Always smiling, always optimistic, always cheerful, always humble, always first to greet and always first to seek Allah's blessings for whomever he met, always ready to serve His cause no matter how seriously ill he was and always willing to contribute to the cause of Islam and humanity with all the resources that he had. That was Dr. Hassan Hathout, a renowned figure in the 21st century Muslim community.
A saying of Prophet Muhammad is, "With knowledge man rises to the heights of goodness and to a noble position, associated with sovereigns in this world, and attains the perfection of happiness in the next." Dr. Hassan Hathout was such a man of knowledge.
I had heard of Dr. Hassan Hathout in London, from Dr. Fathi Osman, the editor-in Chief of Arabia, the Islamic World Review, where I was working as a junior editor. Dr. Osman had introduced him as a leading Muslim intellectual of the past century, a freedom fighter, a human rights activist and a down to earth Islamic scholar. A few accounts about Dr. Hassan Hathout that circulated in the Arabia's office show the character of this great man. An incident of Dr. Hathout's life that was often told in the office was that he saved a Jewish soldier from near death in the battlefield in 1948 during the first war between the Arabs and the Israeli despite the fact that he was serving on the Palestinian side. The episode when he performed a critical surgery on his patient even after getting the news of then his only six year old daughter in a car accident in Scotland spoke of the high moral ethics he held. The story that he had decided to call off his successful medical practice in Kuwait to migrate to the USA to serve Islam was touching to those who were skeptical about the Muslim presence in the West.
I got the opportunity to meet Dr. Hassan Hathout in the summer of 1989 when I joined the Minaret magazine. He was larger than the life stories that I had heard about him. He was more humble than the standards of humility that people usually set for them and others. He was more pleasant than one can imagine the extent of pleasantries. He was eager to pass on his legacy to the younger generations. Always looking for younger people who could dedicate them to serve humanity, he would hold special training sessions for them and invite them to his home to spend as much time as they could afford. He would not refuse speaking engagements in any gathering no matter how small or large was the audience as long as it served the cause of peace and justice.
He was always optimistic about the future of Islam in America. He always exhorted his students to pay back to America what it had given to them in terms of freedom and equality. He always explained that the Divine values coupled with the American commitment to freedom could create one of the best societies human civilization has ever witnessed. As a champion of non-violence, he would always emphasize on the necessity and usefulness of dialogue. He participated in the movement of a nuclear free world and was instrumental in bringing the Muslim community closer to the movement of world peace.
During the first Iraq war, he was the first one in the country who had mobilized an interfaith community to stand for peace in one of the biggest interfaith gatherings that took place at the Islamic Center of Southern California. Even in the worst situation, when the tempers of people would be running high, he would always ask others to have patience and be ready to forgive and forget and move forward with the spirit of brotherhood.
He never showed anger to even those who had hurt him. He never showed any hatred to even those who could be termed as the open enemies of the cause he was espousing.
Dr. Hassan belonged to that generation of Muslim activists who had spent time with stalwarts like Hassan Banna Shaheed of Egypt and scholars like Hudhibi and others. He was tortured, imprisoned and persecuted for his beliefs, but he never wavered from his path wherever he went.
He was a fighter. When he confronted cancer, he fought like a general. Even in the midst of his painful treatment, he compiled his book, the Reading of Muslim Mind, one of the best selling Muslim books in America. He did not stop there. He wrote six more books during that period of serious illness.
He had become frail and weak. Yet, he would use every single ounce of his strength to either teach, or give a lecture or to write an article or to advice those who would seek his advice. He was a remarkable example of Muslim leadership who silently served the cause without seeking any fame or popularity. He devoted his entire life, his resources and his work to the cause of God. What else can one expect from those who are described by Allah in the Quran as Muhsineen. Indeed, Dr. Hassan Hathout was among the Mohsineen.
We thank God for giving us Dr. Hathout. We thank God for inspiring him to be our teacher and guide. We thank Allah for all that Dr. Hassan Hathout and his life was about. May Allah accept him among those who hold the noblest position in the eternal realm.