Ahmed Deedat

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Ahmed Deedat
Born Ahmed Hoosen Deedat[1]
(1918-07-01)1 July 1918
Surat, Bombay Presidency, British India
Died 8 August 2005(2005-08-08) (aged 87)
Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Resting place
Verulam cemetery
Ethnicity Indian
Occupation Missionary, orator, public speaker, writer
Years active 1942–1996
Known for Comparative religion
Religion Islam
Denomination Sunni
Spouse(s) Hawa Deedat
Awards King Faisal International Prize (1986)

Ahmed Hoosen Deedat (Arabic: احمد حسين ديدات‎ July 1918 – 8 August 2005) was a South African writer and public speaker of Indian descent.[2] He was best known as a Muslim missionary who held numerous inter-religious public debates with evangelical Christians, as well as video lectures, most of which centred on Islam, Christianity and the Bible. He also established the IPCI, an international Islamic missionary organisation, and wrote several booklets on Islam and Christianity which were widely distributed by the organisation. He was awarded the King Faisal International Prize in 1986 for his fifty years of missionary work. He used English to communicate with Muslims and non-Muslims in the western world.[3]


Early Years 1918–1942[edit]

Deedat was born in town of Tadkeshwar, Surat, Bombay Presidency, British India in 1918.[4] His father had emigrated to South Africa shortly after his birth. At the age of 9, Deedat left India to join his father in what is now known as Kwazulu-Natal. His mother died only a few months after his departure. Arriving in South Africa, Deedat applied himself with diligence to his studies, overcoming the language barrier and excelling in school, even getting promoted until he completed standard 6. However, due to financial circumstances, he had to quit school and start working by the time he was the age of 16.[5]

In 1936, while working as a furniture salesman, he met a group of missionaries at a Christian seminary on the Natal South Coast who, during their efforts to convert people of Muslim faith, often accused the Islamic Prophet Muhammad of having "used the sword" to bring people to Islam. Such accusations offended Deedat and created his interest in comparative religion.[1]

Deedat took a more active interest in religious debate after he came across the book Izhar ul-Huqq (Truth Revealed),[6] written by Rahmatullah Kairanawi, while he was rummaging for reading material in his employer's basement.[7] This book chronicled the efforts of Christian missionaries in India a century earlier. The book had a profound effect on Deedat, who bought a Bible and held debates and discussions with trainee missionaries, whose questions he had previously been unable to answer.[1]

He started attending Islamic study classes held by a local Muslim convert named Mr. Fairfax. Seeing the popularity of the classes, Mr. Fairfax offered to teach an extra session on the Bible and how to preach to Christians about Islam.[1] Shortly thereafter, Fairfax had to pull out and Deedat, by this point quite knowledgeable about the Bible, took over teaching the class, which he did for three years.

Early missionary work 1942–1956[edit]

Deedat's first lecture, entitled "Muhammad: Messenger of Peace", was delivered in 1942 to an audience of fifteen people at a Durban cinema named Avalon Cinema.[8]

A major vehicle of Deedat's early missionary activity was the 'Guided Tours' of the Jumma Mosque in Durban. The vast ornamental Jumma Mosque was a landmark site in the tourist-friendly city of Durban. A program of luncheons, speeches and free hand-outs was created to give an increasingly large number of international tourists what was often their first look at Islam. Deedat himself was one of the guides, hosting tourists and giving introductions to Islam and its relationship with Christianity.[9]

IPCI and as-Salaam 1956–1986[edit]

Among Deedat's close friends were Goolam Hoosein Vanker and Taahir Rasool, whom many refer to as 'the unsung heroes of Deedat's career'.[5]

In 1957, these three men founded the Islamic Propagation Centre International (IPCI) with the aim of printing a variety of books on Islam and offering classes to new Muslims converts.[10] The next year Deedat established an Islamic seminary called As-Salaam Educational Institute on a donated 75-acre (300,000 m2) piece of land located in Braemar in the south of Natal province.[11] The experiment was not a success, however, because of the IPC's lack of manpower and paucity of funds, and was taken over by the Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa in 1973. Deedat then returned to Durban and expanded the IPC's activities.[1]

International efforts 1985–1995[edit]

By the early 1980s Ahmed Deedat's work was beginning to be known outside his native South Africa. His international profile grew in 1986, when he received the King Faisal Award for his services to Islam in the field of Dawah (Islamic missionary activity).[1] As a result, at age of 66, Deedat began a decade of international speaking tours around the world. His tours included:

  • Saudi Arabia and Egypt (on several occasions)
  • United Kingdom (on several occasions between 1985 and 1988, as well as Switzerland in 1987)
  • Pakistan, where Deedat met Zia al-Haq
  • UAE and Maldives Islands (Nov–Dec 1987), where Deedat was honoured by President Gayhoom[1]
  • The US (late 1986 featuring debates with Swaggart, Robert Douglas and several lectures including two in Arizona)
  • Sweden and Denmark (late 1991, featuring three debates)
  • US and Canada (1994, tour featuring debates in Canada and lectures in Chicago)
  • Australia (his last tour in early 1996, just before his stroke)

