My Farewell to a Legend

Bismillah hir rahman nir raheem.

Dear committed Brothers and Sisters, Dear beloved family members and close friends of our dear, beloved, and respected Br. Husain Abdul Jabbar, Dear honorable guests, As Salaamu Alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatu.

It is with great sadness and with immense regard for Br. Husain Abdul Jabbar that I, Najwa Kareem write this letter of farewell today in my absence in memory of a community legend.

This morning I received word that our dear Br. Husain passed on and that his funeral and burial services would be taking place today. Given I am in Germany, it is not possible for me to be with you in bodily form to commemorate dear Br. Husain and his life and to celebrate his life journey with you today, nor is it possible for me to express my heartfelt condolences to you in person particularly to Br. Husain's beloved family members and close friends. Al hamdulilah, because of the pen and technology...the click of a button from miles away, I can be with you in heart and in spirit and share with you some of my thoughts and feelings about a beautiful man we know and I have crowned a legend for many different reasons.

Br. Husain was a teacher of mine. He was and is a role model for me. He is a very dear, honored, and long time friend of my beloved and respected parents and my dear immediate family as well as my loving and favorite Aunt and her beloved and respected family, my dear extended relatives. Br. Husain is the husband, life partner, confidant, and lover of our dear and honorable Mama Shakurah; a loving and guiding father of memorable, old time friends and former schoolmates of mine and my siblings and father of my beloved nephew Muhammad Amin's dear and loving father Faruq, and a loving grandfather of Muhammad Amin's. Shall I say, Br. Husain's presence and influence run deep and wide and cover much territory.

Let me continue with sharing some things that come to mind about our community legend. Br. Husain had a way of making you want to hug him in one moment and to back away in another. He could make you laugh in one breath and he could make you cry in another. He seemed to like to keep one on edge, keep one guessing. Would you be touched by his soft side or would you be frightened by his stern side? This is my impression of Br. Husain as one of his students.

Br. Husain desired to be better than he was at any given moment. He was often trying to do and be better. He wanted the same for his students. He had this perfectionist way about him. His critique of his students was as heavy as his critique of himself. I'd guess he was tougher on himself though. Our dedicated teacher dear Br. Husain was easy frustrated when we didn't recite Quranic verses correctly or when we made mistakes after he had worked so hard to teach us or when we weren't paying enough attention to him in class. Br. Husain liked attention inside the classroom and outside the classroom. Additionally, he liked to give and serve others the best of himself. Perhaps it explains his theatrical nature.

Like many actors and actresses, I think he was shy. Or was it that he didn't feel he was good enough. For whatever reason(s), I often felt sorry for him. He had a hard life. Sometimes I wondered behind the many laughs, was there unrevealed pain. Sometimes I wondered behind the heavy and burdened face, was there unidentified joy.

This was the kind of vulnerable spirit dear Br. Husain had; A childlike spirit and aura that gave him away yet kept us wondering.

Often students are those who try to impress their teachers. Br. Husain on the other hand was a teacher who tried to impress his students. He was always trying to prove himself. This extended outside of the classroom. He mastered the pronounciation of some Farsi words and Farsi phrases and frequently tested them out with other people. He would engage in joking throwdowns winning himself many funny awards. Although limited in vertical stature, he did not run away from showing off his sport skills in a competitive game on court. Like an innocent child, he was often trying to impress. Like his infectious, little kid laugh, he left a mark on so many of us. Like his many big features, he impressed us indeed. He impressed a number of us and a number of different types of us but he did more than that. He taught us much.

Br. Husain taught us that if we do what Allah wants us to do, we will be successful. We will be winners. And if we don't do what Allah wants us to do, we will suffer. We will be losers. In my opinion, he was more graphic in describing the suffering we would experience than he was at describing the bliss we would experience. I can vividly remember some of the scary images of Allah's punishment if we committed certain sins that Br. Husain with great detail illustrated to me and my peers in class.

