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.

Hassanali Lakhani on his 89th birth­day in June. Orig­i­nally from Kenya, Lakhani came to Canada in 1988. He died Satur­day.

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