CAIRO: Earlier this month, tens of thousands of people came from all walks of life to the small village of Tafhna AlAshraf, in Dakhlia governorate to pay their final respects to a man who successfully left his mark on this world, a man who was able to change the lives of thousands around him by setting a unique example of what a person could do with their own will and hard work.
I was lucky to have known Haj. Salah Attia personally, as he is a relative of my mother, and my father worked for him as a legal consultant for 30 years, so it was only normal that this man leave his impact on our family.
Haj Salah was a businessman who started from scratch; he graduated from the Faculty of Agriculture almost four decades ago and he worked for a while as a teacher, and then he joined the army. After the war of 1973 when he was discharged, he thought to make his own project, and was drawn to agriculture, where he had experience.
He, along with eight different young men, agreed to start a project and decided to “make Allah their tenth partner,” so whatever their profits are, they would donate 10 percent to charity. Their project started to bloom, and the tenth partner’s share grew.
With the tenth share, Haj Salah initiated a religious institute for children and he took it upon himself to provide it with all necessary supplies, from benches to chalk, school attire to books, free to the public.
Then he built primary and secondary schools. The more his trade flourished, the more his village and nearby villages prospered. He helped to establish the first railway stop in Tafhna Alshraf whose streets are all well paved, also he promoted the idea of planting a tree in front of every home, and fining homeowners 50 EGP ($6) if they do not maintain it.
Salah’s partners started to leave to make their own projects, and whenever one of them left, Salah would allocate their share to God; eventually only Salah was left, and he abandoned his share, to have 100 percent of his profits go to charity.
All young men and women there were able to secure a place in his diverse projects in and outside the village. Bit by bit, he established the first branch of Al-Azhar University in a village. He built four faculties at his own expense and he invited the then Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Gad Alhaq to inaugurate it.
Salah was known for his generosity to individual persons as well; he helped thousands of families across Egypt whose daughters were about to get married by donating home appliances and money. He allocated a monthly income for all elder female members of his family and those in need, and had a tradition on the first Friday of every Ramadan, he would invite the entire village to a break their fast and then they would pray together.
During the 25th of January Revolution, and after the chaos caused by 28th of January, he sent tons of frozen poultry to people in need in many governorates.
Salah was respected for his wisdom and leadership; families or people quarreling would summon him to solve the problems, and since many involved money, he would pay from his own money to solve the problem.
In order to secure that no one from his family members and close acquaintances would suffer after his passing, he placed 10 million pounds in a trust.
Salah Attia was childless, and he suffered from hepatic C disease and spent the past years living in hospitals after he had a liver transplant operation.
Growing up, my father used to take my family to the countryside of Tafhna Alshraf for Eid Holidays and summer vacations, where we learned a great deal from Haj Salah.
He cared deeply about taking care of his family, the poor and the needy, until there was no poverty in Tafhna Alshraf and the nearby villages.
He was light in a dark world, he was a messenger of humanity sent to giving a helping hand to whoever was in need. The world has lost one if its finest people, a person whose life was an inspiration and whose death makes us remember how we should live our lives.