Born on the 15th of October 1947, Dr Abd Al Rahman Bin Hamood Al-Sumait was an Islamic scholar, medical practitioner and Humanitarian born and raised in Kuwait. He was also a qualified doctor specializing in internal medicine and gastroenterology before getting involved in charity and humanitarian work. He graduated from University of Baghdad with a Bachelor of science in Medicine and Surgery. He also graduated from the University of Liverpool in 1974 with a degree in Tropical Diseases and completed his postgraduate at McGill University in Canada specializing in Internal Medicine and Digestive Systems.
He was a practitioner at Montreal Public Hospital from 1974 to 1978, and a specialized Physician at Kings College Hospital in London from 1979 to 1980. As a young student Al-Sumait witnessed something that intrigued him in helping those who are less fortunate. He saw poor workers waiting for their transportation in the heat, every day, outside his school. And with the help of his friends, they decided to save up money and purchase an affordable car, and from that day, he drove these workers for free. In university, Al Sumait used most of his monthly salary to purchase Islamic books and he would distribute them to mosques. He would also collect money from Muslim students and together they used the money to pay for a printing and distribution service of Islamic booklets throughout South East Asia and Africa. His interest in Africa was ignited when he felt and saw that the continent of Africa was being neglected.
And countries such as: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola, and many other nations in that area were suffering from famine, hunger and disease. That marked the focus of Al Sumait’s operations. By the time he was 35 years old, he decided to move to Africa with his wife, and dedicated 29 years of his life there contributing and helping millions of children. When he arrived to Africa, he was deeply saddened by what he saw, children suffering from hunger and diseases and families struggling to support their loved ones , so he decided to sacrifice his profession and dedicate himself fully to their well being . He spent Twenty-nine years of his life undertaking charitable works in Africa, only returning to Kuwait for short visits or to receive medical treatment; he was on a mission to help those suffering from starvation and in need of shelter, education, even religion and nothing could stop him from accomplishing his goal. Although Al-Sumait’s journey in Africa made a huge impact and was a major success., it wasn’t easy. He spent his time in Africa, taking numerous trips deep into the African jungles to conduct his work; and eventually he got high blood pressure, diabetes, a number of blood clots, and malaria, among other diseases.
Moreover, He was a target of several failed assassination attempts by armed militias who were agitated and unsettled by his overwhelming presence in Africa and the impact he had on the poor and needy. In Mozambique, Kenya, and Malawi, Al-Sumait went through more than one near-death experience, mostly with deadly cobras. And he also had to experience the misery of imprisonment twice in his life. The first time was in Baghdad in 1970 and the second time was in 1990 when he was arrested by the Iraqi intelligence forces during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He was then shipped to Baghdad and exposed to severe torture. Later in his life when looking back at the horrors that was his imprisonment, he stated: “I had no doubt whatsoever that I would not die except at the moment Allah had ordained for me”. Despite all this pain, he was still determined to accomplish his goal of bringing peace, aid, and relief to Africa in any possible way he could. And he stated: “I find the taste of happiness when I opened a school in an area that did not know the taste of education.” Another reason for Al-Sumait’s interest in Africa was due to a field study examined by an African Muslim Agency that confirmed millions of people in the continent knew nothing about Islam other than legends and myths, therefor, the people, especially children, become vulnerable to Christian Evangelization. This was the case for many people in the continent who had converted to Christianity even though their parents and forefathers were Muslims.
Al-Sumait strongly believed that Islam precedes all theories, all ideologies, all cultures, and all civilizations when it comes to social and humanitarian voluntary work. Through this belief he presented to the officials at the Ministry of Endowments his desire to participate in charity work. He then travelled to Malawi to help build and set up a mosque on behalf of a charitable female Kuwaiti benefactor. While in Africa he also witnessed the decline of Muslims under the influence of Christian missionaries, which gave them food and education. As for his contribution to Islam, Al-Sumait spent a majority of his time converting youth of different areas into Muslims.
Many of the children that he converted would cry knowing that their parents passed away as non-Muslims and often would ask Al-Sumait what took Muslims so long to reach them. Al-Sumait left behind his wealthy upbringing in order to pursue their aim of guiding teenagers to the right path by converting them to Islam. He was not alone in this mission as his wife also accompanied him. This in turn allowed Al-Sumait to converts thousands of people into Muslims in various villages and forests which is also where he provided medical, social and educational aid to those in need. One of his most famous sayings when attempting to convert people from villages to Islam was “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 quote was single-handedly responsible for many people to accept Islam as it was simple, easy to understand and powerful.
Furthermore, Al-Sumait would also recite the Holy Qur’an in front of children while smiling at them as well as check up on them after the ‘Isha prayer to ensure they were asleep without any difficulties. Often he was asked about the reason behind his dedication and commitment which is when 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.” One of the struggles he faced was people from different tribes treating him as an intruder rather than a person with the intent of spreading kindness. By being able to overcome the struggles and continuing his path of improving Africa, Al-Sumait silenced all the doubters and word spread of his humble, compassionate and pure personality. One of his methods involved buying gifts such as clothes to the elders of the villages that he entered as a gesture of being helpful and softening their hearts towards Islam. Then, Al-Sumait would brighten the day of the children by providing them sweets.
