Tribute to community icon, Bhai Dhai: ‘I pray that his legacy lives on…’

By Al Qalam Reporter

Mohammed Yacoob Dhai, 70, a noted philanthropist and one of the founding members of the iconic Orient Islamic School (Old Boys Club) in Durban, passed away recently, leaving hundreds of people whose life he touched, in shock and disbelief.

Bhai Dhai, as he was popularly known, was also a civil society activist and businessman, who selflessly spent much of his time improving the lives of many, including the poor and down-trodden.
His sudden passing recently triggered an outpouring of grief across all strata of society – and tributes continue to pour in, three weeks after his death.

He passed away at a time when the Orient Old Boys Club – established on April 29, 1967 – was preparing to celebrate its 50th Anniversary this month – an event which Bhai Dhai was looking for to.
When the charitable body was formed, Bhai Dhai served as its treasurer, Mehmood Dhai was the secretary and G.H. Patel was the president, along with 50 former students who were the core members.

In a note to Al Qalam, Br. G.H. Patel, wrote: “When Bhai wanted a club house for the Old Boys, his grandfather, Mr A.M. Moolla who was the chairman of the Orient Islamic Institute told Bhai the Old Boys can have full use of the Orient Islamic School as well as the board room for all its meetings. We are truly indebted to Bhai for arranging this important facility that allows us to conduct our charitable activities and meetings in safety and comfort.
He said Bhai Dhai, together with the Old Boys and various donors, raised funds to build the Orient School Musallah.
“The club has been very fortunate in having dedicated people carrying on the sterling work of the community in every facet and field for 50 years. We salute them and pray Allah (s.w.t) gives them good health, long life and reward them abundantly, Ameen.”

He urged former students, their families and friends to join the Old Boys to continue the legacy of Bhai in its various outreach activities.
Meanwhile, at a memorial held at the Orient Islamic School, many personalities paid tribute to Bhai Dhai.
Jamilah Desai, head of Academics at Orient Islamic High School, who presided over the memorial service, said: “When we lose someone dear to us, we almost automatically say… Truly we belong to Allah, and indeed to him we will return. But the truth is, death is something no one can really prepare you for. There is no right way to make sense of it or deal with it after accepting Allah (swt’s) decree.

While we turn to the Almighty asking for patience during this difficult time, communicating and speaking about our loss with friends and family is also beneficial. This evening we pay tribute to an icon; Mohammed Yacoob Dhai, affectionately known as Bhai. At age 70, He was still a very active member of the community and I can say with utmost certainty that he has touched the lives of almost all of you seated here this evening; either through a friendship or through your association with him. Therefore it is only befitting for a man of his stature to be acknowledged at this platform, and for us his friends and family, to rejoice in his accomplishments and the legacy that he has left.

“As each one of our speakers shares his or her fond memories of Marhoom Bhai, will we begin to understand the magnitude and the big heart of this gentle giant. Bhai was the embodiment of tenacity and kindness. He was a mentor, a friend and a source of inspiration to us. I personally feel a deep sense of loss and grief, which I cannot express in words. I pray that Bhai’s legacy lives on and I am grateful for the brief time spent with him,” said Ms Desai.

Other speakers were Advocate Omar Moosa of the Orient Islamic Educational Institute and the Yale Tennis Club, Dr Hoosen Randeree of the Orient Islamic School Board, Nasser Ebrahim, Executive Headmaster of the Orient Islamic School, Afzal Khan spoke on behalf of the Staff of the Orient Islamic School, Ahmed Dhai, son of Bhai Dhai, Ismail Patel of the Orient Old Boys Club, Essop Mansoor, joint secretary of the Darul Yatama and Butch Kajee of the D’Alberton Callies Football Club.

*Additional source: Islamic Forum.

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