Aafia Siddiqui’s Brother Reflects on Ramadan: Blessings & Hope Amidst Pain and Sorrow

Aafia, Mariam, Suleman, Ahmad - from happier times

Aafia, Mariam, Suleman, Ahmad - from happier times

Link to Full Coverage of Dr. Aafia’s Ordeal

The following is a personal account by Dr. Aafia’s brother, Mohammad, content originally published at www.freeaafia.org

As we come to the celebration of Eid-al-Fitr of 2009, it is the 7th Eid we will celebrate without Aafia being among her friends and family. But we will celebrate. Not because we forget Aafia or because we abandon her but because there are many reasons to celebrate and to be thankful for God’s many, many blessings.

In some ways, for a long time, I could not get myself to see beyond the pain and stress of the whole saga of my sister disappearing with her three young children, and that too under such a notorious cloud of suspicion and innuendo. Celebrations or even allowing oneself to experience the simple pleasures of life seemed wrong and filled me with remorse. After all, Aafia and her children were denied these same treasures of family and friends that only freedom allows, and yet we all take for granted. So, for a long time I put myself in a mental prison with her even though it was neither productive nor therapeutic.

During the last year events have taken our whole family on such a phenomenal roller coaster ride of emotions and stress that I am amazed that we are all still here. Much of this has been played out in public and many of you have had a window into our journey. Aafia is still in a miserable place and it seems like the most powerful forces on earth are determined that she stays there. So many people come up and express sympathy but feel that we are fighting a lost cause – hoping in the face of a hopeless situation. Yet, I find reason to celebrate and have genuine hope.

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One of the less publicized benefits of Ramadan is that it gives a person time to slow down and reflect. This month helped bring much into perspective. The break from the physical and mental flurry that has engulfed our family the last few months was put aside for long enough each day to give time to reflect and wonder why? – Why on earth did God do this to Aafia and us all? What did we do to deserve this? Where are the mercy and blessings of the Beneficent and Merciful God? And while I still do not know why, I do realize that there was no shortage of blessings. In fact, just as there has been so much pain that it numbs, there have also been so many blessings that they began to look routine even when some were nothing short of miraculous.

In 2003 when this nightmare began, we were isolated and “friends” began to desert us. Fear of job loss and persecution of our children was not mere speculation. We endured threats, warnings and separation of family. Then we had to mourn what we believed was the death of Aafia and her children – but we could only do so in private and in silence. Yet, God blessed us with relative safety and comfort. We learned that promises were cheap and courage and loyalty were rare. We learned to differentiate between a friend and an acquaintance. We learned to distinguish sincerity from opportunism and the painful lesson that trust is frequently misplaced.

Now, seven Eids later, we find that for each “friend” we lost, we were blessed with a multiple. Our isolation has been transformed into the support of thousands. We witnessed the miracle of resurrection as someone we believed dead was returned to life – not once but twice for us. That same Aafia who was once a pariah is now a unifying element for a whole nation. Her son, we were “guaranteed”, would spend the rest of his life in a US mental institution. Instead, he is living with family and recovering in a loving environment. This in itself would be enough to make one eternally grateful but God’s mercy did not stop here.

Twice during the past year alone, my mother was in critical condition and we were certain she would pass from us without seeing Aafia. Yet, she has recovered significantly. Whether she is destined to see Aafia free, only God knows.

On multiple occasions, supporters were cautioned to back off, but the result somehow was increased momentum. When newspapers were advised to reduce coverage, TV stations stepped in. When banners were discouraged, songs appeared. I cannot explain any of this except as God’s blessing to have brought out people we neither knew nor had the means to employ. What is even more remarkable is that the support has grown to include a broad spectrum of political, ethnic and social cross section of people – from the religious to the secular; from the poor to the elite; from the right wing to the left.

Then, just two months ago, when Aafia’s fate seemed sealed in a US courtroom, and our family was struggling to raise sufficient funds to retain decent lawyers for Aafia, the Pakistani government did something they have never done before for an ordinary citizen. They retained a team of lawyers to pursue a serious defense for Aafia. It was the sincere efforts and prayers of people like many who will read this that resulted in this historic commitment. People set aside differences to join together for a common cause. And we got proof that indeed if we do our part with sincerity, God does His part. This historic act, whatever the motivation, was surprising to the point of shock, even to us.

But as I reflected on this month, it really should not be a shock. For one thing we have experienced in our ordeal is that we too have undervalued and underestimated our heritage and people. It has become too common and acceptable to belittle and dismiss Pakistan and its society as corrupt, callous and self destructive. While there is much to justify these attributes, we also discovered the spirit of the people of Pakistan, their generosity, their passion, their frustration and their desire for peace, respect and dignity. Most of all, we were touched by the hunger for something around which to unify and regain a sense of pride as a nation. And we were humbled when our Aafia became one such symbol.

