The voice and words of this scholar won’t fade out
Sheikh Ahmed Deedat
The news of Sheikh Ahmed Deedat's demise did not come as a shock because in a way we were all expecting the inevitable, after all he was ailing for well over eight years. But still there was a feeling of sorrow for this great man who had entered into the lives and minds of Muslim kings and scholars, students and the average men and women alike with his brilliant scholarship in comparative religion.

Never was the truism 'walk with kings and still not lose the common touch' more true than in the case of Sheikh Deedat. He would actually chat with King Fahd and sip coffee with a Bedouin the next day chatting away, always eager to learn something new. I was floored when he told me that he had learned something from what I had done. I couldn't believe that I had contributed something to his vast knowledge. All I had done was slightly alter a slogan he had coined. Here was a man world famous for his reputation for keeping huge audiences spellbound with his oratory on comparative religion telling me I had contributed, unwittingly though it may be, to his vast repertoire. I have recounted this incident, not to attract any attention to myself, but only to illustrate this great man's humility.

At the tender age of just nine, he migrated from Gujarat to South Africa to join his father who was a tailor by profession. He did not have any knowledge of English but he applied himself assiduously to the task of acquiring an education for himself and with his dedication he did very well in school. Unfortunately he couldn't raise enough finance to continue his studies. But one thing he had acquired was the passion for reading and this was to stand him in good stead in his mission to counter the negative image of Islam that has been projected by vested interests.

He founded one of the most dynamic Islamic organizations in the world, the Islamic Propagation Centre in Durban. Sheikh Deedat lived in the world though he was not of the world. He loved cricket and would rattle off the names of greats as suavely as he would quote the Bible and the Quran. I used to call him once in every while just to keep in touch and on one such occasion his timbre laced voice boomed over the line saying "Mubarak! Mubarak!! (Congratulations) You are World Champs!" Sri Lanka had just won the World Cup. He said he had watched every ball, which I hadn't - being too tense in situations such as these.

When he saw our organization - the Centre for Islamic Studies - of which I am a co-founder he was pleased as punch and he told me "Son, if you owe us any money - forget it". I took advantage of the opportunity and told him that we didn't owe the IPCI any money but would he be kind enough to donate English translations of the Qur'an? He said yes and true to his word he sent us the Qur'ans - one container load - followed by another two months later! May Allah the Merciful, the Mercy Giving bless him for that!

This great man is gone but his memory will linger on for generations to come. Modern technology has seen to that. All his lectures are on tape and internet.
The following verse from the Holy Qur'an is a fitting tribute to this fantastic man - my Sheikh Ahmed Deedat.

'Allah will say: "This is a day on which the truthful will profit from their truth; theirs are Gardens, with rivers flowing beneath - their eternal home: Allah well-pleased with them, and they with Allah. This is the mighty triumph" Qur' an 5:119

Hameed Abdul Karim

My little helper and shadow still lives on
Zamanie Fazreen Izzadeen
Our little darling will never be forgotten, even though it is four years since she left us without any warning on August 19, 2001. I always think of her as my little girl. But had she lived, she would have been 19 years in December. I fight back my tears when I see children of Fazreen's age. It's a never ending trauma throughout my life as memories of Fazreen are still fresh in my mind all the time.

She was a gift that God gave me and the saying goes that "God gives and God takes". I trust in our dear Lord and there is a meaning behind everything he does. I was such a happy mother when Fazreen was born and I was devastated when I lost her. I lost all my courage and strength at our great loss. Even after four years of loneliness, I can never erase her from my mind. The little helper I had all the time, clinging on to me. She was like my shadow and acted as an adult, when it came to looking after me when I was sick.
I recall the incident on her last trip with us to Yala which highlights her caring ways towards the less fortunate. She spent all her pocket money to buy ‘knick knacks’ sold by young children. When I questioned her she said she did it to support the poor children who were selling them to make their living. She was never selfish, in fact the needs of others were her prime concern.

When her sister Fazeela gave birth to a baby boy my thoughts went first of all to Fazreen who would have been the happiest on that day. She would have been his little aunt, who would have simply adored him. Tears well in my eyes when I think of the plans she had to look after the baby.I have learnt the hard way that God's plan exceeds our plans and I know that she is in a special place resting peacefully.

Her friends still miss her very much as she was always friendly and helpful to them. Her two grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins remember her and miss her at family functions. Darling Fazreen your Ummiya, Dada, Akkie and Yasas aiya will never forget you as we all love you in a most special way.
May almighty Allah shower his blessings on her and grant her "Jainathul Firdouse" (Eternal Bliss")

Your ever loving,

True neighbours through thick and thin
Sita Hulugalle
"When He (Jesus) had heard therefore that Lazarus was sick, He abode two days, still in the same place where He was" so goes the version in John Chapter 11, verse 6.

The message in this account is to teach us that "at the very heart and foundation of all God's dealings with us, however dark and mysterious they may be, we must dare to believe in and assert the infinite, unchanging love of God. But love permits pain and Divine Love sometimes holds back until the Angel of Pain has done its work......" This was the interpretive reading I took up before I put pen to paper for this writing - strangely, as it may seem in the context.

We who watched - and waited over the dragging pain that Sita Hulugalle had to endure for many long years, may ponder the mystery of God's dealings.
The Hulugalles have been my neighbours for almost 40 years. We were young when they moved into Asoka Gardens - all of us active and full of life. Side by side our lives intertwined but through the years took many directions.

