Obituary: Haji Faizur Rahman Khan rahimahullah (1944-2019)

Haji Faizur Rahman Khan rahimahullah (1944-2019) – an epitome of khidmah (serving others)

By loving son, Dr Mamnun Khan

إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ‎ “We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return” (Qur’an, 2:156).

الْرَّاحِمُوْن يَرَحْمَهْم الْرَّحْمَن ارْحَمُوْا مَن فِي الْأَرْض يَرْحَمْكُم مَن فِي الْسَّمَاء

“To those who have mercy, the Merciful will have mercy with them. Have mercy with those on earth, then He who is in the heaven will have mercy with you (Hadith of Rahmah).”

Birth and lineage

Born on 22nd January 1944,[2] in the village of Balinga, in the upazila of Beani Bazar, in the north-eastern district of Sylhet in Bangladesh, my father Haji Faizur Rahman Khan rahimahullah was the oldest of five siblings. His father, my grandfather, Tofozul Ali (1914-1964), had two sisters, and his mother, my grandmother, Taziba Khatun (1926-1994), had five brothers, including two step-brothers and a step-sister. My grandparents married in 1937. My great-grandfather on my grandfather’s side was Moqbul Ali who was born in Sylhet in 1871. My great-grandfather on my grandmother’s side was Munshi Zohir Ali[3] who was born in Sylhet in 1875.

My father had three brothers, of whom the youngest died at the tender age of four, while his second youngest, Mukhlisur Rahman Khan (d. 1978), died from suspected tuberculosis in his 30s, leaving behind a daughter. It was my dad who travelled from the UK to Dubai, where my uncle Mukhlisur contracted the illness and flew him into Dhaka’s PG Hospital for treatment for a month before he died. My only remaining uncle, Motiur Rahman Khan (d. 2009), while younger than my father married before him with my grandmother ill at the time, and had four sons and five daughters. My father had one sister, Fatima Begum (d. 2013), who was the second eldest of the siblings, who had six children, two sons and four daughters. In the 1960s my dad’s family moved from what they call “Furan Bari” (“old home”) to further east of the village to a location where the ancestral home remains to this day, albeit it has been extended or rebuilt a few times.

My grandfather, Tofozul Ali, came to the UK in 1950/51 by ship as part of the Windrush generation[4] and became a British citizen in 1959 based on the British Nationality Act of 1948. At the time he lived on 24 Lloyd Street, Small Heath, Birmingham. His prior address was 68 Herbert Road, Small Heath, Birmingham, where he lived between June 1956 to 28th December 1959. In the early 1950s, the Muslim population of the UK stood at around 100,000[5] (0.2% of the UK population of 50 million), with less than a handful of mosques.[6] My grandfather returned to Bangladesh in 1962 soon before my dad came over to the UK in the following year. He died in 1964 and was buried in the ancestral village cemetery alongside all of my dad’s siblings and my grandmother.

On 26th February 1970 in Bangladesh, my father married my mother, Mariam Begum, aged 16, daughter of Haji Abdul Jalil Tafadar (1924-2013) of Mullapur, Beani Bazar. They had had five children – two girls, Husna Ara Begum and Sultana Begum, and three boys, including myself, Dr Mamnunur Rahman Khan, but two of whom, both older than me, Abu Bakr passed away shortly after birth, and Mustafizur Rahman (d. 1989) died after three months of birth.