I have focused largely on the public events only because many of you have been witness to these and can testify to them. There have been many other things for which we are grateful but these will have to remain private for the time being.

To conclude, I would say that while a month of reflection has not answered why we have had to endure this ordeal, three important lessons have become obvious:

  1. Recognizing that freedom, family, sincere friends and health are the greatest treasures God has given us. Transforming that recognition into life’s priorities is a challenge we must face every day of our lives.
  2. An intimate understanding of why despair is a sin.
  3. God’s help does come but not unless one makes every human effort first. And when it does, God does indeed work in mysterious ways and often what we think is good for us is not and what we dread turns out to have unexpected benefits.

With these lessons, I will think of Aafia even more. Not as someone who brought difficulty into our lives but as someone who has helped us, in an odd way, put our priorities into perspective. And while this does not gain her freedom or ease her pain, all the events I have recounted and lessons learned are what give me reason to hope. To hope that one day, God willing, our journey will come to a happy destination and be a source for joy and hope rather than sadness and despair.

My God Bless You

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14 responses to “Aafia Siddiqui’s Brother Reflects on Ramadan: Blessings & Hope Amidst Pain and Sorrow”

  1. Mariam says:

    JazakAllahu khayran for this article. I ask Allah to help, guide and protect Muslims around the world, including those whom we know and those whom we have don’t know, ameen.

    • I wonder if you have seen this – written by the brother who was there:

      THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FOUNDATION

      11006 Veirs Mill Rd, STE L-15 PMB 298

      Silver Spring, MD. 20902

      Dhul Hijjah 1430 AH

      The Challenges Confronting Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

      (From her own community)

      I had a very disturbing, yet importantly revealing, experience last weekend in New York and Connecticut when I attempted to address two large audiences on our sister Aafia’s case (the details of which should prick the conscience of us all).

      On Friday, November 20th, I visited The Muslim Center of New York (a large predominantly Pakistani populated Islamic Center in Flushing, NY) with the expectation that I would be able to have a few words with the community concerning Aafia’s case following the jumah salat. This, however, was not to be.

      After some back and forth discussion with the president, I learned that “the board” had made a decision that there would be no discussion of any type (verbal announcements, lectures, etc.) on the case of Aafia Siddiqui at The Muslim Center.

      I immediately took note of the fact that the time for jumah (at most centers in the area) was already upon us; and thus, I needed to identify another center close by that would enable me to accomplish my objective. It was then that I thought about Dar’ul Qur’an – another large (and beautiful) center that I had been introduced to a few weeks earlier. I called the president, but to my dismay, this too resulted in a negative response.

      The Muslim Center of New York and Dar ul-Qur’an are two of the four Islamic centers Imam Siraj Wahhaj strongly recommended I visit during the month of Ramadan. He felt I would enjoy vigorous support for Aafia’s case from these centers.

      What was so surprising about Dar ul-Qur’an is that I had just been there a few weeks earlier for an impromptu presentation to a few brothers, and the short presentation went exceptionally well. I received a warm and appreciative embrace by all of the brothers present, and ended up lingering in conversation with the imam and the president long after the others had gone. It was even recommended that I return in the near future to serve as guest khatib for jumah on the matter (this would have enabled me to reach the entire community).

      What happened between that initial visit at Da rul-Qur’an and November 20th? The attack at Fort Hood (Texas), and the fear-based, counterproductive reactions this attack has produced within the Muslim community (especially among leaders) throughout the U.S.

      Again looking at the time and realizing my options were rapidly dwindling, I decided I would remain at The Muslim Center and set up a table on the outside. I set up my table directly across the street from the center, and was fortunate to have a small portable loudspeaker in the trunk of my car (which served me well).

      Immediately following the jumah I raced across the street and began speaking to the Muslim congregants departing the center. Without attacking the board’s decision, I explained that the importance of the issue and the circumstance I was confronted with left me no choice but to address my Muslim brethren in the manner that I was. I touched upon some of the fitnah that Aafia had already endured, and what lay ahead; and alhamdullilah, brothers, and a few sisters, began flocking across the street to get audio CDs (on Aafia’s case), and to give thanks and encouragement for what we were doing.

      After everything was over, I went back into the center to perform two rakas of salatul asr (as a traveler), and I noticed that the musalah was abuzz with young (elementary and middle school age) brothers rocking back and forth reciting the Qur’an. As I left, I wondered to myself what kind of example are we, as “leaders,” presenting to our young?

      I thought about the words of Fahad Hashmi’s father (one of the Muslims to cross the street and greet me after the jumah). He informed me that his son grew up in this community, but he too received very little support from its leadership. Being the man that he is, he said this without a trace of malice, but with a clearly discernable feeling of deep sadness and hurt.

