This isn’t about typography, or music. File under personal jottings.
As a confirmed expat, my umbilical link to the old country is through my computer, like probably millions of other expats. Whilst tapping on my laptop a few days ago, out popped the disembodied voice of Abdal Hakim Murad (aka Tim Winter – left), the Muslim Cambridge University teacher and writer, in his Thought for the Day slot, early on BBC’s Radio 4 morning Today programme. It was a tribute to Khalil “Ken” Dale, the aid worker (a male nurse in fact) for the Red Cross, who was killed by persons unknown in that anarchic part of north Pakistan near Quetta, because of the non-payment of a ransom. I knew Khalil fairly well myself back in the 1990s when we worked in the same building in London. He had already been awarded an MBE for his work in Somalia.
His naturally slightly shy manner belied the courageous man he really was. He assigned himself to the most dangerous places in the world without a second thought. I think he was a man of destiny who somehow knew he might meet an untimely death, not that anyone’s death is untimely. Quite the contrary. As some air travellers were quoted as saying just a week ago, as they believed their Easyjet plane was to going crash over the Alps, “we thought it was our time”. That would be the correct judgement in my book. The shahid, the witness, according to both Qur’an and Tradition has a blessed death (or his or her time) and does not enter the interspace between life and death but crosses immediately into the next world and is alive.
At the time of the recent Bosnian war there were many accounts of the fresh graves of those who had died, smelling strongly of perfume. My own experience of this was when in the 1970s, Colonel Ata’ur Raheem, one of the first Indians commissioned into the British army, died at a venerable age in London. He co-wrote the well known book Jesus Prophet of Islam and was a valued counsellor to our fledgling community at that time and much loved and respected. I couldn’t attend his funeral but managed to visit the military cemetery where he was buried the following day. Because there was an intense smell of roses around the grave I assumed that many bottles of rose water had been poured on the earth the previous day. I found out later that no perfume at all had been taken there.
To the western mind the word martyrdom is heavily loaded and associated in some way with failure not success. The more materialistic society a becomes, its shared love of this world makes it almost impossible to view death as a release and not something to fear. This isn’t a subject about which I feel fully qualified to speak but it is something which, as I get older, looms as an ever present reality – which does qualify me to say my bit. One of the diseases of the heart mentioned by Ibn Mawlud in Hamza Yusuf’s book Purification of the Heart (soon to be reprinted – watch this space) is false hope and to not accept death as a close and inevitable reality is mentioned as the biggest of false hopes. The collective disease of the hearts of men and women is what contributes to this breakdown of society. And at a certain threshold it becomes violent.
When violent anarchy manifests then kidnapping becomes one way of easily raising money or obtaining stuff. I have it on good authority from Venezuelans I know, that having your children kidnapped for the ransom of a car or a refrigerator is not uncommon in that country now. I believe it was Imam Malik who said that 60 years of oppression is better than one day of anarchy. I don’t think the Imam meant that oppression was somehow OK but was indicating how terrible anarchy is because oppression is about as bad as it can get.
A postcript to all this was Abdal Hakim’s Opinion article the same day in the London Times. It was an extended tribute to Khalil Dale plus some some statistics about the increasing conversions to Islam in the UK in spite of the terrorist outrages since 9/11 and the endless negative press around Muslims. For me he always has something interesting to say but judging by the subsequent comments on his Times piece, he had evidently touched a nerve. They were almost all (over 60 of them) obnoxious and carcastic. His opinions were clearly like a red rag to the rabid bull of the secular Times-reading underclass. It appears that the typical British islamophobe would rather have a one-eyed hook-handed Egyptian demagogue portrayed as the typical muslim – not an intelligent, educated and most of all, white, Englishman.•
The link to the Times article mentioned above: