ah med Deedat, the world famous orator on Islam and Comparative Religion, who had called Dr. Zakir, “Deedat plus” in 1994, presented a plaque in May 2000 awarded to Dr. Zakir Abdul-Karim Naik for his achievement in the field of Da’wah and the study of Comparative Religion with the engraving “Son what you have done in 4 years had taken me 40 years to accomplish, Alhamdullilah.”
Dr. Zakir Naik appears regularly on many international T.V. Channels in more than 200 countries of the world. He is regularly invited for T.V. and Radio interviews. More than a hundred of his talks, dialogues, debates and symposia are available on VCDs and DVDs. He has authored books on Islam and Comparative Religion. www.peacetv.in