Thursday, 29 July 2010

Sheikh Ahmed Salah Jamjoom - Pioneer in Islamic Activities

Sheikh Ahmed Salah Jamjoom (1923-2010):
Unique & Pioneer in Islamic activities

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Sheikh Ahmed Salah Jamjoom was simultaneously an Islamic thinker, notable economic expert, a successful business man and a generous philanthropist, who left a great contribution in three specific fields, i.e. Islamic education, Islamic finance and banking and Qur’an Memorisation.

Saudi Commerce Minister
Born in a respectable business family of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1923, Sheikh Ahmed Salah Jamjoom was graduated in Finance from an American University. Initially, after returning back from the United States, he joined in a Government department. He was then appointed as Finance Minister in the Cabinet of King Saud bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia in early Sixties; after one year or so he was again appointed as Minister of Commerce in the Cabinet of King Faisal bin Abdulaziz.

As Commerce Minister, Sheikh Ahmed was very successful. He triggered new life in the Ministry through initiating, activating and issuing many new laws and reforms. “He was successful to issue 15/16 laws concerning trade and commerce of Saudi Arabia. “That was his pioneer work in the field of commerce in Saudi Arabia,” said Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasef.

Founder, King Abdulaziz University
He was always very active in the promotion of education in the Kingdom and abroad. In 1964, he was instrumental in gathering funds and collecting contributions for the establishment of King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah. By the initiative of a group of dignitaries and businessmen, led by Sheikh Muhammad Abu Bakr Bakhashab Pasha, who donated a sum of one million Riyals as first instalment of the University on 24 July 1964, followed by a public ceremony held on 15 October, 1964 to open campaign of donation to the University. Sheikh Ahmed was instrumental in gathering money and donations. In mid-sixties, King Abdul Aziz University was a non-governmental private University and Sheikh Ahmed was a member of the first board of trustees of the University. He continued to support King Abdulaziz University all through his life. “He was always there in almost all the activities of King Abdulaziz University,” said Dr Naseef, former President of King Abdulaziz University.

Pioneer of Islamic education movement
After retirement from the Ministry, Sheikh Ahmed was very much active in all sorts of Islamic activities. Wherever there was any Islamic activity, he was there. His prime work was in the field of Islamic education. Professor Dr. Syed Ali Ashraf was the initiator of the First World Conference on Islamic education under the auspices of King Abdulaziz University. Though the holding of Islamic Education Conference was Dr. Ali Ashraf’s idea, Sheikh Ahmed followed it up and continued to support the cause of Islamic education after the Muslim Education Conference, in the setting up of the World Centre for Islamic Education, in the foundation of Islamic Academy, Cambridge and also in the establishment of Darul Ihsan University in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Dr. Naseef, the vice-chairman of the First World Conference on Muslim Education, said, “Dr Ali Ashraf proposed for the Islamization of knowledge and education system and he continued to meet me so that we could sponsor a conference. Sheikh Ahmed convinced the King Abdulaziz University; accordingly budget was received from the government to organize the conference in Makkah in 1977.”

Under the able leadership of Sheikh Ahmed Salah Jamjoom, the chairman, Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, vice-chairman and Dr. Syed Ali Ashraf, as Secretary of the Organising committee, the First World Conference on Muslim Education was organized by King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah and held in Makkah in 1977. There were about 450 Intellectual and educational scholars including 50 ministers from Muslim countries.

Sheikh Ahmed not only supported the Muslim Education Conference but also continued his support which convinced the 12th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Baghdad, Iraq in 1981 to establish the World Centre for Islamic Education in Makkah in 1981 under the auspices of the OIC. The Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers approved the appointment of the following members to the Administrative Council of the World Centre for Islamic Education at Makkah al-Mukarramah: H.E. Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef; Sheikh Ahmed Salah Jamjoom and others.

Sheikh Ahmed played an important role in organising later six conferences, the Second World Conference on Muslim Education in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 1980, the Third World Conference on Muslim Education in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 1981, the Fourth World Conference on Muslim Education in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1982 and the Fifth World Conference on Muslim Education in Cairo, Egypt in 1987 and the Sixth World Conference on Muslim Education took place in Cape Town, South Africa in 1996. Sheikh Ahmed also supported the publication of the proceedings of the first World Conference on Muslim Education in six volumes.

Chairman, Islamic Academy Cambridge
Sheikh Ahmed again patronised and supported the establishment of Islamic Academy in Cambridge in early 80s. He remained chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Academy Cambridge for many many years.

