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Dr PA Ibrahim Haji, who passed away today. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Rich tributes have poured in for UAE-based renowned Indian businessman and philanthropist Dr PA Ibrahim Haji, who passed away on Tuesday.

A UAE resident for 55 years, the chairman of PACE Education Group, co-chairman of Malabar Gold and Diamonds and founder and vice-chairman of the Indus Motor Company in India passed away in Kerala where he was airlifted to on Monday night after more than a week’s hospitalisation in Dubai following a stroke.

Paying tributes and offering condolences, business and community leaders and others recalled the contributions of Haji in various fields and remembered his humble beginnings.

MA Yusuff Ali, chairman of Lulu Group, said Haji was a brotherly figure to him. “He has left us so unexpectedly. I had a long-standing relationship of friendship and love with him. He built several businesses in many countries with hard work, honesty and great vision. His deeds are a model to be emulated by budding entrepreneurs," Ali added.

MA Yussuf Ali with the late Hajji
File photo of MA Yusuff Ali (left) with Dr PA Ibrahim Haji

“Dr PA Ibrahim Haji will always be remembered for his commendable contributions in the field of education”, stated MP Ahammed, chairman, Malabar Group. “As co-chairman of Malabar Group, his activities always served as an inspiration for us and he contributed greatly to the development of our company,” he said in a media statement.

“A true believer in the power of education to empower communities, his contributions in the field of education are noteworthy. His social commitment lives through the various educational institutions and the different charitable endeavours he has initiated in India and abroad. He made charity a way of life. We are deeply saddened by his passing. My thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved family,” Ahammed added.

End of an era

Punnakkan Muhammed Ali, an expat community leader and president of Chiranthana cultural forum, said Haji’s passing marked the end of an era and has left a big void in the expat community. “He was a champion of education and charity. Though he built a big business empire, he was a humble human being who was always seen with a smile,” Ali said.

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Dr PA Ibrahim Haji after receiving his UAE Golden Visa. Image Credit: Supplied

“In my 32 years of expat life, I have not seen anyone who has touched lives and made changes in so many fields. He was instrumental in launching a successful campaign, demanding operation of international flights from Calicut International Airport. He was a writer, thought-leader and even held a director’s post in Malayalam newspaper Chandrika. Though he was a prominent figure in Indian Union Muslim League, he was friendly with people of all political parties. Even in the midst of his busy schedule he found time for farming and gardening.”

Adil Sadique, who had the opportunity to organise various events attended by Haji, including the last one on December 9, said the audiences were always in awe when Haji shared his experiences. “He was a witness to India’s Independence and the UAE’s formation. He also took part in the celebrations of the 75th Independence Day and 50th National Day of the two countries this year. He used to proudly talk about the UAE’s, particularly, Dubai’s phenomenal growth. He used to say that earlier, people would ask him where Dubai was when he went on international trips. Later, that changed to ‘Oh, you are from Dubai’! He was proud to be a part of this country’s growth.”

Community members remembered his charity works in India and the Middle East. “The doors to his villa in Garhoud were always open to people in need. He has done a lot of charity to support orphans and poor children through various educational institutions,” said Sadique.

In his condolence message, Dr Azad Moopen, founder chairman and managing director of Aster DM Healthcare, said: A good heart has stopped beating, a noble soul has ascended to heaven. He was more than a successful entrepreneur, educationalist and philanthropist. A silent donor to many initiatives, he always spread positivity around him. My heartfelt condolences to his family. May God bless his soul and give him a place in Paradise.”

Dr Azad Moopen with Dr PA Ibrahim Haji, earlier. Image Credit: Supplied

Humble beginning

A recipient of the UAE Golden Visa, Haji won several awards and accolades. His humble journey started from a small town named Pallikere in Kasaragod, Kerala. From there, he rose to the height of success, according to the PACE Group.

After finishing his school and college education in Kerala, Haji earned a diploma in automobile engineering from Mangalore in Karnataka and another diploma in business management from what was then Madras (Chennai), in Tamil Nadu.

His career took off in Dubai in 1967 as a salesman in the spare parts division of Austin (British Motors Corporation). Later, he joined Galadari Automobiles as a spare parts manager in 1972.

His next stint was in Muscat, Oman, with Al Hashar Automobiles as manager, Spare Parts Division.

In 1974, he started his own business of garments and cosmetics in Dubai. In 1976, he started a joint-venture, Century Trading Co. LLC, which is a part of Al Shamali Group of Companies in the UAE where he continued as the managing director.

Laid to rest

In 1993, he became part of a team of enterprising entrepreneurs, led by M.P. Ahammed, who founded Malabar Gold and Diamonds, India’s leading jeweller.

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Dr Haji founded the PACE Education group in 1999 by forming a trust named PA Educational Trust. The group currently runs more than a dozen schools and colleges in India and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News Archives

Haji founded the PACE Education group in 1999 by forming a trust named PA Educational Trust. The group currently runs more than a dozen schools and colleges in India and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Haji’s funeral prayers were held at P.A. Complex in Kozhikode. The burial was conducted at Najmul Huda Madrasa (Arabic College) in Manjeri, Malappuram, the PACE Group said, adding that it was his wish to be laid to rest in the premises of the college where he supported the education of orphaned and poor students in Kerala.

As a mark of respect to the departed, PACE Group said prayers were held at various venues in India and the UAE between Maghrib and Isha. The group also announced that all its educational institutions would be closed tomorrow.

Under Haji’s leadership, the PACE Group of schools in the UAE had entered the Guinness World Records six times.

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Latest Guinness Record

Haji was present when the latest Guinness Record was set at the India International School in Sharjah on November 29 as part of the 50th UAE National Day celebrations, which he termed as “a personal milestone”.

As many as 16,367 members of PACE Education Group’s students, teachers, staff and parents from 64 countries created a nine metre-wide, 18-metre-long flag in the UAE flag colours of red, green, black and white to set the record for the ‘Most Contributions to a Handprint Mural’.