Tan Sri Mokhtar Al-Bukhary is one of the most prominent Malaysia entrepreneurs and is popular with his generosity and philanthropic deeds for the society. He is also known for his down-to-earth attitude, and a guy who as much as possible, avoids publicity, cameras and interviews, which at times can be an overwhelming task, considering his status quo as one of the 10 richest men in the country.
Much of Syed Mokhtar’s attitude is attributed with his parents’ upbringing since he was still a small kid. He was born into a mid-low class family in Kedah, with both his parents having average income background. Being nowhere near to living a wealthy life style did not stop his father and mother from instilling good values in raising their kid. Their home came without necessities, let alone luxuries. Syed Mokhtar himself never went beyond the secondary school, as the prevailing family condition forced him to quit schooling and help family by doing odd jobs and starting small scale businesses.
Syed Mokhtar started his real business in the southern Malaysia, selling and distributing rice. With the acquired knowledge and increase in his entrepreneurship skills, he later ventured into trading, logistics and shipping. His mother’s advice to treat part of the money he received as belonging to the poor and the needy remains at the core of his heart. True enough, when he was merely 23 years old, he gave away half of his monthly income of RM1,500 to the needy, donating it to 15 poor families in his village. He has never stopped giving since.
In 1996, Syed Mokhtar set up Al-Bukhary Foundation to assist the needy, with him as the sole donator. The foundation finances English, Science and Mathematics classes for more than 20,000 underachieving students every year, as well as running a college scholarship program for 300 students in more than 40 countries. Between 1996 and 2006, the Al-Bukhary Foundation has contributed about 1 billion for various charity causes.
The foundation also built the famous and gigantic Al-Bukhary mosque in Alor Setar, Kedah, adjacent to a business complex, which today becomes a prominent landmark in Kedah with its remarkable architecture.
In January 2008, Syed Mokhtar was honored as the recipient of the Tokoh Maal Hijrah 1429. And owing his success to his mother’s teachings, he decided to give the cash award of RM80,000 to his mother, Sharifah Rokiah Syed Mohamed Rahmat.
A month later, Tan Sri Mokhtar, together with Hishamudin Ubaidulla, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and Datuk Amar Leonard Linggi Tun Jugah were featured in Forbes Asia Heroes of Philantropy list.
Masjid Al Bukhary image: Lealaurielle