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My Heart Shook In New Zealand

Mohsin Ansari

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One would imagine that a person would be dead-tired and ready to crash in his bed after a grueling, 36-hour journey from Christchurch, New Zealand to Washington, DC. And I will admit, that was the way I felt. Yet somehow, all my somnolence vanished as soon as my head rested on my pillow and I closed my eyes to rest. A wave of recollections fell over me: memories of the survivors, the emotions they expressed, and their feelings of an uncertain future as they planned their lives after the loss of their family members. These feelings instantly took away all the desire to get rest and sleep. I sit upright now and begin writing this reflection of a once in a lifetime experience- a voyage of grief and hope to Aotearoa- land of the white cloud as the indigenous people call New Zealand.

With lost baggage, long flights and too many connections, at times it seemed unlikely that my eldest son Moaz and I would make it to Jumm’ah and Janazah prayers in Christchurch, New Zealand. But Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accepted our prayers so that we could fulfill the guidelines set by our beloved, the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). We were able to fulfill one of the rights of a Muslim over the others; that when he is sick visit him, and when she dies, offer her funeral and be part of her burial.

Hagley Cricket Ground was supposed to have a cricket test match between Bangladesh and New Zealand that Friday. Commentators reckon that it would have been the final day of that test match. But the 22nd of March 2019, brought a much bigger crowd to this world-famous cricket ground than what anyone would have seen on the final day of that test match.

Officials and security directed us towards the VIP area as they wanted to pay respect to the guests who traveled all the way from the USA, Canada, and Australia. The environment of love, solidarity, and respect, coupled with the hijab-clad women standing in solidarity with Muslims in that enormous crowd, created an impact which cannot be articulated by mere words. Every single uniformed female officer was carrying their firearm while donning a hijab; creating a welcoming gesture in a rather somber and gloomy atmosphere.

I do not have the words to thank the leadership of Charity Australia and the Islamic Forum of Australian Muslims (IFAM) for providing us with logistics, facilitating meeting the families of the “shuhudaa” (martyrs) and arranging to visit those injured in the tragedy. ICNA, Helping Hand, and Charity Australia banners highlighting the slogans of “American Muslims stand in solidarity with Victims of Christchurch New Zealand” were the center of attention for thousands of local New Zealanders gathered in solidarity that day. Their hugs, sincere prayers and tearful eyes were the greatest gift that I want to share with everyone reading these reflections.

Right after Jumm’ah, the majority of the crowd attended the collective Janazah prayer of 27 of the martyrs. In those emotional moments, I met with the most courageous woman on earth, the wife of 51-year-old Shaheed Naeem and the mother of 21-year-old Talha Naeem, the two spirited souls who gave their lives to save others in the mosque that day. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met. She mentioned that her husband, Naeem, was a person who lived the life of a man of service, always ready to help others. She described Talha as an angel who was too pious and too noble to be away from Jannah too long. We heard similar feelings from Naeem’s mother (grandmother of Talha) the next day when we visited their home.

The visit to the home of New Zealand’s national soccer team player, Atta Elayyan (33), was not only emotional but also deeply inspiring. Atta lost his life and his father (the founder of Al-Noor Masjid) was severely injured during this brutal and hateful attack. There were several scholars from the United States, including Sheikh Omer Suleiman, in the visit to Atta’s home. We could offer nothing to console the brave mother of this shaheed, who greeted us with words of courage and wisdom. We had no words to accompany the tears in our eyes, except prayers for the most noble young man who helped so many in coming close to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Our visits to Al-Noor Masjid and the Linwood Islamic Center were also filled with memories of love, harmony, and reverence. There was a continuous influx of hundreds of visitors, not only from New Zealand, but also from different countries including, but not limited to, Australia, Fiji, and Canada.  Thousands and thousands of flower bouquets and other items of love were left by these visitors. I was really thrilled to see that local Muslims left many Qur’ans and flyers with basic concepts of Islam and addressing the common misconceptions about Islam for those visiting. I witnessed many people visiting these mosques were taking those Qur’ans and other books with them in order to learn more about Islam.

We also met Mr. Aziz, the unsung hero who repeatedly attacked the killer with different objects including an empty gun —which the killer had discarded. The terrorist fired on Aziz multiple times, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) not only saved him, but he also forced the killer to flee from the Linwood Islamic Center. Mr. Aziz was one of the reasons why the number of casualties in this mosque was only seven, compared to the 43 martyrs in Masjid Al-Noor. We also met certain individuals whom Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) saved miraculously. A young man showed his trousers fenestrated with holes of bullets but had no signs of injury. The husband and wife who entered the premises of the mosque and only to be showered with a burst of 26 bullets while in their car, leaving it completely destroyed. Yet Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) saved both of them while they took shelter in their vehicle.

