July 1st, 2009 is the 91st birthday of the Late Ahmed Hussain Deedat the charismatic Islamic activist, Bible student and speaker.
His combative debate style could be attributed to the circumstances that brought him to this line of work in the first place: attempts by young trainee Christian missionaries to convert him during his childhood. He used these Christian missionaries to practice and learn techniques of debating the Bible. He also perfected his skills which were to give him his worldwide debating popularity later on.
Deedat’s popularity came late in life considering he was in his 60’s and his first speech was in 1942. But nevertheless it took the video cassette world of the 80’s and 90’s by storm. He brought entertainment value to religious videos. Muslims around the world watched his debates with the same enthusiasm, thrill and excitement of a sports match. We all knew what the end of the debate would be, but every bit of information was an exciting discovery about the Christian faith and how Islam would compare.
His debates inspired a whole generation of English speaking middle class Muslims particularly the young to explore the interesting topic of refuting the Bible. This study would eventually bring many to similar activism. Thousands attended his training classes which actually began in the 30’s.
What is more impressive is the thousands of books, publications, videos and websites that Christians produced in response to his debates and books. This alone is a testimony to the impact Deedat made.
However, because of his combative approach to debating Christianity and even Hinduism, his approach may not be suitable in most cases but it was effective in dealing with racism in South Africa. Unfortunately most of his students are too engrossed in debating passionate Christians: a population whose relevance in the world stage is gradually decreasing, while non religious Islamophopes have become the greatest challenge to Muslims. But his style is needed today to debate the rising menace of Islamophobia. For this, the world desperately needs another Deedat.