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Juma Al Majid was born in Shindagha in 1930. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Dubai: Juma Al Majid has done more in restoring the heritage of the region in just a few decades of his life than what would normally take many generations to do.

The 89-year-old Emirati businessman and philanthropist has won admiration and felicitation from the world over for his overwhelming body of work in the field of education, human development and preservation of heritage.

The latest accolade being the Islamic personality of the Year Award for the 23rd edition of Dubai International Holy Quran Award (DIHQA), putting him on par with the leading lights of the Islamic world who won the prestigious award in the past.

The illustrious list of winners includes Shaikh Dr. Ali Bin Abdul Rahman Al Huzaifi, one of the longest serving imams of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, Shaikh Abdul Rahman Al Sudais, grand imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, former Bosnian President Ali Ezzat Begovic, American Islamic preacher Yousuf Estes, King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia and many others.

Recognising the service to Islam and the community, the Dh1 million prize aims to promote Islam’s message of peace, tolerance and service to humanity and Al Majid fits the bill perfectly.

Born in 1930 in Shindagha, in what is now a heritage village, Al Majid grew up in a pearl diving and fishing family. As a boy he accompanied his father in several long sea voyages, before setting up his own grocery business in Bur Dubai at the age of 17 that expanded over the years, making him one of the richest men in the country.

But with every step he took forward he turned back and supported those left behind.

“Right from the very early stage of his career Juma Al Majid made sure he didn’t forget the weaker sections of the society. As he made progress he kept finding ways to support others and do good for the humanity, which included setting up schools, charity foundations and libraries,” said Ebrahim Mohammad Bu Melha, Adviser to the Ruler of Dubai for Cultural and Humanitarian Affairs and Head of DIHQA Organising Committee, as he announced the winner for this year.

After founding the Dubai’s first charitable society with the help of fellow Emirati businessmen, Humaid Al Tayer, Abdullah Al Ghurair and Nasir Rashed Lootah, in the early 1950s, Al Majid went on to set up two secondary schools: one for boys in Bur Dubai, called Jamal Abdul Nasser Secondary School, the second for girls in Deira, called Amna Secondary School.

In the 1980s, he established National Charity Schools to help poor expatriate children get free education, before setting up Islamic and Arabic Studies College in Dubai, providing higher education primarily to female students from across the Gulf.

In 1990, Al Majid, along with his former business partner Mohammad Al Gaz, and other local philanthropists, established the Beit Al Khair Society that looks after poor families and students.

But, his most important contribution to the society that will benefit generations to come, came in the form of Juma Al Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage.

With thousands of original manuscripts and research material collected from across the world, the centre preserves and digitises works that date back to more than a thousand years, serving as a key reference point for researchers and scholars.