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The Life of Sheikh ‘Abdur Rahman As-Sumayt

The Ummah may soon lose one of it’s most eminent personalities with the illness of Dr Abdur Rahman As-Sumayt. At almost sixty four years of age, he was a true luminary who strove to uphold and make the Word of Allah uppermost. More than seven million people are said to have accepted Islam through his efforts in Africa. He spent more than twenty nine years of his life propagating Islam in the African continent; participating in the construction of approximately 5,700 mosques, provisioning care for than 15,000 orphans, the drilling of around 9,500 artesian wells and the establishment of 860 schools, 4 universities and 204 Islamic centres.

Life and Upbringing

His full name is Abdur Rahman bin Hamood As-Sumayt, a well-known Kuwaiti Islamic daa’ee (caller to Islam) and founder of the Kuwait based charity, “Direct Aid Organization” (جمعية العون المباشر) previously known as the Africa Muslim Agency (لجنة مسلمي أفريقيا). He served as its President of the Board of Directors as well as the Chairman of Research and Islamic Studies. Born in Kuwait in 1947, he was a qualified doctor specialising in internal diseases and gastroenterology, before becoming involved in charity work; graduating from the University of Baghdad with a Bachelors degree in Medicine and Surgery then going on to obtain a diploma in Tropical Diseases from the University of Liverpool in 1974 then completing his postgraduate studies specialising in internal diseases and the digestive system at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

Throughout his life As-Sumayt was awarded a vast number of honours, awards, trophies and certificates, in acknowledgement of his efforts in charity work. This included one of the highest most prestigious awards, the King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam; the beneficiaries of which also donated 750 Thousand Saudi Riyals as an endowment for the education of the children of Africa. The fruits of this endowment are visible today by way of a large number of Africans who received and are continuing to receive education at various universities throughout the continent.

The pursuit of his vision however was not always a smooth task, often he was faced with dangerous and perilous situations. As-Sumayt was the target of several unsuccessful assassination attempts by various armed militias perturbed by his wide reaching and overwhelming presence and influence amidst the poor and needy, as well as a number of close calls with the deadly cobra which almost took his life on more than one occasion in Mozambique, Kenya and Malawi, being saved by Allah each time. He was also subjected to the hardship of imprisonment, the worst of which came at the hands of Arab Ba’athists.

A quarter of a century of his life was spent in undertaking his charitable works in Africa, returning to Kuwait only for short visits or to receive medical treatment. He remained undeterred by obstacles and undertook a number of trips deep into the African jungles and subjected himself to the dangers and terrors of travel through its remote forests (in order to carry out his work). These were selfless actions which can be considered to be from the acts of a living martyrdom frequently subjecting himself to danger in his relentless efforts to bring peace, aid and relief to Africa; be it with a loaf of bread in his hand (food), or a lamp (essential supplies) or a book (education).

As Dr Sumayt advanced in age, his physical armaments began to weaken; his body afflicted by high blood pressure, diabetes and a number of blood clots (once in his heart and twice in the brain) as well as two bouts of Malaria. None of these affected his resolve as his spiritual armaments, the armament of faith with which As-Sumayt drew upon to fight his battles in the path of Allah for the weak, destitute and needy and to overcome his obstacles, remained strong, firmly lodged in his heart.

His Work

Dr Sumayt helped establish or participated in a plethora of professional and charitable organisations throughout his lifetime. These include:
·       Founder and chairman of a branch of the Muslim Physicians Society, United States of America and Canada 1976, East Canada Branch.
·       Founding member of the Montreal branch of the Muslim Students Society, 1974-1976.
·       Founding member, Malawi Muslims Committee – Kuwait 1980
·       Founding member, Kuwaiti Relief Committee.
·       Founding member, International Islamic Charity Authority – Kuwait
·       Founding member, International Islamic Council for Call & Relief – Kuwait.
·       Member of Charity Rescue Society – Kuwait.
·       General Secretary of the African Muslims Committee, 1981 – 1999.
·       Chairman of Direct Aid, 1999 – 2008.
·       Member of the Kuwaiti Red Crescent Society – Kuwait.
·       Editor –in- chief of Al Kawther Magazine, 1984 until his passing.
·       Member of the council of trustees of Islamic Call Organization- Sudan.
·       Member of the council of trustees of Science & Technology University – Yemen.
·       Chairman of the board of Faculty of Education – Zangbar
·       Chairman of the board of Faculty of Shari’ah and Islamic Studies- Kenya
·       Chairman of Charity Work Studies Center – Kuwait

