Jamal Hamdani and his wife, Saida Hamdani, were recognized as Santa Barbara Independent Local Heroes in 2023. Jamal Hamdani died this past week. | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

Jamal Hamdani, the philanthropist-entrepreneur who played a pivotal role in shepherding the creation of the Islamic Center of Santa Barbara through 20 years of planning review by the City of Goleta, died this past week. He was 67.

An engineer by training, Hamdani started three companies, but his underlying passion was then nonprofit he and his wife, pediatrician Saida Hamdani, created, World Harmony Online, which functioned as a delicate megaphone on behalf of world peace and international justice. Hamdani would persuade no fewer than seven Nobel Prize winners to speak at his symposia, held typically at UCSB; he got 250,000 people to sign onto a statement of core values.

“Do we speak the truth? Are we fair and just in our thoughts and actions?” he asked in a recent interview. “It’s not right that one half the world’s population has less than one percent of its wealth.”

Speaking of the ongoing violence in Gaza — which Hamdani referred to as “the Holy Land” — he said, “Nature abhors injustice. There’s no evidence in the world that injustice has gone on forever.”

Hamdani, a devout Muslim, said he was inspired to pursue this spiritual-political path after encountering South African leader Nelson Mandela while in South Africa on a business venture. “When I shook his hand, there was a beautiful light in his eye,” he said. “The path of world harmony goes through each one of us.”

Hamdani is survived by his wife and their two daughters, Sasha and Saher.

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