Mar 2, 2012

Tribute to a friend

When death interrupts life

Are we ever ready for death? Has anyone ever said to the Angel of Death, “take me, take me, I am ready to go?” We are not ready for the diagnosis, and we are not ready to accept the inevitable until it happens. And so it came about on February 29th, a leap year, a warm and wonderful day when the flowers were in bloom, the birds were chirring, and death visited the family after three in the afternoon. Everyone was shocked. Muhamad was in his fifties. He was young still. He had lots to live for. How could it be? 

The machinations of a Muslim funeral

When someone dies in the Muslim community, special machinery springs into action. The message of death is relayed faster than the internet and within an hour everyone has heard the news – Muslim radio and other means – and dropping everything they are busy with to get into their robes and scarves to make their way over to the family of the deceased. The kafan – white linen death robe and planks – must be bought and the necessary burial permit has to be obtained. The body has to be washed by male toekamandies who has to prepare the deceased for death. Within an hour of the announcement of Mohamed’s passing, the house and grounds were packed with almost four hundred people. They had all come to pay their last respects to a dear friend; people who were neighbors, family, friends, workers, colleagues. 

Wonderful friend

Muhamad died late in the afternoon. According to Muslim custom he had to be buried on the same day. We dropped what we were doing and headed over to the house where the cars were already starting to line up. There is an old Muslim saying that you can tell whether a man had any friends by the number of people who came to his funeral. The scene on Rosmead Avenue was akin to walking in the streets of Mecca; black robes were everywhere. Muhamad had indeed had many friends.

It is eye-opening to watch up close the speed and dignity afforded to the deceased at the time of death. That afternoon he had been Mohamed; now he was referred to as the mayyit or the deceased. It had all happened so fast. And so fast it will be for all of us. We will be here one minute, and then we will be gone. Fare well my friend, we will meet again with the Will of God.

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