His Journey towards Compassion for the Poor

Dr Abdur Rahman As-Sumayt’s journey towards his compassion for the poor and needy began during his days as a high school student in Kuwait. He would observe poor workers waiting without shade in the extreme heat for their transport to arrive. Moved by this scene, together with some friends he collected some money and purchased an old car. From then on every single day, he would drive these workers for free; an act stemming from his mercy and compassion for them.

At university he would set aside the majority of his monthly stipend for the purchase of Islamic books which he would then distribute at various mosques. He once received an academic grant of forty two dinars yet would not eat more than one meal a day and would not ‘indulge’ in sleeping on a bed, even though the price of one was not more than two dinars; considering it to be an unnecessary luxury. During his postgraduate studies in the West, he would collect money every month from Muslim students to pay for the printing of Islamic pamphlets and then would have them distributed throughout South East Asia and Africa. These are just a small number of examples of his earliest righteous actions.

Detention and Imprisonment

As-Sumayt twice was imprisoned. The first time was in Baghdad in 1970, almost being executed. The second time was in 1990 when he was arrested by Iraqi intelligence forces during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He was completely unaware of what his fate would be at the time. They shipped him to Baghdad where he faced severe torture to the extent that flesh from his face, hands and feet tore off, yet he remained steadfast and patient. Later in his life when looking back at this terrible ordeal he stated, “I had no doubt whatsoever that I would not die except at the moment Allah had ordained for me”, demonstrating his unswerving reliance upon His Lord.

As-Sumayt’s keen interest and concern for Africa in particular developed as a result of a field study carried out by the African Muslim Agency which confirmed that millions in the continent knew nothing about Islam except myths, legends and unfounded superstitions. As a result of this the people, and in particular their children, became vulnerable to Christian evangelisation. This was already the case with tens of thousands in countries such as Tanzania, Malawi, Madagascar, South Sudan, Kenya, Niger and others, who had converted to Christianity, affiliating themselves with this religion even though their parents and forefathers were all Muslim.

As-Sumayt firmly believed that Islam precedes all theories, all ideologies, all cultures and civilisations when it comes to social and humanitarian voluntary work (as well as in every other sphere). His story dates back to his return to Kuwait at the completion of his post graduate studies. It is here in his home country that he witnessed an enormous potential for charity that lay dormant, a capacity he wished to split asunder so that that it’s benefits would pour forth and rain help, aid and goodness upon those most in need of it. Thus he proceeded to the Ministry of Endowments and presented to the officials his desire to participate in charity work. However the immense amount of beauracracy and red tape he was forced to deal with almost nullified his headstrong efforts and nearly killed off his enthusiasm. Despite this eventually he was willed by Allah to travel to Malawi to help build and setup a mosque on behalf of a charitable female Kuwaiti benefactor.

Upon his arrival he witnessed first hand the scene of millions of human beings slowly being killed by hunger, poverty, ignorance, backwardness and disease. He also witnessed the literal fall of the Muslims under the influence of Christian missionaries, who gave them crumbs to eat and education for their children in their own missionary schools. Hence forthwith a deep love for this spot took root within him, settling over his heart and conscience, taking control of his thinking and shaping his actions for what was soon to come.

Humble Beginnings

As-Sumayt began his foray into charity and da’wah; his efforts to raise up and advance the poor and needy of Africa from the humblest of beginnings while still in Kuwait, completely enveloped by great aspirations. This was during the late 1970’s. He initially spent three months toiling wearily in earnest, networking with many many people yet despite his arduous efforts and the sheer amount of wealth present in a rich nation such as Kuwait, he was only able to collect the sum of a thousand dollars. As disappointed as he was he refused to raise the white flag and give up just yet. He decided to change his strategy by instead shifting his attention from the rich and upper class to the middle class masses, in particular the female demographic. He soon realised that this was the great treasure of Abdur Rahman As-Sumayt that had been lost to him, and by the Grace of Allah it had been unlocked and bestowed upon him after three difficult and lean months.