As a result, Al-Sumait was able to convert at least 10 million people directly by himself into Muslims from different groups and villages. His contributions also led to seven million people in Africa accepting Islam through the hearings from other people. Both directly and indirectly, Al-Sumait was responsible for the conversion of almost over 10 million people into Muslims. Al Sumait continued to provide additional support to these people by providing them with houses, employment, hospitals and schools just to name a few. Al Sumait kept the foundation of his trust in Islam as his motivation to continue providing good to the people of Africa. His efforts are undeniable and a major reason behind how Africa became a predominantly Islamic continent especially in parts like Sudan. Beside his personal assistance to the people of Africa, Al-Sumait also built numerous Islamic centers in Africa to provide a method of following the religion of Islam beyond just his individual preaching. These Islamic centers were appointed with African teachers and preachers who would continue the work that was started by Al-Sumait.
In 1984, he founded the Islamic Relief Commission which aided the lives of thousands of Muslims during the period of hunger and famine that plagued Africa as a continent. Al-Sumait was also the founder of a number of Islamic charities, councils, boards, whose aim directly aligned with Al-Sumait’s interest and passion of spreading Islam in Africa in places such as Sudan, Kenya and Malawi. His organization, the Direct Aid Organization, which was set up in Africa became one of the largest global organizations in Africa. As of 2012, there are more than half a million students studying in education centers built by the Direct Aid Organization. His organization also provided scholarships to the capable 200 African Students to aid them in building a future in different fields such as medicine, engineering and technology. This allowed for young adults in African to thrive despite the issues that surrounded Africa such as the poverty, famine and other conditions. Al-Sumait believed that the youth is the future which is why he spent so much time in finding ways of assisting them to lead to a better future. To add on, they trained more than 4,000 Islamic callers including staff such as teachers for their educational organization.
The organization also included building 124 hospitals and dispensaries, 214 women training centers and over 2000 mosques. The offices of Direct Aid have been built into 29 different countries in Africa due to the success and stability it provided for the young teenagers of Africa. The Direct Aid Organization was also considered a General Consultant in the Economical and Social Board of the United Nations in 1998 after its widespread success and positive outcome. His work consisting of more than just helping Muslims, Al-Sumait made sure the entire developing continent of Africa experienced the benefits that he had envisioned along with his wife. Al-Sumait was able to transform the lives of mere beneficiaries of charity into being fully prepared and equipped to follow the footpath of Al-Sumait by turning into donators themselves. Al Sumait, being a newcomer, also indulged himself in activities to understand and broaden his view on the cultural lives of African people which allowed him to personally relate with Africans as a whole. His work also was able to convert native tribes of African into Islamic tribes that aimed to spread their learnings by Al-Sumait onto other people they encountered. Al-Sumait has multiple books and publications that he released which detail and timeline the course of events that took place through his journey in Africa. Apart from his journeys in Africa, Al-Sumait also has publications that describe safety and evacuations procedures to be followed in order to develop a sustainable environment for a nation. Additionally, Al-Sumait received multiple awards that honoured his exemplary work worldwide.
These awards included the Al Sharekah Prize for Human and Voluntarily Work which he received in 2009, the Fars Award for Charity Work from Al Sharekah Emirate in 2010. To add on, Al-Sumait also involved himself in the Gulf Cooperation Council as a scout. He also earned the title of Doctor in 2003 after completing his PH.D in Islamic Call from Om Dorman Islamic University. The effort that was shown by Al-Sumait to spread the learning, teaching and message of Islam has positively influenced the entire continent of Africa for decades, even after the eventual passing of Al-Sumait. From Islam being considered a myth at his arrival to being a widespread religion all across the continent, Al-Sumait’s impact cannot be understated. The techniques followed by Al-Sumait revolved around earning the trust of the people he encountered by treating them kindly, helping the adults and the children selflessly. He did this by creating a sustainable environment for the people to live in by establishing organizations, building necessary equipment such as wells for water and reciting the Holy Qur’an to those he wished to convert.
By doing the aforementioned tasks, he was able to gain the trust of the people around him and spread the teachings of Islam. Despite people not directly coming into contact with him, they noticed the changes that he was bringing and what core values he stood for. This intrigued the people in Africa and in turn started to make them interested in Islam. By being responsible for well over 15 million converts, Al-Sumait started the modern rise of Islam in Africa. His method of showing what Islam stands for through his kindness, commitment and dedication was essential in his rise to fame. His actions, however, came at a consequence. Al-Sumait faced numerous hardships. After spending a majority of his time travelling with the intent of spreading Islam, Al-Sumait was subject to high blood pressure and diabetes. Al-Sumait was also a victim of malaria as a result of his constant travels into forests and uninhabited areas of Africa. By battling through with all the health issues he faced, Al-Sumait was still able to leave a legacy behind of what Islam truly stands for. Al-Sumait still travelled hopelessly in hopes of finding a medical cure for his heart treatment, which he was unable to do. On August 15th 2013, Al-Sumait passed away due to complications occurring on a pre-existing heart condition. Al-Sumait’s work and dedication was not known to mainstream media despite his effort being second to none during his lifespan.
His influence was felt not only in Africa, but also in North America. Al-Sumait was the founder and chairman of the Muslim Physicians Society located in Canada. Al-Sumait’s impact was not only continent wide, but worldwide as the organizations he was involved in were located all around the world. Overall, Al-Sumait was successful in his mission of spreading Islam in a completely different continent as a newcomer and being able to enlarge the Muslim community of Africa through his methods of showing kindness, compassion, dedication and love for bringing people on the right track.
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