This photo of him was taken at a family picnic arranged by my aunts just before he was diagnosed with a life limiting, terminal and progressive illness. He raised my father and gave him a home, a family. He opened his doors and heart and enveloped us with love and compassion. All my life, I have loved him and never ceased to feel that love returned from him.
When I think of him, my heart warms and overflows with beautiful memories of my childhood. Listening to grandad tell me stories before bedtime. Holding his strong hand as he walked with me to the corner shop. Sitting in his warm embrace on a park bench on a hot summer’s day under the shade of the great big tree in our old neighbourhood. Sharing sweets and jokes, he had such a mischievous sense of humour. The lingering scent of his attar. The sound of his booming laughter, like basking in droplets of gold.
My grandad was the muazzin of the local masjid. His voice was so powerful that he was chosen to be deliver the Call to Prayer in the community. He didn’t need a microphone, he could be heard without one. His voice and laughter defined his personality, his independence, his charisma, his humor, his buzzing, unstoppable energy. I never saw him cry even once in those days.
Before we lost him, it was a different story. It was hard to hear his voice quietened to a whisper, his speech was unclear and he struggled to make himself heard. He was no longer independent and he tired easily. He became weak and frail. He cried without inhibition. Every day he deteriorated that little bit more and every day a piece of him was lost that could never be reclaimed.
He was a diamond amongst men and has been the major love of my life. You could not sit next to him without feeling the warmth or light radiate from his person. He had led a truthful and humble life, had been devout in his worship and honorable in character. He had touched the lives of so many and is not someone a person can forget even after meeting once.
Grandad had been terminally ill for some time now and the week before he passed, he was hospitalised. Doctors said it was the ‘final stages’ of his illness and we must ‘prepare for the worst’. He was too weak and fragile for treatment or any effective medical intervention. He was nil by mouth and even his usual meds were stopped due to internal complications. He could not be given saline as this led to fluid in his lungs. He was ridden with infection that he struggled to fight. He was tired. He was in so much pain. He contracted MRSA. His body slowly gave up and succumbed to the daily battles he faced. We did not know what today would look like let alone tomorrow.
Although he was so unwell that he could barely speak or keep his eyes open, he remembered to pray. Here is a photo of him making dua.
Grandad passed away on the morning of 14th March 2017.
Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon. Indeed to Him we belong and to Him we will return.
The eyes weep and the heart mourns but the tongue does not utter except that what pleases Allah.
I was 6 months pregnant with my 4th child. My children were all 7 and under. I left them and went to him. I sat with him for the last time. Time froze. The world stopped. I memorised every line and crevice on his sleeping face, filled with peace and light. I stroked his beard, just like I did in childhood. I held his hands. His hands.
When I was little, I would sit on a bench under a big tree with my grandad. He would put his arms around me and I would spend hours playing with his hands. His hands were big and strong. And even though his hands were always hot, he didn’t stop me from holding them or rubbing them or pulling his fingers. He didn’t once take his hands away, he just let me be.
I remember he used to say to me “the quality of a man lies in the texture of his hands. If his hands are rough, he has worked hard. If his hands are soft, he has work to do yet. I will never let you marry a man with soft hands.”
He would tease me that my hands were soft and his were not. And I would get offended and really pray that next time, my hands would be rougher. Seems foolish to think this now but that’s what was in my head at the time. I used to joke to him that his hands were so strong, he could put someone in a coma with one slap if he wanted. He would say “the man who uses his strength to harm others is not strong at all.”
On my wedding day, he held my husband’s hand throughout the day and before he gave me away, he said to my husband “your hands are strong, I give her to you now, I know you will look after her.” He was not wrong, alhamdulillah.
On his hospital bed, he was in a lot of pain. But yet when my aunt asked him to squeeze the hand of who he loved most, my brother or me, he managed to squeeze both and smile. He raised those same hands in prayer and dua even when he was unable to fully register anything else.
The day grandad died, I held his hands for the last time. It was the first time in my life I ever felt them to be colder than mine. Those were the hands that picked me up, held me, protected me, kept me safe. Those were the hands that tickled me, rubbed my head, comforted me. Those same hands held my children, all but one. I never found hands like his again. I miss him more than I have words to express.
The day of his ghusal, his burial, the day I visited his grave. It has all blurred in a stream of tears. I cannot recall those days.