Education

My father’s primary school education for Class 1 to 5 was at Balinga Primary School. His secondary education was at Kurar Bazar High School where he attended Class 6 to 8, before going onto PHG (Panchakhanda Hara Govinda) High School (established in 1916) to attend Class 9 and 10. Here, he was a classmate of the Education Minister (2014-2018) of the Government of Bangladesh, Nurul Islam Nahid MP. He then went to Madan Mohon College (established in 1940) to study Economics, History and Logic for his B.A. (Hons.). In the early 1960s, Madan Mohon College and MC College (established in 1892) were the only two university colleges in the entire district of Sylhet (1948 boundary). At the time, the literacy rate for men in the Indian Subcontinent was around 26% (and 18% for both men and women) and even fewer went into higher education.[7]

The early years (1963-1990)

My father arrived in the UK on 11 October 1963, with my grandfather having gone back to Bangladesh the year before. Upon arrival, he stayed briefly in Birmingham and then in London, followed by periods of stay in Reading, Luton, Cambridge and Aylesbury, before settling in Luton in the early 1980s. While residing in Luton he stayed at 286 Dunstable Road, 27 Claremont Road,[8] 46 Highfield Road, 25 Waldeck Road and 10 Claremont Road, before settling with his family at 74 Selbourne Road in 1986. Luton had a relatively sizeable number of people from Beani Bazar which meant that there were plenty of familiar faces (micro-diaspora) who would support each other. In the mid-1960s it is estimated that there were in total about 500 people of Bangladeshi heritage, from across the district of Sylhet, in Luton who were the original settlers.

My dad next visited Bangladesh in February 1970 and stayed for a period of 17 months, returning to the UK in July 1971. During this time, he got married to my mother. From arriving in 1963 to going back for the first time in 1970 it was his longest continuous stay in the UK. The next time he went back was in October 1973, and subsequently, thereafter he went back many times: March 1975; September 1979, July 1981; November 1982; May 1983; and May 1984. After that, in December 1990, it was the first time he went back to Bangladesh with his family. Unlike most people at the time, my dad went back to Bangladesh quite frequently and he stayed for long periods.

Like many people who came to Luton at the time, my dad worked at the Vauxhall factory for about 5 years, before going back to Bangladesh for the first time in 1970. His working life also included at various times selling airline tickets, acting as translator and as a waiter in Indian restaurants. Since around 1990 he worked only at the weekends, while during weekdays he volunteered as an advisor at the Luton Law Centre and at Luton Rights. Here, he provided independent specialist advice on welfare benefits and immigration, filled in forms, wrote letters and so on.

During his working life, he also found time to help the British Bangladeshi’s of Luton in his private capacity. Many first-generation Bangladeshi’s in the 1970s and 80s came over to the UK as economic migrants but could not read or write. In fact, my dad once recalled how some people could not even read door numbers and had to rely on, for example, placing bricks in a particular arrangement in front of their house to mark it. Such unfamiliarity and levels of illiteracy was symptomatic of the desperate need at the time for “go to” people who could competently speak English as well as read, write, translate, offer advice and help others with their applications for welfare, immigration, schooling, jobs etc.

By the mid-1970s, it was clear that my father’s skills and education were incredibly sought-after, and as a result, he was among the few “go to” people for help. While there were some British Bangladeshis who could read and write in English, only a few of them made themselves available to help others. And so, many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people directly benefitted from my dad’s help, which he continued doing till the early 1990s. What was remarkable was that he willingly did it free of charge.

Growing up I saw it with my own eyes. People simply just turned up at our house, and my dad never refused anybody. Sometimes it was to get help with understanding official letters, sometimes it was to help fill in forms and write letters, and at other times it was to seek more general advice on things like family issues. The most vivid memories I have of these is overhearing grown-up men cry telling their stories to my father. Over the years many people have expressed their gratitude to me in person for my dad’s help, often sharing anecdotes of what he had done for their family. My elder sister, Husna Ara Begum, recalls how she continuously made tea for people hours on end on some days as my dad dealt with their cases. Others have said that, like my sister, they also made tea for others when dad lived with them. As time went on, particularly since the mid-1990s, there was a sharp decline in the need for such help, as children in the second generation learnt to read and write, and became settled into British society.

