By Dr. Jasim Mohammad
Death of Dr. B.S. Abdur Rahman has not only shocked who knew his mission and lifelong works but also those who have benefited by his devotion and those who took inspirations from him. His untimely death has brought a vacuam in Indian educational scenario and it is almost impossible to be filled up in near future. Indian Muslim Community has legacy of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of the Aligarh Muslim University before it, Dr. B.S. Abdur Rahman has achieved almost that place and has become another inspirational figure.
Dr. B.S. Abdur Rahman was born in kilakarai falling under Ramanathapuram district of Tamilnadu state in 1927. Due to his works and philanthropist bent of mind, Dr. Rahman became a well known personality who devoted himself for the upliftment of the economically weaker sections and minorities through their educational empowerment. He did not lagged behind in providing good facilities of health care to the deprived sections of society.
B.S. Abdur Rahman, Vice Chairman of Emirates Trading Agency LLC and Associated Construction and Investments Co. LLC (ETA-ASCON), the Dubai-based $2 billion industrial behemoth, was a multi-faceted personality, much like the diamonds he dealt with when he began in humble business in Sri Lanka, over half a century ago.
Diamond merchant, industrialist, educationist, philanthropist, shipping magnate, generous contributor and enthusiastic participant in many other business and social activities he is a renaissance man whose outlook was Millennial. Meaning, while his values were classical, his thinking was forward looking.
Kilakarai, on the coast of Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu, where Abdur Rahman (fondly known as Sena Aana) was born, is a town made famous in the region by his illustrious ancestor, Vallal Seethakathi.
The forbears of Abdur Rahman migrated to Kilakarai from Arabia in the 12th century. Kilakarai, which means East Coast in Tamil, was a flourishing port to which mearchants from the east and west came. A densely populated area, predominantly by Muslims, it owned its prosperity to them.
From centuries they traded with Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon), dealing in pealing in pearls, gemstones and conches. Even today, many of them live in Sri Lanka or do business with the island. Abdur Rahman too began his career in Ceylon. Among the pearl traders of Kilakarai was Buhari Aalim. Abdur Rahman was his son.
Aalim was an expert in valuing precious stones and pearls. He would hold a gem between his right thumb and index finger and, looking at it against the sun, study the quality of the watermark within to judge the worth of the precious stone. He would be unfailingly correct.
Watching his father at work, the young Abdur Rahman was soon able to understand the nuances of the trade. This training and experience helped him to become one of the most successful merchants in the diamond trade in due course.
When Abdur Rahman first went to Colombo, he was fifteen years old. He had with him just Indian Rupees 149. He worked as an errand boy for diamond merchants, carrying their diamonds and other gems from sellers to buyers and back. He was at the time staying with some traders from Kilakarai and neighboruring villages. They allowed him to stay with them without any payment, but he had, instead, to fetch tea them from a nearby hotel, clean the rooms and perform other menial tasks.
A lesser person perhaps would have thrown in the towel. But Abdur Rahman was made of sterner stuff. Before long, he used his persuasive skills to obtain gemstones from another merchant and began trading in them. In time he became a successful gem trader. The base that Abdur Rahman built in Ceylon was to help him in all his future activities.
He began visiting Belgium, then as now, a centre of the gem trade, the USA, South America and set up business in Penang, Malaysia, Chennai, Kolkata (then Calcutta), and then in Hong Kong. It was in Hong Kong that his business flourished. Incidentally, Abdur Rahman was the first person from Kilakarai to go to Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong he launched the Precious Trading Company in 1954. Later, his very special brainchild, the Amana Group of Hong Kong, was established. It was under its banner that the multinational company ETA-ASCON came into existence.
He was a firm believer in education and took upon himself the task of educationally empower the poor and the deprived. He established a wide network of educational institutions. In 1967, he founded Seethakathi Trust and in 1979, All India Islamic Foundation to achieve his target of serving the community and nation. He founded twelve educational institutions including an Engineering University, a woman’s college, an Arabic College two boys schools, 3 girls schools, a woman Nursing college, a Teacher Training College, B.Ed College for woman and 2 hospitals beside orphanages in rural and urban areas. His biggest achievement was founding a 60 bed Yousuf Zulaikha hospital at Kilakrai and a 150 bed Crescent hospital at Madurai. He did not lagged behind in providing comfort of life to most deprived orphanages and founded Al Momin orphanages for boys and girls at Ottapidram, Tanjore, Kilakarai and Thiruvithancode of Tamilnadu.
Dr. B.S. Abdur Rahman was farsighted man and knew the importance of administration. He was well aware that to uplift community, it is very necessary that Muslim youths join Indian Administrative Services and so he established Crescent IAS and Carriers Guidance Academy in 1994 beside an Islamic Studies & Cultural Centre at Chennai.
His social works span to wide area. Dr. B.S. Abdur Rahman founded B.S. Abdur Rahman Zakat Fund Foundation in 2007 which provides educational grants for students. Through this foundation, B.S. Abdur Rahmand has maintained magniticence of Zakat which may be called a pillar of Islam and which is an instrument for survival of poor Muslims.
He 1017 Self Help Group (SHG) which became beneficial to 17093 deprived and helpless women. He also founded and managed various other trusts like Yousuf Zulaikha (1993) Chennai for education, health care and women empowerment. United Economic Forum in 1994 and Seethakathi NGO in 2002.
He also establish new milestones in business field. He was founder Chairman of Dubai based ETA – Ascon – Star Group and was treated a renowned Indian entrepreneur in UAE. It may be known that the group has a turn over US$ 5.5 billion and employs 50,000 people. With his visionary zeal and entrepreneurial spirit. B.S. Abdur Rahman has been the guiding force behind many companies in India, among which the most important is the Buhari Group the Indian Multinational. The prominent companies and establishments under Buhari Group include East Coast Construction Ltd. (ECCI) 50 years in the field of construction, Coal & Oil and many other automobile dealership companies.
In recognition of his services he received many awards also. The Aligarh Muslim University Students Union conferred him life membership while Sathyabama University awarded Honorary Doctorate in recognition of his contribution to Women Education.
In fact Dr. B.S. Abdur Rahman had became an inspirational force to young generation during his own life time.
There are very few people who climb the ladder of success and remember the down trodden sections of the society or do anything meaningful for them. Whatever Dr. B.S. Abdur Rahman has done for the manginalised and deprived sections of society will be always not only remembered but will also be documented in social and educational history of India. The best tribute to Dr. B.S. Abdur Rahman will be to follow the path shown by him not only in business but other fields also.