The visit to the hospital’s ICU was simply heartbreaking but at the same time increased our resolve and commitment to help these families as much as possible. We encountered a Turkish brother who was in a coma for nine days and met his elderly parents, who spoke to us in the very little English they knew. The only thing which we could understand from their hushed voices was the request for du’a and tears of helplessness in their eyes. The 71-year-old father of a local Pakistani from Hafizabad, who had arrived two weeks ago to visit his son, was now on a ventilator fighting for his life. As a physician who has worked in ICU settings for a long time, I simply did not have enough medical reasoning which could have provided him any words of hope!! Similarly, I was not able to provide any glimmer of hope to a brother from Bangladesh whose wife will never be able to walk again and will be paralyzed for the rest of her life.

While I saw hope and felt resilience from every victim in that hospital, this hospital visit was brutally heartbreaking.

Lastly, I cannot imagine the pain, agony, and helplessness that the father of Mucad Ibrahim must feel after losing his 3-year-old son in his own arms. I gave him the longest hug possible, as he taught the whole world the meaning of Beautiful Sabr (Patience).

After seeing the devastation caused by the terrorist attack, and the work that must still be done to heal the community, Helping Hand USA, ICNA Relief Canada, and Charity Australia have formed an organization called the “Christchurch Family Support Network”. The operations have already begun, and our team is on the ground. The first group of mental health professionals with a background in Islamic Integrated counseling are set to leave to provide victims and their families immediate psychological assistance.

We ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to accept our work, bring healing to the community, protect our brothers and sisters, and accept the shuhadaa’ in the highest level of Paradise.

Dr. Mohsin Ansari is the Vice President Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Chairman of Helping Hand USA (HHRD)

 

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    SM

    April 7, 2019 at 1:42 PM

    May Allah Subhanavataala help all the muslims who are suffering
    and guide all the ummah

  2. Avatar

    Mahboob Mohammed

    April 12, 2019 at 5:33 AM

    Assalaamu ‘alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh

    May Allah make it easy on the families who’ve loved ones in this tragedy. Aameen

    Jazakallahu Khayr for your effort in this article, may Allah reward you. Aameen. I wanted to point out an important typo that probably happened during printing, in 2nd para after the name of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, subḥānahu wa ta’āla got printed in Arabic, instead of sallallaahu alaihi wasallam. Would you please have it corrected?

    Wassalaamu ‘alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh

    • Avatar

      Aly Balagamwala

      April 18, 2019 at 9:52 AM

      WaAlaikum Assalam Wa Rehmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu

      Aameen

      JazakAllahu Khairin for catching that typo. It has been fixed.

      Best Regards
      Aly Balagamwala
      Comments Team Lead

  3. Avatar

    Ramzan Hamid

    April 22, 2019 at 10:36 PM

    Mohsin Ansari is one doctor that no one should trust with their children. When living in Baltimore. Our childdren, and not just our children but vast majority of the communities parents were extremely dissatisfied with his care. We and others found Ansari to be the person who would insist on turning one visit into multiple visits to line his pockets and woukd always create false alarms. I and others should highly doubt this persons intentions as his primary goal appears to gain fame, position of power and line his pockets. God help ICNA with such poor leadership.

  4. Avatar

    Ramzan Hamid

    April 22, 2019 at 11:06 PM

    Mohsin. Just curious if your “heart shook on your own dime” or was it a paid visit funded by ICNA donations. Ofcourse the NZ massacre was an extremely sad event but we the regular ICNA donors want to make sure that folks like you are not capitalizing this event to gain fame for self and family members at the expense of ICNA.

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#Current Affairs

Sri Lankan Muslims To Fast In Solidarity With Fellow Christians

Raashid Riza

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On Sunday morning Sri Lankan Christians went to their local churches for Easter services, as they have done for centuries. Easter is a special occasion for Christian families in ethnically diverse Sri Lanka. A time for families to gather to worship in their churches, and then to enjoy their festivities. Many went to their local church on Sunday morning to be followed by a traditional family breakfast at home or a local restaurant.