With provision in hand he finally set off vigorously in pursuit of his dream of uplifting and changing forever the African continent; a place many would associate with desolation and barrenness. Yet it is only the eagerest souls, in love with challenge and adventure, who actively seek out such trials. A challenge that would eventually result in a resounding success by any standard.

Commencement of the Islamic Call

Amongst the things that affected As-Sumayt the most, such that he would be frequently brought to tears, was something that occurred regularly in areas he would visit. Upon his arrival into a new area he would successfully convert a large number of the youth into Islam. Many of which would cry profusely, their emotions overtaking them as they reflected upon the passing of their parents who died as non-Muslims. They would often ask the questions, “Where were you O Muslims! What took you so long to finally reach us after all these years!” As-Sumayt would weep bitterly over these words as he would feel a sense of partial responsibility and accountability for those who died upon disbelief.

As-Sumayt left behind him a life of ease, comfort and abundant wealth and moved to Africa with his wife, who was also a prominent figurehead in her field. They took residence in a very humble abode in the city of Manakara in Madagascar, close to the indigenous “Antaimoro” tribe. The two of them alone began inviting to Islam, an invitation whose hallmark was humanitarian work with pure intentions, enshrined in principles of mercy and compassion. As a result, thousands accepted Islam. The two of them continued to live amongst different peoples in villages and forests, providing them with medical, social and educational services. More importantly, As-Sumayt implanted the love of bestowal and magnanimity and the art of leadership to all those around him, becoming among the most distinguished in this methodology. A methodology he adopted from his wife; a woman who donated her entire wealth and estate for the benefit of their humanitarian work.

As-Sumayt vowed to himself that he would spend the rest of his life here in Africa, calling to Allah. Frequently he would travel long distances by road and sometimes would spend up to forty hours on a train journey, eating nothing but bits of bread he had with him. He would even visit extremely remote areas, hours away from the nearest roads having to traverse forests, thick dark frightening jungles, desolate rivers in tiny boats and unpleasant swamps, in order to reach them. Whenever he would reach a village he would gather the people and say,

ربي الله الواحد الأحد الذي خلقني ورزقني وهو الذي يميتني ويحييني.”

“My Lord is Allah, the One, the Absolute. He Created me, Sustains me and is the One who will cause me to die and once again, give me life.”

This statement is concise and powerful yet simple to understand and remember. Through the power of these words and their deep meaning, a great number accepted Islam.

As-Sumayt’s methods of da’wah were wide ranging and varied. One specific method he used was to buy new clothing and present them as gifts to the heads and elders of any village he entered, as a way of softening their hearts towards Islam. He would gift the children with sweets hoping simply to bring them happiness. He fully involved himself with the people, becoming familiar with the life of African villages and the various tribes, the issues that affected them as well as their customs and traditions. He was known to bring his workers to account with extreme precision for each and every little thing and was the most stringent with his own self, right down to the food of the orphans even. He would say,

“It is not possible for me to indulge in (or be negligent towards) a single riyal of the money donated by the people for charity”

Every evening just after nightfall, As-Sumayt would observe the various study circles in which the orphan children would be gathered to study and recite the Qur’an, as a reassurance of the progress of their hifdh, smiling at them proudly as he did so. After the ‘Isha prayer he would once again check up on the children to make sure they were all safely asleep. Whenever he was questioned about his extreme dedication and workmanship he would say,

“My dear brother, we are not awaiting the reward or approval of any individual. We are busy in fieldwork and are awaiting nothing except the acceptance of our deeds by Allah”

Dr As-Sumayt mentioned once in a Kuwaiti newspaper, “We rarely offer cash to the poor. Rather we offer development projects such as opening a small grocery store or the provision of sewing machines or the establishment of fish farms. This generates a regular income for the people and helps lift them out of poverty. This kind of help leaves the greatest impact upon them and as such is the most helpful in guiding them to Islam.”

