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Indian-origin pioneer of Islamic movement in South Africa dies at 81

By Fakir Hassan

Johannesburg Shawkat:  Ali Thokan, an Indian-origin man considered the pioneer of the Islamic movement in South Africa, was buried here Thursday after he died following a lengthy illness. He was 81.

Born in Maharashtra in India, Thokan died on Wednesday and was laid to rest at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg.

He emigrated to South Africa with his parents when he was 10.

Thokan was the first National Coordinator of the South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF), a faith-based, educational and socio-welfare organisation that helps the Muslim community.

The organisation in almost five decades has assisted tens of thousands of students at all levels, as well as funding scores of budding entrepreneurs to become self-sufficient through training programmes.

“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,” head of AWQAF SA Zeinoul Abedien Cajee said.

“Even in his last years and days he would still keep a caring eye over AWQAF SA and Sanzaf, attending meetings whenever he could, or keeping in contact by telephone, despite his illness,” Cajee added.

Thokan was also instrumental in setting up the Islamic Medical Association, As Salaam institution for orphans, and in 2000 AWQAF SA, which has assisted all other communities in projects as diverse as boreholes in drought-stricken areas and cataract operations for the destitute.

“During his distinguished career, he was an ardent champion of those in need and worked tirelessly in creating unity and an environment for growth and development,” Sanzaf said in a statement.

“He was an inspiration to both young and old and will be fondly remembered by all of those lives he has touched,” it said. PTI

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