Shareefa Beevi Esmail Saheba, the respected wife of Mukarram Amir Jamaluddin Saheb of the Kerala South Jamaat, passed away on the early morning of Thursday, the 10th of May, 2018---23 Shabaan 1439 AH. Innal-Lilaahi wa inna ilayhi raajiuun.
Born in October 1951, Shareefa Saheba was 67 years of age at the time of her death. She was not keeping well for some months now, and the end came while she was sleeping peacefully at home. Indeed the angels came home to call her back to Allah (swt), like the Qur’an attests about the Divine decree regarding the course of all human souls: “Allah takes the souls at the time of their death; and those that do not die [He takes] during their sleep. Then He keeps those for which He has decreed death and releases the others for a specified term. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought” (39:43).
At home, daughter Fauzia Jamal Saheba led the other women of the family in giving a proper bath to the dead body as per Islamic rites. The funeral prayer (Salaat al-Janazah) was performed under the leadership of her husband Mukarram Amir Jamaluddin Saheb of the Kerala South Jamaat after their son Fazil Jamal and family reached home from Delhi in the late afternoon. Remaining members of the family, members of the South Jamaat, close relatives and even other Muslims outside of the Jamaat also joined the Janaza prayers at the historic Noor'ul Islam Masjid, Mathra and soon thereafter, the dead body was buried at the burial space enclave adjacent to the Masjid complex before sunset. May Allah (swt) illumine her tomb, Aameen.
Throughout the day, hundreds of people in the village, belonging to different religions and the different segments of the Muslims- including Ahmadis- who knew her personally and had experiences of her many kindnesses over the decades, flocked to the home of Shareefa Beevi Saheba to pay their respects and to offer a prayer for the soul. Sectarian prejudices and narrow mindsets have long afflicted the village, leading to the shackles of social boycotts against the Jamaat members for long. However, on this day, it was as though all such shackles were broken down by the people who deified their mundane authorities to pay homage to a departed soul.
In a condolence message addressed to her son and the remaining members of the family of Shareefa Beevi Saheba, Hadhrat Muhyi-ud-Din Al Khalifatullah Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius offered a prayer:
In a message addressed to the wider community of Jamaat Ul Sahih Al Islam in India on the occasion, Hadhrat Saheb (atba) further instructed: ‘All Jamaat officials and members, kindly offer the Janaza prayer in absentia (Janaza Ghayb) of this great and sincere lady, a figure of patience and sacrifice. May Allah shower on us all also blessings which shall suffice for us in both worlds. Ameen’.
Remembering Shareefa Beevi Saheba
On the evening of Thursday, the 10th of May, the Kerala South Jamaat convened a remembrance meeting in honour of Shareefa Beevi Saheba. Speaking on the occasion, Mukarram Amir Jamaludin Saheb thanked everyone on behalf of the family of Shareefa Beevi Saheba for being there with them in these admittedly difficult times. The Amir Saheb reminded everyone present about a sacred tradition of the Holy Prophet (sa): ‘when a person dies, s/he can no longer do anything about her/his future life except in one of three ways: a recurring act of charity, a useful contribution to knowledge, and a dutiful child who prays for him/her’. The Amir Saheb felt that the departed soul was fortunate on all three counts, as the trajectory of her life on this earth testified to her legacy of service, sacrifice and patience.
Drawing upon the rich depository of their shared life and experiences over the decades, the Amir Saheb agreed that her hospitality and empathy was well known in the village- be it among fellow Muslims, the Christians or the Hindus in the neighbourhood. Even in the decades before the establishment of the Jamaat Ul Sahih Al Islam in Kerala, Jamaluddin Saheb and family had struggled a lot to establish Tauheed in the village, opposing corrupt rituals flourishing in the name of Dargah- worship being practiced by near blood relations and other Bid’ah in the local Sunni Muslim community (1974- 1988). Since the death of her mother- in- law Fatima Beevi Saheba in 1986, Shareefa Beevi Saheba has been the fulcrum around which all family affairs revolved. Later, during the days of the ‘mainstream’ Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya (1988-2006) also, Shareefa Beevi Saheba played an important role as the hostess of the community activities taking shape and evolving around their home, including as the president of the Lajna Imaaillah in the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, Mathra.
