Show me your friends and I will show you your character.
Where legacies are made.
‘If I had taken anyone as my closest friend (khaleel) I would have taken Abu Bakr, but he is my brother and companion,’ Prophet Mohammed has said of Abu Bakr.
If I had to choose a friend again, it would be my best friend, Shamuun Ahmed. COVID-19 claimed his noble life on 2 July 2020 and left me stranded in an abyss of dealing with uncharted emotion because the reality of death in these conditions is a subversive reality. Like a ship in uncharted waters, the lighthouse becomes the beacon of hope and guidance similarly; is the bond of friendship all through life. The lighthouse gently throws a far reaching glow on each turn to ‘tell’ you ‘I am still standing here for you’ and so too, each day with a friend is that gentle zephyr calming the most heated moments and lighting up the darkest time shedding light for new opportunities. That is friendship – a lighthouse!
A tribute to a bosom friend is best encapsulated in the company he had and with which he established his own legacy. We were a group of boys, guys a short while ago and men today of differing backgrounds welded together on the bond of friendship. Shamuun, in his refined habit of meticulous planning and want for unity and order was given the nickname Captain. Yes, Captain Shamuun because, every logistical arrangement was his doing from organising a camping trip to the two-way radios for the night-duty we had in Roshnee and to arranging donations or for a simple braai. Shamuun was the go to person and the guys loved him for his interest in keeping us united and happy. The men around him today, his friends will surely add to this remarkable trait. Shamuun had this magnetism of being able to work with anyone and he gained their confidence in quick time which illustrates his quality of refined character.
It was his character that made me adore him even more. In the passages of life, there are many corridors that lead to new pathways. When I became the Principal of Roshnee Islamic School, his two children were under my wing. The most striking thing about his disposition was that he never questioned my judgement in dealing with matters but, offered frank and strong opinion which was very useful and insightful. In this way when I had made decisions regarding his children too, there was never a counter rebuttal but a sincere follow through. He would say to the best effect that, the rule has been set and it must be followed. Furthermore, his loyalty to our friendship meant that he would state his view openly. He would take my view in consideration and speak his mind without prejudice or malicious intent. This illustrated a man of principle and made me proud to be his friend. He never diminished authority in any sector and most importantly never diminished our friendship and that of our circle of friends. Remarkable! When we would meet outside the school context, if the conversation of a school matter would emerge, we would talk about it and his heart never allowed him to say anything out of bound. This is rare therefore, I cherish it as a life lesson to pass on.
The lesson is not over. Life gave a road where I had to be the Principal of his father, Mr Ahmed, who was once my teacher of maths and my Principal too. Again when reality of circumstance in the terrain meant for me to take decisions, Shamuun kept that graceful presence as a friend and never allowed for lines to cross because he was very professional. This professionalism is maturity personified and it is rare. Therefore, when I reflect on all of it, I am in awe of a man who could discern right from wrong and keep to what concerned him. His private nature taught me never to judge but to always be beyond reproach and that again was personified in this episode of my life. My life experiences then is also an aroma of Shamuun’s skills in me and his dad’s advices. This mixture is etched in me because in learning how to discern, the good is overwhelming. In a WhatsApp group, called Muslim School Principals there was a post I responded to regarding a comment on Shamuun’s death and Mr Ahmed’s unparalleled contribution to Roshnee Islamic School and to the community in general in the following way:
A book can be written on his contributions. A dear friend to my late dad and my principal too. The two men, Mr Ahmed and my dad, ran the Evaton madressah at the time which evolved into the RIS founding principles. A great story on its own and yes, his late son, Shamuun and I friends from grade 1 were in the shadow of two great men. Alhamdulillah, Shamuun had two outstanding qualities: punctuality with salaah and refined action in helping anyone. A blessed father, Mr Ahmed, to have reared such a remarkable soul in the name of Shamuun Ahmed. Alhamdulillah
Shamuun and I as friends from Grade 1 suffered a separation because his father was transferred in the then Apartheid days to a school in Rusternberg and in those days without the super fast convenience of social media, we used to write letters to each other. It was the famous and stylish Croxley note pad that was in vogue that set the pensive indulgences into swing. Today, I wonder how it would sound to children that boys wrote letters to each other. It would sound queer with no pun intended. However, the point made is that we had that connection and no matter how it can be looked at, it points to a meaningful existence because it embellished companionship and friendship.
Friendship extends the boundaries of here and now into the realm of legacies. Here is an incident amongst many that springs to mind. A group of our guys had just participated and finished our first 94,7 Cycle race and the next weekend we were all on night-duty. Shamuun gave us such attention and a braai I cannot forget. Our experience and achievement were important to him and more than that I cannot forget his smile and chuckle when we expounded on the difficulty of the terrain. The emphasis here is not to sing praises of the race or the achievement thereof but, to illustrate the nature of a man who could talk on the level of everyone without prejudice and give importance to that which gave you a sense of worthwhile accomplishment.