The later years (1990-2019)

Around the early 1990s, my dad increasingly found himself involved with Bury Park Jamie Mosque.[9] This was at a time when the Bangladeshi Muslim population of Luton grew rapidly, and with that so did its religio-ethnic politics. Eventually, a new constitution of the mosque was drafted in 1994, which I remember my father reviewing in meticulous detail, marking up changes and corrections, and it was Allah’s will that my father would be elected as the Cultural Secretary of the mosque. Bearing in mind he tended to shy away when it came to organisations that involved managing community politics, some persuasion was needed before he agreed.

Following the newly-drafted constitution, the first president of the mosque committee was Haji Abdul Bari (d. 2000, may Allah sanctify his soul), who was also among the original founders of the mosque in 1975.[10] His son, Khaled Bari, recalls how my dad was a “true confident” of his father, as someone whose judgement his father relied upon for its integrity and competence. Following Haji Abdul Bari’s death, Haji Abul Hussain became the President, who called my father “mama” (“uncle”).

Under Haji Abul Hussain’s presidency, the mosque continued to expand, as did its services, establishing a secondary school (Al-Hikma), purchasing a fully-functioning school and properties for generating mosque income, as well as founding other satellite mosques scattered around the town in support of Muslims moving into new areas of the town.

The Bury Park Jamie Mosque Funeral Services was also established during this time. For many years my dad was its director and co-ordinated the burial service. As Muslim populations grew and aged, the burial service became more used. My dad was frequently involved with the ghusl (washing) of the body as well as drive the undertaker’s car to the cemetery. Oftentimes he would receive a call informing him of someone’s death, and it would be his responsibility to bring the body from the hospital to the mosque mortuary. While as a family we were always concerned about dad having to experience this, particularly if the deceased was a close friend of his, the reality was that he had immense resilience and inner courage. After all, he had already experienced the death of many loved ones.

As a result of my dad’s mosque involvement, I met many visiting scholars from Bangladesh. And from time to time I found myself in light conversation with them. When it came to Eid, for many years, as a family we did not eat breakfast together as my dad left the house early to help out at the mosque and did not return until all the Eid salah jama’ats had finished which was usually around midday. In the days of no internet, I used to look forward to answering the hundreds of calls that came into our home between ‘Asr and ‘Isha from people wanting to know if the crescent moon had been sighted for the start or Ramadhan or Eid. Wondering if the crescent moon had been sighted was a big deal in our house, as it was our job to convey the news to the many people that called into one of three contact numbers for the mosque. Even at the time of my father death, various signposts in and around the mosque still contained my parents’ home phone number.

My father went back to Bangladesh in May 1994 which was the last time he saw my grandmother, who had been taken ill and eventually passed away in 1995. This was the saddest moment of my father’s life that I witnessed. Two years later, in the summer of 1996, as a family we went to Bangladesh for my elder sister’s marriage to Tareque Ahmed Khan (also nephew to dad). In 2000, my parents went for their first Hajj. This was followed by a family ‘Umra in 2005. In 2007 my dad suffered a heart attack which by Allah’s mercy he recovered from following angioplasty treatment. Then, in 2008, my younger sister got married to Shuhel Dostogier, while I married Fatihah Rahman in 2009. Later in 2009, together with my mother, my father was blessed to go for Hajj for the second time. Shuhall Miah, from the wider community, who went on Hajj in 2009 and stayed with my dad in the same room in Makkah, recalls how he, “…instantly felt in awe of him and his vast intellect and knowledge, and over the intervening period got to know him well. A truly wonderful man, with calmness and composure, noticed especially during the chaotic period of Hajj. Always lending an ear to any queries/concerns.”

In 2010 both my mum and dad visited Bangladesh following the death of my uncle in 2009 while they were in Hajj. After that, my father next visited Bangladesh in December 2012, initially by himself, and was later joined by my mum at the end of January 2013.

This was followed later in 2013 with a ziyarah to Jerusalem and ‘Umra with my mum and other close relatives. In 2014 my father visited Bangladesh for what turned out to be his last visit, where he saw the finished construction of the rebuilt ancestral house. Thereafter, later in 2014, my father went for a second ziyarah to Jerusalem followed by ‘Umra, again with my mum and some other close relatives. This was my dad’s last trip abroad as he started heamodialysis in 2016. However, he remained active and independent and drove locally.