When I was little, I used to believe that the moon followed me everywhere. My grandad told me it followed me to make sure there’s always light in my path. At the time, the meaning of that was so literal in my young brain. I reflect on it now and think what a wonderful blessing he was wishing on me. I realise now that his face was the moon for me, always smiling, guiding, shining light on our paths with his constant duas and blessings.
In the weeks, months, years, since grandad returned to Allah, I have learnt how lonely of a process grief is. Even if there are a hundred people grieving for the same person, the grief you feel and cope with is your own. Ultimately there is absolutely no one but Allah to feel your pain and hear your helpless cries. My heart goes out to my grandmother who has been left alone and was his lifelong companion, the person he loved most in the world and the one who supported him through everything. I wrote this dua for grandad:
Oh Allah, look how many of us he has raised and loved. Each and every one of us, individually and unconditionally. How many he has touched and lifted the hearts of. That unique special spark you had gifted us with by allowing us to have him in our lives, for our entire lives, has gone. We have never known a time that he was not here until now. We are so lost without his presence.
Oh Allah, his smile was fast like lightening and could be seen from miles away. His laugh was as loud as thunder and was heard even to the distant ear. The warmth of his embrace was felt by every generation. That twinkle in his eye and the manner in which he greeted us, the compassionate way in which he squeezed our hands even when he was fragile. He always sought to bring comfort and humour to those around him, despite any ailments he was feeling. This was his character ya Allah.
Oh Allah, those who met even even once can testify that Your name never left his lips, how he never forgot to call upon You and pray to You, how he spent his entire life in Your path Oh Allah, to do good and righteous deeds so that You may be pleased with him and his offspring. Oh Allah, let this be a testament to the good of his soul and let this be weighed greatly in magnitude for him. Oh Allah, whatever sins he may have committed, wipe them all away and let his good deeds be counted above any human errors. The pain he endured in his final days, let that be a purification for him Oh Allah, he endured it without a single utterance in complaint towards Your decree.
Oh Allah, You gave him to us and truly You have the right to take him back, give us peace and strength to endure this trial of losing him even though we know he was never ours. He belongs to You Oh Lord and he has returned to you. He awaits in barzakh for the final hour. Oh Allah, fill his grave with light and warmth and comfort, widen his place of rest and grant him eternal peace. Oh Allah let him smile, let him smile, let him smile. Enter him into the Gardens ya Allah. And surround him with Your relentless Mercy.
Today I have been thinking about him a lot and making dua for him. And I ask you all to join me. To make a special prayer for him today. If there was anyone who ever taught me about the value of family and kinship, it was this man. And his lesson of family and love is something that I wanted to share with you all. May Allah preserve his legacy. Ameen.
I end with this dua to pray for all those we have loved and lost:
Allaahumma ighfir lihaayina wa mayitina wa shaahidina wa ghaa’ibina wa sagheerina wa kabeerina wa dhakarina wa unthaana. Allaahumma man ahyaytahu minna fa ahyihi ‘ala’l-Islam wa man tawaffaytahu minna fa tawiffahu ‘ala’l-eemaan. Allaahumma ighfir lahu warhamhu wa ‘aafihi wa a’fu ‘anhu, wa akrim nuzulahu wa wassi’ madkhalahu waghsilhu bi’l-maa’ wa’l-thalj wa’l-barad, wa naqqihi min al-khataaya kama yunaqqa’ al-thawb al-abyad min al-danas. Allaahumma abdilhu daaran khayra min daarihi wa ahlan khayra min ahlihi. Allaahumma adkhilhu al-jannah wa a’idhhu min ‘adhaab il-qabri wa min ‘adhaab il-naar wa afsah lahu fi qabrihi wa nawwir lahu fihi. Allaahumma laa tahrimna ajrahu wa la tadillanaa ba’dahu
(O Allaah, forgive our living and our dead, those who are present among us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our males and our females. O Allaah, whoever You keep alive, keep him alive in Islam, and whoever You cause to die, cause him to die with faith. O Allaah, forgive him and have mercy on him, keep him safe and sound and forgive him, honour the place where he settles and make his entrance wide; wash him with water and snow and hail, and cleanse him of sin as a white garment is cleansed of dirt. O Allaah, give him a house better than his house and a family better than his family. O Allaah, admit him to Paradise and protect him from the torment of the grave and the torment of Hell-fire; make his grave spacious and fill it with light. O Allaah, do not deprive us of the reward and do not cause us to go astray after this).
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