      The next evening (Saturday, Nov. 21st) I was in the state of Connecticut for a CAIR-CT fundraising program, and received another shocking indication of the challenges facing Dr. Aafia Siddiqui in the days ahead.

      WARNING: If you are the type of Muslim who has strong sensitivity to any criticism directed at prominent Muslim leaders and/or “Major Muslim Organizations” (or their affiliates), then you should STOP reading now!

      A number of my formative years were spent in southern Connecticut (before I moved to the Washington area). I know many people throughout that area, both Muslim and non-Muslim, I still have family there as well. Given this reality, coupled with Connecticut’s proximity to New York City, I decided that it might be advantageous for me to attend the CAIR-CT program at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cromwell (about a half-hour drive from New Haven).

      Due to an unfortunate misunderstanding that occurred between myself and the executive director of that chapter (who shall remain nameless), during this past Ramadan, I decided that it would be prudent to access a third party within the CAIR organization for this mission. I contacted the new National Board Chairman, NC State Senator Larry Shaw.

      After a few telephone communications between myself, Sen. Shaw and his district office (much appreciation to the administrator who minds the fort at his district office), Br Shaw arranged for me to have “3 to 5 minutes” to speak to the audience on Aafia’s behalf. In an effort to show my appreciation, and to pose as little disruption to CAIR-CT’s agenda as possible, I offered (in an e-mail to the principles) to speak to the audience at the end of the program. Little did I know that this offer would result in the type of insult and overall counterproductive response that it did.

      At this point, I want to express a very, very special thanks to Azhar Usman (the critically-acclaimed comedian and founder of the Allah Made Me Funny Tour), because if it had not been for this brother I am convinced NO ANNOUNCEMENT concerning Aafia would have been made at all! Not only did I appreciate the creative way he was able to weave highly insightful and politically relevant social commentary into his presentation, I appreciated even more the sensitivity he showed for the plight of a sister he knew nothing about (prior to that night).

      The organizers had placed me at the very end of the program, AFTER Azhar Usman’s performance. (Entertainment almost always comes at the very end of a program of this nature.) When Azhar’s assistant – a young brother I knew from years back when he was a student at Howard University – learned of where they had placed me on the program, he communicated his concern to me and Azhar, and then made an attempt to have me deliver my statement before Azhar performed; but the organizers would not budge.

      As the program was clearly winding down, I personally approached the executive director of CAIR-CT with the following request: Given the fact that you all have me scheduled to speak after Azhar’s performance, it would be good if you or some other officer could alert the audience that a brief, but important, announcement will be made after Azhar’s performance. He nodded in agreement, but then minutes later willfully ignored the request. (In fact he himself said to the audience, just before his intro of Azhar, now that all the “serious business” is out of the way…here is the entertainment to cap off the evening.)

      I was standing right next to him before he went up to make that final statement. What he did, and how he did it, was deliberate and shameful. It is the type of thing that helps to give CAIR a bad name among people who should be its most ardent supporters.

      One would think that in a program that featured such highlighted accomplishments as “religious liberties behind bars” (as it pertained to “halal meat” for inmates); hijab related “employment harassment;” and “school bullying” (Muslim students being teased as “towel heads” and the like), that this chapter would welcome an opportunity to publicly embrace something as weighty as a Muslim sister being detained and abused by a government for over six years.

      Not so, unfortunately. It was Azhar Usman who immediately after the conclusion of his performance (as people were leaving their seats and heading for the door) implored the audience to remain behind for a few more minutes to “hear an announcement about an important civil rights case involving one of our sisters.”

      CAIR’s penchant for embracing politically safe issues has caused it to be largely irrelevant on many of the major challenges confronting Muslims in America today. While the shameful spectacle that unfolded at that hotel on Nov 21 resulted from the decisions made by the officers of that chapter, it does reflect upon deficiencies that are well known throughout the organization. (And I say this without malice; only with a sincere desire to see CAIR do better.)

      The Major Muslim Organizations (as they are euphemistically known) – CAIR, ISNA, ICNA, MAS, MANA, MPAC, MSA-National, etc. – should be in the forefront of the campaign to generate support for this long suffering sister. Prominent leaders in America, as well as masajid and centers in the New York Tri-State area (esp. large, well established centers) should be actively involved as well. Muslim journalists and news media should be beating the drums of awareness for the upcoming trial.

      Imam Siraj Wahhaj (the Amir of MANA) has already pledged and demonstrated his support for Sr. Aafia. (We are still waiting on other leaders within MANA to do the same.) Muslim organizations, large and small, while vigorously condemnatory of any Muslim transgression that makes the national headlines, have been as quiet as church mice when it comes to American government transgressions against fellow Muslims.

      This has to end! This case involving Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is one of the most abusive and precedent-setting cases confronting Muslims Post 9/11. It involves the political imprisonment and TORTURE of a young Muslim woman – a mother, a daughter, a sister in blood, and a sister in Islam.