The Hulugalle family grew, their children each went into marriage and in time another generation emerged. Other changes came to both households, sicknesses and the passing away of loved ones, domestic situations and structural alterations to our houses. We went through dark days of national upheaval, curfews and strikes, fear and danger. Sometimes, crises struck both households and in these times we shared, growing closer to each other in understanding, though keeping our privacy in the relationship. For birthdays and at Christmas we stepped into each other’s celebrations.

I had known Sita in University and then later, as colleague - teachers in Methodist College, Colombo. Together we went on excursions in those days, a memorable one was to Yala, I remember. When we came to be neighbours however, it was into a different relationship that we drifted.

Where I am concerned two such occasions stand out in memory. One was on my return from India, in the early 1990's after a heart operation. As I gradually got back my strength and began to take up the normal full stride of life, for over three months or so, every day, Sita would drop in at home - whether in the early morning or late at night or in between, bringing with her something - an apple or a sun-kissed orange. A week after my return, Sita also dragged me out, encouragingly, for my first steps of exercise. She made time for me, when I needed it most.

The other occasion was late one evening when I took my dog for a walk, his leash slipped through my fingers and I was pulled with a jerk to fall hitting my head painfully on the concrete post at my gate. Sita rushed in, took me to the doctor, kept fermenting my head with an ice-pack, till late into the night when the swelling went down; then she gave me the medication and put me to bed.
Yes, there was good neighbourliness between us over the years, in so many incidents and ways.

Then Sita was attacked by a mysterious illness. With her loving children, attentive sisters and brothers and the host of friends she had, we watched her slow and painful decline. Our homes being so close, over the garden wall in the latter stages I was aware of Sita's suffering. But little could be done.
Many ask "Why?" as I do ask myself. So I find it strange that I had turned today to the passage in my daily book of Devotions which gives a measure of answer through the age-old story in the Bible. The sisters Martha and Mary never doubted that Jesus would speed at all hazards to their stricken home. So did we, never doubt that He would remove Sita's slow pain. But Jesus "abode two days" - just as He kept Sita waiting and we watched.
"Where were faith, without trial to test it; or patience, with nothing to bear; or experience, without tribulation to develop it" thus ends the Message in my book of Devotions.

Deloraine Brohier

Everyone’s doctor, sir and friend
W. A. L. Weerasinghe
Our island during the mid fifties of the last century as it emerged from British colonial rule was full of vitality, effervescence and the socio-cultural milieu was supercharged. Every member of the diverse population was being swept away by the exuberance.

Disordered bubbly activism was the order of the day. With zero unemployment and every university graduate (there was only the University of Ceylon) certain of a government job and dreaming of a brand new “Beetle” or a “Minor”, the teenagers were in the clouds. A youth not being excited was uncommon and Lionel Weerasinghe was one of them.

The son of the well-respected Wattemulle Ralahamy, he attended Ananda College, Colombo and was unperturbed by the kinetic dynamism swirling around him. He was alert though.

In 1954 he was one of the 120 admitted to the only Medical School we had.
Whether at Thurstan Road or at Kynsey Road, in the company of boisterous hyperactive colleagues some of them with unabashed surges of hormones, the genteel, well-dressed, dark, tall, handsome youth with many an eye focused on him, maintained his non-alignment.

Amidst so many Weerasinghes in the roll, the fellow medical students addressed him by his initials “WAL”. Though not a party animal, he was seen at many parties. WAL sang well.

The newly minted doctor cut his teeth at Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital. When the 1962 Polio epidemic raged across the island, the ‘Ridgeway’ was chock-a-block with polio stricken children. WAL was a house officer. He and his dozen colleagues worked day and night non-stop.

It exceeded 24X7. WAL was not the one to whine. But when a colleague in distress was searching in vain for an iron lung for a child gasping for breath, WAL lost his cool!

He cast his white coat away. He rallied his buddies for a midnight march to the General Hospital to grab one of their iron lungs, carry it on their shoulders, modify the adult-sized machine for a child, insert the blue-tinged dying body and in the morning rounds there was the smiling face of a little girl jutting out of a monstrous, bellowing iron lung. Hardly anybody knew the lead role that WAL played in the midnight rescue drama.

When he was posted to Dambulla District Hospital, he did not complain. He was a quiet, efficient DMO. Later, at Castle Street Hospital for Women, Dr. Weerasinghe the Obstetrician blossomed out.

He found his niche. His professionalism was simply superb. Neither ruffles nor waves were created by him. His patients adored him while the relatives of the patients found no barriers to reach the “Big Doctor”.

For the medical students and the young doctors, he was the benevolent pater — their “Sir”. Here was a shining model of a teacher whose high morals, integrity and standards were exemplary. For the nursing personnel at Castle Street, he was easily, “Our Doctor”. Overall, Dr. Weerasinghe was undoubtedly, “the Obstetrician par excellence”.

In his unassuming fashion, he raised his family with his wife Sujatha. Son Achintha and daughter Nandika formed an affectionate foursome.
After a brief illness, Dr. Weerasinghe expired on May 29. May he attain the Eternal Bliss of Nibbana.

“Touched by the worldly ways - A mind when gloried unshakes,
“Is sorrowless, cleansed and secure. - Thus is the acme of goodness”.
(Phuttassa Loka Dhammehi - Chittam Yassa Na Kampathi,
(Asokam Virajam Khemam - Etham Mangala Muttamam)
- Maha Mangala Sutta

Prof. A. A. W. Amarasinghe
(A childhood friend)

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