Final prayer for ‘visionary’
Philanthropist who founded Noor Cultural Centre remembered for ‘his love for humanity’
Hours before Hassanali Lakhani died, with family and friends crowded around his bedside at Markham Stouffville Hospital, the devout Muslim could not keep his eyes off the clock. When the sun went down just after 5 p.m. on Friday, the 89-year-old asked his loved ones to rotate his bed as far as all the electrical cords andIVswouldallowsothathecould face Mecca during his final sunset prayer, a close family friend recalls.
“That will be a cherished memory that lives on in me for the rest of my life: how authentically pious he really was, even in his last moments,” Timothy Gianotti says. “He was physically unable to go through the postures of prayer but he followed thewholeprayerrightfromhisbed.”
Lakhani was known in Toronto’s Islamic community as a philanthropist and a visionary. He died early Saturday in hospital of kidney failure.
Originally from Kenya, Lakhani moved to England in 1972 and was appointed president of the Ismaili Council of London by the Aga Khan before coming to Canada with his family in1988.
His efforts to unite Muslims in all their diversity and to celebrate Islamic culture live on in the Noor Cultural Centre he founded in 2003. His daughter, Samira Kanji, is the current president of the centre in Don Mills, which promotes learning through an endowed chair and two fellowships in Islamic Studies at York University.
“It’s one thing that we were never in any doubt of, as his family, that this was something that mattered so much to him. We will continue with his vision for it,” she says.
The centre is also a hub for cultural and religious exchange, manifest in the York-Noor lecture series, which brings in religious scholars from around the globe.
The Lakhanis own hotels in the United States and the Shawneeki Golf Club near Newmarket but it’s their leadership in the Islamic community that really stands out, says Gianotti, who first came to the centre as a chair in 2007 and is currently one of the fellows.
“I really came to see him as a visionary sitting within a visionary family,” Gianotti says. “It was his joy and his love: these are the two qualities I will always remember. They were both so evident on his face.
“His love for Islam, his love for humanity beyond the parameters of the Muslim community and his love of seeing people come together in a respectful and intelligent way.”
Lakhani is survived by his wife, Noorbanu Lakhani, 82; four children, Nizar Lakhani, Abdul-Munim Lakhani, Samira Kanji and Karim Lakhani; nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held at the Ismaili Centre, on Middlefield Rd. in Scarborough, at noon Tuesday.
Memorial prayers will be held at the Noor Cultural Centre on Wynford Dr. in Don Mills at 1:20 p.m. on Friday.