Sunday, August 08, 2010

Our beloved Papa's passing...

Our dear grandfather, Goolam Hoosen Patel, past on
to His Lord June 3rd in South Africa on the blessed night
of Jumuah at the age of 94. He was the founder of
Darul-Uloom Zakariyya in Southern Africa and had
been involved in much philanthropic work in India,
including the establishment of numerous Madaris. He
was known throughout as Bajee Patel, and his family
affectionately called him Papa. He would split his
time between South Africa and the US, and even at 94
years old, he was an alert, amazing, pious man
mashaAllah. He was blessed to have lived to see his
Great - Great Grand Son. He was a grandfather to
Ustadha Shamira, as well as other alimahs, alims,
and male and female huffaz in his family. He was
blessed to have past away with an amazing passing (please see below).

An entry by my cousin, Na'eel:

Not long after, on the eve of Friday/Jumuah, June 3, 2010, he left us for his Lord. May God Almighty grant him the loftiest portions of Paradise. آمين/Amen

Like many of our grandparents, he was no ordinary human being. I thought it would be nice to share a brief account of his life and legacy as well as a narrative of his passing.

The Final Days and Moments of Hazrat Bajee Patel (rahmatullah ʿalayh)

In Papa's final days, he limited his speech to the essentials of his own upkeep - personal
hygiene and divinely-ordained obligations. "Put my warm brown cap on at night and white
hat in the day, " he instructed us, still as methodical as he was in healthier days though hardly
able to move.

"What time is it?", he asked us every few hours so, inquiring the time of day with respect to
the next prayer. His intizar of salah (anticipation for the next prayer) was only surpassed by
his eagerness to complete the prayer of the present moment as soon as it entered, an
approach he perfected over the course of his life.

For the days preceding Papa's last, untold numbers of visitors streamed in to ask for prayers
and greet an old and generous friend. Often, the first question many would ask is "How are
you?" to which Papa replied in various ways. To a young girl, he said, "Slowly, slowly, I'm
going into my qabr." To a man advanced in age who came to the hospital ward, Papa replied,
"If I was well, I wouldn't be here right now, would I?"

On Thursday afternoon, he inquired from all those sitting around him whether Asr had been
made to which we all affirmed. With only an hour to the Maghrib prayer, many of us glanced
at the small alarm clock on the headboard wondering whether our dear grandfather would
make to the eve of Jumuah (since sacred time considers the sunset to be the defining event
between days).

As soon as Maghrib time entered, Papa awoke as usual to perform his prayer and
communicate with his Lord. The tayammum went according to the routine he developed
over the past two weeks. Lightly patting the stone resting upon a yellow towel designated for
this specific purpose, he made sure he wiped his face thoroughly, the wrinkle free cheeks,
the deep-set crevices of his eyes with a completeness we have all come to expect of him.

This Maghrib and the Isha he would soon make resembled so many others he had
completed that week, beginning with his intention(niyya) in Urdu, "ye chaar rakaat
namaaz…." Though weak in strength, he managed to reserve whatever he had to
determinedly raise his hands for the takbir al-ula, both palms Qibla-bound and turn his face
from right to left greeting the scribe-angels with the greetings of salaam and rahma.

As I think back to the moments and minutes following that Maghrib, everything seemed so
planned so coordinated.

Once Maghrib ended, the priority was to recite Surah Kahf - a practice neither Papa nor his
progeny would ever overlook. The recital was slow and measured, drawing out ayah which
gave special reference to the occasion. al-maalu wa al-banoon zeenatul hayaat dunyaa…wa
ʿallamnaahu min ladunnaa ʿilmaa…..

After Isha, what would be our dear Papa's final namaz, the family - Papa's children,

grandchildren, and great-grandchildren - returned to his room sitting and standing around
his bed. This was the same room we all gathered in a decade ago to bid farewell to beloved
Ma. "If Papa was in the madrasa right now, he would have been reciting the 40 Durood - a
collection of Salawat upon the Prophet compiled by Sheikh Zakariya (rahmatullah alaih) in
1981 - aloud with all the students and teachers. Let us help him continue this tradition, " I
suggested, with memories of Papa sitting in front of the masjid at Darul Uloom Zakariya
floating like phantoms before my eyes. Both the author and the recital were close to Papa's
heart and day-to-day life.

