By Mehjabeen Abidi
Today I remember in fond and beautiful memories- my best friend and sister- Sakina Ali. Our friendship began from the day we met in the Old Council Units. There she was- a quiet little girl snug beside her mother watching Maulana Baqri address the audience. That day marked the beginning of an ever lasting and beautiful friendship that would never diminish.
The last 365 days have been tough. They have been a challenge for her family and friends together, let alone, I. Not just because it was a ‘young’ death in the community, nor because it was the daughter a prominent community leader, nor because it was the worst news a mother and father and family could ever hear in their life. But because it was a great loss of a wonderful human, Muslimah, friend, sister, daughter, and wife; who would sprinkle specks of love and joy in every soul she touched. As her news sent a wave of shock and sadness to the heart and eyes of ALL; there was one thing very rare and spectacular about it all- no one remembered her through ‘hate’ or ‘sadness’, but through ‘love’ and ‘happiness’. Everyone remembered how she touched their lives and helped them improve themselves. Everyone rejoiced on the peace her dimpled smile brought to their hearts. Everyone comforted themselves and each other with narrations of her wonderful talks, chats, or discussions, and for me, lectures!
The greatest challenge I face is to write this tribute. I’ve tried for weeks and months to get something into writing, either my eyes well up, or I get a writer’s block, or my mind gets clustered and overwhelmed with all the wonderful moments that she and I shared. What to write about? What to share with the world? What to say without crossing the boundaries of respecting a marhuma. So I figured the best is to write about some of the lessons she taught me about living life. Perhaps that was her way of living on… her legacy… to teach each one of us something that may be so minute, but changes life forever. So I then face my next challenge- which lessons shall I share? Which stories do I narrate? At this point I turned to my group and friends. I asked many who I knew Sakina had touched their lives to write about their friendship with her, and what they learned from it. After all, that is the luckiest person, right? The one remembered day and night by words of blessings and praise and prayers.
Sakina guided many of us through many stages of life. Her friendship in Madressah, high school, followed by university, and lastly marriage; taught me valuable lessons that I apply, and Inshallah in the future, will teach my children.
Age brings knowledge and intelligence. As she was one of my eldest friends, she somehow, always knew what to say and lecture me on. Being the youngest in my group of friends, I somehow, ended up doing, in Sakina’s words, “crazy things”. She always instilled the respect for everything, including parents, friends, and especially, religion. I remember she got me out of so many ‘hot situations’ in life! One particular one was in high school and university.
In elementary school, the whole mehram non-mehram issue was the least of my worries. Growing up with the same crowd of people, when we entered high school, it sometimes did not register that our kindergarten friends were now non-mehrams to us. Sakina ensured that was engraved into us all! She’d see a situation and start her ‘Sakina lecture’! It wasn’t the lectures that stuck to me- it was her style of lecturing. Whether verbally or written, there’d be a stern yet joyful skip in her voice as she lectured on how life is ‘livable’ without the forbidden acts of interaction between a guy and girl. She would always say high-5’s and a smack on shoulders would not cut it. She would always caution, as much as you want to avoid walking home from school or taking the bus, you cannot under any circumstance, share a ride alone with a non-mehram. She constantly stated the western norm of shaking hands with each other was avoidable period! I realized later on in life, when I went for job interviews, and refused to shake hands with male managers AND still landed the positions, that yes, following Islamic teachings did not bring anything but whatever is destined for you in life. It may not be now, perhaps later. It may not be in this world, perhaps hereafter. But it will be (once He says it to be).
During the age of ‘marriage’, Sakina was a blessing in disguise. She made me see the true and priority things in a potential spouse. She made me look beyond the western culture of “love at first sight”, and girl/boyfriend rubbish. She explained the importance of genes, faith and love for Ahlul bait (as) as one of many foundations of successful marriage. Talking to her about pre/marital issues was like sitting with a marriage counselor. She wasn’t married then, yet she just knew what to say and supported it by what Islam said, and would reassure me to have trust in His Words and Promises. Alhamdulillah, I can proudly give her credit for being one of the main sources of my successful and joyous marriage. She was truly a God-sent for me.
