Manama: Tributes have poured in for Kuwaiti philanthropist Shaikh Abdul Rahman Al Sameet, who has passed away after spending most of his life putting smiles on mainly African faces.
“We condole the international community on this loss of the distinguished man of charity and benevolent work,” Marzouqi Al Ganem, the Parliament Speaker, said. “He is a great man who dedicated his life to serving people throughout the world.”
MP Ali Al Umair said: “Kuwait and the world have lost a remarkable humanitarian figure who had been an outstanding leader of benevolent action.”
Fellow lawmaker Talal Al Jalal said that his death meant a huge loss for Kuwait and for the world.
“He had dedicated his life to helping people and engaging in charitable action until he became one of the most distinguished international figures in the field,” Al Jalal was quoted by local Arabic daily Al Watan as saying.
“While we condole ourselves on his death, I call for naming a street in Kuwait after him to help his name live through the collective memory of the nation,” he said.
MP Mohammad Al Huwaila said that Shaikh Abdul Rahman had devoted his time, energy and wealth to serving people.
“He worked for the sake of his country and humanity in general,” he said.
Several other lawmakers expressed their grief over the death of Shaikh Abdul Rahman and praised his outstanding work. The local blogosphere and social networks were flooded with comments paying rich tribute to the philanthropist.
Shaikh Abdul Rahman, a medical doctor, was born in Kuwait in 1947. He is credited with establishing the Direct Assistance Association, initially known as the African Muslims Committee.
According to reports, around 11 million converted to Islam through his efforts over 29 years he spent spreading the word of Islam in Africa, an average of 972 new Muslims a day.
He was awarded several medals and prizes for his works of charity, including the King Faisal Award for serving Islam. He used the SR750,000 (Dh734,521) of the award to launch an educational programme in Africa that helped many Africans pursue their higher education.
However, his life in Africa was not always a fairy-tale and he was repeatedly the target of attacks by armed militias disturbed by his overwhelming support for the poor and needy.
He also had to endure some of Africa’s other challenges such as deadly animals, scarcity of water and power interruptions. He spent much of his time in Africa and went to Kuwait either for short visits or to receive medical treatment.
His trips into the African continent were invariably filled with risks, but he persisted on conveying the message of peace and providing assistance to those needed it. Even though his body was frail, he was ready to endure physical hardships and to bear sufferance, driven by a strong belief in helping people.
However, despite his strong determination that for decades challenged his own illnesses (diabetes, constant back and foot pains), his health had recently deteriorated and he had to be hospitalised in Al Mubarak Al Kabeer hospital in the capital Kuwait City until he passed away.
His son Suhaib said that he would be buried on Friday.