The efforts of Abdul Rahman al-Sumayt resulted in the conversion to Islam of at least 10 million people including tens of thousands from tribes which became Muslim in their entirety, tribal leaders and even propagators of other religions who in turn, themselves became callers to Islam. As well as receiving deliverance from the good doctor, by the Grace of Allah, he contributed in helping them through the provision of housing, employment, hospitals, schools and the fulfilment of many other needs.

More than seven million people in the African continent alone accepted Islam through him. Some directly and others, indirectly through his efforts and the hard work of his ambitious team. The “Direct Aid Organisation” which he had set up there, soon became the largest global organisation in all of Africa. There are currently more than half a million students studying in their educational institutes including four major universities, as well as a large number of broadcasts and publications. They dug more than 8,600 wells and trained more than 4,000 Islamic callers, teachers and academics in this time period. He helped transform the lives of thousands who were able to go from being recipients of charity and Zakah to fully able donators. Firmly keeping his faith at the root of his principles, he kept the Islamic methodology as the backbone of his endeavours in creating sustainable development of nations and peoples.

No Stranger to Harm or Hardship

He would take frequent long journeys spending twenty or so hours in a car in order to reach extremely remote places and sometimes would even travel on foot through mud and wetlands. Dangers were always apparent and he, his wife and his children many a time were exposed to volatile and potentially harmful situations. One time he passed by a large gathering of people (not knowing why they had gathered) when he sat down next to them out of fatigue after a long journey. Suddenly, one by one each member of the gathering came to him and began spitting on his face! Shocked, he later found out that indeed the gathering was a tribal ‘court hearing’ to which outsiders are strictly forbidden from entering!

Another more dangerous encounter took place when As-Sumayt and his wife met a tribe for the very first time. These people were so shocked (for some strange reason) at the site of a woman in hijab, they wanted to attack her and almost killed her had they not sprinted back to the car (and gotten away)!

Lessons from his Legacy

It is worth mentioning that when Steve Jobs was close to his death, there was hardly an individual (in general) who did not comment on it or searched Google to learn more about his life and achievements, or discussed his contributions to culture and civilisation at large. So here we are, having heard a man who was both uncommon and unparalleled in this day and age (in his life and work) and thus it is his right upon us that we learn about him through his life story.

May Allah bestow His Infinite Mercy upon you and grant you an abode in Al-Firdaus in the company of the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs and the truly righteous. What an excellent companionship they are!

So who now will carry forth the life story of this man to every place? A beautiful biography that will leave a person amazed, shocked even and questioning his own self.

Now the real question remains……what have we put forth (for the life to come)?

 

 

Notes: Translated by Ejaz Taj 
Sources: www.islam21c.com
Islam21c requests all the readers of this article, and others, to share it on your facebook, twitter, and other platforms to further spread our efforts.


 

About Ejaz Taj

41 comments

  1. May Allaah SwT have mercy in him and forgive him of his sins. May he count him among the forerunners and grant him Jannatul Firdaus Al-‘Alaa..Allaahumma ameen!

  2. May allaha Grant Him Jannathul firdouse with company of beloved prophet muhammed (saw) May allaha give us the same & forgive umma of prophet muhammed (SAW) Ameen Ya rabbal alameen

  3. Still alive?
    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    It seems he is still alive and 64 is not a huge age in these times, particularly if you live in a country with good healthcare like Kuwait. Is he ill? We should not be writing about him as if he is at death’s door if he is healthy or only mildly ill.

  4. Noufal Mohammed

    Mr
    Assalamualikum, it is very surprising that a man from the state of Kuwait for people of Africa. Very inspiring story to be remembered and He will have all our pray for him. may Allah rise his position in jannah and May Allah help us to get that quality of Daawa and get a place in jannah.
    Ameen.

  5. Subhanallah!
    May Allah bless him and heal our Dear Shaikh, May SWT rewards him with the best of rewards, amin. this wonderful and incredible, it reawarking the fire in me, coz this is my dream, this what i always wanted to do,but i’m limited for being a woman, but InshaAllah, my son must do something like this, bi iznillah. Jazakumullhu Bi Kharin.

