This Man's Story Will Change Your Life - Ali Banat
Only a mere 24 hours ago, the internet was abuzz and pictures of one man in particular were widespread followed by messages of condolences and prayers. The world had lost one of the most remarkable humanitarians of its time. Ali Banat passed away on May 29th, 2018 after battling an aggressive form of mouth cancer that had spread throughout his entire body. But why was the world so profoundly shaken at the passing of this young Australian Muslim man?
Who was Ali Banat?
In 2015, a video titled, "Gifted with Cancer" became viral and this was the first time many had heard of Ali. The video is an interview that introduces Ali as a man who had recently been diagnosed with stage 4, terminal cancer and it explored how Ali decided to completely unravel his extravagant way of life for the sake of Allah. This emotional video sees Ali talk about how he feels God has "gifted" him with this cancer and how he feels blessed to be given the opportunity to better himself before his time comes. A teary eyed young man in his early thirties, who had a promising career and had successfully launched two businesses, weeps in front of his friend as he expresses how worthless anything material truly is. Although much detail about his businesses are unknown, Ali gives a tour of his personal wardrobe and gives audiences a brief look into his lavish lifestyle by going through thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bracelets, watches, sunglasses, and shoes. Ali was a successful, wealthy, good looking bachelor. He had it all in terms of wealth, stature, comfort. But in this interview, he very candidly places no value on these material items. When asked about his Ferrari, Ali simply shrugs and says that, "you realize all this stuff, it doesn't benefit you in any way. This [car] is worth one pair of thongs for an African child with no thongs. It's worth more to me to see him smile with a pair of thongs than to own one of these." After his diagnosis, Ali decided to dedicate his entire wealth to serving the poor. His goal was to leave this world with nothing but his deeds. And so he set out to do just that.
The Diagnosis & Prognosis:
Ali recalls the moment he found out he had a fatal form of mouth cancer. He describes a regular day, whilst he was on his way to work, he burnt his mouth after taking a sip of tea/coffee. As he looked into his rearview mirror to try and assess the damage done to his tongue, he noticed a large bump in his mouth. He immediately went to his doctor who was adamant that this was not a cancerous tumour as the majority of cases of such a cancer, according to Ali, are symptoms of excessive drinking, smoking, or drugs. All of which Ali had never indulged in. The doctor however, sent Ali to a specialist that ordered further tests. Said tests unfortunately revealed that this was in fact cancer, and that it had spread all over Ali's body already, and even more surprisingly, that it had been active in Ali's body for around 4 years prior to this check up. The doctor told Ali he had 7 months to live. And Ali, upon hearing all this tells us that he had only one thing he could say. "Inna lillahi wa inallah-e-raji'oon" or "Truly, we belong to Allah, and it is to Him that we shall return."
Ali recalls telling his mother who he says tried her best to remain strong for his sake, but behind closed doors, she would break down. He said that it was an especially difficult thing for his 20 year old younger sister with Down's Syndrome. Ali spoke about how the diagnosis impacted his two brothers too, but that his sister felt everything a lot more profoundly and so it affected her on a different wavelength. Once he knew that his time was limited, Ali took action and began making plans to change his entire way of living.
Muslims Around the World Project (MATW) is Born:
It was not long until Ali sold his Ferrari and cars, watches, and shoes, and used all his wealth to start what he named, Muslims Around the World Project, or MATW. A community based, non-profit organization that strives to provide socio-economic aid and support to those in need. Ali's charity has successfully opened a bakery in Togo, Africa, that bakes 3000-5000 fresh loaves of bread each day for the local families in the area. MATW has also successfully built a masjid, a school, and a safe sanctuary for widows. Not only that, but the charity also offers iftaar every evening at the Togo masjid as well as Ramadan food packs. MATW is also active in Lebanon, offering food distributions to those in need. In Bangladesh, MATW has began working on a shelter project for Rohingya refugees. Ali's dream of spreading good in the world and helping the poorest and most vulnerable people in our world is flourishing as each day passes.
What Can Ali's Story Teach Us?
The loss of such a beautiful, sincere, driven, selfless, and passionate man is being felt all over the world. Ali has left this life with an inspiring legacy that is a sign for those who believe. Ali's life was, by most standards, a comfortable one. He had wealth and was successful. Yet, all the things he had procured and earned were taken from him just as quickly as he had found to be in possession of them. Allah can change our condition in life in an instant. Our circumstances can change in an instant. Our wealth, our health, can be taken from us in an instant. Yet, how many of us ever consider the reality of these things? How many of us go about our day to day lives under the false pretence that we will see tomorrow, or even next year? Ali has taught us that worldly life, worldly possessions, will not benefit us in the hereafter, or on the day of days. Ali did not fall into despair, nor did he question the Will of Allah. He said time and time again, that he was "blessed" and "gifted" by Allah with his cancer. He embraced his illness and took it as a sign to better himself.
The Prophet Muhammad, may Allah be pleased with him said: “Take benefit of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death” (Narrated by Ibn Abbas and reported by Al Hakim). Ali dedicated his entire life to help the orphans, the sick, the hungry, the needy. He was in his early thirties, unmarried, had all the wealth in the world, yet he chose to spend the remainder of his time in worshipping Allah and ridding himself of his dunya, to purify and perfect his deen. Even throughout the latter part of his illness, when he was barely able to speak or walk, Ali would post small reminders and share his message with everyone.
“Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children, as the likeness of vegetation after rain, thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller; afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw. But in the Hereafter (there is) a severe torment (for the disbelievers, evil-doers), and (there is) Forgiveness from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure (for the believers, good-doers), whereas the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment". [57:20]
This life won't last. When we eventually leave this world, only our deeds will follow us. It's easy to get caught up in the frivolities of this world. We live in a time when culture is rampant and faith is considered a second, after-thought. Ali showed people all over the world, that when you give up something for the sake of Allah, He replaces what you leave with something unfathomably greater. Ali left this world in the holiest, most blessed month of all, Ramadan. Ali left this world with nothing weighing him down. He left this world and left behind a charity that will do good for generations to come, all in his name. He left the world with millions of people praying for his soul, praying that he be granted the highest rank in paradise, praying that he is forgiven and blessed in the hereafter. Ali loved Allah so much that he walked through this world selflessly and did things purely for the sake of Allah. If you love Allah, Allah will bless you and place love in the hearts of the entire world for you. Ali's story is a reminder fo us all to always strive for something greater than ourselves and something that will transcend this life and aid us in the hereafter. Chase the deen, not the dunya.
May Allah grant Ali the highest rank in Jannah and bless his grave with light and ease. May Allah shower Ali with Mercy and Forgiveness on the day of judgement and may his good deeds be allowed to intercede for Ali on the day of days. May his ongoing charity in this life be accepted and may we all strive to succeed in the realm of faith just as he did.
If you are interested in supporting MATW and donating towards Ali's cause, then you can do so here. The official MATW GoFundMe page.
Rest in peace, and power, Ali.