Living life to the fullest, was one of Sakina’s most implemented sayings. When I reflect back at the years I shared with her, there was one thing that her and I did without any hestitation- enjoy life! That really did not mean for us to go out to the movies or walk the mall corridors, nor did it mean for us to attend/ host parties. They were the littlest of little things that we did together which now, makes for very tearful memories (of joy). As teenagers, we were inseparable. We attended every program at Council so we could see each other. We’d call each other up to make sure we wore the same color clothes. I would use every excuse in this world to go to her house. Most of the time it was Calculus tutoring that would turn into Sakina’s handmade black tea and hot dog buns with cream cheese and jelly. Frequently Munnawar Uncle would ask us, “Is this studying?” We knew he was onto us because he’d have that fatherly smirk on his face which meant, “I’ll pretend I don’t know.” If nothing else, it was the phone! Even though Munnawar Uncle put curfews on our phone duration and timing, somehow, we ended up dodging the ball. We definitely led a bit of the ‘typical teenage life’. From those days, til last summer, Munnawar Uncle still lectures us on our childish behaviour. Safa still says, “you two will never grow up!”
Yet, these were exactly the years that Sakina instilled an important lesson of life- positive thing/ positive energy. As I continue my training in Life Coaching, I am constantly taken back in memory how a lot of the “laws” that I learn, Sakina was already implementing them. She definitely was the beacon of positive love, happiness, and laughter.
As many of you know, for the past few years, I have been driving to Canada. One of the main reasons was to reunite with Sakina. For three years in a row, we had the blessing of God to spend summers together. I would be at her home 24/7 or whatever time children and commitments permitted. We always made sure we spent time with each other every year. Sometimes, I’ve taken my boys out of school weeks early, just so that I can meet up with her. At times, there would be an unavoidable circumstance that would delay her departure to UK and we’d obtain the opportunity to be in each others company for days or even weeks longer. God does work in mysterious ways. Thank God!!! Our last summer of 2010 together was by far, the best time we spent together. It was the first time in our 14 years of friendship that I had the fortune to give back in our friendship. We had a blast hanging out, walking the streets of Gerrard, shopping, attending programs, taking the kids out to Chuck-e-Cheese, and best of all, going to Wonderland!
When Sakina found out I had season tickets to Wonderland, she questioned me why I had not taken her there YET? I was flabbergasted as to why? She then explained how she has never been to Wonderland. What?!!! And how many years have you been in Toronto???? It was the end of summer and time was ticking. She had to leave and I had to drive back to Texas. So we decided to take Mohammad-Jawad, her nephew, and my children to Wonderland. Not being able to fit our Wonderland adventure anywhere before her departure we ended up going on a Tuesday (I believe). I had newborn and young kids who wouldn’t leave the wave pool, so I apologetically told Sakina if she wouldn’t mind going on rollercoaster’s alone. She answered, “I was afraid to ask you if I could go alone for I thought I might insult you.” We laughed at a misunderstanding we had after many years!!! When she came back from the Behemoth her face was beaming with excitement and her smile was as wide as it ever could be. “That was awesome!” she cried out in between hysterical laughter of exhilaration, “Go back! Go back! Ride some more.” I told her. As usual, Sakina said that she couldn’t leave me here babysitting. After all we came to enjoy together. After several pleas and demands and blackmailing, and reminding her to “live life to the fullest” she went back. Not once, not twice, but many times again. We dragged ourselves out of Wonderland so not to be late for the evening program of 15th Shabaan. We were hungry, tanned, sunburned, and late! But that didn’t matter. “This was the best day of my life! I feel like I finally accomplished everything in life. Now I can die.” These were Sakina’s words as we got into my van. I felt proud to have showered her with rollercoaster thrill. I had once again, been the giver not taker.
Sometimes together, sometimes separately, we had the chance to reunite and rekindle with many people. Sakina wanted, for reasons now apparent; to meet with everyone she had not kept in touch with for years. With a few, I told Sakina to drop it, for it couldn’t be possible. “Whatever is meant to be will happen.” I would say. But she ended up meeting them all whether at the mosque or Council or visiting their home. Sakina just wanted that particular summer a summer no one would EVER forget. And sure as sugar in coffee, she sure made sure! For everyone now, when Sakina is the topic of conversation, refer back to Summer 2010! The summer they will never forget.
Please recite Surah Fateha for Marhuma Sakina Ali binte Munawwar Rashid Ali. May she be in the company of our A’immah-e-Athar (as). Ameen.