      With what I experienced in New York and Connecticut last weekend, I don’t feel a whole lot of optimism for what lay ahead; and I’ve been around long enough to know the following. If Aafia Siddiqui goes to trial and is convicted – and the Muslim community (generally speaking) is viewed as having stood in fearful paralysis on the sidelines while the oppressive drama played out – the precedent that began over six years ago, with her disappearance and subsequent detention, will have been completed, and we (as a community) would be complicit.

      It’s long past due for the Muslim community to stand up and push back. If not now, when…and at what cost?

      As Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib (r) is reported to have said: “Three classes of men are cut off from the blessings of Paradise: Oppressors; those who aid and abet oppression; and those who tolerate oppression.”

      May ALLAH (SWT) fortify and preserve us.

      El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan

  2. xx says:

    Tears kept rolling down my cheeks as I was reading this. I pray that Allah swt makes this trial a means of purification for you and ur family.

  3. From Surah Al-Talaq (#65): “.. And for those who fear Allah, He (ever) prepares a way out [2] And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him. [3]

    Every time I see exaggerated celebrations in Pakistan for worthless reasons, I tend to regret my nationality. Every act of disregard that we portray in our lifestyles when you and many like you are suffering, Wallahi, we’ll be asked for it on the day of judgment.. May Allah SWT be with your family.

  4. Asalaam Alaikom,

    Just wanted to drop by and thank Muslim Matters for the coverage of this article and the long history of support that this blog and its readers have shown to Dr. Aafia and all missing and detained persons.

    We’d also like to encourage your readers to join Dr. Aafia’s family website’s email list and feeds. The content is regularly updated and reflective of the families concerns.

    http://www.freeaafia.org

    May Allah accept from all of you, reunite broken families and relieve the suffering from their pain.

    The Free Aafia Campaign

  5. Farhan says:

    Sad, very sad.

    May she be free soon

  6. Madeeha says:

    Chapter: An-Nisa (The Women)
    Verse: 75
    “And what reason do you have for not fighting in the cause of Allah, to rescue helpless oppressed men, women & children, who are crying, ‘ O’ our Lord! Take us out from this town whose people are oppressors & send us a protector by your grace & send us a helper from your presence’. ”

    May Allah protect her & ease her difficulties & re-unite her with her family & all children asap with complete health & iman (Aameen)

  7. Mohammad Aquil says:

    Assalamoalaikum
    I really respect your patience and believe in ALMIGHTY ALLAH. May ALLAH unite your sister Aafia to you safe and healthy. (Ameen).

  8. amina says:

    SubhanAllah !

    “On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear…”(Surat al-Baqara,2:286)

    It is said that the hardest of trials in this world are endured by the Prophets.
    Then by those who resemble them in their Imaan and actions.

    But there is eternal hope for true believers .

    “How often, by Allah’s will, has a small force vanquished a big one? Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere.” (Surat al-Baqara, 2:249)

    May Allah grant you and your family the highest and most beautiful place in Jannat-ul-Firdous!!
    Aameen.

  9. flubber says:

    never saw a woman like her
    never will
    wow

  10. just another ayesha says:

    if Allah wills, she’ll come back.

  11. Duulla says:

    Salam,

    I feel my self …….. simply regretting.
    I want to convey short message to the “daughter of nation”!

    1-she should revise Quran whatever she remembers, I believe this will change this prison for her to be the exact place Allah wanted her to be, and this is an honor and chosen by none ……….. but Allah him self. Once she practice this, she will be guided unbelievably how to proceed. Although I am writing this point here but I believe …….. she must be doing this all over the time! even before all this started. Inshallah she is really the one blessed!

    2-remember when “peace treaty/sulah hudebiyah” was made between Muhammad s and kuffaar of Makkah, There was a point in the treaty that prisoners escaped from Makkah will be returned to the prison in Makkah. Agree to this point by Muhammad s and his companions was just unacceptable by human brain, but they knew Allah is the most wise! ……………… What happened after all, kuffar of Makkah could not bear it more, they broke the promise! the treaty! because when they kept muslims as prisoner, these muslims were able to spread the message of truth and in result more people were getting to Islam ………………….. we should not forget that even a small issue that brought to us by Islam is just full of guidance! …………………………. She may be in total isolation, but her particular act will just not tease the contacting person but Inshallah it will be downfall for Islamic enemies as there very own people start becoming muslim! This will be counted in minus instead of plus in their own work ………….. Allah is the best planner! same thing happened in sulah hudebiyah treaty between Muhammad s and Kuffar of Makkah, Kuffar could not bear more and they just broke the treaty by them selves!

  12. Ali says:

    Please give me updates of what is happening concerning dr siddiqi

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