It would have been like any other Easter Sunday for prominent mother-daughter television duo, Shanthaa Mayadunne and Nisanga Mayadunne. Except that it wasn’t.

Nisanga Mayadunne posted a family photograph on Facebook at 8.47 AM with the title “Easter breakfast with family” and had tagged the location, the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. Little would she have known that hitting ‘post’ would be among the last things she would do in this earthly abode. Minutes later a bomb exploded at the Shangri-La, killing her and her mother.

In more than a half a dozen coordinated bomb blasts on Sunday, 360 people have been confirmed dead, with the number expected to most likely rise. Among the dead are children who have lost parents and mothers & fathers whose families will never be together again.

Many could not get past the church service. A friend remembers the service is usually so long that the men sometimes go outside to get some fresh air, with women and children remaining inside – painting a vivid and harrowing picture of the children who may have been within the hall.

Perpetrators of these heinous crimes against their own faith, and against humanity have been identified as radicalised Muslim youth, claiming to be part of a hitherto little-known organisation. Community leaders claim with much pain of how authorities were alerted years ago to the criminal intent of these specific youth.

Mainstream Muslims have in fact been at the forefront not just locally, but also internationally in the fight against extremism within Muslim communities. This is why Sri Lankan Muslims are especially shaken by what has taken place when men who have stolen their identity commit acts of terror in their name. Sri Lankan Muslims and Catholics have not been in conflict in the past, adding to a palimpsest of reasons that make this attack all the more puzzling to experts. Many here are bewildered as to what strategic objective these terrorists sought to achieve.

Sri Lankan Muslims Take Lead

Sri Lankan Muslims, a numerical minority, though a well-integrated native community in Sri Lanka’s colourful social fabric, seek to take lead in helping to alleviate the suffering currently plaguing our nation.

Promoting love alone will not foster good sustainable communal relationships – unless it is accompanied by tangible systemic interventions that address communal trigger points that could contribute to ethnic or religious tensions. Terror in all its forms must be tackled in due measure by law enforcement authorities.

However, showing love, empathy and kindness is as good a starting point in a national crisis as any.

Sri Lankan Muslims have called to fast tomorrow (Thursday) in solidarity with their fellow Christian and non-Christian friends who have died or are undergoing unbearable pain, trauma, and suffering.  Terror at its heart seeks to divide, to create phases of grief that ferments to anger, and for this anger to unleash cycles of violence that usurps the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Instead of letting terror take its course, Sri Lankans are aspiring to come together, to not let terror have its way.

Together with my fellow Sri Lankan Muslims, I will be fasting tomorrow from dawn to dusk. I will be foregoing any food and drink during this period.

It occurs to many of us that it is unconscientious to have regular days on these painful days when we know of so many other Sri Lankans who have had their lives obliterated by the despicable atrocities committed by terrorists last Sunday. Fasting is a special act of worship done by Muslims, it is a time and state in which prayers are answered. It is a state in which it is incumbent upon us to be more charitable, with our time, warmth and whatever we could share.

I will be fasting and praying tomorrow, to ease the pain and suffering of those affected.

I will be praying for a peaceful Sri Lanka, where our children – all our children, of all faiths – can walk the streets without fear and have the freedom to worship in peace.

I will be fasting tomorrow for my Sri Lanka. I urge you to do the same.

Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. Surah Maidah

Raashid Riza is a Sri Lankan Muslim, the Politics & Society Editor of The Platform. He blogs here and tweets on @aufidius.

 

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Because Muslims Matter | Honoring The Martyrs Of #Christchurch

Hena Zuberi

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As the days go by, it is easy to forget the names and faces of the people who passed away. The horror of the act eclipses their memories. We do not want that to happen to our brothers and sisters in New Zealand.

اللهُـمِّ اغْفِـرْ لِحَيِّـنا وَمَيِّتِـنا وَشـاهِدِنا ، وَغائِبِـنا ، وَصَغيـرِنا وَكَبيـرِنا ، وَذَكَـرِنا وَأُنْثـانا. اللهُـمِّ مَنْ أَحْيَيْـتَهُ مِنّا فَأَحْيِـهِ عَلى الإِسْلام ،وَمَنْ تَوَفَّـيْتَهُ مِنّا فَتَوَفَّـهُ عَلى الإِيـمان ، اللهُـمِّ لا تَحْـرِمْنـا أَجْـرَه ، وَلا تُضِـلَّنا بَعْـدَه

Allaahum-maghfir lihayyinaa, wa mayyitinaa, wa shaahidinaa, wa ghaa’ibinaa, wa sagheerinaa wa kabeerinaa, wa thakarinaa wa ‘unthaanaa..

