Two days before Bha stopped talking and went into a coma, he called me to his room and sat me down by his bedside. Bha, Mohammedreza Sultanali Yusufali, my eldest brother, was a father figure in my family. My father, you see, passed away in 1960, and since then Bha had led at the top, fulfilling the vacuum created as head of family. He started working at age 14 to help pay for household expenses, struggled considerably during mid life, married late but more than made up later on with much success in business and personal accomplishments. His service to Arusha Jamaat in particular, was exceptional. Bha was also the one who provided initial financial and moral support that has put CAI activities in the blessed position it is now in.
Bha was a man with unshakable faith in Allah (S); I know, I know; all of us have faith in God, but Bha’s faith was, well, extraordinary. I worked under him at his shop Mchawi wa Radio in Arusha, Tanzania; this shop had very little to do with radios as it traded mostly in bicycles, its spares and Agip cooking gas. But Bha retained the name and the label Mchawi (magician in English) stuck to him from then on. Business during those times in Tanzania was very good, people made a bundle and Mchawi wa Radio was no exception.
I learnt the ropes of trade here and the sweetness of profit. However, come zohr prayer time and Bha would shoo out waiting customers and close shop. I would protest, argue I would close up and he could precede me, but no, he would have none of that. Money in tens of thousands of shillings was a LOT of money in the seventies; Bha once made out a check for charity that made me almost choke and swoon in awe. Bha would ignore his business and run around town and country for errands for our mosque and community; didn’t bat an eye once when I told him a bicycle got stolen as I was alone and overwhelmed at the shop.
The day he called me in and talked to me for the final time, he looked tired, resigned. Bha had been struggling with acute sarcoma cancer; we all knew he was bidding time. Incidentally, about 2 years before he was struck with cancer, he had declined a very lucrative business proposal that I had put to him. No, he had declared firmly, no more business ventures for me, my time is up and I have to prepare to meet my Lord. I had dismissed those sentiments, written it off to overactive emotions of an overwhelmed but simple man who had achieved much in life, both spiritual and personal.
I remember that day vividly. Yusuf, he had addressed me, his face gaunt from months of suffering, pain, surgery and hospital stays. He had looked at me hauntingly; swallowing painfully, for his mouth was drying up constantly due to medication effects from many drugs (mostly pain killers) he had to consume. I want to talk to you about the humanitarian activities you are doing. Do not wait to help the needy, just put your trust and confidence in Allah (S) and money and success will follow you. Remember always, you are answerable to Allah (S) and everything that you do must be for His (S) pleasure As long as you hold these supreme ideals firmly rooted in you and never compromise with them, you will achieve success and peace of soul you never before imagined. But remember, these successes do not come without losing something in return, giving up of other things. You will get away from the love and desire of this dunya very quickly; things that excite you now and seem important will seem trivial. The lure and luster of fine things that you thought you could not do without will seem almost silly. So, continue doing what you do but carefully consider what I have just said. With those words, he stopped talking and closed his eyes. A man of limited words even when he was in robust health, I did not prod for more; tired, I assumed, and left the room so he could rest. Little did I know those were my brother’s last words to me; Bha left us to be with his Lord 3 days later at age 59.
Now, six years after his passing, it amazes me to realize how accurate and prophetic those few words were. How exact was Bha! As I dwell into the slums of Govendhi and Malad, as I daily hear and deal with the plight of poor and wrenched widows, as I witness the desperation of a mother struggling with a dying child or a young women struggling to get married or further her education, as I struggle to come to grips with the situation of oppressed Muslims of Afghanistan and the lamentations of over 7,000 widows whose husbands were brutally murdered for being a religious minority, as I watch these widows and her young girls toil to fetch a pail of water 2 miles away in a foot of snow and ice so she can put nan on the table for her 5 – 6 kids… I ask myself the very question Bha alluded to. What is this life that I live in worth? All these sufferings and desperate people, why am I so blessed with the bounties of Allah (S)? Why am I so special? Slowly, but surely, I feel silly and ashamed to have yearned for objects and toys that seem so insignificant now. Possessions that I had to have appear petty, immaterial, negligible.
I just completed watching a documentary – Children of Gazza (http://www.shiatv. net/view_ video.php? viewkey=06a78886 b230886197d9&page=1&viewtype=&category / http://www.shiatv. net/view_ video.php? viewkey=5e6023fa c42ec39312a5&page=&viewtype=&category) and my heart wants to explode; it hurts so bad. Ya Allah! Where is this world coming to? Is this life worth living? Are the trivial things we desire and slog all our lives for really worth it when there is such appalling sorrow and sadness and inequity in the world we call home? Where is humanity? Why do beasts rule and control the world? Where is the Imam (A)? Surely this lunacy, this fallacy, this injustice must end and it is high time the Imam (A) is with us?