Contributions to institutions

My dad strongly advocated institution-building, and from a young age, he sought to build a society founded on well-organised institutions that could effectively discharge civic responsibility, whether it was in his village in Bangladesh or in Luton. However, he was selective in what he got involved with. He took the burden of responsibility that came with being in positions of authority very seriously; it was never about ambition, power or fame. My dad also always supported philanthropic work in his village. The first generation had a much greater connection with their ancestral home, which was of course quite natural since it was their motherland where they still had siblings and parents. Below are prominent examples of institutions my dad was heavily involved with.

  1. In 1968 my father co-founded Balinga High School. He also taught at the school for short periods while on vacation in Bangladesh, and it remains a fully functioning school to this day with around 400 students. Others who played a significant part were Kondhokor Tormuz Miah, Luthfur Raza Chowdhury (d. 2018), Nurul Hussain Chowdhury (Tunu Miah, d. 1997), and others.
  2. In 1968 he also co-founded Balinga Bazar Post Office, which remains fully functional to this day.
  3. In 1972 he was involved with both the Bangladesh Society (founded by Haji Shahab Uddin) and the Bangladesh Welfare Association in Luton, which was formerly known as Pakistan Welfare Association (established in the 1960s) and was run by people from East Pakistan prior to the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. Although he was urged by many to take formal positions within these organisations he preferred not to and stayed unofficially involved. Tahir Khan, who is among the second-generation of community workers and worked part-time at the Bangladesh Welfare Association at the time, recalls how he came to learn about my dad helping others in a private capacity from people who could not get hold of him as he was abroad and, instead, came to the Bangladesh Welfare Association for help.
  4. In 1974 (at the age of 30) my father co-founded the Purbo Balinga Jamie Masjid in his ancestral village Balinga on family land that sits directly in front (within 40 metres) of the family home. Others within the neighbourhood who contributed to the mosque included Haji Shofiq Miah.
  5. In 2009 my dad became a founding member and chair of Jamia Islamia Baharul ‘Ulum Balinga Darul Hadith Madrasah Trust (BDHMT). The trust was for a madrasah in his village that was founded in 1924 by Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan who graduated from Darul ‘Uloom Deoband, India, and was a student of the famous Moulana Syed Hussain Ahmad Madani (1879-1957). In 2018 the trust completed a major relocation and construction of a new Balinga Bazar market, for which my father donated a substantial area of family land. As it turned out, my father gave his bay’ah (pledge of spiritual orientation) in the Chistiyyah Sufi order to Moulana Syed As’ad Madani (1928-2006) on his visit to Bury Park Jamie Mosque in 2006, who was the son of the same Moulana Syed Hussain Ahmad Madani whose student founded the madrasah in my dad’s village.
  6. From 1994 to 2016, an uninterrupted period of 22 years, my dad was initially the Cultural Secretary of Bury Park Jamie Mosque under the presidency of Haji Abdul Bari (d. 2000), and then under the presidency of Haji Abul Hussain, he became the Secretary. In 2016, he retired due to ill-health and in his retirement letter my father expressed: “I am grateful to everyone and the wider community for their support in assisting me to carry out the role of Cultural Secretary and then Secretary to the best of my ability.”

My dad lived a life of serving others in one capacity or another. His service to others exemplified a rare kind of sincerity (ikhlas) because he sought to empower people and to make them resilient. As such, he epitomised the very spirit of “outcome-based service” to others in the description of khulafah al-ard (“stewardship of the earth”): “to be of people of incredible virtue, goodness and love, who give themselves wholly to the highest ideals and seek to create a world in which all people have the opportunity to actualise their fullest human potential in every domain of life, from the most mundane to the most transcendent.” Below are some overarching reasons why, as my dad’s character reflected, we need to serve others.