O Allah forgive our living and our dead, those who are with us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our menfolk and our womenfolk… [7]

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Grief and Giving Survivors Meaning After Attacks

Mashal Anjum

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“Ummati, Ummati..” – Prophet Muhammad, ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). 

Most Muslims collectively gasped in horror for the victims of the attacks in New Zealand the instant they heard of the news. As for the families, their lives have been ripped apart, and we felt their pain with them. Women have become widows. Children have become orphaned. As most victims were men, many of them fathers, now women will have to raise their children alone, and the children will have to grow up without the protection that only a parent can provide.

When my father passed away, I remember the initial stage of shock, which is usually when the family is surrounded by people. For some, the company will be unbearable, because it is a result of the loss of the one special person who was taken away. But when the company starts to dwindle, the emptiness closes in around the family, and the loss feels more pronounced than ever before. This is what I grieve for. For some of us, it takes years for the feeling of grief to feel more manageable.

Unfortunately, when someone has experienced something as violently traumatic event such as a mass shooting, they cannot cope with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I felt a sense of foreboding when I read of one of the surviving victims of the New Zealand shooting felt “survivors guilt,” because his father and brother were killed in front of him.

Just yesterday, I was horrified to read of the news of the suicides of two survivors from the Parkland, Florida school shooting. and imagining the state of their parents took the wind out of me. 

Most people who experience trauma do not die by suicide, but it does increase their risk, said April Foreman, a psychologist on the board of directors for the American Association of Suicidology. Knowing someone who has died by suicide also heightens one’s risk, she said.

“We know this is a rare, but complex reaction to trauma,” she said.- News Times

Then we hear about the suicide of the Sandy Hook father. 

Richman’s daughter Avielle and 19 of her classmates were killed Dec. 14, 2012, when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Soon after, Richman and Avielle’s mother, Jennifer Hensel, both scientists, founded the Avielle Foundation: Preventing Violence & Building Compassion, a nonprofit that aims to prevent violence through brain research.

The foundation said in a statement Monday that Richman’s death “speaks to how insidious and formidable a challenge brain health can be and how critical it is for all of us to seek help for ourselves, our loved ones and anyone who we suspect may be in need.”- Washington Post

I pray that this is not the case for the families of the deceased, and they are able to see the beauty in God’s Plan since their loved ones are resting in an Eternal Abode with the best of people now.  

Imam Gamal Fouda, who gave the sermon in New Zealand a week after the shooting, mentioned a verse of the Quran, “Do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, ‘They are dead.’ Rather, they are alive, but you perceive it not. They are alive rejoicing with their Lord.”

I started sobbing when I heard that verse. It is such an appropriate way to give a grieving person some peace and meaning when they are grappling with loss. We must remember that death is only a passage into the next life, and if we are lucky, that death will be an honorable one. For some, it will definitely be strange to hear that this kind of death is almost enviable to most Muslims. A clean slate- all sins wiped clean, because they died while praying, on Friday, the holiest of days, and during Jummah, the prayer that is said to wipe our sins clean from the previous week’s sins. They died beside their brothers and sisters in Islam. They died protecting each other.

My husband said in Urdu, “Allah Ta’la nay unsay bohot baraa kaam liya,” which translates roughly into, “God Used them for great work”, that the taking of their lives was a favor to the Ummah of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). But in return, not only did they achieve Paradise for something they did not even see coming or bring about, but their martyrdom received some of the largest outpourings of love and respect from the non-Muslim community! Their deaths were the concrete proof about how targeted Muslims are by hate groups, and hated by racist and intolerant people.

On the Day of Judgment, everyone- mothers, children, fathers, brothers, and sisters, including all of the Prophets, from Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to Jesus 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) will all be worried about themselves, and all of the sins that they have to be taken account for in front of God. Mankind will go from prophet to prophet, and they will all say, “Nafsi, nafsi,” or “Myself, myself.”

But then, all mankind will go to Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, who will say, “Ummati, Ummati.” My Ummah, My Ummah.

https://muslimmatters.org/2017/11/15/a-new-reality-responding-to-suicide/

https://muslimmatters.org/2016/03/09/what-every-muslim-ought-to-know-about-suicide/

To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also text a crisis counselor by messaging 741741. 

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