On Muharram 19, 1443 (August 28, 2021) at 6:28 pm (Toronto time), my mother left this earthly abode to join heavenly company. Inna lil Lah-e wa inna Ilayh-e raji‘oon. Surrounded by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, we bid her a tearful farewell even as Surah Yasin was being recited for her.
She had been bed-ridden for several years and over the last few days, her doctor had told us she would go any moment. Her loss, however, was still a shock for all us. We know that her pain and suffering have ended. She is now in a better place enveloped in the infinite mercy of the Merciful Lord, insha’Allah.
A woman of immense dignity, poise and patience, her health declined rapidly after my father passed away in May 2015. Until then, she had appeared quite strong despite her rapidly failing eyesight.
She had looked after my father during his three-month illness before he passed away. Married for 66 years, my father’s demise seemed to have taken a heavy toll of her physical and emotional health although she never once uttered a word of complaint. Her dignity and self-respect prevented her from doing so. She also had immense tolerance for pain.
I recall an incident in 1986 when the skin on her hands started to break out. It appeared as if someone had made cuts on her hands with a knife. After weeks of using various skin creams prescribed by her doctor that brought no improvement in her condition, she was referred to a skin specialist. The specialist said she needed to do a biopsy. She took a pair of scissors and without any anesthesia, cut a piece of my mother’s flesh. I nearly fainted; my mother did not even say, ‘uf’ as her skin was cut.
For every child, their mother is special but I can say that my (our) mother was extra special. In childhood, she did well at school. Her older brother, unable to match her talent, wanted to get her out of school so he told his father that Pathan girls should not be going to school. Our maternal grandfather relented to this suggestion and my mother was withdrawn from school in grade 4.
Thereafter, she concentrated on reading the Qur’an with meanings. She would go to the house of a female teacher next door for Qur’an lessons. Over the course of reading the Qur’an for many years, she had memorized it in its entirety. We realized this only when she lost her eyesight completely and we got her Qur’an CDs that she would listen to every morning. She was able to recite the Qur’an as the CD played.
Unfortunately, her early married life was quite difficult. In the extended family, our uncles and aunts were aggressive and made my mother’s life miserable. Even when we separated from the larger family to move into our own house, their hostility toward my mother continued.
I recall how my uncles and aunts had tried to manipulate me to marry a girl of their choice. I was appalled at their brazenness. There was nothing wrong with the girl. It was the thought of my uncles and aunts’ insistence on whom I should marry when my parents were alive. My father was the oldest of his siblings yet younger ones were trying to impose their choice.
My mother remained silent on the issue aware that if she said anything, this would immediately lead to accusations against her. Finally, I had to step in to tell my uncles and aunts to back off. They scolded me for not listening to my ‘elders’—my uncles and aunts, that is, not my parents! I had to remind them that my parents were older than all of them. They needed to respect my parents.
I was my mother’s favourite child. My siblings would sometimes joke about this. The reason was that I was the oldest of my siblings. Further, I was away from the family since age 9 when I went to Lawrence College, a boarding school in Murree. In 1967, I went to England to study and apart from short infrequent visits, I was away from the family for many years. It was only when my parents and siblings joined me in Canada in 1980 that our family got to live together.
We affectionately called our mother Bibi (in Pushto, it means a respectable lady) as well as Amijee (another respectful name for mother). Despite her lack of formal education, she was a highly intelligent, gifted and most wonderful and kind-hearted person who lived by example. She proved to all around her that we can come closer to Allah subhanahu wa ta‘ala when we display our kindness and love for one another.
She was not only our mother; she was also the mother for virtually everyone. When she was able to go to the Islamic centre for salat, sisters young and old would congregate around her to seek her blessings. Her kind heart and tender love touched everyone.
Given the Muslims’ suffering worldwide and incessant appeals for donations, our mother would always contribute her share from her meagre resources (pension). When I would say to her that with her blessings, all her children are making contributions to these causes, she would say, “I want to contribute my own share. Our suffering Muslim brothers and sisters need this money more than I do.”
Throughout life, she remained resolutely faithful, impossibly tender, deeply caring, sharing and intensely in love with all her family and her many friends. Despite her immense pain and suffering inflicted by others, never once did she utter a word of complaint. Whenever she was troubled, she would pray: “O Allah, have mercy on us all."
To our beloved mother Bibi, you have left us with deeply saddened hearts. The void your departure has created in our lives will never be filled but we pray to Allah to keep you in comfort in heavenly company until we all join you.
O Allah, we beseech You to envelope our beloved mother in your mercy and compassion. Ya arham ar-Rahimeen, grant her maghfirah and the highest place in Jannatul Firdaus. Ameen ya Rabb al-alameen.
“In the name of Allah, the Mercy-Giving, the Very Merciful,
“[All] gratitude and appreciation are due to Allah [alone], the Sustainer of all the worlds [with their biospheres, domains, celestial bodies, humanities, and cosmos],
“The Mercy-Giving, the Very Merciful,
“The Domain-Lord of the Day of Judgement!
“To You alone do we conform; and from You alone do we ask for help.
“Guide us to the Straight Way [throughout our life-long efforts] —
“The way of those upon whom You have bestowed Your blessings, not those who have incurred [Your] wrath, nor those who go the wrong way.”
– Surah al-Fateha, translated by Imam Muhamamd al Asi: The Ascendant Qur’an