People’s accomplishments did not phase his progression of achieving life goals he set for himself which became actions that others followed. The day of his funeral under COVID conditions reverberated mixed feelings and the most uplifting moment was the words of the Imam before the actual funeral prayer. The Imam said that the late Shamuun is known for outstanding qualities i.e. his punctuality in performing the five daily prayers in the mosque and reading the Holy Quran together with his assistance to anyone in need. These heartwarming words couched the soul in peace because the soul spoke back saying, “Your friend was close to Allah therefore, you were blessed for his habits are ingrained in many. Live his legacy and make me happy.” This was very comforting for my broken heart and I know the soul of all the men, his friends, had a similar ringtone on their souls.
In the midst of the small crowd I met with Shamuun’s father, Mr Ahmed and his demeanour was naturally sad which for me was illuminated by the grace of his son’s legacy because everyone present spoke a good word with deep sincerity. I greeted him and his humility and his expression of gratitude for being at the funeral spoke a deep message. The message for me, was that of his friendship with my late father, Ali Bhai Sujee – a legend I want to write about. Today it all came together in that I felt my father’s embrace symbolically because Mr Ahmed teared and acknowledged my sympathy. I felt when he saw me he again felt the loss of his friend, Ali Bhai Sujee. He also needed the comfort because he lost his eldest son and I believe I gave some comfort – it was a soothing feeling of inner peace. How strange is the mix of emotions attached to the strings of memories that sets harp of life to a tune of new found experiences? It is profound!
This profound experience was further garnished with a view of Uncle Firose Saloojee, a dear friend of Ali Bhai Sujee as well. The spice of this moment on my looking on him in close proximity to Mr Ahmed, his friend too, I only imagined the ingredients of his thoughts that most likely were on the loss of his friend, Ali Bhai. My mind raced to a man who was not present at the funeral, a sincere friend of Firose Saloojee and was a great friend to Ali Bhai Sujee and the three of them in an accident that claimed the life of Ali Bhai – the flow of my own imagination were now not in the periphery of the rivers leading to the ocean but, it was in the ocean itself. The ocean of friendship. I played out the utter grief that Uncle Firose and Uncle Abdul Samad Nana experienced at the tragic death of their friend, Ali Bhai and wondered for a while, about their inner thoughts today because, surely they remember their legendary friend. Their friendship within a bigger circle led to the establishment of Roshnee Islamic School and many social outreach programs. To me they stand like lighthouses because they give rays of hope through their bonds of friendship.
A friend in need is a friend indeed. How true! Today, the death of my friend was also a fulfilment of a need. It was the need to get more spiritual and genuine in action because Shamuun’ good deeds became apparent. How magnanimous a friend that even in his death he fulfils a need as a last action of good to embrace him in the grave? It is a gift. A gift from Allah, the Generous for the soul who always had a yearning to help creation. How pleasant a feeling? Words are not meant to say more save the glory of Allah to anoint the heart with a feeling that speaks to the soul. Leave it like that.
As the grave filled with soil the closure to the world was enveloped for the one who was called to his Lord, Allah the High the Great. The Imam read the ritual prayers that was tinged with melody and sadness symbolising the grief of the living but the happiness of the deceased for journey to the Beloved had just begun with a graceful send off singing the praises of the Eternal, Allah.
The day was enshrouded with sadness and the grace of the staff at the school made it easy. The challenges of the day could not shake off the loss and then it dawned upon me. The rising dawn was that great sunset that engulfed the world when the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) was called to meet HIS creator. The friendship of Abu Bakr (ra) and the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) closed at the grave of Prophet Muhammad (s) but the legacy of Abu Bakr (ra)’s great friend Prophet Muhammad (s) became his life goal and history is testimony to that. The enlightened thought configured the friendship of three other noble companions, Umar (ra), Uthman (ra) and Ali (ra) and it provided me with such hope which came out as an expression. The expression – ALLAHUAKBR (ALLAH IS THE GREATEST) because it was the plan of Allah, the best of all Planners, to have made these great men friends who shaped the world that ushered in the golden eras. These pearls of history string a necklace of countless authentic anecdotes of friends meeting, talking, doing and planning out of the goodness of their refined character for the benefit of humanity. Today, I felt that kind of pearl, the pearl of friendship that in opinion pleased Allah, the Kind.
Those who enjoin in good and forbid evil make the best friends. I had a friend like that and his name is Shamuun Ahmed.