The Best of Muslims

17 December 2011

“I am humbled by the response from everyone,
” said Tariq Jahan, but it is we 
the rest of us 
who are humbled. His son, 
Haroon, had just been killed in violent circumstances, 
yet Tariq’s dignity, calm, selflessness 
and bearing meant he was to earn global recognition
- Sarah joseph -

Nights of rioting in London spread across the country. Birmingham was a tinderbox after three friends, Haroon Jahan, Shazad Ali and Abdul Musavir, were mown down by a car and killed as they tried to protect their community. A history of racial tension fuelled the atmosphere in the area. Nobody would have blamed Tariq if he had come on to our TV screens angry and demanding justice. Nobody would have even thought it unusual if he had blamed the police, blamed the ‘gangsters’, blamed the government. Others were doing just that.

Instead, just a few hours after trying to resuscitate his son, with his “face and hands covered in blood,” he spoke calming words to an agitated community; ended all talk of retribution, and brought order where there could have been more violence. “This is not a race issue,” he declared. “Blacks, Asians, whites, we all live in the same community…I just lost my son. Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise calm down and go home.”

No doubt he was grieving, “I can’t describe to anyone what it feels like to lose your son. I miss him. I miss him deeply.” The only time Tariq came close to breaking down in public was when he described Haroon’s helpfulness, “Anything I ever wanted done, I would always ask Haroon to sort it out for me. Not my eldest son or my daughter, but Haroon — and they killed him.” In a press conference, he thanked everyone: the other grieving family, the country, the community, the youth, the police and the media, and sent his condolences to the family of Richard Bowers killed in the London riots.

Dignity, magnanimity, wisdom, courage, and humanity issued from this man. “I am a Muslim and I believe in divine fate and destiny. And it was his destiny and his fate. And now he has gone. And may Allah forgive him and bless him.” On a Muslim TV channel, he appealed to viewers. “I am not interested in what is happening here. In the dunya [this world] there is nothing... I am interested in the akhirah [Hereafter] for my son, and I beg the viewers to pray for him. That is all I ask.”He acknowledged the grief of a group of young men who had gathered all night, “You all probably feel the pain as much as I do at my son passing,” before appealing for them to pray for the three boys and to, “Change your own ways. You guys know in your hearts how good you are and how bad you are. If one of you walks away from here today and changes his ways, the reward that these three will get is from you.”

In Britain, we are more used to the lunatic fringe being given the headlines, so it was a surprise to find on our TV screens someone who so fully embodied the Islamic message. Tariq Jahan reacted to the tragic loss of his beloved son in a manner that gave life to the many stories and teachings in the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet that we know so well. He personified the theory: he exhibited patience in adversity; he extolled the primacy of human life; he accepted destiny gracefully.

I have never met Tariq Jahan, but I know one thing about him — God is with him, for “God is with those who are patient in adversity.” (Qur’an 2:45) But in one thing, Tariq Jahan was wrong. “A day or maybe two days from now, the whole world will forget him, and nobody will care,” he said about his son Haroon. No, Tariq Jahan, your patience and dignity will mean that Haroon will not be forgotten. May he receive the highest level of Paradise, and when you are re-united with him, may you receive the same, for God has promised, “My faithful servant’s reward from Me, if I have taken to Me his best friend from amongst the inhabitants of the world, and he has then borne it patiently for My sake, shall be nothing less than Paradise.”

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