Islamic luminary Al-Sumait’s death ‘a big loss for Ummah’

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Updated 18 August 2013
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Islamic luminary Al-Sumait’s death ‘a big loss for Ummah’

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sumait, who helped thousands of Africans understand and embrace Islam, constructed 5,700 mosques and four universities in Africa, passed away on Thursday. He was 66. He was awarded the King Faisal International Prize in 1996 in recognition of his Islamic and humanitarian services.
Announcing Al-Sumait’s demise, his son Suhaib said his father would be buried in Selaikhat cemetery at 8.30 a.m. on Friday. Condolence messages poured in from all over the world through the social media and news websites, expressing shock and sorrow over his death. “Al-Sumait’s death is a big loss for the Arab and Islamic Ummah,” said Mohammed Badahdah, assistant secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth.
“We can find only a few individuals like Al-Sumait among the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world,” Badahdah said, and urged Muslims to spend more of their time, money and energy in humanitarian activities. He said Muslims in the past had made a lot of efforts to spread of the message among people in the East and West, overcoming a lot of difficulties.
“We should follow the good example of our forefathers and exert all possible efforts to spread the message of this great religion. We should not show any negligence in informing expatriate workers about the teachings of our religion. Our students who pursue their higher studies in foreign countries should also keep this mission in their minds,” he said.
Badahdah described Al-Sumait as an encyclopedia on Africa as the late scholar had conducted detailed studies on the continent’s political, social and economic matters and published several books.
“Arab media has ignored this great man and did not give much publicity for his humanitarian activities in Africa. He is a model of a good Muslim who applied Islam to spread goodness, love and harmony in the world,” said Mahmoud, an Egyptian commentator.
“It is quite unfortunate that people like Al-Sumait is not well-known in society. He was a great personality. As a result of his activities millions of Africans embraced Islam. He had sponsored 15,000 orphans and constructed 9,500 artesian wells in Africa. His history should be written in golden letters,” said another close associate of Al-Sumait.
Born in Kuwait in 1947, Al-Sumait studied medicine in Baghdad University, obtained a diploma in tropical medicine from Liverpool University, and specialized in internal medicine and gastroenterology in Montreal General Hospital in Canada. He conducted research on hepatic malignancies in King’s College, London. He worked briefly as a consultant gastroenterologist at Sabah Hospital in Kuwait before dedicating his full-time to humanitarian activities.
As a young student, Al-Sumait witnessed a scene outside his school that sparked his interest in helping the less fortunate, and this changed his life forever. He observed poor workers waiting for their means of transportation in the heat on a daily basis. He purchased a car with the support of some friends and drove these workers for free.
His interest in Africa was ignited when he felt and saw that the continent was being neglected. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Angola, among many other nations in the area that were suffering from famine, hunger and disease, were the focus of Al-Sumait’s operations. The Africa Muslims Agency, where he had served as chairman from 1981 to 2008, operates in more than 40 countries, providing various social, educational, health and humanitarian services.


Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

There was an explosion of joy at the podium when Antonio Felix da Costa lifted the winner’s trophy at the conclusion of the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

  • Three-day event at Ad Diriyah reaches spectacular climax in an unprecedented spirit of openness

The driver with the winner’s trophy was Antonio Felix da Costa — but the real winners were Saudi Arabia itself, and more than 1,000 tourists visiting the country for the first time.

Da Costa, the Andretti Motorsport driver, won the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in front of thousands of race fans at a custom-built track in the historic district on the outskirts of Riyadh.

But in truth, the event was about much more than high-tech electric cars hurtling round a race track — thrilling though that was. The three-day festival of motorsport, culture and entertainment was Saudi Arabia’s chance to prove that it can put on a show to rival anything in the world, and which only two years ago would have been unthinkable.

The event was also the first to be linked to the Sharek electronic visa system, allowing foreigners other than pilgrims or business visitors to come to Saudi Arabia.

Jason, from the US, is spending a week in the country with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites. “I’ve always wanted to come for many, many years ... I’m so happy to be here and that they’re letting us be here,” he said.

Aaron, 40, a software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. “Saudi Arabia has always been an exotic place ... and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here,” he said.

About 1,000 visitors used the Sharek visa, a fraction of what Saudi Arabia aims eventually to attract. 

“Hopefully we will learn from this and see what we need to do for the future, but I can tell you from now that there is a lot of demand,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the General Sports Authority.

His optimism was backed by Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and a visitor to Ad Diriyah. “Such events will attract tourists and are a true celebration for young Saudis who desire a bright future,” he said.

“The vision of moderate Islam, promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is important both for the region and the entire world, and its realization needs to be appreciated, respected and supported.”

The event ended on Saturday night with a spectacular show by US band OneRepublic and the superstar DJ David Guetta. “Just when you think things can’t get better, they suddenly do,” said concertgoer Saleh Saud. “This is the new Saudi Arabia, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”