Major Muhammad Abbas Ali (1921-2009), ‘Charity Walker from Pakistan’

In memory of Major Muhammad Abbas Ali (Late).

By Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema (r), 2nd SSC

Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema, 2nd SSCEditor’s Note: Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema (retd), the Editor of this website (Native Pakistan), is from Air Def/Avn. After the retirement, he has settled in DHA Phase 2, Islamabad.
Image of Major Muhammad Abbas Ali (1921-2009), Muslim Welfare Centre, Toronto
Recently a friend living in Toronto told me that he saw a signboard “Major Abbas Ali Park” in Scarborough. He was very inquisitive about that park and found out that it was named after a retired officer of Pakistan Army, Major Muhammad Abbas Ali, who was involved in social work for a long time in Scarborough (an administrative district and former city in Toronto, Ontario Province, Canada).

Image of Sarwar Jahan Begum (1928-2013) wife of Major Muhammad Abbas AliI too became very curious and carried out a detailed search on the Internet and got some very interesting facts about Major Muhammad Abbas Ali, simply called ‘Uncle Abbas’ by the local community, and his wife Sarwar Jahan Begum, affectionately called ‘Aunty’. The couple got married in October 1947.

At the ripe age of 77, Major Muhammad Abbas Ali sky-dived from a height of 10,500 feet to raise funds for the project “Support a Child-Save the Nation”. He walked 10,000 kilometers since 1986 in the various parts of the globe for various International Welfare Organizations.

Muhammad Abbas Ali was born in Bombay (India) on November 15, 1921 and got his education in Calcutta. He was commissioned in the British Indian Army in 1943 and served in the Hyderabad State Army until its annexation by India in September 1948. He then migrated to Pakistan and joined the Pakistan Army. He was an infantry officer and retired as a Major in the early 1970s.

His Infantry unit in Pakistan Army has not been mentioned in any article on the Internet. He had received an award from Baluch Centre, so it can be assumed that most probably he served in some Baluch regiment. The readers of this Post, especially senior Baluchi officers, are requested to find out about the unit of Major Abbas Ali and get his photo in uniform which will be added here.

After his retirement, he chose to help the poor and downtrodden masses and started fundraising through charity walks for various national and international charities. In the mid to late 1980s, he was involved in marathon walks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for international charities such as, UNICEF, World Health Organization, Sports Aids and Islamic Mission Hospitals, etc.

Major Abbas was by nature an adventurous person and often used unconventional means to raise awareness about his charitable projects, and was known for his hundred of kilometers-long marathon walks for various causes. In 1987, when he was 66 years old, he walked 2,500 kilometers across the burning heat of the Arabian Peninsula from UAE to Mecca to raise funds for a charitable hospital in Karachi, and also to perform Hajj. He was the first person in modern history to accomplish this feat for a noble task.

In 1989, he came to Canada and devoted his time and energy to social work and raised awareness among the residents for the importance of supporting local charitable causes. During those early days of his stay in Canada, he undertook several charity walks, from Toronto to Ottawa, from Toronto to Niagara Falls, and many more walks, to raise donations for the Canadian Arthritis Society.

In 1993, at the age of 72, Major Muhammad Abbas Ali along with his wife, Sarwar Jahan Begum, founded a charitable organization the ‘Muslim Welfare Centre’ (MWC) in Toronto. It was a very humble start as they set up a Halal Food Bank for the poor and needy in a very small room (measuring only 10×10 feet) with an interest free loan of Canadian $14,000 provided by a good friend. It was of the first kind in North America.

In 1996, he established “Muslim Welfare Home for Needy Women and Children” in Whitby, Ontario. This charity project provided a safe haven for needy women and their children. It was also of its first kind in North America.

In September 1998, at the ripe age of  77, he sky dived from a height of 10,500 feet to raise funds for the project ‘Support a Child, Save the Nation’, aimed at eradicating child labour in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

In 1999, MWC opened a branch office in Pakistan and introduced its welfare project, ‘Support a Child, Save the Nation’. At present, MWC is operating two schools in poor localities of Karachi and is providing primary to secondary education to over 650 children. They also run two medical clinics in poverty-stricken areas of Karachi. Medical examination and medicines are given free at both locations.

