By Fizzah Najm
If I had to put that time in my life into words, I would say that while I lost a parent, I found God.
Life is not supposed to be perfect.
Everyone battles through life in their own way. And eventually, life moves on. What makes anyone stand out is the way that they handle the fight; the very same fight that brings so many people down…
This letter is from a proud daughter to the world- addressing 11 years of suppressed emotions. After eleven years of contemplation and reflection I have come to realise that suppressed emotions do nobody any good.
I do not talk about my father very often with people- unless if they are extremely close to me-which is probably why only a few of my most trusted friends know about my father’s death. I always find myself reliving the trauma whenever I talk about it. In the past, I used to fear the situation where someone would ask me about my father and I would break down in front of them; I regretted the fact that I was not brave enough to take my own loss.
Now, however, I feel is the right time for me to take a bold step; to share the story of a brave, fearless man who himself didn’t shy away from telling the truth; a man who was firm and tough on the outside, but gentle and kind on the inside; someone who managed to uphold values like honesty and sincerity that are the core of our deen, despite the society he worked and lived in.
As a young child, I always thought of my father as the ultimate brave army officer; fighting against the odds so that good would prevail. Today that image of him is intact and preserved in my mind- he is the same person to me.
I remember the day when I saw my father for the last time, just a few numbered days before he passed away .
He was in the intensive care unit at hospital and I was trying hard to catch a glimpse of him through the glass wall between the ICU ward and the visiting area. Other people standing around me were waving to their relatives with joy and happiness-at that moment, I was the only one struggling to hide the tears dripping all over my face. In a matter of just a few days, my father had become really weak; it took all his strength to sit up that day.
Despite all my efforts to make eye contact with him, he did not look at me.
He ignored my presence and avoided my gaze.
In retrospect, I believe he that knew he was going to leave us soon and it was unbearable for him to see the hopeful face of his eleven year old daughter waiting for her father to come home. He did not want us to see him in those final moments; once a brave fearsome army officer, now reduced to the helpless position he was in.
Sixteen days after that day Allah gave my father a break from all the physical and mental challenges he was battling with….through death.
I truly became familiar with traits of my father’s personality after his passing away. It was through stories about him, told by other people(especially people of much lower ranks in the army) that held my thoughts during some of the most troubling times that followed his death.
My dad followed a simple principle: ‘insaan ko pechana ho to dekho wo apne se neeche inssan k saath kaisa hai’ (to see what a person is really like, look at how he/she treats his/her subordinates). This applied to him after he passed away; through the way people frequently talked about him, my siblings and I felt that we gained a deeper understanding of our dad’s dealings with other people.
My father had the ability to do justice with his subordinates and to speak bluntly and candidly no matter what status the other person belonged to or what relation he shared with him- he always tried his best to implement justice and fairness around him. That was one of the most controversial qualities of his personality. He paid the price of possessing this attribute by ending up with many enemies. But he never cared about that because he believed that if you did everything the right way, everything would eventually fall into place and it would all be worth it in the end. Yet it is human nature to get upset and frustrated when you are not able to get your intention across and your close ones do not understand you.
His decision making and foresightedness is still being appreciated by a lot of people. He always wanted the best for everyone; he used to do what he believed to be right for others no matter how bad it made him appear in front of people in the short run.
Living an honest life is very tough and the price you have to pay for such a life is beyond imagination. My father had his priorities well defined. He was very clear about the distinction between his life choices. He was very firm about maintaining his integrity; honesty and truthfulness that people would go to the extent of telling him to think about himself and to learn to adjust to circumstances. In other words: ‘thori hair phair karna seekho’ (basically, advised him to learn the ways of the world). Because of his extreme sincerity and straightforwardness, he was referred by people as ‘ye dunya is k liye nai’ (the world is not for this man- i.e. since he did not like to bend to societal norms that were dishonest and corrupt).
During his professional life, he used to make sure that illegal practices didn’t happen under his watchful eyes. Allah also commands us to be just in all our doings and dealings. Firing became the norm outside our home (at some of the places we lived at) as enemies retaliated against him but this never made him compromise his principles.
He believed that anything done with sincerity would ultimately lead to good results. I remember my uncle quoting an incident to me about my father. Once in a war zone, my dad had the option of leaving the area but he forced my uncle to run instead.He said to him: ‘tum chale jao warna tmari bachian yateenm hojayeni’ (you go, or your daughters will suffer as orphans), despite the fact that he had four daughters of his own. As Allah even commands, he wanted what was best for his Muslim brother, without placing his benefit first.
While outside he was perceived as a tough person, his life at home was the complete opposite. When my father used to come home late, my grand dad would never hesitate to slap his 30 year old son (the father of a 3 year old daughter). My father would quietly receive any kind of punishment from his father, considering it to be disrespect to even utter a word of in front of his parents. The kind of reverence my father had for his dad can rarely be seen in today’s world. But this is the kind of reverence that our deen also communicates for us to practice.
People from his army unit still come to our house even after 11 years because they want to maintain that affection-based connection with his family- which they had with him. In terms of the support and love that various outsiders have given us, I personally feel that they have all been miracles of some sort. Someone has said quite correctly “By helping others through their problems and difficulties we earn the help of the Almighty in our own and realize the blessing we are in”. Some people never hesitate to go out of their way to help us by saying, ‘maj sahab se hamara khaas pyaar tha’ (we had a special bond with Major sahab); the happiness my family feels after hearing these remarks is beyond description!
A day has hardly passed without us remembering my father.
A lot of happy and sad moments went by without him. Although his absence can never be compensated, I can never consider myself unlucky because we are recognized, respected and loved by people who knew my father. After 11 years of his absence, his name still holds much value…
If there’s a lesson that my father’s death has taught me, it is this; that the number of years you live for don’t matter as much as the kind of life you have lived. You don’t have to live for a longer period of time to make an impact on people around you. It is very few people who can impact those they’ve left behind the way my father impacted the lives he touched; through his character, his manners and his sense of right and wrong. And it is all these teachings that our deen teaches us and encourages us to practice in our lives. following the word of Allah promises ultimate success, both in this world and the next.
P.s. While I was still in confusion whether to share my father’s stories in an article and would the purpose of inspiring others at the cost of taking a brave step to share memories which are very close to my heart be fulfilled, I came across this hadith:
“He who is killed fighting for Allah’s Cause is a martyr, he who dies in the Cause of Allah is a martyr, he who dies in an epidemic is a martyr, he who dies from a stomach disease is a martyr, and the one who dies of drowning is (also) a martyr.”
I literally had Goosebumps .My father died from stomach disease.