Abdul Wahab Khan passes on after a life in service

By Fuad Hendricks

The Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa (MYM) was fortunate to have had in its ranks a member like Abdul Wahab.

His passing away in January 2021, ended a life lived in the service of his community and country.

I was blessed to have had the honour to be part of the MYM and to benefit from his camaraderie. Amongst the many things he schooled me by way of example, was his selflessness and humility.

His understanding of Islam was not academic, but a practice and way of life. Whenever a project needed to be embarked upon, he would be amongst the first to volunteer to implement and get the job done. He was an implementer and doer.

Every organisation, particularly a non-profit-organisation, needs an Abdul Wahab. He was a ‘behind the scenes, back-office worker’ without whose role the organisation would not be able to function effectively in its day-to-day operations. In politics he would be called a backbencher who sits at the back, but work in the frontline.

Perhaps as a behind the desk office worker, I had a higher organisational profile than him in the MYM, but Abdul Wahab was an activist in the real sense of the word who worked out in the field where the rubber meets the road, in the hustle and bustle of community life.

Abdul Wahab was one of the main fundraisers of the MYM. This is a role without which no non-profit-organisation would be able to survive and make ends meet to pay its bills and keep the organisation as a going concern.

This was an arduous role and task which required characteristics with which Abdul Wahab was blessed in abundance. For instance, a fundraiser for the organisation must be able to take ‘no’ from donors as an answer umpteenth times, but going back again and again for support and donations. He was able to tap into the philanthropy and goodwill of donors unfailingly trying to persuade them to support the advocacy of preparing the next generation of youth activists and leaders.

On the few occasions that I accompanied him on his fund raising drives for the MYM, I realised the arduous nature of fund raising,but its indispensable function for a community organisation.

I was amazed how Abdul Wahab would listen empathically and attentively to donors who were critical of some of the programs, activities and outlook of the MYM. His response was not argumentative, defensive or trying to win the argument and lose the donor. He would again and again apologise to the donors for the brashness of the youth, its impetuousness, its rashness, and make the point that the youth are wired to bring about change, to do things differently from their elders.

Even when we walked away from some of the donors empty handed, he did not alienate them because he was not giving up on them, but would be calling again tapping into their magnamity.

Most donors respected him and held him in high esteem. He appreciated and valued the indispensable role of the donors and their support. It was a mutual solidarity for a higher purpose.

It was during economic recessions that Abdul Wahab’s task as a fundraiser became very challenging. Yet, he was up to the task to call on donors and even whether it was a polite or discourteous no, he took comfort from the belief that he was ‘begging’ for the greater good of the community and that his cause was worthy of support.

As the number of non-profit organisations multiplied and mushroomed in the community and country, the role of the fundraiser became harder as donor fatigue increased. But he was not demotivated and deterred from doing what he did best to be the medium between donors and the organisation, linking the philanthropists with community activists.

Abdul Wahab personified the Qur’anic message that we should live and end our lives in such a way that Almighty Allah would be pleased with us.

In the early 80’s Abdul Wahab Khan established the Phoenix Advice Dawah & Care Centre, which he managed on a fulltime basis after he resigned as an employee of the Muslim Youth Movement in 1988. The organisation assists the poorest of the poor in Phoenix, a community that has been displaced by the notorious Group Areas Act.

Abdul Wahab was fortunate and blessed that he was supported throughout his life by his devoted wife Rukhaya, and the rest of his family.

He has journeyed back to the Creator, the Most High and Most Merciful; we pray he has a joyous journey.

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