Soon afterward, Papa indicated with a single word his need to use the restroom. Almost
everybody left to complete their namaz as well. Just an hour earlier, we had asked Mufti Raza
al-Haq about final preparations for death and used this opportunity to clear the room of
miscellaneous items - the bedside table, the stools, and chairs - , prop Papa on his right side
and turned Papa's bed toward the Kaʿba. In accordance with Papa's maneuvering.

The soft sheepskins brought by kind family friends were laid out next to the bed, the lamps
were positioned in the corners of the room.

After redressing Papa in a clean set of clothes, I reached into my pocket for the bottle of
perfume(ʿattar), of Oud to give my grandfather his favorite scent, which he often would soak
a small piece of cotton in and place it in his ear.

Last week, soon after Dhuhr one day, Papa opened his eyes and asked me to open the
drawer of his bedside table. "Bring me the Oud Ameeri, the best," he said proudly, "put
some on me." The tears gathered in my eyes as my index finger grazed Papa's earlobe and
hand stroked his silvery beard and nonegeneric growth of jet black hairs on the chin. Never
one to limit his best to himself even if under such circumstances, Papa then told me, "when
a haaru maanas, gentleman comes, lagar." That last statement was enough to draw the tears
which had begun to weigh down my eyelid. I blinked and the tears fell free.

The dim lights in the room provided a timeless ambience as Rashad, Uncle Muhammed, and
I sat around Papa, now resting on his right side with pillows.

Since Papa was exhausted from his last kogra, we were at ease when his breaths seemed to
relax though shallow. At some point, I opened my eyes and saw that I was alone in the
room. Sitting on Papa's right side on my knees with my face directly facing Papa's, now on
his side, I saw Papa open his near century-old eyes looking directly at me.

"Ketla vaaja(what time is it)?"

Not expecting a sudden question, I grasped for the watch that wasn't there.

From Rashad, I learned that it was half past nine.

"Half past nine, papa"

"Did I make my Isha?"


"Sure? Did I make my Isha?"

"Yes, parigai"

"Are you sure? I made Isha? Mere puree namaz pare?", he asked Aunty Rabia and me.

Thinking that three times was sufficient to establish certainty, I heard Papa ask once more,
"So, I made my Isha?"

Aunty Fatima joined me in the room and helped me assure Papa he completed his namaz.
"Yes, Papa, Isha you have made. Now we have a few hours to Fajr. Inshallah we'll make Fajr

Papa responded, "Inshallah."

When aunty Fatima exited the room, Nasreen brought Ayesha into the room while Papa
was on his side. Papa, though unable to utter words, was able to gift her with a smile, a
sincere gift from a generous man which Nasreen recalled as indicating, "I'm leaving but
you're just starting."

Still sitting next to Papa looking at him eye to eye, I spoke, "Papa, Jumuah Mubarak, we love
you so much Papa. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

The whisper came, "Straighten me……" Aunty Rabia and I removed the pillows behind
Papa laying him flat, his customary sleeping position. Still, he repeated, "Straight, straight."
We surveyed Papa's body seeing what wasn't straight. "My legs, straight." Expecting his legs
to be way off the axis of the bed, I discovered that his legs were just off the axis of the qibla.
Moving his feet a few inches toward the center of the bed, I realized that this was just a
manifestation of a lifelong penchant for detail.

Aunty Shehnaz hurried the rest of the family, completing their Isha namaz, to the room.
Each member assumed their places - on stools, chairs, and sheepskins - where they had
faithfully read Quran for many days and weeks prior.

Rabia and Shehnaz, Papa's daughters who traveled 35 hours just two weeks earlier to make
his khidma and tend to his needs, took turns reciting the kalima and shahadainto his ears. I
was told to draw near to Papa and honored with the duty of reciting the truest statement in
the universe into his right ear.