Chairman, Darul Ihsan University
In order to implement the recommendations of the First World Conference on Muslim Education to Islamise Knowledge and education system, Sheikh Ahmed and Dr. Naseef supported Dr. Ali Ashraf to establish Darul Ihsan University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 1989. Sheikh Ahmed and Dr. Naseef were the first two foreign members of the Board of Trustees of the Darul Ihsan University. Even Sheikh Ahmed was the first chairman of the Darul Ihsan Trust (DIT) and later on, Dr. Naseef became the chairman of DIT.

Islamic Finance and Banking
After his retirement from Cabinet, Sheikh Ahmed went back to his family business of motor cars and heavy equipment. Speaking about him, Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, former President of King Abdulaziz University and a very close associate of Sheikh Ahmed, said, “After that he went back to his family business of motor cars and heavy equipments. From there he was attending to all charity works, such as Islamic finance, development of Islamic Banking, establishment of Faisal Islami Bank of Prince Muhammad bin Faisal in Bahrain, Sudan and Egypt and in various places.”

Sheikh Ahmed was very eager to make sure that Islamic finance is to become the rule and norm in every Muslim country. He was trying to promote that by contacting people.

Chairman, Faisal Islami Bank Bahrain
He was chairman of the Board of Directors of the Faisal Islami Bank, Bahrain. Faisal Bank Limited was incorporated in Pakistan in October 1994 as a public quoted company listed in Karachi and Lahore. The six Pakistan branches of Faisal Islami Bank of Bahrain were amalgamated with the Bank. It strives to be a world class multi-purpose financial institution providing a range of services, working on Shari’ah principles.

Sponsor, Islamic Bank Bangladesh Limited
Sheikh Ahmed was also a foreign sponsor of the Islamic Bank Bangladesh Limited. Sheikh Ahmed along with Dr. Hamid al-Gabid, former Secretary General of the OIC and Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, former deputy Speaker of Saudi Shoura Council, encouraged the Social Islami Bank Ltd., in Bangladesh in its endeavour to assist the poverty alleviation of Bangladesh.

Chairman, Qur’an Memorisation Organisation
Sheikh Ahmed was kept himself busy with all sorts of Islamic activities. He supported and patronised the memorisation of the Holy Qur’an. Sheikh Ahmed was the chairman of the Qur’an Memorisation organisation in Jeddah. Later on, he became the chairman of the Tahfizul Qur’an (Qur’an Memorisation) in Makkah which includes 13/14 branches in Saudi Arabia Makkah region.

Sheikh Ahmed attended regularly the King Fahd International Qur’an Competition in Makkah. It was an independent body under the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Saudi Airlines
Sheikh Ahmed was the first Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines, SAUDIA. After his retirement from the Saudi cabinet as Commerce Minister, he made Saudi Arabian Airlines modern airlines probably in 1971-72, and he sent Saudis to be trained in the aviation management and operation. Saudi Arabian Airlines made tremendous progress during his time as Director General. He was in Saudi Airlines for two to four years only.

Media and Publication
Sheikh Ahmed also supported press and publication. He was chairman of Shorouk International and also patronised and promoted Al-Madinah Printing and Publishing establishment in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Attended conferences and seminars
Sheikh Ahmed was a widely travelled person. Sheikh Ahmed attended many conferences and seminars. He led a delegation to Mainland China. The objectives of his visit and other details were published in the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 6:1, January 1985, pages 208-218. Sheikh Ahmed, a former Saudi Commerce Minister, who led a delegation of Saudi businessmen to Japan in 1991, told reporters in Tokyo: “Actually we think this amount (four billion US Dollar) is very small. I think Japan should rethink, again, and they should increase the money enormously.”

Speaking about Sheikh Ahmed, Dr. Naseef said, “The one thing which I want to emphasize that he was unique and pioneer in everything; unique in Islamic activities; Islamic action. He attended to every single request came from inside or abroad, for every Islamic cause. He was really very dedicated; he never hides anything and he was loved by everybody for all the activities he did.”

Dr. Naseef obtained his Ph.D. degree in 1971 and returned back to Saudi Arabia. Sheikh Ahmed gave a big reception. Recollecting those days, Dr. Naseef said, “When I got my Ph.D. in 1971, he gave a big party inviting dignitaries, such as Prince Muhammad al-Faisal and others.”

Sheikh Ahmed passed away recently. May Allah the Almighty bless his soul and bestow him a place in Paradise.