Dr. M. Amir Ali, In Memoriam
by M. Amir Ali, Mary Ali, Dawood Ali and Mohammed Ahmed
Mir Amir Ali was born on August 6 in Hyderabad, India. His father died when he was 11 years old, and Amir became the head of the family. Despite tough family conditions, Amir pursued his education and graduated high school in 1952. He emigrated to Pakistan, leaving his mother and four siblings behind in the hands of Allah. In Karachi he pursued a Bachelor of Commerce degree, which he successfully completed in 1958 from the University of Karachi.
In the summer of 1957 he went back to Hyderabad and brought his mother and siblings to Karachi. In 1958 he earned a scholarship to study Medical Technology at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. In 1961 he was admitted to the University of Iowa to pursue graduate studies.
In his research laboratory, Amir began introducing Islam and Pakistan to his colleagues but found little interest from people. However, one of them, Mary Gosch, took interest and wanted to learn. They developed mutual interest in each other and married on August 25, 1967 at the Islamic Center of Washington DC.
After receiving his M.S. in biochemistry in 1967, he was admitted to the University of Illinois at Chicago where he began his doctorate studies, receiving his Ph.D. in bio-organic chemistry in 1972. Subsequently, Amir worked at a number of hospitals, eventually becoming the Director of the clinical laboratories at Edgewater Hospital in Chicago.
During these years he actively pursued his own education in Islam, studying exegeses of the Quran and various Hadith collections. He taught what he learned to his family every day, which by 1980 had grown to include 4 children.
In 1980 he was offered a unique opportunity. Amir accepted a position to manage a hospital supply business in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, hoping that by living there, he and his family would greatly accelerate their knowledge of Islam and Arabic. While in Saudi Arabia, Amir was able to avail himself of many opportunities for his family as planned. His children learned Arabic and Islam. He and his family were able to perform the Hajj and Umrah many times. Visitation of Makkah and Madinah were frequent and were highlights of the entire experience.
In 1986 Amir moved back to Chicago. By that time he had learned a tremendous amount about Islam and felt that he had spent enough time earning a living for himself and dedicated the rest of his life to the service of Allah. He chose to live with a poverty level income and founded the Institute of Islamic Information and Education with the mission of educating the people of North America about Islam. Amir was its Managing Director and spent nearly every waking moment in pursuit of its mission.
The successes of the III&E are many. In 1988 it opened the Islamic Reading Room in Chicago. To date, the III&E has distributed millions of brochures about of Islam; has donated hundreds of books to libraries; witnessed the conversion of thousands of people to Islam; educated millions of people either in person or though its literature. A weekly television program about Islam was developed and aired for 3 months in 1993. In 1996 Amir introduced the Da’wah Intensive Course, a 90 hour training course for Muslims to give them a thorough grounding in Islamic knowledge through Quran and Hadith, how to conduct da’wah, how to answer commonly asked questions about Islam, and information on the basic concepts in Christianity and Judaism. In 1997, the III&E started its website at iiie.net. In 2000, Amir started the Muslim International email newsletter, whose subscribers number in the thousands. He opened a personal website, ilaam.net, in 2002 to publish his own political commentary and the commentary of others that he endorsed.
In 2002, he retired from his position as Managing Director of the III&E, taking the role of Advisor. However, he continued to actively pursue da’wah activities to the extent of his ability.
Amir was very outspoken in his views of what was right and was well respected for his vast knowledge of the Quran and Hadith. Yet, he still sought out people who had more knowledge to learn from them.
Amir Ali lived a simple life. He never owned a home, drove used cars, wore clothes until they were threadbare, and had little money to spare. He invested whatever money he had in books, always seeking to increase his knowledge. The last thing he was observed doing before he died was reading.
He had numerous health problems for much of his life. Fatigue and pain were daily companions. Yet he still went to the Reading Room to continue the work of da’wah. He always felt that Allah’s work was never finished, so he continued to work.
At 4 am on November 19, following open-heart surgery two days prior, his heart stopped while he was sleeping. He was buried in Chicago on the 20th, which was attended by one of the largest funeral gatherings ever held by Muslims in Chicago.
Inna-Lillahi wa Inna Ilaihi Raje’oun (we are all from Allah and we all return to Him)
His most earnest wish was that the work of the III&E continue after his death. Contributions to the III&E can be made online at iiie.net/donate.