It has been exactly one year since Nabeel left us, but there have been few days I haven’t remembered him. His death has left a permanent void in my life that can never be fulfilled. I miss him so much!
I realised how much I loved him when I heard the news from Nabeel himself in February last year that he had a rare aggressive cancer and had only a few weeks to live. I felt that a part of my body was being taken away from me. From that day until his passing away six months later, I prayed for him in every prayer, in all tahajjud prayers, before every iftar during Ramadan, and dedicated all my charities in his name with the hope that Allah would return him to us. However, Allah decided otherwise for good reasons that we are not aware of. Although I accepted this decision, I can’t deny how his loss has affected me personally. There is a permanent void in my life that can never be filled. I not only lost a dear nephew, but a friend, a confidant, and a mentor whose absence will be felt as long as I am alive.
I still remember the day I first saw Nabeel back in 1981 when he visited Bangladesh with his parents and little brother Nazeel. He was 18 months old, and to me, the cutest toddler I had ever seen and his brother the cutest baby. I fondly remember how his mother used to send Nabeel to wake me up on cold winter mornings, and every day, my morning would begin seeing that sweet little face. It was the beginning of a bond that was much beyond a typical uncle-nephew relationship. There are very few people in this world with whom I shared such warmth and mutual trust.
Although I have no hesitation to say that Nabeel’s contribution in my life is much more than I could reciprocate as an uncle, I feel contented to have played a small role in his marriage to an amazing young woman called Nasreen. I and Nabeel’s brother-in-law Barrister Hamid Azad were the matchmakers from the two families that shared similar values. I remember those days in 2005 when Nabeel and I would chat for hours about this potential marriage. The satisfaction Nabeel expressed to me about his ‘angel’ wife Nasreen (he used to call her that during his illness) was extremely pleasing and it was Allah’s blessing that he had such a happy married life.
When I broke down into tears after hearing the test result of his tumour, Nabeel consoled me saying that the doctors might have given the answer, but he would carry on fighting until the decision was made by Allah. He reminded me that if he left this world, he would see his mother and grandfather, and if he lived, then he would be with us. “I am the winner in both the outcomes”, he said with an astonishingly calm voice. He was obviously concerned for his wife and children, and very concerned for his father, but never did anyone see an iota of worry for himself, even during excruciating pains when the tumour spread to his brain.
Every person who met Nabeel had the same experience after seeing him – a calm and composed believer ready to accept whatever decision Allah has made for him. He was not the only person in the family who accepted their destiny chosen by Allah in such a graceful manner. His mother did the same before she passed away after suffering from cancer, and the resilience and strong faith he witnessed in his mother helped him cope with his own difficulties. However, what Nabeel did during his illness is truly remarkable and almost unheard of. I am not aware of many terminally ill people who could complete a book in their hospital bed so that they could leave a positive legacy for the community. I am also not aware of many people expecting imminent death asking others to send him a list of duas they would like him to ask Allah during his tahajjud prayers instead of asking people to pray for his own life. And I am definitely not aware of anyone with such severe illness helping and guiding people on their personal, social, family and professional matters giving visionary advice to individuals, community leaders and even the senior management staff of the hospital who was treating him.
I spent a few months living with Nabeel and his siblings in 2004 before bringing my family here and witnessed myself how he became a father figure of his own siblings before switching his role as a devoted son by postponing his studies to be next to his ailing mother in Bangladesh. Less than a year after losing his mother, he got married and Nabeel and Nasreen together began to rebuild his family by looking after his younger siblings while his father was away in Jeddah. They saw through the education and marriage of three of his siblings and continued to look after the formative years of his youngest sibling Nusaiba who was only ten when their mother passed away. The respect and love he received from all of them is a testimony to the way Nabeel held together his family despite being extremely busy in his professional life and serving the community in various ways. It is by Allah’s endless mercy that without the direct presence of either parent, Nabeel could oversee all of them growing up as good Muslims and achieve success in worldly matters with one of them recently joining Oxford University as a lecturer and another pursuing her PhD.
Nabeel is no more with us and one year on, I can’t forget that angelic face. There are no longer those long conversations on family affairs and the situation of the community. I have not seen that beautiful smile for a long time. There is no one like him to go for advice on personal and family affairs. There is no one else to share those feelings that I often shared with him. His ready wit and inspirational words of visionary thoughts are sorely missed. When I think of the void I feel in his absence, I can’t contemplate what his father, wife, and children are going through. Allah has given them exemplary patience Alhamdulillah and has been constantly with them in their hours of need for the past one year.
I pray to Allah that Nabeel’s legacy continues to grow. His monumental book has already been a bestseller and has become a reference book in various university curricula. May Allah give us the ability to celebrate his life in a way that brings him salvation in the eternal world he is in and keep him in the midst of the people he had longed to be amongst, Ameen!