  1. The first is derived from the general command (‘amm) in the well-known verse in Surah al-‘Imran: “You are the best ummah ever brought forth (as an example) to mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah” (Qur’an 3:110). The act of promoting good and prohibiting others from wrongdoing, as well as of believing in Allah, are all prerequisites of being the “best of ummahs” that have been brought forth to men, as exemplified by the generation of the Companions. Moreover, the phrase “ukhrijat lin-nass” does not just mean “brought forth to mankind”, but also, “brought forth as a service to mankind.” Promoting good is an all-encompassing act, which could be anything from simple acts of helping people, or bringing ease to others or being fair and acting with integrity when interacting with people etc. The point is, we need to be doing khidmah (service) to others in order to live up to the standard of “the best ummah.”[11]
  2. The second reason is to give thanks and gratitude for the blessings that Allah has given us. We are all endowed with a range of blessings and qualities, some specific, some more general, and some people have more of it than others, be it our knowledge, position, skills, money, time, energy or influence. And each of us are in need of it, some more than others and some of us are in need of one type over others. Whatever qualities we have been blessed with, they become useful to others, and therefore become blessings in a fuller sense, only when we put them to use or share them with others. However, if we keep these blessings only to ourselves, it is possible that these blessings will be taken away and given to others who will be able to put them to use for the benefit of others. Or it is possible that we will have failed to recognise the true nature of the blessing from Allah.
  3. Being in service to others also helps us to manage our own nafs lawwama (blameworthy self), keeps us humble, and reminds us that whatever we might have achieved or amassed in this dunya, our worth or standing rests upon our unselfish presence, in service to others, and in which might be a path of achieving worldly contentment. In Bengali there is a saying “khedmoth-e khuda milei,” which means “in service you find Allah.”

His character

My dad sought to be upright (salih), fair (insaf) and just (‘adl) in positions of authority, whether as a leader in the community or family life, or when called to arbitrate in disputes between people. He was always very mindful of hearing both sides of any story. My mum has on many occasions mentioned how even in his early thirties my father used to get called in to mediate village disputes. He was known for being measured in speech and action, showed righteousness through his actions, never one to indulge idle gossip, and had a strong preference for a soft leadership style and diplomacy. All of these characteristics were easily recognised by the community both in the UK and in Bangladesh, and consequently, he was on many occasions approached to take on responsibility or head various roles. However, he was usually reluctant due to personal commitments and because of his reserved character, he particularly did not want to be at the forefront of such activities.

Shohir Uddin, in whose father’s house at 27 Claremont Road my dad lived for a while and has known him for most of his life recalls: “I have known sasa [uncle] to be one of the humblest people in the community. He has a soft leadership style which works very well with the community work that he does. Humility and vulnerability make people more likeable. I remember sasa starting as a volunteer back in the days, he has come a long way since … and it’s really down to his hard work, determination and unique humble communications skills of course. Humility is a true key to success; humble people share the credit and wealth, [and] stay focused and hungry to continue the journey of success.”

My father also disliked vanity (‘ujub). One of the many examples was in 2005, when he was awarded the Channel S Award for outstanding contribution and services to the community in its first year of running, and among the select few in Luton to receive such an award. However, true to his character of keeping out of the limelight, he shied away from attending the award ceremony, and I can vividly remember receiving a reporter handing over the award at our house. Much of the help he provided people was in a private capacity, on a one-to-one basis, and from the outside others would only get to hear about it if they knew the person he helped. Similarly, he did not seek payments or favours in return for the time he spent in his private capacity to explain letters, to fill in forms, and to write official letters for people’s claims for welfare, settlement, immigration etc. Remarkably, he did this despite bearing the burden of looking after his wider family in Bangladesh. Muhammad Sowab Ali, a well-known community worker, recalls: “He truly [was] one of the pillars of the BP masjid (elders) and as well as the community, who have shown people like me what true community work is. I have learnt a lot from sasa [uncle] and Abul Bhai, and are always there to help. He truly is a nice man and a human being (not many left like him from his era), an honour to work alongside with him.”