  6. If he isn’t dead, don’t already burry him, come on!!

  7. allahouma ashfi sheikh abdur rahman as sumayt (oh allah bestow cure upon…to be said in sujjod,between the adhaan and iqaama,last 1/3 of the night…). giving in charity is a means of cure for our sick..

  8. A truly INSPIRING life, BaarakaAllah feek.
    As Sallam aleykum warahmatullahi wabarakaatuh
    May Allah have mercy on him.
    Insha Allah,we will always remember him in our sujuud prayer.
    Jazaka Allah kheiran for sharing with us.
    wa salaam aleykum wrahmatullahi wabarakaatuh

  9. mr
    ” … and are awaiting nothing except acceptance of our deeds by Allah.” As pointed out by the article. May Allah grant Dr. Sumayt that which he wants. Ameen


  10. Brought tears to my eyes… His reward is with Allah Ta’ala.

    Do we know how he is doing though? I pray that he is still alive.

  11. The shaykh is still alive
    Assalamu alaikum

    I’m not sure why my previous comment wasn’t approved. Anyway as I said, the shaykh is still alive alhamdulillah angst is getting treated in germany at the moment

  12. THE SHAIKH IS NOT DEAD
    He is in critical condition as the rumor spread of his death on 20th Dec, his son responded to the show, see the clip below. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKzUXNExTyc&feature=player_embedded

  13. Update/edit the article
    Jazaka’Allahu khair for the update of article.
    but still the article is making it sound as the Dr passed away!!
    from the comments from people , people are getting the impression he died!!

    “May Allah bestow His Infinite Mercy upon you and grant you an abode in Al-Firdaus in the company of the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the martyrs and the truly righteous. What an excellent companionship they are! ”

    So please make it clear that HE’S STILL ALIVE AND THE MUSLIMS TO MAKE DUA FOR HIM!

  14. habiba mahamud

    ALLAHU AKBAR subhana ALLAH what an inspiring human being may ALLAH subahana wata’ala bestowe him his mercy and grant the sheikh and his family janatul fardawsal aclaa and may ALLAH accept all his good deeds and make his ending husnil qaatima ALLAHUMA AAMIIN

  15. Please all Make dua for him
    He is ill now in coma ,, may Allah grant him cureness very soon ya rabb

  16. subhanalah what one passiinate man can do. May he rest in peace and may he be granted the highest level of jannah inshalah

  17. SHABAN SWALAH LAARI

    MAY ALLAH HEAL HIM
    This man is realy a God sent. I knew we have this organisation in Ghana but never knew the originator till today.
    This organisation has helped alot of people even Ghana here, and beleive me alot of them are graduates and gainfully employed.
    may Allah heal him if he is still alive, and if he dead, may Allah reward him with jannah.
    what can we also do to uplift the image of Islam and muslims in Africa?
    Lets think about this.

  18. Inspirational… Jzk 🙂

  19. May Allah have mercy on him
    This was like reading a story of a sahaabah mashaAllah – truly inspiring. May Allah have mercy on him and bless him with His pleasure and firdaus.

  20. Simply outstanding storey.Arab leaders could learn from this.
    Brother Abdur Rahman,may Allah SWT grant you the highest catogry of paradize
    (ameen)

  21. MashaAllah,The storey of Abdur Rahman is simply out of this world-one man to bring love and compassion and humanity-that is Islam.I wish the so called Muslim leaders and their establishments,specially in the Arab world could be brought back to Islam.
    Brother Rahman may Allah (SWT) reward you the the highest catogry of janat ul Firdoz(ameen)

  22. ummAbdurRahman

    subhanAllaah
    Figures such as this shaykh exist today!!! SubhanAllaah, Allaah has His soldiers! May Allaah grant him Jannatul firdaws and a pleasant death…may Allaah lift us out of our slumber and remove the hardness of our hearts, aameen thumma aameen

  23. OMGoodness!!
    I have only recently heard of him – last week! Ma’AshAllah to meet Rabbana with all of those good (enviable!) deeds! Such an extraordinary person during our time and yet, many have never heard of him. Allaherhamu.

