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Farewell To An Icon: Rest In Peace, Ali Suleman Habib

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Wasif Rizvi, President of Habib University, pays a heartfelt tribute to Mr. Ali Suleman Habib who passed away on Friday. Mr. Ali Habib was a leading businessman and a philanthropist of Pakistan.

إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون

رضا بقضائك و تسليماً لامرك و لامعبود سواك يا غياث المستغيثين

(Verily We Belong to Allah, and verily to Him do we return. We earnestly accept His judgement and submit to His command, as there’s none other worthy of worship, O the Succorer for the relief seekers.)

This short prayer is attributed to Imam Hussain (as), the third hold Imam of Shia Muslims, and the famous martyr of Karbala. It is reported that Imam (as) read this prayer towards the end of the day of Ashura.

These divine words seem appropriate to mourn the shocking loss of our leader and a key inspirational force behind our university, Ali Suleiman Habib, or as he was more familiarly known to us as ASH.

I remember the succinct and focused advice he gave me in one of my very first presentations to Habib family about the possible vision and direction of Habib University. After I finished laying the case for creating a new university in Karachi, Ali had three words to say, Do it well! With that he gave the signal to benchmark our efforts with the highest quality institutions of higher learning in the world.

Emboldened by this impetus, Habib University today takes pride in our close associations with some of the greatest universities in the world. This was ASH in a nutshell. A relentless pursuer of highest aspirations, both literally and metaphorically. He loved mountains and was often found in the north of Pakistan in the midst of highest peaks on the planet. He climbed mount Kilimanjaro and just few months ago mount Fuji. His business and philanthropic goals were even loftier. He not only ensured that Habib University remains on track to be a great institution of excellence but also to be ranked among the most generous private universities in the world in terms of student financial support.

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On the business side, he crafted an expansive joint venture with one of the most demanding global business partners, Toyota Motors, and became the largest manufacturer of Toyota’s famous Corolla model cars. Ali also developed powerful platforms for the business community to become more thoughtful about their practices and work collaboratively for national economic interest. Just a few weeks ago, he finished advising the government of Pakistan about boosting country’s exports manifolds by reviewing literally thousands of pages of archaic and outdated policies. Anyone who has worked with ASH even briefly would know this fact that he must have read every last line of these government documents and regulations. No matter how detailed or tedious a document we sent him as part of our numerous board meetings, he would come to the meeting prepared and having read to the last page.

Personally for me, Ali was a mentor, guide, keen listener, boss and a brother all rolled in one. I feel disoriented and lost at his completely unexpected departure. What’s more ironic is that I know Ali himself would’ve been the best possible helper and navigator for me to make sense of things in any such times.

We will dearly miss you ASH.

See you on the other side

مِنها خَلَقناكُم وَفيها نُعيدُكُم وَمِنها نُخرِجُكُم تارَةً أُخرىٰ

“From the earth We created you, and into it We will return you, and from it We will extract you another time.” (Quran 20-55)

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