My dad took an interest in current affairs both in the UK and in Bangladesh. However, he was never partisan when it came to Bangladeshi politics and had friends and family across all the major political parties. He sought moderation and yearned for positive and productive outcomes from those in authority regardless of their political affiliation.

He was constant in helping people and doing small acts of kindness. For example, he would inquire about people and if someone asked him about his health, he would swiftly move the focus to ask about how they were and what they were up to. He also welcomed neighbours, particularly new ones, and would reassure them that they could come to him if they ever needed anything. He showed great concern for friends who had lost their wives, frequently inviting them for food and enquiring about them.

My dad was exceptionally punctual, dressed smartly, and smiled gently. He loved to read and was an avid reader of the weekly Bengali newspaper Surma. He also read books about Islam, particularly about the Akhirah, and often these books were authored by Bangladeshi scholars he had met. My father also liked to grow vegetables in the garden and to do DIY jobs around the house.

His friends

My father had many close friends over the years, here are some of them that I am aware of, though sadly most of them have passed away: Abdus Sobur (d. 2008); Bedar Ahmed (d. 1998); Haji Abdul Jabbar (deceased); Haji Mohammed Abdus Salam (d. 1991); Abu Bakr Chowdhury (Moina Miah, d. 1984); Haji Lutfur Raja Chowdhury (d. 2018); Nurul Hussain Chowdhury (Tunu Miah, d. 1997); Haji Ismail Ali (d. 2018); Haji Syed Abdul Moktodir (d. 2010); Haji Abdul Ahad (d. 2003); Haji Muzakkir Hussain (d. 2017); Abul Hussain (d. 1997); Haji Muhammad Burhan Uddin (Reza Miah); Haji Harun Miah; Haji Anwar Hussain, Haji Ekhlas Ali; Haji Johr Uddin; and many others. There are many others whom I have not mentioned. For those who have passed away, may Allah sanctify their souls, and for those who are with us, may Allah give them hayatan tayyibah.

Family life

My father was greatly adored and respected in the wider family. A few insights from his family life are provided below.

