Dr. Hassan Hathout, A Noble Soul
He was always smiling, optimistic, cheerful, humble, first to greet and seek Allah's blessings for whomever he met, and ready to serve His cause no matter how seriously ill he was. He was ever willing to contribute to Islam and humanity with all the resources 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 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 Arabia's office show this great man's character. An incident of Dr. Hathout's life flowing in the office was that he saved a Jewish soldier from near death on the battlefield in 1948 during the first war between the Arabs and the Israeli even though he served on the Palestinian side. The episode when he performed a critical surgery on his patient after getting the news of fatality 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 skeptical about the Muslim presence in the West.
Hathout was the Founding Professor and Chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Faculty of Medicine, Kuwait University, Professor of History of Medicine, Co-Founder and member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Organization of Medical Sciences, Member of the Ethics Committee for Obstetrics and Gynecology, CIOMS, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland, Director of Outreach, Islamic Center of Southern California, and Co-Founder of the Interfaith Council of Southern California, Los Angeles.
I got the opportunity to meet Dr. Hassan Hathout in the summer of 1989 when I joined the Minaret magazine. He was more significant 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 individual training sessions for them and invite them to his home to spend as much time as possible. He would not refuse speaking engagements in any gathering, no matter how small or large the audience was as long as it served the cause of peace and justice.
He was always optimistic about the future of Islam in America. He still urged 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 world peace.
During the first Iraq war, he was the first in the country to mobilize an interfaith community to stand for peace in one of the biggest interfaith gatherings 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 were hostile to him and the cause he espoused.
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.
He was a fighter. When he confronted cancer, he fought like a general. Even amid 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, give a lecture, write an article, or advise those who would seek his advice. He was a remarkable example of Muslim leadership who silently served the cause without seeking 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 Muhsineen.
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. May Allah accept him among those who hold the noblest position in the eternal realm.