Marhum Hajji Abdul Rahim Rasheed QSO (1938-2006)
RMDT’s founder came to New Zealand in 1967 from Fiji to study law at the University of Auckland. He completed his LLB degree and Law Professional exams in 1972, practising as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand for 21 years.
In 1969 he was one of a group of Fijian Indian migrants who established the Anjuman Himayat Al-Islami. Rasheed provided legal advice and secular leadership. After discussions with members of the wider Auckland Muslim community, the group attended a special general meeting of the NZMA on 23 May 1976 and formally agreed to dissolve their group and incorporate it into a new NZMA. Rasheed was appointed their legal advisor in July.
In January 1977, Rasheed was appointed NZMA president and legal advisor, with Avdo Musovich as vice-president. The executive committee included BF Dibley, Mohammed Musa, Mazhar Krasniqi, Robert A Abdul Salam Drake and VM Blincoe. Hafiz Sidat and Maulana Patel served as religious advisors.
At the NZMA AGM on 6 March 1977 in the Islamic Centre at 17 Vermont Street, Ponsonby (a converted house), Rasheed was confirmed as president, a post he held for 10 years.
In November 1979, the City Council approved plans for a mosque on the land at Vermont Street. Rasheed, Said Alvi, Patel, Krasniqi and Hajji Mohammed Hussein Sahib mortgaged their homes to raise the funds to complete it.
Meanwhile, Muslims across New Zealand had begun to discuss the need to establish a national body to represent their interests. Consequently, the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) was set up in April 1977 with Mazhar Krasniqi, Rasheed’s friend and close collaborator from the NZMA, as inaugural president.
In September 1979, Rasheed was appointed president. He held this post until the FIANZ AGM on 6 April the following year, and again for two years from April 1981.
Rasheed was a popular figure in the New Zealand media. He was first interviewed by New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation in December 1980, on the regional programme “Top Half” discussing the construction of the Ponsonby Mosque.
He was interviewed on television in June 1983 for Ramadan and again in August 1985 in a short documentary about Muslims in New Zealand.
In February 1987 Rasheed stepped down from the presidency of the NZMA but was immediately appointed Patron by unanimous consent, a position he held until 1990.
In 1988 Auckland was visited by Dr Hajji Ahmad Totonju, representing the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and Hajji Dato Ridwan Abdullah Wu, representing the Regional Islamic Da’wah Council of Southeast Asia and the Pacific (RISEAP). Rasheed met both men and later discussions with their organisations led to him being appointed WAMY’s regional director for the Pacific. This involved visiting many of the Pacific Islands’ Muslim minorities and reporting back regularly to the charity’s headquarters in Saudi Arabia.
Due to ill health, Rasheed retired in 1992 from work as well as from NZMA and FIANZ affairs. However, he continued to lead and take part in community projects and pursued further education. For example, he was a founder and later the patron of the Auckland-based Council of Christians and Muslims (CCM) and felt strongly about improving Christian-Muslim relations.
In the early 1990s he studied with Dr Douglas Pratt (University of Waikato) and in 1996 became a Bachelor of Theology (University of Auckland). Rasheed told the New Zealand Herald that is was only by respecting each others’ beliefs that dialogue could be promoted. In 2005, Pratt honoured Rasheed by dedicating his prestigious book “The Challenge of Islam: Encounters in Interfaith Dialogue” to his former student.
In April 1999, FIANZ hosted a WAMY-sponsored South Pacific Islamic Youth Da’wah Training Course at Ponsonby Mosque, a week-long event largely organised by Rasheed. It attracted more than 100 Muslim youth delegates from the South Pacific region. The chief guest was the Deputy Mayor of Auckland, the Reverend Dr Bruce Huckner. Other speakers included Dr Hajji Mustapha Omari (from the Australian WAMY office) and Dr Pratt.
In June 2000, Rasheed was appointed a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order (QSO) for his many years of community service.
Abdul Rahim Rasheed passed away on 3 October 2006. At a Commemorative Dinner held at Chancery Chambers in Auckland in December – attended by the Governor-General, government ministers, lawyers, judges, doctors, academics and other friends – it was resolved that the rededicated Rasheed Memorial Da’wah Trust would continue and expand on his work.
Watch the Honourable Phil Goff speak about Mr Rasheed at the Commemorative Dinner or read a report of the dinner that appeared in NZ Lawyer magazine.