Br. Husain also believed in and taught by the good old paddle or shall I say the harsh effectiveness of intimidation or also known as the fear factor. He was strict and I was afraid of him sometimes. He might have been short but Br. Husain could intimidate. He could intimidate a whole classroom of students and dare I say some adults too. He could also calm a whole classroom of students with his original and funny jokes and stories and not to mention his large and sunny smile.

When I was in 7th and 8th grade at MCS, the girls and boys classes were separated and my adolescent girl classmates and I would walk down the hall where our guy peers would be standing. Br. Husain who always seemed to appear when you least expected him to would say to the boys, "Step back boys. Step back. Get out of the way so the girls can pass." Somehow in Br. Husain's eyes, the guys were the villians, the predators and the girls were the prey. He was very strict with the boys, very hard on them concerning their dealings with girls. It may not have been as obvious to me back then that he was teaching us - his students, the guys and the girls modesty. Maybe he had walked down some roads he didn't want us to walk down. Some may have called Br. Husain's behavior or methodology extreme. I think I considered it that. I also knew that Br. Husain was on it. He wasn't a fool. As Tupac said, Mama didn't raise no fool. To a large extent, Br. Husain's approaches worked. Regardless of how one viewed how he went about doing things, he was always showing us that he cared and that he wanted us to consider Allah first and our nafs second. One has to wonder if all those lessons Br. Husain taught me and his other students concerning how we relate to the opposite sex is one of the reasons I whom have never been married have never had a boyfriend. One has to ask this question. And in mentioning this I am reminded of what my esteemed father has said before. "We are all standing on the shoulders of others." And what shoulders Br. Husain Abdul Jabbar's were.

Br. Husain taught us much. He taught us timeless and valuable things by educating us in Allah's guiding Book, and on the Sunnah of His Prophet (SAW) and on the Prophet's family and companions (AS). He educated us on morality and good conduct grounded in Islamic teachings and ethics. He educated us on things many are afraid to educate one on and/or do not care to educate one on because they themselves are not there and/or they rather hide the truth. But Br. Husain was there so he wasn't afraid and he cared enough to teach us what he was so intimately connected to. Not only did Br. Husain teach us in these monumentous ways, he also served as a role model for us by sharing with us some of his life successes and some of his life mistakes; some of his life experiences growing up and the lessons he learned. Most of all Br. Husain taught us by his own conviction and passion for a way of life that gave him life and one that he deeply appreciated and did not take for granted; A way of life he never gave up on. He taught us by his own sincerity and authenticity. And finally and by no means is this the last, Br. Husain taught us that Allah does not discriminate; that He reaches us when we have little money and when we have a lot of money; He reaches us in well-lit and in dark zones, in back alleys and in open freeways, in high and in low places; when we are known by very few people and when we are known by many, at times of triump and at times of failure; that Allah reaches us at our hearts and takes us where we choose to go.

Br. Husain and his loyal, loving, and caring wife, Mama Shakurah I use to see laughing with each other before he was so seriously affected by his stroke and after. Sr. Shakurah shared with me happily in conversation how much fun the two of them had making love during their honeymoon years. After Br. Husain sustained his stroke, Sr. Shakurah spoke sadly and with concern about his slurred speech and other ailments. In both instances, at a time of ease and at a time of difficulty, a regard and a fondness for her beloved husband came through.

As an occupational therapist, I worked with dear Br. Husain at his and Sr. Shakurah's home once and only once because it was too hard for me to see him as he was. It's difficult putting it into words just how I felt although I can easily say that I remember feeling very uncomfortable. It was tough knowing how to approach treating him. It was like I had a degree of a mental block and had forgotten most of my skills yet stroke rehabilitation is my specialty or area of strength. I wondered how Br. Husain felt about me one of his former students working with him. Br. Husain and Sr. Shakurah didn't know that when I left their house that night, I cried. I cried a lot and felt very sad.

When Br. Husain was receiving therapy, Sr. Shakurah would edge him on and often Br. Husain resisted. The two of them bantering with each other...the intensity level would move up and down a relationship barometer with interesting frequencies. It was amusing for me to watch them. What stood out to me was their loving, affectionate, playful, stepping on each others' toes dance, a uncopied dance indeed.