On the other hand, in South Africa problems arose after the publication of From Hinduism to Islam (1987), a critique of Hindu beliefs and practices.[1] Among others, Deedat criticised South African Hindus for praying to their various deities and being easily moved to convert to Christianity.[12] Hindus and Christians had respected his oratory skills and arguments until then. But now, they rejected Deedat and united with other South African Muslim organisations in denouncing his attacks on other religions.[12] Two years later, Jews joined the criticism after Deedat published Arab and Israel – Conflict or Conciliation?[1]

Illness and death 1996–2005[edit]

On 3 May 1996, Ahmed Deedat suffered a stroke which left him paralysed from the neck down because of a cerebral vascular accident affecting the brain stem, leaving him unable to speak or swallow.[13] He was flown to King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, where he was reported to be fully alert. He learned to communicate through a series of eye-movements via a chart whereby he would form words and sentences by acknowledging letters read to him.[13]

He spent the last nine years of his life in a bed in his home in South Africa, looked after by his wife, Hawa Deedat, encouraging people to engage in Da'wah (proselytizing Islam).[13] He received hundreds of letters of support from around the world, and local and international visitors continued to visit him and thank him for his work.[1]

On 8 August 2005, Ahmed Deedat died at his home on Trevennen Road in Verulam in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. He is buried at the Verulam cemetery.[14] Hawa Deedat died on Monday 28 August 2006 at the age of 85 at their home.[15]


Deedat's first well-known debate took place in August 1981, when he debated well-known Christian preacher Josh McDowell in Durban, South Africa.[16] Many of his debates have later been broadcast online on YouTube, among other sites.

Debates with Anis Shorrosh[edit]

Deedat's disagreements with Palestinian-American Christian missionary Anis Shorrosh first came to public attention when Shorrosh appeared among the audience during the questions and answers sessions[17] on two separate occasions during Deedat's summer 1985 tour of the UK (where he debated Floyd E. Clark in what is now considered another one of his early international works).[1] Deedat and Shorrosh later held two highly contentious debates. The first, entitled Is Jesus God?[1] took place in December 1985 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The second debate was organised with much fanfare and held in Birmingham, UK on 7 August 1988, entitled The Quran or the Bible: Which Is God's Word.[1] This debate lasted four hours, including the questions and answers session.

Debate with Jimmy Swaggart[edit]

Deedat's best-known moment[citation needed] came when he debated with televangelist Jimmy Swaggart at a time when Swaggart was one of the leading faces of Evangelical Christianity. Entitled Is The Bible the Word of God?,[1] the debate occurred in Swaggart's hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in November 1986 at Louisiana State University, where it was attended by about 8,000 people.

Other notable debates[edit]

In October and November 1991 Deedat toured Scandinavia, where he held three debates and several speeches. Two of these debates were held on successive nights against Pastor Stanley Sjöberg in Stockholm, Sweden. The first of these was entitled Is the Bible the True Word of God?[1][18] and the second debate was Is Jesus God?. Deedat then travelled to Denmark, where he held a debate with Pastor Eric Bock in Copenhagen, entitled Is Jesus God?[citation needed]

Deedat and the Pope[edit]

After Pope John Paul II had called for better relations and peaceful intellectual dialogue with the Muslims,[19] Deedat challenged him in 1984 to a public debate in the Vatican Square, but the Pope did not accept.[1] When the Pope's staff stopped answering, Deedat distributed a pamphlet in January 1985 headlined His Holiness Plays Hide and Seek With Muslims.[20]

Writings and speeches[edit]

Cover of Ahmed Deedat's book The Choice

Deedat published and mass-produced over one dozen palm-sized booklets focusing on the following major themes.[21] Most of Deedat's numerous lectures, as well as most of his debates in fact, focus on and around these same themes. Often the same theme has several video lectures to its credit, having been delivered at different times and different places.

  • Is the Bible God's Word?[22]
  • What The Bible Says About Muhammad
  • Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?[23]
    • several smaller spin-off titles on specific aspects of Crucifixion
  • Muhammad: The Natural Successor to Christ
  • Christ in Islam[24]
  • Muhammad The Greatest
  • Al-Qur'an the Miracle of Miracles[25]

Capitalizing on his popularity in the Middle East following his receipt of the King Faisal Award, Deedat secured a grant to print a collated volume of four of his popular booklets. 10,000 copies of this book titled The Choice: Islam and Christianity were initially printed on April 1993;[26] this book was very popular in the 1990s, available for free at many missionary outlets across North America. Subsequently, several printing houses offered to print more, and within two years another 250,000 copies had been printed in several print runs across the Middle East.

Later, a second paperback volume entitled The Choice: Volume Two containing six more of Deedat's booklets was published. Deedat also widely promoted a South African printing of The Holy Qur'an Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali with commentary and a detailed index. This was widely sold at subsidised cost to the general public, and is often mentioned in Deedat's speeches.

