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To the Muslims who have read thus far, may Allah subhanhu wa ta'alaa bless your sincerity with strength, and your knowledge with the ability to apply that knowledge wisely. Aameen.

Noor's Janazah  

Saturday, August 22, 2009

And even though I try, I find myself at simplicity’s doorstep, ready to court its endeavors. So how will simplicity put this? ~Maysun

I was never really much of a fan for funerals. Come to think of it, I’m sure no one in their right mind would be a big fan of funerals. I cringe at the slight utterance of the word ‘janazah’ because I lack the ability to properly express myself at a given moment. Equipped with this is the inescapable fact that I have a very vivid imagination, and at the first sight of that pine wooden box, my mind’s eye begins conjure images of what lies inside and beyond, so you can understand why I shrink away from such obligations. Even though a bitter medicine may be healthy for the soul, no one likes to be force fed reality at any given moment.

Alhamdulillah I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Prophet’s mosque, and at the first call for the funeral prayer, thousands of Muslims, including me, in a feverish rush to stand, rose from their seated positions to offer prayer for the dead. If you’ve ever visited the city of the Prophet (SAW), then you would know imams of Masjid Al-Nabawe perform plenty of janaaiz almost after every salaah. If I can recall correctly, before almost every janazah prayer, I did not know what to feel. Here I was in the Masjid of my beloved Prophet (SAW) and I was not moved as much as I thought I should have been. Although I did not exactly know the people that were deceased, I cursed myself for my numbness all the same. I feel all of my brothers and sisters should get a fair share of my emotions, especially when they enter al- barzakh (the waiting period between death and the resurrection). I mean, I would like others to reciprocate the same emotions for me.

Skipping the pages of my life, here I stand back in my country of the United States of America in the bustling city of New York, positioned before a masjid that does not even compare to the Prophet’s mosque in prestige or even size. It’s a miniscule edifice sitting humbly on the corner of XXX, and I, dreading the fact of yet another janazah, wait anxiously in line to enter the mosque. As my heavily clad body lays oppressed by the bright rays of the sun, I turn my squinted eyes toward the silhouette standing at the entrance of the mosque and make out a family friend. Her eyes ornate with sparkling tears, she weakly smiles at my presence and instinctively, I rush over to embrace her in the tightest hug known to man.

At length we do not say anything. We let the universal language of the human species speak for us. I tell her with my silence that I did not know Noor, but I’m very sorry for the loss this Ummah is currently enduring. She squeezes me tighter and utters a tangle of words choked by tears, unintelligible by my ears, however, still affecting my heart all the same. I reluctantly let go, giving her a reassuring pat on the shoulder before I disappear downstairs into the mosque.

I could not help but to think about the events of the day, the dark text message of Noor’s passing away, the tightness in my chest at the first sight of it. I began to recollect all of the of the narrations of her life.

Noor was 27. She was a diligent student in seeking knowledge of Islam and eagerly passing it onto other people, be it e-mail or even text messages. She had a magnificent, warm character and shared her warmth with a companion when she was married at the age of 26, to a man of a very silent disposition. By the Grace of Allah, she got pregnant, but unfortunately, fell victim to pneumonia during labor. Sad to say the baby passed away and she lay in a coma for a couple of days thereafter. When she did rise from the coma, the doctors thought it was in her best interest for her to remain sedated because the fluid in her lungs would only cause her tremendous pain. In addition to that, her baby just passed away, and her catching wind of such news would only be devastating to her condition. By the Qadr of Allah, her body did not take to the drugs that doctors were prescribing to her, and she passed away shortly after. In light of this, I recall a story she once told, in which was relayed to me by a fellow friend. Noor said when she first got married, her husband came up to her and fell upon one knee. With love in his eyes he said ‘This world does not matter. Will you be my wife in Jannah?’

The impact of the thought of those words was heavy upon my heart, and I slightly blush under my niqab. I could only imagine how she felt when those words were professed to her. However, as soon as I gave a little light to the situation, I was immediately jolted back to reality with the wide pairs of curious, sad eyes all peering at my presence into musalah area. It was as if all those dimly lit orbs were asking for me to contribute my personal memories of Noor to the cheerless atmosphere. And I apologetically bow out of the entreaty, only to find my sister performing Tahiyatul-Masjid only footsteps away. Feigning a calm demeanor, I desperately make my way over to my other half, praising Allah that he did not allow me to undergo this experience alone. Truly all things are from Allah. I perform my obligation right beside her, and after all is said and done, we sit together conversing my astonishment of her sudden arrival.