Sr. Shakurah honored the part of her marriage vows " sickness and in health" though she never recited them at hers and Br. Husain's wedding because they had an Islamic wedding and these specific words were not exchanged. Sr. Shakurah you must have said them to Allah and to yourself because you lived these words caring for Br. Husain in the dedicated and commited manner that you did.

Sr. Shakurah know that you have close friends who respect you for how diligently you cared for Br. Husain. Two of them told me personally. I too respect you for what you did. May Allah Rabbil Alamin give you all of what you deserve and more. May He give you peace, mercy, and baraka in this worldly life and in the life that last forever.

When Br. Husain was a teacher at MCS, he often drank coffee and used a lot of sugar. Many of you probably know this. He confessed to me that he wanted to kick his habit; he really wanted to but it was hard. He also shared with me that he loves sweets!

I hope dear Br. Husain when the time comes you can eat sweets plentifully as you sniff the sweet smells of Firdous. I hope that you have fun and smile big eating all the sweet cakes your heart desires, cakes sweeter than Simply Sweet by Ensi cakes or Razzicakes, tastier than Qeebacakes or Georgetown Cupcakes or better than cakes from Whole Foods and Classics or more delicious than my late beloved and precious Mother's cheesecake, Sweettooth Cakes of Upper Marlboro, more scrumptous than my Aunt Louise's coconut pound cake or Sr. Ragna's Hummel Hummel cakes because although their cakes make us salivate and are made with love, cakes made by Allah are better and sweeter than any human made cake there is, any man made cake we've ever tasted or out there.

I hope dear Br. Husain you will be comfortable and at ease for all of the times you were uncomfortable and in unrest for others. I will be praying for you that Allah Subhana wata ala gives you His peace and His mercy and that you join the ranks of Allah's favored ones.

Thank you infinitely dear Allah, Our Lord, Our Cherisher, Our Sustainer, Our Life-Giver, Our Life-Taker, Our Everything for rewarding us with our good-natured, dynamic, charitable, likeable, personable, intelligent, revered, big-hearted, and so on and so forth Br. Husain Abdul Jabbar. It is Allah Al-Kareem, The Most Generous who puts all of the people in our lives, all of the special people in our lives.

Thank you so much dear Br. Husain for all you did for me, for all you gave me. I could never thank you enough. Thank you abundantly for having taught me and so many others both young and old drill after drill, recitation after recitation, repitition after repitition the powerful and beautiful Dua Wahda. I remember you everytime I recite it. What the Muslim Ummah is lacking today, you Br. Husain wanted for all of us.

To Br. Husain's dear and beloved family members, difficult times have fallen upon you. When you feel sad and are missing Br. Husain, think of him eating sweet cake on a bright sunny day. He will be smiling so you'll want to smile too. I will be praying for you and all of us that Allah who is BIG as a friend said to me once gives us peace, patience, His grace, and mercy.

It's nothing like losing a loved one...losing a spouse, losing a father or mother, losing a child, losing a close friend. You only really know this when you've lost one yourself. But in losing a loved one - a family member or a dear friend, one learns that Allah never gives one more than he/she can bear.

More than a decade ago, sweet Razieh Mofarrahi...a person whose benevolence and altruism runs smoothly through her vains said to me on the phone when we were talking. I was in my car that day driving through our development towards our house. She said, "All you have is how you're remembered." So beautiful what she said to me that day and how fitting it is to speak to it on the commemorative occasion of our beloved Br. Husain's passing on. How fitting it is.

Farewell dear Br. Husain Abdul Jabbar. Farewell my hard working and dedicated Quranic and Islamic Studies teacher. Farewell my principled role model and resolute servant of Allah Jalla wa ala and His beloved Prophet (PBUH) and His. Farewell honorable community member and selfless contributor. Farewell caring human being and lover of Wahda.

Until Paradise Insha Allah dear Br. Husain. Until Paradise our sweet legend.

With endless gratitude and unwavering regard.

Najwa Kareem

*written (mostly) on 10.14.2018