Deedat also produced a booklet entitled "Al-Qur'an: the Ultimate Miracle" featuring the theory of 'the Number 19' that was popularised by Arizona-based Egyptian computer analyst Dr. Rashad Khalifa. However, this booklet was withdrawn after Dr. Khalifa disclosed some controversial beliefs, including his rejection of the entire Hadith literature of Islam.[27]


Deedat's debates and writings have been labelled a form of apologetics[3] by Lloyd V. J. Ridgeon, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Glasgow.

Muslim scholar Farid Esack has criticised Deedat, comparing him to such fundamentalists as Rabbi Meir Kahane and Jerry Falwell, and writing:[28]

Deedat's multitude of anti-Christian, anti-Jewish and anti-Hindu videotapes have told us all that there is to be told about the other, and we are comfortable with that. There are times, of course, when questions surface about the importance of correct dogma, about the importance of labels to a God whom we believe sees beyond labels and looks at the hearts of people. Instead of pursuing these questions, we hasten back and seek refuge in "the known." We order another of those Deedat tapes.[28]

The Stephen Roth institute for the study of contemporary antisemitism and racism calls Deedat "anti-Jewish" but does not elaborate.[29] In France sale and distribution of his books has been forbidden since 1994 as they are said to be violently anti-western, antisemitic and inciting to racial hate. [30]

Following his 1981 debate with Deedat, Josh McDowell released a book which included criticism of a number of Deedat's arguments from a Christian perspective.[31] Deedat responded to McDowell's book in chapters 17 and 19 of "Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction".[32]

In his last tour to Australia, the publicity resulting from the presence of Deedat caused Franca Arena, member of the Legislative Council of the government of New South Wales to comment in her speech concerning racism:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Obituary (Archive): Ahmed Hoosen Deedat (1918–2005): by Goolam Vahed, Department of History, University of KwaZulu Natal
  2. ^ Ahmed Deedat – How It All Began, by Fatima Asmal, Islamic Voice, September 2005
  3. ^ a b David Westerlund, Ahmed Deedat's Theology of Religion: Apologetics through Polemics. Journal of Religion in Africa, 33(3). 2003
  4. ^ Ahmed Deedat Islamic Research Foundation. Retrieved on 29 July 2009.
  5. ^ a b The life of Shaikh Ahmed Deedat at the Wayback Machine (archived February 25, 2007) By Asim Khan, 21 January 2006, on Aljazeera.net
  6. ^ M.Rahmatullah Kairanvi (2003) Izhar-ul-haq (The Truth Revealed Part 1-2-3), TAHA ISBN 978-1-8420-0046-5
  7. ^ Ahmed Deedat exposes lies of Shia scholar on YouTube Interview. Retrieved on 18 March 2012.
  8. ^ Demystifying Islam and Debating Christianity, Imran Garda, 2006
  9. ^ Durban See & Do Guide: Jumma Musjid Mosque
  10. ^ Islamic Propagation Centre International
  11. ^ Islamic icon leaves behind a legacy, IOL.co.za, 9 August 2005
  12. ^ a b South African Muslims reject anti-Hindu DVD at the Wayback Machine (archived March 12, 2007), India E-news, Sunday, 12 March 2006
  13. ^ a b c Medical Report on Sheikh Ahmed Deedat
  14. ^ Muslims Mourn Sheikh Ahmed Deedat
  15. ^ Wife of Sheikh Ahmed Deedat passes on... by Shahid Akmal, The Muslim News, 7 September 2006
  16. ^ Was Christ Crucified? – transcript of debate between Ahmed Deedat and Josh McDowell, IsNet.org
  17. ^ Was Christ Crucified? – video of Deedat's debate with Dr. Floyd E. Clark; Anis Shorrosh seen during Q&A Session.
  18. ^ Extracts from the debate between Deedat & Sjoberg at the Wayback Machine (archived June 22, 2001)
  19. ^ Pope made important overtures to non-Christian religions; By Jerry Filteau, Catholic News Service, 2005
  20. ^ His Holiness Plays Hide and Seek With Muslims at the Wayback Machine (archived June 19, 2001); Ahmed Deedat
  21. ^ Islam And Christianity – A Comparative Analysis
  22. ^ Is the Bible God's Word?, by Ahmed Deedat
  23. ^ Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction, by Ahmed Deedat
  24. ^ Christ in Islam, by Ahmed Deedat
  25. ^ Al-Qur'an the Miracle of Miracles, by Ahmed Deedat
  26. ^ The Choice: Islam and Christianity, by Ahmed Deedat
  27. ^ [1][dead link]
  28. ^ a b To whom shall we give access to our water holes?, by Farid Esack
  29. ^ Tel-Aviv University
  30. ^ Details for individual publications at Légifrance: [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]
  31. ^ The Islam Debate, Josh McDowell and John Gilchrist, Here's Life Publishers, 1983
  32. ^ Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction, by Ahmed Deedat
  33. ^ "Racism". Parliament of New South Wales. 30 May 1996. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 

External links[edit]