When paring off the many intricate and remarkable layers of Professor Rashid Bhikha, we’ve discovered that behind the accomplished academic, thought leader, healthcare enterpriser and learned businessman, is a man committed to family and philanthropy. Every step Rashid has taken in his life hasn’t been without discernible point; it’s been a purposeful and conscious stride in the betterment of South African healthcare services, education and training.
Chairman and founder of the Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb, Pretoria-raised Bhikha is passionately involved in improving the level of local healthcare and integrative medicine. During his early years as a pharmacist, Rashid built Be-Tabs Pharmaceuticals into the largest privately-owned generic medicine manufacturer in South Africa. In 2007, after 33 years under the Bhikha family leadership, Be-Tabs Pharmaceuticals was sold to an internationally-renowned pharmaceutical company. In 1997, after extensive research into Tibb (Arabic system of medicine), both locally and overseas, he founded the Tibb Institute to promote its teachings and practice in South Africa.
A sedulous learner by nature, after he qualified as a pharmacist in 1969, from the now University of KwaZulu Natal, Rashid attained several business diplomas and extensively researched and studied Islamic, Greco-Arab medicine (Unani medicine) and other complementary modalities. He established the training of Unani-Tibb at the University of the Western Cape in 2003 and completed his PhD in Education at the institution in 2005.
Professor Bhikha’s list of professional exploits is exceptional, to say the least. The considerable timeline that captures his life’s work underpins the theory about him being a diligent polymath and altruistic health entrepreneur.
1974 – Rashid started the first private and black-owned, pharmaceutical-manufacturing company in South Africa called Be-Tabs. The company was sold in 1997 to a leading multinational, and labelled as the largest independently-owned manufacturing company in Africa.
1997 – Founded the Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb (waqf), to promote medical practice and training of Tibb in South Africa.
1998 – 2001 – Established primary health clinics in partnership with local government (Kagiso, Leratonga, and an Aids home in Kathlehong.
2001 – Initiated recognition of Unani-Tibb as the 11th complementary health modality of the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa.
2003 – Started training of Tibb at the University of the Western Cape.
2005 – Assisted Tibb doctors in establishing clinics in King Williams Town, Butterworth, Pinetown, Cofimvaba and Mdansane.
2006 – 2008 – Tibb clinics were opened to facilitate practical training for UWC students in Mannenburg, Langa and Surrey Estate.
2007 – Established Tibb Health Sciences
2009 – 2014 – Launched Tibb School Programme.
2010 – 2013 – Institute upgrades AIDS home in Mayfair, trauma unit at GF Jooste Hospital, and Heideveld Home for women and children.
2012 – Tibb Institute produces 20 episodes of ‘Medicine of the Prophet’ for ITV.
2012 – 2018 – Tibb Lifestyle Advisors Programme for community healthcare workers / clinic health promoters launched. There are more than 5000 advisors trained.
2013 – Established 110 wellness desks
– Wrote and published seven books (5 consumer, 2 academic).
– Wrote, published and presented many articles and academic papers on Tibb.
– Recently co-founded the Asklepion School of Medicine in Greece.
His index of outstanding achievements does not end there. The healthcare philanthropist has been duly recognised for all his contributions in the betterment of his field.
2007 – Acknowledgment of services rendered to the community by the Islamic Medical Association, Pretoria.
2008 – Presented with the Inyathelo Lifetime Philanthropy Award from The South African Institute for Advancement.
2008 – Recognition of services to Eastern (Unani) medicine from Hamdard, Pakistan.
2014 – Honorary award from the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa for contribution to the IMA and the community at large.
2016 – Commendation certificate bestowed in recognition and appreciation of valuable services rendered to Unani System of Medicine, National Institute of Unani Medicine from the Bengaluru Minister of AYUSH, (Govt. of India) at the International Conference on Unani Medicine.
2018 – Presented with the Ibn-E-Sina International Award for outstanding contribution for the inception, procreation, and research and development of Unani Medicine Globally in Aligarh Muslim University, India.
Like many of the most influential Muslim South Africans of our time, Prof Bhikha grew up during the apartheid era, when injustice associated with the system was pervasive. He initially wanted to retire at the age of 40 and get involved in community work. However, in 1989, one of his three daughters faced an agonising illness, which was the turning point in Rashid’s life, urging him to focus more on healthcare.
