Before Shahan Rizvi became a government and politics major at the University of Maryland, College Park, the first Muslim and South Asian to be elected chairman of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee, and an at-large delegate to the Democratic National Convention, his political roots could be traced to the presence of his father, Amir Rizvi.
“He got me to run for my fifth grade election as vice president,” recalled Shahan Rizvi (pronounced SHAH-hahn RIZ-vee). “He helped me make the signs, and he really encouraged me to do it. We used to have these morning news announcements in elementary school where they would have the students do morning presentations on a little video camera, and he wanted to make sure that I was a part of that. So he made sure that I was a reporter on that and just really got me in front of the camera talking and encouraging me in the public speaking aspect because he himself could not do it. But he knew I could, and he pushed me in that direction. He was the mastermind all along. Sometimes I think organically, I fell into this stuff, but that isn’t true.”
The elder Mr. Rizvi, a Howard County resident who practiced accounting for more than 30 years through a firm he established in Laurel and participated in efforts to get the Muslim community involved in the American way of life, died Wednesday at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore due to pneumonia induced by COVID-19. He was 73.
Mr. Rizvi’s death stunned those who knew him.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” said Wilson Baker Jr., a friend and former colleague who had known Mr. Rivzi for about 40 years. “It’s not until someone calls me and we start talking about him that I may have a couple tears come down and stuff. … It’s going to be a long time before I heal from not having my friend around.”
“When I got the news, shock was an understatement,” said Irtiza M. Syed, a friend who had known Mr. Rizvi since 1986 but grew especially close to him over the past six years. “I knew he was a strong person, and in my mind, I was very sure that he would come back. I miss him like a family member is gone.”
Mr. Rizvi was the third of four children born to Afser Ali Rizvi, a police officer, and Ruquia Rizvi, a matron at a girls school. Born in Hyderabad, British India, Mr. Rizvi and his family were present during the partition of the English territory into two independent states, India and Pakistan, and they moved to Karachi, Pakistan.
In 1972, Mr. Rizvi moved to the United States and soon enrolled at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
After moving to Landover in the early 1980s, Mr. Rizvi returned to Karachi, Pakistan, to meet the former Shaista Siddiqui, an arrangement coordinated by family connections. The couple married in 1983 in the Defence neighborhood of Karachi, and after waiting a year to obtain a visa for his wife, Mr. Rizvi brought her to Maryland.
Soon afterward, Mr. Rizvi founded Tri State Services Group to help more than 300 corporate and individual clients manage their accounting. For a time, he also helped review the Howard County Board of Education’s budget.
Mr. Baker, who first met Mr. Rizvi when the former was a manager at Prudential Financial Services in Bethesda and the latter was one of his financial advisers, said Mr. Rizvi was renowned for his honesty in business dealings.
“He was the type of businessman where if you went into any negotiation with him, you could do it with a handshake. That’s it,” Mr. Baker said. “You knew that he was going to come through. There was no trying to deceive you or anything like that. When he promised someone that he was going to have their taxes ready on the 1st, they were ready on the 31st. That’s the type of guy he was.”
Mr. Rizvi was hired by WorldSpace, the parent company for XM Radio, as an independent auditor and was reunited with Mr. Baker, who as the vice president of administration for WorldSpace, helped establish offices worldwide, including one in Pakistan.
Mr. Baker recalled a couple of trips with Mr. Rizvi to Pakistan when Mr. Rizvi strolled into the airport with four giant suitcases.
“I said, ‘Amir, how many times are you going to change a day?’ But he and his wife had put together a bunch of clothes and stuff to give to the orphans in Karachi,” Mr. Baker said. “I remember we were going over again close to Christmas, and once again, Amir came in there with four different bags. I said, ‘Well, what are you taking over now? More clothes?’ He said, ‘No, I’ve got toys in here.’ Then we went by these different orphanages to give toys to the people. That’s the type of people Amir and Shaista are.”
The younger Mr. Rizvi said his father bought and founded two schools in Pakistan that taught women how to sew and another school that instructed women on how to become beauticians.
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Mr. Rizvi also got involved politically and socially. He joined a Lions Club in Prince George’s County and participated in the organization’s food drives. After moving the family to Laurel in Howard County in 2005, Mr. Rizvi served with the Howard County Muslim Council, becoming a member of the board of directors. He was a treasurer for the United Maryland Muslim Council and was instrumental in the construction of the Idara-e-Jaferia Islamic Center in Burtonsville.
“I think his Muslim advocacy work was important,” his son said. “He wanted to see Muslims have a voice in the community at large with the political things, the legislation that impacts us.”
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Mr. Syed said he valued Mr. Rizvi’s knowledge. When the two dined at an unfamiliar restaurant, Mr. Syed trusted Mr. Rizvi to order dishes they would enjoy. Mr. Syed insisted that since consuming some turmeric with some milk every night as recommended by Mr. Rizvi, his hair has stopped graying.
And Mr. Syed said when he was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis a few years ago, Mr. Rizvi helped him find a comfortable pair of therapeutic shoes online and purchase them.
“He spent time with me in his office finding this shoe,” Mr. Syed said. “That shoe is what I wear, and I will not buy any other shoes. So he knew his things.”
A religious service for Mr. Rizvi was held Friday at the Maryland National Memorial in Laurel, where he was also buried.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Rizvi is survived by a daughter, Kouser Akbar of Norman, Oklahoma; two sisters, Shaher Bano Naqvi of Hamilton, New Jersey, and Rehana Abidi of Columbia; one brother, Jaffer Rizvi of Silver Spring; and one granddaughter.