We recited for about ten minutes before Papa put his hand on his heart saying, "Slowly,
…my heart, my heart."

At that moment, we thought Papa was asking us to recite softly in our hearts so we chose a
lower volume to recite. Some in our family, however, heard Papa say "Slowly, it's my heart."
In the latter case, far from an instruction to us, it was a point of guidance to an angel we will
all meet one morning, afternoon, or evening.

Papa then said, "dori topi" referring to the snowy white cap he diligently worn for the last four
decades. Several family members removed the woolly brown cap as I carefully pulled the
embroidered brim of the spotlessly white topi over the curvature of Papa's head.

My mother Sabira recounts that Papa's face at this time was filled with so much light, with a
noor she remembers on his face in 1956 when he carried in his arms 6-week old Bibi
Ayesha, his lifeless baby daughter, out of the hospital. He turned to Ma Rasool who was
crying at the loss of her youngest child and counseled her, "Allah ne ukam tio." The
steadfastness he upheld at that moment emerged on his face as he lay in the bed, now with
his favorite topi on.

With the the hum of the kalima in the room as I whispered it into his ears and Papa's lips
repeated it, his arms sprung to life raised in the arm, palms facing the sacred direction. He
then initiated the tayammum process. Many of us recognized this course of action, since
Papa's heart truly came to life at the time of prayer these past three weeks. And his heart
would then breathe life into his limbs.

After completing this purifying rite, Papa raised both of his arms into the air and began
waving them gracefully through the air. This was certainly not the waving of a soul in
distress, but the waving of a soul jubilantly welcoming the angels of the moment. A few
breaths later, Papa began his journey in the next leaving this world on the eve of Jumuah at
the ripe lunar age of 96.

His six daughters along with many sons-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grand-children sat
and stood around Papa all the while. As tears fell and embraces began, we bid farewell to
our Papa, a human paragon of Prophetic practice to us and so many others.

The janazah services began within an hour. Moulana Burhan Mia and his team soon arrived
to take Papa to the ghusl facility opposite Oriental plaza. On the way, Molana Burhan, after
hearing the beautiful manner of Papa's passing, said that a hadith came to mind the day
before regarding Papa's life. "Among the signs of blessing and bounty upon a person is
when he is given a lengthy age and his deeds only become more beautiful with age. He added
that for the person who vigilantly safeguards his prayer in this world, never mind walks to
the masjid for Fajr at 96, the questioning of the grace starts off on a different footing. The
person will be granted a vision of a horizon with a sun at the Asr position. When Munkar
and Nakeer arrive, the person will ask them to wait so he or she can complete the prayer.

At the ghusl facility, Shiraz, Rashad, Uncle Abbas, Uncle Mohamed, and I worked with
Akbar, Molana Durwesh, Mufti Mohammed Ali and others to prepare Papa's body for the
qabr. His chest was firm and strong, looking many decades younger. After rubbing the
camphor on the "sajda points" most prominently his palms and forehead, we carried our
Papa to his kafan, the ihram-like cloths he had worn many times before in preparation for
this moment.

Before covering his face, I pulled his small brown comb to neaten his beard for the last time,
a moment cemented in memory. I turned the Oud Ameeri bottle upside down on my palm
taking out a few drops and began applying it to his kafan until I reached his face where I
stroked his glistening beard with the last scent of this world.

By midnight, the kafn enclosing Papa arrived at 7a 13th Ave where the family waited
earnestly. By Fajr, we had nearly completed a khatm of the Quran and gathered around Papa
for the last time. Among the many duas we made, I will always remember one since it has
become a part of my regular litany: allahuma aftah ʿalaynaa futooh ul-ʿaarifeen kamaa fatahta
ʿalaa haadha al-ghulaam. Oh Allah! Open upon us the vision and enlightenment of the
Knowers of you as you have enlightened this ghulaam.

Just as we concluded, the melodic dhikr "Allahu Allah …Allahu Raabi…Awni wa Hasbi
…Maali siwa Hu" filled the room as it had done so many times before that week.