In 2004, when he was 83 years old, he walked 100 kilometers in Canada from the town of Whitby to Mississauga (a part of the Greater Toronto Area) for raising funds for his new project “Seniors’ Home.”  This charity walk earned him the nickname; “Volunteer Charity Walker from Pakistan”.

In total Major Muhammad Abbas Ali walked over 10,000 kilometers in various countries around the world for several charitable organizations, including UNICEF, World Health Organization, Sports Aid, International Islamic Hospitals Society, Canadian Arthritis Society, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (UK), Children in Need Program – BBC (UK), The Canadian Association of Pakistani Media, and Mohibaan of Pakistan, and some other organizations.

The MWC has also initiated a water exploration project in the Thar Desert of Pakistan as well. They are digging wells and installing tube wells in the desert communities to provide water to the local population.

In 2009, a free medical clinic was established in Scarborough for those needy persons who could not afford health insurance.

In 2009, Major Muhammad Abbas Ali went to Pakistan to monitor the progress of his ‘Support a Child, Save the Nation’ project and water exploration projects. He suffered a heart attack and passed away in Karachi on April 17, 2009. He was 88 years old. After his death, his wife Sarwar Jahan Begum, ran the charity. She too went to her heavenly abode on March 18, 2013. May Allah bless both of them with the choicest station in Jannat-ul-Firdous, Aameen.

'Khaak mein kya suratein hongi kay pinhan ho gayeen' - Mirza Ghalib

After the death of Major Abbas, the Scarborough Community Council, received a petition containing approximately 1450 signatures in support of renaming ‘McLevin Community Park’, located at 180 McLevin Avenue, Scarborough, as ‘Major Abbas Ali Park’. The new name was approved by the Council.

‘Major Abbas Ali Park’, Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

On September 14, 2010, city and provincial politicians, relatives and friends of the late Major Muhammad Abbas Ali gathered at the site of the Park and in a graceful ceremony the new signs were unveiled and the park officially came to be known as ‘Major Abbas Ali Park’. The headquarters of  Muslim Welfare Centre, which was founded by Major Abbas Ali, is located just a block west of the park at 100 Mclevin Avenue.

Unveiling Ceremony of ‘Major Abbas Ali Park’, Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

‘Major Abbas Ali Park’, Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Major Abbas Ali used to say “The rich pay Zakat on their wealth but I pay Zakat on my health as well”, and he meant it. His motto was, “Service to humanity is service to Allah”. And this great philanthropist lived by those words. He will always be remembered as a selfless man who spent his life to the service of poor and needy in Pakistan, Canada and some other countries.

Major Abbas Ali is recipient of many awards for his Service to Humanity from various organizations, such as:
– Ministry of Citizenship, Ontario (Awarded Twice)
– Canadian Arthritis Society
– Mayor of Scarborough
– Sheikh Zayed Pakistan Cultural Centre – Abu Dhabi
– Canadian Association of Pakistani Media – Toronto
– Baluch Regimental Centre – Pakistan
– Pakistan Military Academy
– Commander Armed Forces – UAE
– Blood Donors Shield – Pakistan
– Zafar Sultan Memorial Trust
– Certificate of Commendation – Baha’i Community of Canada
– Canadian Sport Parachuting Association – 1998
– Outstanding Service and Dedication to the Community – 1998
– Canada Day Muslim Achievement Award – 1999
– REH’MA Foundation Award for Outstanding Community Service – 2000
– Central Islamic organization of Guyana Award – 2000
– Outstanding Contribution in Islam – Sheikh Deedat Award – 2001
– Premier of Ontario Commendation on Commitment to Volunteerism
– Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Award
– Consulate General of Pakistan Achievement Award
– Outstanding Asian Canadian Community Award

Related Pages:
Remembering Our Comrades
Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)

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  1. Brig Muhammad Saleem (retd), 14 Punjab (10th War Course) says:

    While we find Satanic showcasing of success stories of people like Nawaz Sherif, Zardari, Malik Riaz, Mian Mansha …., here is a genuinely inspiring success story of a former Army Officer Maj Abbas Ali (1921-2009) and his wife (May Allah raise their status in Jinnah). Such noble human works are indeed the most liked among ‘ حقوق لعباد’ by Allah. It is through such charity work that about 60% of Pakistan population pushed into poverty by mafia rule still survives.