  24. Truly inspriational!!
    Assalamu alaikum wr wb,

    I would just like to say jazakAllahu khair from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to learn about this great personality whom regrettably I have never heard of before. SubhanAllah there are people serving their creator day and night and no one knows about them except the Almighty. May Allah SWT grant us the ability to leave behind such an amazing legacy as our dear brother Abdur Rahman As-sumayt, May Allah SWT have mercy on him and admit him into Firdaws al Ala, ameen.

  25. Inspirational
    Very inspirational! Jazakallahu Khair for taking time to translate such a valuable article.

  26. beautiful
    Simply an astounding story, may Allah azza wa jal reward Sheikh ‘Abdur Rahman As-Sumayt and his family immensely. He is an example in our times of sacrifice for Allah’s sake that we think are resigned to days gone by, and it should be a catalyst for us to make more of an effort in every way.

  27. Ma’a sha Allah!
    May Allah grant Jannah-ul-Firdaus to all those who follow the Straight Path seeking His Face, and may Allah the Exalted include the Shaikh amongst them. And how much greater are the efforts, and be’izn’Allah the rewards, for a sincere daiee comapared to someone who spent their whole life in pursuit of material wealth and fame.

  28. MashaAllaah Wow
    MashaAllaah, what an amazing story and man. What an amazing family to put up with the trials.

    What an example for us all, especially doctors.

    We ask Allaah to make us like him. Ameen.

    May Allaah reward you for bringing this to our attention.

  29. Inspiring example
    Assalamualaikum,
    Jazak Allahu khayran for this wonderful and inspiring biography of Sheikh Dr Abdul Rahman as-Sumayt whom I and others might not have known about otherwise. Insha Allah I pray that all of us, our children especially the youths of today will take note of this Sheikh’s great achievements despite the many challenges he faced during his noble efforts, and set ourselves a vision to aspire to pick up the torch and continue on the blazing trail that Dr Abdul Rahman had set out with his righteous works for Allah. May Allah accept it from him, bless & have mercy on his soul, raise his ranks in the Hereafter and grant him and his family the Highest abode of Jannatul Firdous, ameen.

  30. Masha allah- may Allah reward him abundantly for living such a life of self-sacrifice. May allah inspire many of us reading to tread a path like this. Amin. So amazing to read! Jzk for sharing

  31. Abdulrahman Hussein

    Mr.
    This is indeed the first time I have read or encountered His excellency Dr. Abdur Rahman bin Hamood As-Sumayt. A remarkable achievement and a life well lived. May Allah have mercy on him, forgive his sins and grant him Jannah tul Firdaus.

  32. As salam ‘alaikum,

    If I’m not mistaken Sh. Al-Sumayt is still alive,Shafaahullah wa hafidhahu. You can see his update on his son Suhaib’s twitter feed.

    Here is the link:
    https://twitter.com/Suhaib_Alsumait

  33. Inspiring
    Mashaa’Allah!!!!!!!!!!!!
    a truly INSPIRING life!

  34. Umm 'Ammaarah

    SubhanAllaah. Look at how much the shaykh has achieved. May Allaah grant him Jannah tul Firdaws and raise more like him and better aameen.

    Jazaakallaahu khayran

  35. MashaAllah, a truly inspiring story. May Allah accept from hin. Ameen.

  36. Wafa AbdelAziz

    ina lilah wa ina alayhi ragioon, Subhan Allah
    it’s very possible We had a prophet amongest us and we were too blind to see it

  37. Website of his organization?
    salam, can you please provide website of his organization where they accept donations etc. ?

  38. Dr Sumayt
    May Allah grant him a high place in jannah with the prophet (saw). And may Allah grant us the opportunity to continue his mission, and be a true follower of Muhammad (pbuh)

  39. رحمه الله رحمة واسعة و جزاه خير الجزاء… آمين

  40. Sheikh sumayt is still alive
    Assalamu alaikum
    Can you please double check your sources because last time I checked he was still alive but in hospital. There was a rumour that he died in early december but that was not true, but jazakallah khair for bringing his biography to the public

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