8 December 2023

Dr Thokan’s ultimate objective in life was to serve his fellowman for the love of Allah – and that dream was achieved right till the end, writes Azra Hoosen.

Dr Aqeel Thokan, one of South Africa’s respected philanthropists, community leader and founding member of the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa (IMASA), passed away recently, on the blessed day of Jum’uah.

Following the passing of this humble servant, locals of Roshnee, Johannesburg, where he lived, say they now feel as though the light in the town has dimmed. They remember him as a man who touched the hearts of everyone he met. 

Dr Thokan (79) had just returned to his home after attending a funeral in Roshnee when he suddenly collapsed while climbing the stairs to his bedroom – he passed away soon after – on the blessed day of Jum’uah (October 21).

Dr Thokan was a philanthropist of note, a compassionate medical doctor and sincere and humble community activist whose involvement in many organisations put him at the forefront of important social and relief work.

He was a founding member of the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa (IMASA), founder of People Against Interest Debt (PAID), Head of the SAHUC Medical mission for Pilgrims from South Africa as well as the Deputy Head of the Haj Mission for many years.

“So much is being said, so much more will be said of this phenomenal larger than life individual. He can be described in many ways, including visionary, community stalwart, brilliant physician, all in all, he was an individual worthy of the highest emulation,” said renowned Educationist, Edris Khamissa. 

Dr Thokan’s journey in humanitarian work began whilst working at various hospitals. He displayed no desire for money and provided many hours of free service to help indigent communities. 

“Words are not sufficient to profile a man of his calibre. He was a unique man who had a profound impact on me, on my life and on the SAHUC mission, because of his humility, simplicity and his experiences,” said Ismail Kholvadia, Head of Mission for SAHUC. 


Thokan’s ultimate objective in life was to serve in the path of Allah. 

He helped set up a Madrassa for the blind in Bangladesh, and organised a braille Quran publishing machine for them to run self-sufficiently.

During the Bosnian conflict Thokan served in Kosovo, Bosnia and Albania. He also served in the rescue operations after the Tsunami devastated Banda Arche in Indonesia, as well as assisted on the Kenyan border with Somalia during the drought, providing much needed medical and relief support. 

“Dr Thokan played a major role in helping countless pilgrims on the many expeditions that he served on. Even in the heart of destruction, in war-torn Syria, he was on the ground, despite the carnage, helping anyone in need. He was a purely selfless, giving-person who advocated for helping your fellow man or woman,” said Shaheen Essop, President of SAHUC. 

He was a man of pure integrity as he strived to alleviate people’s burdens and advocated for non-interest and a no debt policy. 

Dr Thokan’s journey to attain a medical qualification – at the height of the apartheid in South Africa – was a long and difficult one. He chose the route of the state hospitals and served his time helping the underprivileged. He consulted and facilitated many people who could not afford medical fees. He would often do house visits late at night to those in dire need of help.

Dr Yakub Essack, former National President of IMA said: “Dr Thokan was a pillar of strength for the IMA over a span of 40 years. His experience has been sought by many new IMA entrants and other community workers. His role in the SAHUC medical missions to Saudi Arabia have been exemplary and he received many awards for that. His work for the Roshnee community and surrounding areas, on behalf of IMA, cannot be praised enough nor matched. His absence leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.”

Dr Aqeel Thokan on the SAHUC Mission, pictured 3rd from the front right corner

Dr Thokan and a few family members founded Al-Munirah Centre – a school for mentally and physically challenged students in the Vereeniging community. He helped dispel the social stigma attached to giving birth to children with learning disabilities and helped integrate these children into society. 

Dr Thokan was instrumental in starting clinics for impecunious families, where countless people benefited from the free medical services provided by the mobile clinics. 

The establishment of the IMA Clinic in Roshnee became his base, where he and his fellow doctors provided medical services and medication at a subsidised price.

Dr Thokan was instrumental in organising and installing many boreholes across rural areas to provide access to safe drinking water in destitute communities.  

He is survived by his wife, Aunty Rabia and their eight children.

Dr Thokan was an inspiration to many people and the legacy he left behind will continue to inspire others to serve the community as he lived and breathed his beliefs during his lifetime, for if you “serve humanity, you attain Allah’s love and that’s all we need.”

SAHUC Medical team under Dr. Aqeel Thokan received recognition of excellence by the Ministry of Health in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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