The devoted father-of-four has worked extensively within the charity sphere. Three of the most unforgettable projects he’s been involved in include:
1. The establishment of healthcare facilities in underprivileged areas:
Tibb Institute’s journey towards achieving its vision of assisting the Department of Health in accessibility to healthcare provision began when the first two primary healthcare outreaches were opened; in Kagiso (July 1998) and Leratong (April 1999).
Later, an AIDS home-based care centre was established in Katlehong (in July 2001), in cooperation with the greater Germiston City Council, and handed over to local government.
2. Educating and providing information on healthcare management, including lifestyle management for chronic pain/diseases etc.
An important aspect of the social responsibility programme is promoting empowerment in health matters through education and training at consumer level. Workshops on the role of lifestyle in health promotion and in the management of chronic illnesses including HIV and AIDS, hypertension and diabetes have been conducted since 2005 to more than 1000 participants, many of them representatives from non-governmental organisations or local municipalities.
From 2010, training in health promotion has been formalised into a Lifestyle Advisors Course, in partnership with numerous health-related NGOs, wherein Tibb sponsored and trained Lifestyle Advisors, and provided information on the prevention and treatment of both acute and chronic illness conditions. Integrating healthy living Tibb principles with conventional medicine, provides a better understanding of the causes of illnesses thus empowering patients to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.
3. Projects aimed at spiritual, cultural and emotional development through Zain Bhikha Studios.
At 73, Prof Bhikha still works a full and very productive day. His dedication as a family man and head of the family business is resolute. His daily tasks involve all aspects of the Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb, and to a lesser extent, Tibb Health Sciences. He also spends time as an advisor on matters related to the South African Tibb Association.
Islam is the propeller with which he steers his life’s course, “in keeping with being a vicegerent (khalifah) to establish Allah (SWT)”.
Humanitarian work was always on his list of life goals. It became a reality with his daughter’s illness. “I am very dedicated to delivering effective, affordable healthcare to all South Africans.”
Prof Bhikha’s most emotional achievement: Starting Tibb in South Africa.
His most rewarding accomplishment: Working at a grass-roots level to improve lives via the Tibb Lifestyle Advisors Programme.
His most humbling achievement in philanthropy was receiving the Inyathelo Award in 2009. Developed by The South African Institute for Advancement, the awards are a way to recognise, celebrate and acknowledge people in SA who consistently utilise their personal resources to further social development in the country.
Another momentous milestone which Prof Bhikha recounts is the ‘The Memorandum of Understanding’ with the City of Johannesburg, where he (Tibb) entered into a partnership to introduce Lifestyle Advisors.
Rashid has experienced many significant moments that have inspirited him throughout his life. He recalls some of the most memorable as:
Starting Be-Tabs in 1974, during the political climate of the time.
Opening the Tibb institute in 1997
Being a part of his children’s lives and watching them develop
Witnessing his son’s (Zain Bhikha) career unfold
Being alive to see the birth of his first great-grandson this year.
With fourteen grandchildren who look up to him, Rashid’s life motto is “be good and do good.”
He defines success as living a life in accordance with the Quraan and Sunnah. “Humility!”
With much affection and admiration, Rashid regards his wife, Mariam Bhikha, as his biggest role model. Her dedication and integrity are much to be adhered to.
Looking to the future, Rashid’s goals include ensuring that his family stays on the right path. He also hopes to consolidate a partnership with the government for health provision, and ultimately to make a difference in healthcare.
He advises all other humanitarians to remain true to their heart and intentions.
Prof Bhikha is most grateful for the Almighty, his deen, wife and children, and his health.
His greatest life lesson: Everything is in Allah’s hands so never presume to be in charge.
Rashid believes that the youth can benefit most from the Proudly Muslims of SA initiative, as it inspires the younger generation to be the best versions of themselves and stay true to their beliefs.
He would leave his legacy with these final words: “As long as you perform your duty to Allah (SWT) and don’t harm anybody, Allah (SWT) will always take care of you.”
Prof Bhikha would like society to remember him as an ordinary person who tried to always be humble, sincere, just and empathetic.
It is with much gratitude to Rashid Bhikha that the future of integrative medicine in South Africa has been solidified. His comprehensive research and assiduity in making the Ibn Sina Institute of Tibb the success that it is today is a legacy that will benefit the destitute plagued by unaffordable medical costs, as well as healthcare graduates and professionals for decades to come.