Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Death of Ilhan: Islam's charitable history

Mustafa Ilhan’s death reminds us of the charity of one of Australia’s earliest Muslims

In the wake of Mustafa “Crazy John” Ilhan's death we have learned that there was much more than meets the eye to his charitable nature. He apparently paid $50000 for a child’s drawing during a school fund-raiser. But as his mates have attested Ilhan was a very generous man in both public and private life. He his best known for his foundation for Food Allergies.

Most people would not have known that Ilhan was a proud Australian of Turkish descent and he was a Muslim. Considering that Islam has had a generally negative time in the media it is good to hear a positive story arising from this tragic event. Mustafa Ilhan was at the prime of his life and was just shaping up for bigger and better things. He was as I believe also preparing to do the Hajj, which would have been a life changing experience. It is all very sad that we will never know just what great things Mustafa would have done on the back of his success as one of the wealthiest businessmen in Australia.

It is not unusual for wealthy men to do great charitable works. We have in Australia many well known businessmen who have taken on charitable causes. Many Australians will not have heard of one Australia’s first Muslim philanthropists.

Mahomet Allum was born in 1858 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He came to Australia around 1884 as a camel driver and worked in Cloncurry, Broken Hill and West Kalgoorlie. He had also worked as a station-hand, a butcher, store keeper and a miner. Allum did not come to much fame until about the late1920’s when he settled in the city of Adelaide. He became a herbalist dispensing natural remedies from his home in Sturt street, asking for no fee but only donations claiming that the gift of healing was in his family for over 400 years. He had healed it is reported thousands of people in the Adelaide area where modern medical treatments had failed. He was not liked by many doctors for obvious reasons.

Yet this strange and enigmatic miracle man was peppered with controversy for the remainder of his life. In 1935 he was charged and found guilty with having posed as a medical practitioner. In 1934 when he travelled to Afghanistan he was petitioned by 10000 people to remain in Adelaide. His popularity, healing powers and charity were attested to by his patients and published in testimonials and advertisements.

Printed in the S.A. Turf Review in 1938 is a letter by Con Noonan who writes;

“Space alas will not permit me to relate one fiftieth of the actions which to my personal knowledge, this kindly Afghan has performed in the greatest of all causes- charity. But I would be devoid of all sense of gratitude were I to fail to place on record the gift which he presented to me – the restoration of normal health after 30 years of suffering.”

He died on 26 March 1964 at his large home in Everard Park, he was believed to be about 108 years old and the funeral procession from his house to the cemetery was over a kilometre long. Allum’s estate, worth over 11000 pounds was nearly all willed to institutions which cared for children.

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