Untitled…

Defender of the Flag: In Memory of Alia Ansari
By Imam Zaid Shakir
10/25/05
http://www.zaytuna.org/articleDetails.asp?articleID=108

This past Tuesday, Muslims celebrated ‘Id al-Fitr, one of Islam’s two
great
festivals. For me, it was a beautiful day that began with a truly warm
and
vibrant ‘Id gathering at the Zaytuna Institute. God afforded me a
wonderful
opportunity to see friends who had been “missing in action,” to meet
enthusiastic new converts to the Islam, and to kiss so many babies I
felt
like a politician. During that time, I was also able to break away from
the
gathering to visit the graves of some distinguished Muslims buried in a
nearby cemetery. Visiting the local Muslim cemetery on ‘Id day is a
practice
I have been able to maintain since my earliest years in Islam. They
serve as
a solemn reminder that all of us have an appointment with the Angel of
Death.

I was blessed to stay at Zaytuna until the early afternoon when I
departed
to attend a meeting at a local school, a reminder that we are in
America and
sometimes, despite our best efforts to clear our schedules on the day
of our
festivals, the requisites of our everyday duties intervene. After that
meeting, I was able to visit some of the Muslim families in the area.
All of
those visits filled my heart with awe at the simple dignity of ordinary
Muslims, many of whom are struggling valiantly to survive in this
sometimes
cruel, always challenging and complicated society.

The last of those visits was to the family of Alia Ansari, the
Afghani-American mother of six who was gunned down in central Fremont
last
Thursday as she walked to pick up her children from school. The Ansari
family are everyday people—and, they are proud people. As I talked with
Alia’s husband, brothers, and cousins who were gathered in the family’s
humble apartment, it became clear to me that, most of all, they were
proud
to be Ansaris, descendants of the companion of the Prophet Muhammad,
peace
upon him, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, and the great Muslim mystical sage,
Khawaja
Abdullah Ansari. In Afghan society, they are people who are identified
with
piety and they endeavor to live up to that identification, in their
various
ways.

Alia Ansari migrated from war-torn Afghanistan at the age of 17. When
her
father died shortly thereafter, she became a second parent to her
younger
siblings. A life of hardship could not suppress her inner beauty,
expressed
most readily in an irrepressible smile. Her husband, Ahmadullah Ansari,
an
auto mechanic struggling to make ends meet for a family that includes
six
young children, five of them girls, spoke glowingly of Alia’s martyrdom
and
the place God has reserved for her in Heaven. Her story impressed on me
the
truth embodied in the words of a poet who said, “Be yourself beautiful,
and
you will find the world full of beauty.”

Her husband, contrary to the caricature of the vindictive, hateful,
enraged
Muslim, mentioned how the family did not wish her martyrdom be treated
as a
hate crime, because he did not want her death to be a source of
agitation in
the area’s large Muslim community. He also mentioned that the family
would
not want the murderer executed, because that would not bring his wife
back.
His wife was a martyr, her place in Paradise secure—for him that was
enough.

His gentle voice was most emphatic when he mentioned that he did not
want
his wife’s death to be politicized. Rather, he wanted her spirit of
love and
reconciliation to prevail after her passing as it had during her life.
He
spoke of his desire that her funeral be a solemn service, where people
of
all faiths could gather to remind each other just how important it is
to
work to remove the pernicious stain of racial and religious hatred from
this
society lest it lead to ever deepening spirals of senseless violence.

As we sat on the floor of their sparsely furnished living room to eat a
meal
of traditional Afghan food, our gathering was overseen by four walls
decorated with only an unframed picture of the Ka’aba, and a tapestry
with
Ayatu Kursi, the Qur’anic Verse of the Throne (2:255), printed on it.
Husband, brothers, and cousins gathered around to tell me more about
just
who Alia Ansari was. They spoke proudly of a deeply religious
individual who
embodied the true spirit of the “Ansar,” the Helpers. The original
Ansar
were those Muslims in Medina who welcomed into their city and homes the
faithful believers who had migrated from Mecca, fleeing the persecution
of
that city’s population. The Qur’an mentions the spirit the Ansar
exhibited
in the following terms:

As for those who had previously established homes [in Medina], having
adopted the faith; they show their love and affection to those who
migrated
to them [seeking refuge]. You will not find their hearts harboring any
desire for that given to those migrants; rather they give preference to
them
over themselves, even though they are themselves afflicted with
grinding
poverty. (59:9)

Alia was indeed a helper. In addition to her tireless and faithful
service
to her immediate family, she was constantly helping relatives and
neighbors,
many of whom themselves had recently migrated to this country from
their
native Afghanistan. Her brother, Humayun, remarked that she did the
work of
six people and never complained. A typical day might find her preparing
meals for the family, dropping the children to school, taking a
neighbor
shopping, shuttling a newly-arrived relative to the immigration
department,
watching a neighbor’s child, nursing a sick relative, or numerous other
tasks demanding the sacrifice of her time and energy.

Although never formally educated in Islam, she was a deeply devout and
spiritual individual. Her husband noted that she never missed a prayer.
He
quietly added that she would stand for voluntary prayer every night
until
she wept beseeching God to save her daughters from the ravages of the
lewd,
violent, promiscuous youth culture of this country. Her deep
spirituality is
illustrated by the following incident. A few days before her demise,
she
told her husband that she had seen her deceased grandfather, an
individual
well known for his righteousness, in a dream. The learned sage
indicated
that the end of her worldly struggles was near, and a resting place in
Paradise would soon be hers.

As a pious Muslim woman, she never left home without her hijab, the
traditional head scarf worn by Muslim women. She was proud of her
hijab. In
the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, some of her friends
and
relatives, afraid of reprisal attacks, took off their hijabs. Alia
encouraged them not to compromise their religion, especially when they
had
nothing to do with those crimes. As for herself, she told them that she
would never take off her hijab, even if someone put a gun to her head
demanding that she do so. Alia said that her hijab was her flag. She
could
not have known as she began the fateful walk to her children’s school
last
Thursday that her path would cross that of a lone gunman who in a
single act
of mindless violence would bring a close to a life of dedication and
service. She could not have known that her grandfather’s words were so
close
to fulfillment. She could not have known that she would soon die
defending
her flag.

Among the believers are those who have been true to their covenant to
God.
Among them are those who have given their lives, others patiently wait
their
turn, having never weakened in their resolve. (33:23)

Imam Zaid Shakir
Zaytuna Institute
10/25/05

The author requests that you share this article with non-Muslim friends
and
neighbors.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Women

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s