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July 2, 2019

Remembering Macci Saheb 1938 ─ 2019

While leadership qualities are diverse, integrity is simply a yes-or-no question. You either have it or you don't. For that reason, leaders must always display the highest standards of integrity. Hasan Osman Macci who breathed his last and met his Lord on January 15, 2019 exemplified that character.

Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un

People addressed him as Macci Saheb perhaps attesting to his modesty and endorsing his simplicity. He was genuinely a big hearted, unassuming, calm person full of wisdom with a quick smile. His funeral services at the Islamic Foundation was largely attended by community members family, friends and admirers.

My link with the Islamic Foundation of Toronto (IFT), popularly known as Nugget Masjid in Scarborough goes back to the day when the groundbreaking ceremony took place in pouring rain when Shaykh Ahmed Kutty and Hafiz Ishtiaq Talib made heartfelt duas for its establishment (completed 1992) as a rallying point for Muslims in Canada. It would be fair to clarify my official involvement was in the capacity of IFT’s spokesperson for the media particularly during the stormy post 911 period and editor of its quarterly publication, The Muslim Tribune (1999- 2001).

Narrating the early history of the largest Masjid built in the GTA, Muneeb Nasir, president of Olive Tree Foundation has this to say; "Thus began the journey of the organization that would grow to become one of the most vibrant centers for Muslims in the Greater Toronto Area and eventually assume a leading role."  Since its opening, it attracted dignitaries from around the world including the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau who was famously featured dining with the community members in an informal manner. 

Macci saheb led this institution with dignity and honour. To bring stability and continuity in the organization that was growing exponentially, he was persuaded to take the lead role twice as offering himself for a position was never his idea. According to Syed Mukarram, a former Majlis member (1997-2000 / 2014-2015) known for his frankness and impeccable reputation worked closely with Macci saheb for many years, affirmed; "in any dispute/disagreement within the Majlis or conflicts of any nature, everyone knew well that Macci saheb is the sole arbiter of truth and fairness and nothing less." Mukarram a well-read person knew Macci saheb for many years has closely seen the upheaval at IFT believes; "Macci saheb stands tall among leaders in the Muslim community due largely to his wholesome sincerity and truthfulness –a man of undaunted courage never hesitated to step in and speak the truth." He added; "He was far above the ethnic, racial and linguistic conflicts that has sadly plagued much of the community." When asked what was his greatest contribution to IFT, he summed up; “his moral authority in the Majlis.”!

By profession, he was a Chartered Accountant from UK and worked as the chief Accountant for a large pharmaceutical co. That made him numbers-oriented person with an analytical approach. Accountants are known to be extremely cautious and at times pessimist, as such he was deeply conscious of checks and controls and would prefer to take a safer route that minimizes risks. He inspired his colleagues in the Shura with the much-needed sense of purpose and direction.

He touched many lives, those who came to attend his funeral and the many I spoke to resonated the same sentiments about him as a gentle soul and a genuinely spiritual person who was exceptionally generous in giving donations.

Ethical lapses that create chaos in an organization highlight the importance of trust among its leadership. His uprightness was rock solid that lifted him to a loftier moral high ground, far ahead of his many contemporaries. He was acutely conscious of the higher accountability in his everyday life and most particularly when he was in the leadership role. Javaid Ali Khan a former president (2007-2014) at IFT, a hardworking and a highly resourceful individual spoke at his funeral and recounted Macci Saheb’s gentleness as a trusted leader.

Ased Malik, a senior executive with a multi-national corporation gave countless voluntary hours to IFT since the very beginning and was instrumental in setting up the information system, recollects his thoughts; he was the least controversial…. Won’t hurt a fly type of person, a strong proponent of working together in harmony. With multiple terms (1997-2001 / 2014-2016) he was the longest serving president."  Malik, a former treasurer (1992-1996) and current trustee (2016 - ) "feels his absence would be felt at meetings and other events where he was asked to address young people.”

Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose. Macci saheb was brave he didn’t blink when faced with daunting challenges. During critical times after the long drawn legal battles of its own, there was a void in leadership and he was called in to spearhead IFT. He gracefully accepted the challenge and helped to mend the fences. His mere presence helped to bring back the confidence and restore the trust of the congregation. 

While people in their fifties and sixties knew Macci saheb and spoke well about him, but among the crowd Waseem Ali Haider, a young man born and bred in Toronto has this to say about the deceased; "he was like the elder statesman in the community. Unlike the common scenario at many Masajid, he never chased power rather it chased him."

Apart from his work and his devotion to IFT he was the first treasurer of the Memon Association of Canada.

His son Mansur Macci and his daughter Muzna Macci remember their father; "as a caring and an affectionate parent ─ an excellent role model who guided us all along… never raised his voice in admonishing and always believed in explaining things with grace and affection.” 

He came to Canada in 1973 from Kampala, Uganda, left behind his wife, three children and eight grandchildren and many admirers.

May Allah rest his soul in the highest station of Jannah, Ameen.

Javed Akbar is a free-lance writer and his opinion columns have appeared in the Toronto Star and online magazine, The Canadian Charger.

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