Saturday, 9 April 2011

Some Reflections

It’s almost exactly a year since the passing of a very dear brother, Aamir Siddiqi.

Aamir was only seventeen at the time; he had been accepted to study Law in Cardiff University and had a bright future ahead of him. Many people in Cardiff knew him, and all who knew him respected and liked his kind and honest nature.

On Sunday 11th April 2010, he was killed in his home. He answered the door, expecting his Arabic teacher as usual, but instead two men entered his house, stabbed Aamir to death and injured his elderly parents who were also present. They ran away leaving Aamir to die. Two men were later arrested, with a third still being sought in connection with the murder. The killing was senseless, a case of mistaken identity.

It’s incredibly painful to write about this, painful even more thinking of his parents and family who the lost the apple of their eyes and must be keenly aware of the time since his death.

As always, there is only one thing to say when reflecting on the passing of a human soul. “Surely we are from God, and to Him we return”. The statement is neither a sober statement nor one of sadness. It’s a statement of hope. Our primordial origin is not except with “the breath of God” who created us, and our home and final destination is to return to our origin – of closeness to the transcendent one beyond all description.

There are so many lessons we can take from Aamir’s death, and many that I’ve learnt. I wanted to share some of them.

The days after his death, I was struck with one major regret. I am not usually the type to have regrets, but this regret was one that took me some time to recover from. I knew Aamir from SOBIS (School of Basic Islamic Studies). I teach there, and he had studied there from a young age. In the months before his death, I would often see him and greet him and speak briefly, but never fully. Aamir had a beautiful character, and he would take interest in other people. He knew I studied theology at University, and would often ask me questions about it; I suspect partly out of interest (he was the very definition of a polymath) and partly out of politeness and courtesy. I remember quite a few times in the months before his death he asked me about my opinion on materialism, and I never answered the question. I would always respond with something along the lines of ‘another time’, distracted by whatever needed to be done next in the busy and hurried environment of SOBIS. It seems like a silly regret to not answer a question, but he had asked me several times, and I always expected another opportunity to arise. It wasn’t that the answer was important (I don’t even think I have an opinion on materialism), but I regret not taking the time to just talk and spend time with Aamir, even if it was just for a few minutes. My exchanges with Aamir for too long consisted of brief ‘salaams’ and casual quick conversation. Having lost the opportunity to do so with Aamir, I have tried my best to stop having the empty conversations you have in a day, and make the most of every exchange. Even if it’s simply to say “peace be upon you/asalaamu alaykum” with sincerity – not as a mindless greeting but a genuine wish for good upon that person.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us that “death is a sufficient as admonition”, meaning that the person who reflects upon the phenomena of death is certain to learn the lessons needed for success in this life and the next life. We construct around us a sense that death is a distant destination, one that doesn’t quite apply to us. We entertain what certain scholars define as the ‘long hope’ – others will die but not myself – somehow I’ll live forever. We rarely focus upon our end destination, and thus our purpose in this life. Life is the longest thing we know, yet the few decades we may live on this earth seem so short. In April last year I was in the midst of my final year essays and revision. I was working full-time, and studying full-time, and so life consisted of early starts and late nights. After I found out about Aamir’s death, and after the initial rush of emotions had passed, I returned to my desk and continued working on my essay feeling utterly numb. Studying and working and all that I did seemed suddenly very very futile. I was so busy during that time, ‘filling the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run’, yet the simply question of where I was running to suddenly fell into sharp focus. I had said, as soon as I heard of Aamir’s death, ‘surely we are from God, and to Him we return’, but I knew I was far from internalising the belief. A year after Aamir’s death, I find myself sitting again at a desk with half a dozen books by my side with an essay deadlines approaching. I’ve certainly travelled the distance of a year, but I fear whether I’ve travelled any distance closer to God, and whether I’ve truly let go of the ‘long hope’ that although others die, I won’t. Thinking of Aamir always reminds me that he was my friend and my peer in this life. His time was simply slightly ahead of mine, but I’m soon to follow. I have the benefit of life yet on this earth, and God knows how long it will. For myself and for others, Aamir should remind us that our life is simply a few years granted to unravel the mysteries of our soul and grow as close to God as we can.

In focusing on Aamir’s death, I hope I have done him no injustice. He was someone full of life. Some of the best memories I have of Aamir will always be from filming a video produced for one of SOBIS’s annual functions. If you can spare ten minutes, I’d encourage everyone to watch. It features Aamir and his classmates and I think it shows some of his wonderful character, if ever so briefly. The video is called 'What Does Islam Teach You?'

If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll take a few moments to read al-Fatiha for Aamir, and pray for him and his family. I have witnessed daughters bury their mothers, and sons bury their fathers, and the agnony that is causes. But I have only ever once seen a mother and father bury their son and Aamir’s parents did so with such dignity and strength of character that I am left in awe. May God strengthen them and their family now and forever, for what is such a difficult time.

I do pray that when I pass, I am reunited with Aamir in the best and most blessed of places, and that we finally have that discussion about materialism – which I imagine will be ever the more interesting with the benefit of retrospect.

1 comment:

  1. Salam,

    Beautiful post, i actually come across something and thought about Aamirs family. In one of sheikh Muhammad al Yaqoubi's talks he mentioned that if a child passed away whilst his father was alive, this is a sign that the parents are awliya.

    :) Beautiful