Childhood & Early Life
Deedat was born on July 1, 1918, in Tadkeshwar, Surat, Bombay Presidency, British India.
When Deedat turned nine, he reunited with his father, who had migrated to modern-day Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa, immediately after his birth. Shortly after he left for South Africa, he lost his mother.
Because of financial constraints, he discontinued his studies at the age of 16.
In 1936, Deedat came across Christian missionaries who alleged that Prophet Mohammed used violence to convert people to Islam. This propaganda of Christians evoked Deedat to delve deeper into both Islamic and Christian teachings.
In his quest to understand the spread of Islam and Christianity better, he stumbled upon the book ‘Izhar ul-Haqq’ (Truth Revealed) written by Rahmatullah Kairanawi. The book greatly influenced him, and inspired him to buy the Bible.
After he grew confident of his knowledge on the comparisons between Islam and Christianity, he discussed and debated with trainee Christian missionaries with renewed vigor.
To gain further insight into the Bible and its comparison with Quran and Islam, he attended sessions conducted by one Mr. Fairfax, a local who had converted to Islam. Fairfax conducted extended classes on how to convince Christians on Islam.
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For reasons not known, Fairfax discontinued his classes, but a confident Deedat continued for three more years what Fairfax left behind. This is how he began his missionary life.
The year 1942 witnessed his first lecture, ‘Muhammad: Messenger of Peace,’ which was attended by 15 people at Avalon Cinema, Durban, South Africa.
A guided tour of the Jumma Mosque in Durban was a vital component of his missionary activity. As Durban was a city visited by millions of tourists, including international travelers, he used the opportunity to introduce Islam to them and explain its relevance to Christianity.
Along with his family, Deedat migrated to Karachi, Pakistan, in 1949 and stayed there until 1952. It is reported that in one of the interviews on a Pakistan television, he expressed support to the idea of an Islamic state.
Deedat and his two close confidants, Goolam Hoosein Vanker and Taahir Rasool, established ‘Islamic Propagation Centre International (IPCI)’ in 1957. The objective of the organization was to publish books on Islam and handhold newly converted Muslims into faith.
In 1958, he founded ‘As-Salaam Educational Institute,’ an Islamic seminary in Braemar, in Natal Province, South Africa,but the project failed to gather steam due to a shortage of manpower and monetary support.
Later in 1973, the ‘Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa’ took over the affairs of the seminary. Ensuring that the institute is in good hands, Deedat left for Durban from Braemar to support the growth of ‘IPCI.’
In the early ‘80s, he started gaining international fame and saw an unprecedented high when he received the ‘King Faisal Prize’ from the ‘King Faisal Foundation’ in Saudi Arabia in 1986. This honor was a recognition for his services to the growth of Islam.
After 1985, for more than a decade, he conducted various talks and sessions on several occasions in locations outside South Africa, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Maldives Islands, the United States of America, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, and Australia.
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He received financial support from Gulf countries and published more than a dozen palm-sized booklets on various Islamic themes.
He received sponsorship for publishing a collated version of his four booklets after he won the ‘King Faisal Prize.’ In April 1993, ten thousand copies of his book ‘The Choice: Islam and Christianity’ was released. This book was distributed for free at various missionary centers in North America. The book was much sought-after, and several publishing houses printed additional copies. By 1995, the prints and reprints amounted to 250,000 in the Middle East.
’The Choice: Volume 2’, a paperback version, was released later, which comprised another six of his booklets.
Deedat promoted the South African print of ‘The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary’ by Abdullah Yusuf Ali to the extent that he even mentioned it in his speeches. The book was sold at heavily discounted prices.
Some of Deedat’s opinions were condemned by liberal Muslims in South Africa. They claimed that his points of view were intolerant toward Christians, Hindus, Jews, and Jains.
The monthly editions of ‘Muslim Digest of South Africa,’ especially between July and October 1986, sharply criticized him, and his actions were referred to as “his various dangerous activities.”
Hindus and Christians , who initially held him in high regard for his oratory and debating skills, developed a distaste for him. They aligned with liberal Muslim organizations in South Africa.
His 1987 publication ‘From Hinduism to Islam,’ was a critique on Hindu faith and rituals. He called out the Hindus of South Africa for worshipping several deities and revering idols and also for embracing Christianity.
After Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ was printed in 1988, he supported Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie.
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In 1989, the Jews also expressed their opposition against him, after he published ‘Arab and Israel: Conflict or Conciliation?’
It was discovered that ‘IPCI’ received funds from the infamous Bin Laden family. Also, he held a good opinion on the notorious terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
Farid Esack, a Muslim scholar of South Africa, describes Deedat as a fundamentalist.
France has banned the sale of his books since 1994.
Family, Personal Life & Death
Deedat was son of Hussien Kazem Deedat and Fatma Deedat. He had a sibling, Abdullah Deedat.
Deedat was married to Hawa Deedat. They had a son, Yusuf Deedat.
On May 3, 1996, he suffered a major stroke that paralyzed him from neck below. The diagnosis revealed it was a consequence of a cerebral vascular accident. Although he was unable to speak, he communicated with eye movements using a chart and acknowledging the words and sentences that were dictated to him.
After this incident, he was confined to bed. However, he continued with his work until he breathed his last on August 8, 2005.
Deedat challenged Pope John Paul II to a debate in the Vatican and even requested him to adopt Islam.
Nelson Mandela had great respect for Deedat.
Some of the famous Christian leaders he debated with are Jimmy Swaggart and Bishop Josh McDowell.
‘Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?’ is one of his twenty compositions.
His biography was released in June 2013 by the ‘IPCI.’