Your greatness lies not in what you have, but in what you give.
It’s rare to find someone who gains more happiness from giving to others than from receiving. Abdool Mutin Yousouf Patel is one of those admirable individuals who strives to help those unable to help themselves. Generosity and kindness reside deep within him, and he gives freely of his own wealth to anyone who needs it. However, things were not always as easy and bountiful for Abdool Mutin while he was growing up.
His upbringing in Chatsworth, Durban, was far flung from the successful life he has spent years tirelessly building up. Surviving most days on just bread and tea, Abdool and his family could hardly afford even the simplest of luxuries that are often taken for granted. On one occasion, after being told to leave their place of residence, a Muslim family kindly cleared out their ‘fowl house’ for 10-year old Abdool and his family to reside in. Generous encounters such as this helped frame his mind set, and he knew that if he attained wealth in the future, he would always share it. Abdool understood the struggles and difficulties of growing up close to destitute which only spurred him on to create a better life for himself and his family. He never let his less than fortunate circumstances dictate his life negatively nor embitter him. Instead, he lived out his youthful days to the fullest, blissfully enjoying each moment spent with friends – often getting into trouble, but always taking a lesson from each escapade.
He started working when his father took ill, having no choice but to drop out of school in Standard 9, and step in to support his family. His keen interest in construction led him to study further, attaining certificates and a diploma in Building. His first big break was given to him at 34 years old, courtesy of Yusuf Lockhat, a prominent Durban businessman and property developer. Mr. Lockhat asked Abdool to complete construction work on a building for resale in Parlock. After the success of this initial project, Yusuf and Abdool’s business relationship was firmly cemented for the next 15 years. Eventually, Abdool began buying his own property for building and reselling purposes.
Abdool Mutin’s enterprising adeptness didn’t stop there. Along with this brother, he established a chain of 13 menswear stores situated around Durban, called ‘Glamour Boys and Barons’, which has since closed due to variable staff challenges. He took over a fencing company 16 years ago, Pro Fencing, expanding it into a thriving business. While he may have semi-retired 5 years ago, 65 year old Abdool isn’t someone who can sit around idly and spend his days leisurely in retirement. His tenacious work ethic still keeps him immersed in the business world. Abdool is extremely grateful to his wife Hasina, who has supported and encouraged him over the years.
A true humanitarian, Abdool spends much of his time involved in social work and charitable projects. He says that knowing what it feels like to be hungry and destitute, he cannot bear to see another human being go through the same desolate experiences that he did. Along with three of his closest comrades, Abdool set up an organisation called ‘Four Friends’. Each of them donates R10 000 monthly, towards food and grocery hampers for widows and orphans. Starting with just five hampers per month, this project expanded exponentially to more than 300. He works together with ‘Chohans’, a popular grocery franchise in Durban, which assists with the distribution of the hampers to other local charity organisations and the underprivileged. Abdool lives by the instruction of Almighty Allah and the sunnah of Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W), to help widows and orphans. “If you take one step towards Allah, he will take ten steps towards you”, he explains.
“By giving away your wealth, it does not get depleted.” Abdool abides by this precept, and without any reluctance and with utmost sincerity, has become a beacon of hope for so many. He sponsors several schools in the area, pays utility bills for those who can’t afford to, and never demands rent from any of his tenants who cannot afford to pay him. He sends truckloads of groceries to Malawi each Ramadaan to feed 12-15 families in five villages. This year, transportation costs were not feasible but Abdul didn’t let this setback impede his good intentions. Instead, it propelled him to donates funds to Malawian muazzins locally, to send to their families abroad. The list of Abdool’s beneficiaries is endless. In 2005, a destructive fire burnt down many homes in an informal settlement in Kennedy Road, Clare Estate (Durban). Abdool closed his business for the day and brought along his best artisans to build 30-40 new homes for those affected by the fire, and also provided meals for the victims.
A 2016 trip to Pakistan had a profound impact on him – and it still leaves him reeling from sadness. While attending a function there, he sponsored 20 deghs (large pots) of food each day for lunch and supper. Underprivileged women would collect the midday meals while the men would receive the dinner share. Crowds of people, yearning to be fed, trampled over each other. As he served up biryani to the needy, Abdool despairingly recalls seeing men lift up their shirts and kurthas (traditional, long Islamic dress for men), to create makeshift baskets in order to carry whatever food they could. They were so destitute that they didn’t even own dishes to collect the free food in. Their sheer desperation shattered Abdool’s heart, so the next day he sourced packets for the poor to package their food in.
Abdool’s proudest philanthropic achievement was during Ramadaan 2017, when his close friend Ahmed, a policeman, requested his help in an anguishing case. Ahmed’s daughter, Munira, who’s a nurse at Clairwood Hospital, found three babies abandoned in a dustbin. Devastated at hearing about the predicament of these innocent children, Abdool immediately sprang into action along with the help of his friend, Nadeem. They bought clothes, blankets and every other necessity which a little baby would need. They also supported an additional 13-15 helpless children at the hospital. The nurses dressed the babies up in their new clothes and sent the pictures to Abdool, who stated that seeing the babies happy was the best Eid gift he could ever ask for.
Abdool champions the Proudly Muslims of SA initiative, saying that the current government doesn’t realise what Muslims have been doing for our country, not only now, but also during apartheid. They helped to build schools and provide food for the needy. Politicians need to take this into account before making allegations.
“You don’t have to be rich to be charitable.” Abdool wants our society to know that by giving just R50 to a poor family, it means a great deal to them. “Anything that you give is worth it. Do your share, do what Allah instructed and what Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W) has shown us.” He encourages people to assist widows and orphans in their areas.
His motto is to live life to the fullest and appreciate it, with whatever you may have. Always smile and compliment others; this simple notion may just make someone’s day better.
His greatest life lesson: “Don’t judge people by what they have, judge them by what their heart is”.
Abdool Mutin Patel would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to improve life for others, and that every second and minute, he was doing something for someone else. He would like his children to trail the philanthropic path, and continue his legacy of humanitarian pursuits and charitable deeds.
Abdool’s compassion for the needy and unwavering acts of assistance will be eternally embedded in the lives of all those whose daily hardships he has alleviated.