In a career spanning close to four decades as a primary school teacher, Shareefa Beevi Saheba had hundreds of students whose lives were illumined in the world of letters in some ways through her patience, sustained engagement and motherly affection. When she was at work, she gave her time and personal efforts liberally even beyond the call of duty so much so that she was at the forefront of almost all social/community outreach activities at the School where she was teaching. In later years, she reached out to help many junior colleagues who even became good friends with her and they came home to share food with the family, also deriving inspiration and advice from her long years of experience on matters of life. According to her eldest grandchild Faezah Maryam Zain, two words epitomize the life of her grandmother: “sharing and caring”.
Among the many memories that allow them to smile through their tears, her children remain eternally grateful to their mother for initiating them into the world of secular and spiritual education, including the recitation of the Holy Qur’an. From a life that saw much hardship and pain from close quarters; through the struggles that she has had to wage within a patriarchal family framework in our society, Shareefa Saheba made both her sons- the late Fouse Jamal and the present writer- intensely conscious of the many layers of injustice all around us and also about the critical need for the men/ ‘boys’ to recognize and appreciate the role of women’s agency and rights, including within family systems. Her daughter Fauzia Jamal-Zain Saheba remembered that it was her mother Shareefa Beevi Saheba who taught her, inter alia, the Islamic rites of how to give a proper bath to the dead body, preparing it for burial.
Prayers for the Dead
The Islamic spiritual tradition contains profound teachings that give one a sense of perspective on how to look at, and engage with, the greatest sorrows of life. In his speech, the Amir Saheb underscored the need for offering prayers for the departed soul, especially by the children to benefit their mother’s soul, requesting Allah (swt) to have mercy on her and to improve her position with the Lord through their good deeds and prayers. Holy Qur’an teaches us several prayers in this regard:
“Our Lord! Forgive me and my parents, and (all) the believers on the Day when the reckoning will be established.” [Surah Ibrahim, Ch: 14, verse 42]
‘And grant, our Lord! that they enter the Gardens of Eternity, which Thou hast promised to them, and to the righteous among their fathers, their wives, and their posterity! For Thou art (He), the Exalted in Might, Full of Wisdom. And preserve them from (all) ills; and any whom Thou dost preserve from ills that Day,- on them wilt Thou have bestowed Mercy indeed: and that will be truly (for them) the highest Achievement. – (40:9-10).
According to the Holy Prophet (sa), ‘death is a liberation for the soul of a believing servant from the cares of the mundane world’. In the Islamic tradition, death of the physical body for the human soul is only a phase in its enduring journey to the blessed presence of the Almighty. As for the living, Islam offers the extraordinary possibility of gaining spiritual solace through fervent prayers for the beneficence of the dead- seeing them as souls that are marching ahead of us- whose footsteps we would invariably be following someday soon down the line- in the quest to reach the presence of the Lord.
Consider the Prophetic Tradition reported by Imam Muslim in ‘Sahih Al Muslim’: Once Archangel Jibreel appeared before the Holy Prophet (sa) and asked him, as per the instructions of the Lord Almighty, to pray for the dead at the Baqi Qabarstan and the Holy Prophet (sa) prayed in these words: ‘May Allah (swt) have Mercy on the inmates of the Qabarstan who are Muslims and Mu’mineen. May Allah bless those who went ahead of us and those who follow us. Surely, we all are to join with you soon, Insha Allah’.
For the remaining members of the family of Shareefa Beevi Saheba, and also for the nascent Sahih Al Islam community in Kerala; the tombstone of Shareefa Beevi Saheba in the vicinity of the Noor’ul Islam Masjid complex will always remain as an important sign. Like the Holy Prophet (sa) said, visiting the tomb will remind us about the nearness of death, and the larger goals of our spiritual life in this fleeting world, Insha Allah, Aameen.