At quarter past nine, the hearse arrived to take Papa to his home of ten years, Darul Uloom
Zakariyya. Nearing the four-way stops, Rashaad and I, seated on either side of Papa in the
hearse, glanced backward on to the soft green velvet of the casket where the kalima "la ila
ha illah" decal on the minivan's window was imprinted in serene shadow.

Entering the gates of the madrasa, we gazed out over the rows of cars parked in the football
fields as we approached the side entrance of the mosque. We hardly turned off the road
before we had to park the hearse. A tunnel of hundreds of students from the madrasa waited
to each lend a hand in carrying Papa to his position in the masjid courtyard. Though the
distance was over several hundred meters, each person was only able to touch the casket
with one hand before passing it on to the next.

As soon as the congregation of several thousand had assembled at about 9:00 am, Moulana
Suliman Moola stepped onto the podium and offered a few words on the life and legacy of
"Hazrat Bajee Patel rahmatullah alayh." He noted the central importance of prayer in Papa's
life and his desire to help others even at an advanced age. Referring to a meeting he had with
Papa after the massacres in Gujarat, Moulana Suliman Moola remembers how Papa cried as
he showed his photographs of the tragic events. He concluded by characterizing Papa’s exit
from the dunya as “an enviable death.”

Mufti Rada-ul-Haq, the institution's senior scholar, came forward to lead the Janaza namaz –
a prayer whose call was given into Papa's ears ninety six years earlier – at a time when the
Osmanli/Ottoman sultan was still hailed as the Caliph on the Jumuah pulpit.

Immediately after the prayer, the tunnel that had welcomed him bid farewell to Papa, passing
him toward the hearse for his final drive to his and everybody else's eventual dunyawi resting

At the graveyard, the crowd continued to grow while we waited for many others delayed by
the traffic of attendees. Rashaad, Molana Durwesh, and Uncle Riaz, and I left our shows
graveside and climbed into the qabr, stepping lightly onto to the rusty-red Lenasia gravel.

The crowd above passed the body, wrapped in the white kafn, head-first to Rashaad, who
carefully passed it on to Uncle Riaz, Molana Durwesh, and, finally, to me. In both my hands,
I cradled Papa's head, once the vessel of so much life and enthusiasm, thinking about the
sharpness of mind he was gifted for nearly a century until his passing. wa shukru lillah.

When the body was laid down on its side in the niche facing the qibla, I continued to cradle
the head wondering how to proceed. I wanted to preserve Papa's sleeping position and could
not bear to see him uncomfortable. Just beside me, I spotted a flat rock which I placed
carefully under his head like a pillow. My heart calmed seeing him at ease. That would be my
final khidma to a grandfather who spent his life in the service of his family and community.
Planks of wood were passed down to Uncle Riaz and Moulana Durwesh who wedged them
tightly between the wall and floor of the grave them, like a tightly tucked blanket.

Within a few minutes, the dirt that had been removed to make way for this final journey
down under was replaced. Our Moulana Yusuf Bemath came forth to recite the beginning of
Surah Baqara at the head-side and the final verses by the feet-side, followed by Muftisap’s
heartfelt duʿaa. Every time I opened my eyes during this prayer, I saw the tears rolling down
the faces of the young and old, especially the many faces who often frequented Papa to serve
and learn from him.

The crowd of well-wishers gradually left, leaving Abid bhai, Uncle Riaz, Uncle Saeed, the
two Yusufs from Malawi – who had diligently served Papa beyond the call of duty –, and

At Abid bhai’s instruction, I squatted by the right shoulder and recited the suggested
passages from the Quran before reminding the deceased, as tradition suggests, of the
answers to the questions asked in the grave. The memory from a decade ago ran through my
mind as I squatted in the same position by Ma Rasool, my grandmother’s qabr reminding
her. Addressing Papa, I began:

My dearest Papa. This is a simple reminder to you from a grandson who loves you
for all that you have taught him and given him of spiritual wealth. Papa, your Lord,
your Rabb is the one whom you turned to and worshipped under all circumstances.
Your Prophet, your Nabi is Muhammad(saw) whose life you made the basis of your
life and whom you loved so much. Papa, your deen is Islam through which you
contented your heart.

