Marwah El-Azhary reports on Rafeeq Alhareery, an example of a successful Muslim pioneer.
Monday14th February marked the day the world woke up to shocking news: Rafeeq Alhareery, former Prime Minister of Lebanon, was killed in a massive explosion, causing destruction to the busy city centre of Beirut, Lebanon.
Newspapers and TV News Stations immediately began to broadcast the ghastly scenes of Alhareery and 16 other victim’s last encounter with the world. The scenes echoed into our minds, as the news finally began to sink in; the world had indeed lost a great man.
It is clear that Rafeeq Alhareery was admired and loved by his compatriots, and was highly respected all around the world. The pictures of Alhareery’s funeral, with the mourners holding the Lebanese flag high, made it clear that Alhareery was the symbol of the country he loved and worked diligently for its betterment for more than two decades.
This emphasised the tragedy of his death and encouraged the public to reflect on Alhareery’s life and achievements, who he was, how did he live his life, and what were the reasons of his success.
Alhareery was born in 1944 to a father who was a Sunni Muslim farmer and greengrocer from the southern city of Sidon, Lebanon, Alhareery majored in accountancy student at Beirut Arab University in the early 1960’s, an in 1965 he interrupted his studies, reportedly because he could not afford the tuition fees, and moved to Saudi Arabia in search of employment.
There he was to become one of the leading businessmen in the region. On his ascending road to success, he worked as a mathematics teacher in Jeddah and then as an auditor for an engineering firm.
In 1969 he established his own subcontracting firm, CICONEST, which played an important role in the major construction efforts of Saudi Arabia, following the oil boom in the early 1970’s. His company went on to take both private and government contracts, such as building hospitals, schools, offices, palaces and hotels. In the 1970’s Alhareery’s firm bought the French construction company Oger, which became Saudi Oger. Without a doubt, this was the starting point of one of the largest business empires in the Arab world, and Alhareery became a Saudi citizen.
Alhareery left his country to seek a better opportunity in another country, but he did not forget his homeland, Lebanon. He returned to Lebanon to implement the success, skills and knowledge he had gained in Saudi Arabia.
In 1979, he established the Islamic Institute of Higher Education in his town of birth, Sidon, giving back a generous contribution, which he felt he owed to the town that sowed him the seeds of success.
During the same year, ‘Al Alhareery Foundation’ was established with the main mission of securing post graduate education for Lebanese students who could not attend Lebanese universities at the time of the Lebanese civil ware, and whose parents could not afford to send them abroad to study.
Alhareery financed the university education of about 33,000 students inside and outside Lebanon, with more than 850 of those students receiving Ph.D. degrees. The only condition that was stipulated, in the contract the student signed to receive the Alhareery scholarship, was that he/she should return to Lebanon upon graduation to help rebuild the country. Alhareery wanted, through his unmatched generosity, to give the Lebanese students what he was deprived of back when he was a student at Beirut Arab University.
1982 saw Alhareery donate 12 million dollars to the Lebanese victims of the Israeli occupation, and helped clean up the streets of Beirut with his own money. He also used his personal money to finance the Taef National Reconciliation Accords in 1989 which put an end to the civil war in Lebanon. Almost a decade later, Alhareery sponsored the first national construction plan to redevelop Beirut’s commercial centre.
It was obvious that Alhareery was on a mission to rebuild Lebanon’s infrastructure following the devastating 1975-1990 civil war that dashed the country’s hopes and dreams. He went on to become the biggest share holder in the joint-stock company Solidare that sent bulldozers to resurrect central Beirut after Lebanon’s 15 years of civil war.
To continue enumerating what has Alhareery given back to Lebanon would require volumes. This summary, while it does not do him justice, it clearly shows what type of man he was.
A successful Muslim Arab entrepreneur, Alhareery had been described as one of the world’s 100 richest people, and his business empire extended to cover a network of banks in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, as well as insurance and broadcasting companies, light industry, and other sectors.
These achievements were not enough to satisfy the thirst Alhareery had to rebuild Lebanon. Becoming a Member of the Council of Ministers and a Member of the Parliament, Alhareery successfully became Prime Minister of Lebanon at the age of 48 in the year 1992.
He remained committed, generous and successful, putting all his energy into the ideology of reformation, until his last breath. Alhareery, a five-time prime minister, a billionaire, and a self-made businessman, was laid to rest at Beirut's Mohammad Alamin mosque, built after the war by money from Alhareery himself.
Alhareery was a successful Muslim, Arab, and Lebanese man. Those three aspects of his personality were inseparable. The main drive behind his success was his solid determination to live his life to his fullest potential to benefit the society around him. It’s only sad that some of us have only realised his achievements after the day the world lost this great man.
- Arab Decision, Rafeeq Alhareery, Arabdecision.com
- Dossier: Rafeeq Alhareery, Meib.org