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Just Imagine…the Building Blocks of Society

Haji Hassan Al-Aali was born in Bahrain in 1921 to a poor farming family. Since he was the oldest son, he had to help his family on the farm. He never went to school and started working at the age of 9.

Haji had a mule and he would go from village to village selling vegetables and fish. He was very entrepreneurial and over time increased his sales territory. He eventually hired others and was able to buy 4 donkeys. When he was 25, he was able to buy a truck.

Haji decided to move into the cement business as Bahrain was experiencing a building boom in the mid-twentieth century. He had the idea of going upscale with the cement he sold, and started making concrete building blocks. He originally made the blocks by hand but eventually added the latest block-making machines to his shop.

With his early investment in block-making machinery in the 1950s, Haji quickly became the market leader, founded other construction related companies, and eventually built a business empire that helped build the Bahrain economy and society.

Haji achieved his success without ever receiving a formal education. However, he insisted that both his sons and daughters get college educations and become aware of the world beyond the Middle East.

Haji also provided educational opportunities for others in his country. He built homes for the poor. Haji’s Islamic faith and personal values guided him throughout his personal life and business development.

We don’t often recognize the importance of basic items like concrete blocks for the growth of a society. When we think of entrepreneurs, we often think of glamor businesses or high-tech. We might not think of those who helped develop the base components that are essential to a society, meeting the demands of shelter, food, and energy.

Just imagine how a society would evolve if we didn’t have entrepreneurs like Haji working on the basics. Think of the role they play, not only in helping to build a society but also in giving a helping hand to those who need it. Just imagine the contributions to society that have been made by those who began with virtually nothing. Think of the many ways that faith and values are central to entrepreneurial success.

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“My loyalty is to my country and its people, first and foremost. The profit I make is a profit generated from the country and its people.”  – Haji Hassan Al-Aali

This is part of our “Just Imagine” series of occasional posts, inviting you to join us in imagining positive possibilities for a citizen-centered democracy.