With brackish tears streaming into rivulets on my cheeks, I stood up, said bismillah and
returned to finish my dunya time.

A couple things I wanted to add to Na'eel's account:

*After we read surah Yasin aloud by Papa's bedside in those last days, Papa awoke and said "ok enough. Now i will read in my heart... Allah...Allah..." imagine that state of muraqabah! subhanAllah..

*Each of us kissed Papa on the cheek, as a last farewell, before his body was taken for the janazah.


Ṣalāh – This form of worship constitutes the five daily ordained prayers of Muslims.
Beginning with Fajr before sunrise, the next in Ẓuhr after noon, then ʿAṣr in the late
afternoon, then Maghrib just after sunset, and finally ʿIshā in the late evening.

Tayammum – Ritual purification performed in the absence of water or under special
handicapped circumstances

Qabr - Arabic word for grave. The linguistic root is related to the root “q r b” connoting
temporal and special proximity.

An article written in our hometown newspaper:

Note: The birth year should have been 1916 in the article.


My old updates days before Papa's passing:

On Sun, May 23, 2010 at 8:08 PM:

JazakumAllah khayrun for all those who are praying for my Grandfather & family.

My cousin in South Africa provided the following update on May 22:

Pappa is at my mother’s place [his eldest daughter] after being discharged from the hospital yesterday. Aunty Farida [his second eldest daughter] arranged for a hospital bed to be brought home so Pappa can be as comfortable as possible.

He is in a very weak condition due to him being unable to eat sold foods – he’s lost a considerable amount of weight as a result and has a constant drip being administered. Naeel and Yusuf (his haafiz grandsons) are continuously reading Sura Ya’sin at Pappa’s bedside – he appreciates having all [six of] his daughters being with him. Even in this tough physical state, Pappa has not missed a single Namaaz – a tremendous example for us all. Pappa is mentally alert as ever and still has someone go through all his accounts with him – truly remarkable!

Please continue to keep him in your du'aas

JazakAllah khayrun



The day of his passing:

Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullah
Please pray for an excellent seal for Papa (we are raised according to how we pass from this world). Papa's condition is very weak and we pray for ease, comfort and husnal khaatima (excellent seal).

When 94 year old (Islamically aged 96)
Papa wakes up from his slumber his only concern is his prayer. Although he cannot move himself due to weakness, he still is able to perform tayammum and makes sure someone awakens him for each prayer. Sometimes out of confusion he will anxiously ask which prayer time it is, and asks if he had already prayed the last prayer - the answer being yes each time. He then asks for someone to make sure they wake him for the next prayer. Prayer is truly the light of his eyes. Late last night he was busy praying in his bed, rak'aat after rakaat, and did not sleep much despite his fatigue. Today we just had a Qur'an completion (khatm) and made a long supplication for him - for the strength and light of our family - for our dear Papa, Goolem Hussein Patel.

Please make dua for Papa and the whole family.

May we all be granted husnul khaatima. ameen

Tawfiq, inshAllah

Wa'salaam from South Africa


  1. Anonymous6:07 PM

    SubhanAllah! What an exemplary life Papa lived. The Mufti was right in saying : "... Papa’s exit from the dunya as “an enviable death.”
    I could not hold my tears as I read the account of Na'eel SubhanAllah, in such detail that I felt like I was right there during Papa's last days on Earth. All of you are blessed mashaAllah to have served Papa as well as to be his students.
    Thank you for sharing your experience during the last days of papa's life.
    May we all spend our time on earth according to the teachings of the Prophet salellahu alaihi wa sallam. aamin
    My salaams to all family here in Stockton as well as in S Africa.

    Redlands, CA

  2. Ustadha Shamira, jazakullah khair for sharing this narrative about your Papa's passing. His love for salah is truly admirable, and it was a strong personal reminder. My duas are with you and your entire family.