We both do not know Noor, however, we both were pulled to this mosque by fate to perform her janazah, and the sudden presence of my sister only piques my interest in the matter. I’m eager to find out the purpose of my arrival, for I do not leave anything to chance.

The speakers of the masjid give a deafening roar as they come to life and everyone, in unison, jumps to attention, slightly frightened by the alarming sound.

“Assalamu Alaykum...,” begins the sheikh a bit uneasy. “uhh…Sisters, because there are more brothers, we need you all to clear out of the masjid and perform janazah prayer on the adjacent sidewalk.”

I sigh helplessly, waiting for the many whispers of feministic dissent amidst the crowd, but alhamdulilah they never came. The atmosphere and situation did well in hushing such trivial matters, and we, all one body, complacently make our way back out of the mosque and onto the sidewalk.

Burdened by the summer sun, my sister and I briskly make our way down the long row bordering the edge of the sidewalk, quickly nestling our diminutive figures into a space within the ranks. I mentally prepare myself for the janazah prayer, shaking off any previous, irrelevant thoughts that may be floating around in my head.
One by one I do away with them, but one relentlessly cradles my mind in a tormenting wail, and I, ready to do anything to chuck it, answer its call.

‘Look up,’ it told me.

And upon obeying its dictates, I’ am astonished by what I’ am greeted with as my ebony eyes slowly turn upward.

Separated by a narrow street, hundreds of Muslims in long rows that extended down the two sidewalks stood as one body. All of them, men, women, and children, their heads bowed ready to pay their respects to the dead. Absorbing the beauty of the vision, I look up at the buildings overhead. Onlookers, who were not even Muslim, gaze with a keen interest out of their windows, also transfixed in awe by the sight.
In one window, a small Mexican kid eagerly points at the large mass of Muslims that I’ am a part of, enthusiastically engaging his sister in a conversation, whose words are unbeknownst to me. Adjacent to the rows, a Hispanic woman, probably in her mid thirties, motionlessly looks on at the remarkable display of only a portion of the Ummah.

Pause. This is when it hit me. A torrent of emotions vehemently thrust their way into my heart as I look at the Ummah that I’ am a part of. It was so many of us together and the bond, the strong connection to my Muslim brothers and sisters that I was totally unaware of, rises from its sleep, shaking its fragile limbs. The atrophied emotion delicately swells within my chest, and I not knowing how to handle it, feel a knot rise in my throat.

I did not know what it meant to be a part of an Ummah until that very moment. Now I think of Noor in the light of my new found emotion, and feel my heart crumble.

‘We lost Noor. We lost Noor’, I hear my heart call out.

And as if sensing my emotion, her husband gets on the loudspeaker and chokes on every word through his salty tears. My flood gates open, and I cup my hands over my mouth and begin to cry. In my peripheral, I see my sister’s body throbbing to her sobs and this broke me down even more. Both parts of me were crying, and I could not do anything to console them.

The janazah prayer commences with heart-felt sniffles and ends with whispered tears. Allah’s words ‘Allahu Akbar’, gripped the hearts and left the masses broken for our sister Noor.

The pine box, the coffin shrouded in a blanket masked with golden woven calligraphy appears, only to be lowered within the hearse. I think of Allah….I think of the angels about to ask her those destination determining questions. I think of the day of resurrection. I think of my life and what have I been doing lately to help the Ummah. I think of so many things, and underlining all of it all was this love that I had for this sister I did not even know. She was so young! It could have been me! I could have been in that casket!

I have to break away! I have to get away!

I dash monstrously through the crowd to the stone wall of the building behind us all. There’s nowhere else to go, so there was only one thing left to do. I had to let it out. And I did.

I leaned my back up against the stone wall and looked toward the heavens, and I let out. It came out hard, jerking my body back and forth. Alhamdulillah my contorted face was veiled behind my niqab because that day I cried one of those ‘it hurt so bad’ cries, and this time in public!

Noor’s body departed to its burial site and piece of me went with it. Who would have thought that in small, rinky dink masjid on the corner of XXXX, with no type grandeur or beauty of the Prophet’s mosque, I would have found a part of my identity? I feel this was why fate brought me here, to find something that I did not even know existed within me. Sometimes I wonder, sitting here typing on the laptop, why? Why there and then? Why not at the Prophet’s mosque when it was expected? The only answer I can think of is this:

‘Waannahu huwa adhaka waabka’

Translation: ‘And that it is He (Allah) Who makes (whom He wills) laugh, and makes (whom He wills) weep.’ (Najm53:43)

I respect Noor for knowing of a state of death before me. One day we will all join her. I ask myself time and time again, am I ready? No. But I will definitely try. Food for thought.

~Maysun

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