  2. Lt Col Zafar Kayani, 28 Cav (47th PMA) says:

    Dear Col Cheema,
    Thank you so much for sharing motivational act of brave Maj Abbas.
    It is matter of absolute faith and determination. At least I can’t do it!

  3. Brig Zafar Chaudhry, Retd (2nd SSC) says:

    Working for the down-trodden is a divine gift. Maj & Mrs. Abbas Ali were ‘the chosen ones’. Charity work falls in the domain of Allah alone. It is only HE who picks you for a partner. May Allah bless them to retain the title, ‘the chosen ones’ in the life hereafter.

  4. Wasif Mustafa Khan says:

    I believe Major Muhammad Abbas Ali was the father of our dear late IBA friend and Class mate Mohammed Khalid Ali who expired this year in April.
    I also understand that his eldest son looks after his Canadian social and Islamic activities. One of his daughters (owner of Generation Schools) is married to Irfan, the President of Meezan Bank.

  5. Naeem Rizwan says:

    Thank you. My salutation to the Lady & the Gentleman. These are “Allah kay Banday”. God may bless their souls in highest place in Jannah. Aameen.

  6. Thank you, Cheema Jee, for bringing the qualities of this exemplary officer and gentleman to our notice.

  7. Lt Col Ghazanfar Hussain Khan (R), 37FF (2nd SSC) says:

    Great share. I shared on my Facebook… thank you.

  8. Dear Rashid,
    Thank you. It’s a good read. I have forwarded the article to my friends.

  9. Major Munir Ahmed, FF (2nd SSC) says:

    Major Muhammad Abbas Ali (May Allah bless him with His infinite mercy) undoubtedly is pride of the nation & Pak Army. His remarkable services to humanity will be remembered in times to follow. It is really a worth sharing article.
    Thanks to Rashid Cheema.

  10. Brig ( R ) Ghulam Sarwar says:

    Lot of compliments and good wishes for Col Cheema for surfacing the achievements of this wonderful human being. May Almighty ALLAH rest “the most noble souls” of Maj & Mrs. Abbas Ali in Heaven. Amin.

  11. Lt Col Irshad Ahmed, Retd (10th War Course) says:

    Great human being, great service. May Allah accept his endeavors and bless him with maghfirat and an elevated abode in Jannat-ul-Firdaus, Aameen.

  12. Ahmed Pervaiz Cheema says:

    He was a great social activist …. a real role model.

  13. Maj Tanvir Talat, Retd (1st SSC) says:

    Thanks brother for sharing this article. I am forwarding it to my friends.
    May Allah be kind to this great soldier.

  14. Col Asif Rathore (Retd) Ord (39th PMA) says:

    Cheema Sahib,
    Jazak Allah.
    Maj Abbas Ali met me in CAD Havelian in 1988 and we were honoured that he was our guest for two days. He was an extremely noble and humble human being. May Allah bless his soul, Aameen.
    Thanks again for your effort.

  15. Brig (Retd) Sardar Majid Azim (3rd SSC) says:

    Thanks, Sir jee,
    Nice article on a nice man.
    I have sent this to Comdt BRC to trace his unit out, if possible.

  16. Mohammad Ishaq says:

    Good man indeed.

  17. Col Shah Alam (retd), AC/Avn (34th PMA) Canada says:

    What a story and what a motivation that “The rich pay Zakat on their wealth but I pay Zakat on my health as well”!

    A great man indeed and wish he had been honoured just as much by Pakistan. Why do we have to surmise about his regiment (Baluch) as this shouldn’t be too difficult to establish. But Baluchi, Pakistani or whatever, such people deserve our utmost reverence and recognition as human beings.

    Editor! Thank you for posting the history of this great human being: but for this I would have remained ignorant.

    • Dear Col Shah Alam,
      As you live in Toronto, it is suggested that at the next gathering of old Aviators you may consider ‘Major Abbas Ali Park’ as the RV. It’s just a suggestion, Sir.

  18. Lt Col Arshad Nazir (Retd), FF (28th PMA) says:

    A great endeavour on the part of Major Abbas Ali. It needs to be extolled and lauded as it is a very appealing preposition. I am forwarding this article to all my friends.

  19. Maj (R) Mumtaz Bashir, 14 Punjab (40th PMA) says:

    Living with a purpose! Very interesting life story of a Veteran & a philanthropist.
    May his soul rest in eternal peace, Ameen.

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