  1. My father was never a pushy parent when it came to studying. However, as children we always knew he had a deep-rooted desire for learning, and as a result we were eager to do well in our studies knowing that it would please him. For example, following marriage to my mother, my dad supported and encouraged her to complete her secondary school matriculation exams in 1970 – studying after marriage for women was quite unheard of at the time. Similarly, my dad often took my younger sister and I to the library on Saturday’s. It was Allah’s will that he would go on to attend our graduation ceremonies at the Royal Albert Hall (Imperial College, London) and the Senate House, London (SOAS, University of London), as well as a doctorate degree graduation ceremony at the Senate House, Cambridge (Queens’, Cambridge University).
  2. My dad arranged for Qur’an classes for us to attend but he was never forceful. We felt that his upright and just character motivated us more to learn about Islam. The same applied to learning Bengali, which we learnt to read and write to a reasonable level.
  3. It is also true that my dad did not like others to fuss over him. Yet, it was Allah’s will that in my mother, Mariam Begum, he had an incredibly loving and devoted wife of 49 years, who, amongst countless other things, cut his nails, scrub his back while bathing, ensured he wore the best clothes, cooked food that was appropriate for his diet and supported him in so many other ways.
  4. My father was the eldest of six sons-in-law to my maternal grandparents (nana and nani). He immensely loved and respected them, and even gained the love of my mum’s paternal grandmother, Ashabun Nessa (1902-1978), as well as paternal grandfather, Haji Tahir Ali Tafadar (1897-1982), both of whom lived for many years after my dad’s marriage to my mum. They had a deep love and fondness for him, and thoroughly enjoyed and found comfort and warmth in each other’s presence. It was Allah’s will that at the time of my nana’s death in December 2013, my father was already in Bangladesh and attended his janazah and burial, something which he missed out for his own father. My dad was also blessed with many years of life with my mum’s maternal grandparents, Mahmud Ali Choudhury (d. 1989) and Musammad Jubeda Begum Choudhury (d. 1996).
  5. Outside of our family, there was one other person who became greatly devoted to my father. It was Allah’s will that since 1997, and despite not being related to my father, Nurul Haque became a very close nephew to dad, with whom he went on Hajj and ziyarah of the three holy sanctuaries a number of times. So much so that Nurul bhai recalls how he always found contentment standing in prayer beside “his sasa” (paternal uncle). What made him love my dad as his own uncle was, in his own words, “his wise counsel, character and manners of interacting with people (akhlaq).” I cannot enlist the countless examples of devotion Nurul bhai has shown, but it perhaps suffices to say that whenever he was with dad, whether at the mosque, at a wedding or an event, at the hospital, or just walking on the roads, we were sure he would be very well looked after. Nurul bhai, recalls: “I would like to write so many things about my respected Sasa, but I am lost for words. But one thing that I can say is that he is one of the most kind-hearted people that I have met in my life and will always be cherished in my heart …Insha’Allah his wisdom spreads within us.” As in my father’s life, wherever he was, Nurul bhai and I would never be too far away, and when putting my father to rest it was befitting that it was Nurul bhai and I who did so.
  6. My father kept excellent relations with the wider family, both on his side as well as my mother’s. In 1980, at a time when there were few relatives in the UK, he went on a road trip to Scotland with his aunt and cousin-in-laws (family of Haji Sirajul Islam/Cherag nana – d. 2018), for a two week stay with the uncle of his mother-in-law, Haji Azizur Rahman Chowdhury (d. 2004) and his wife aunt Haja Sultana Choudhury, and their three children. Today, the aunt, Sultana Choudhury, recalls fond memories of their trip. My dad also kept close contact with his maternal cousins in Tooting and Bethnal Green who held each other in mutual affection. Similarly, all my maternal aunts and uncles hugely admired my dad, seeing him as an older brother figure whose presence they enjoyed greatly.
  7. Sid M Hussain, whose mother comes from my dad’s village, recalls: “Ever since we remember bhai he has always been a community person never doing it for name or fame – one of the humblest people I know. For us growing up as a child there were very few people who we could call our own, we have many special memories, a regular visitor to our home who always treated us like younger brothers never ever coming empty handed, always a milky bar in his pocket to treat us [and] giving us educational encouragement each time. Mum always loved people from her village and treated him as her own nephew, this was long before you guys [his family] had arrived in the country.”
  8. By Allah’s grace, my dad left behind ten grandchildren, aged between 21 and 1, most of whom attended his janazah and burial.

Death and burial

My father passed away on Tuesday 19th February 2019 (25th Jamada al-Thani 1440 Hijri, 6th Phalgoon 1425 Bangla calendar) at 4.20 am, with myself, my mother, my elder sister, my brother-in-law, and my eldest maternal uncle by his bedside. The day prior he attended the janaza and burial of a close relative and prayed salah in jama’ah three times whereas, in recent years, he was normally only able to pray Dhur at the mosque. Such events surrounding my father’s death reflected his life of dignity and, by Allah’s Grace, I experienced mystical intuitions (kashf) well before his health deteriorated on the day.

His ghusl was led by Zahirul Islam Khan (Tipu bhai), with myself, Firdous Ahmed (my elder maternal uncle), Tareque Ahmed Khan (nephew and son-in-law), Nurul Haque (nephew), Rejek Ahmed (nephew), Kamal Ahmed (a cousin), Nazrul Islam (cousin), and others. The imam who led the janaza prayer was Hafiz Fazlul Karim Ferdaus. His janaza was attended by a packed mosque of some 2500 people after Dhur salah on Wednesday 20th February. One elder who has been regularly attending the mosque for decades observed that “Allah showed us today how he can turn the day of Wednesday into the day of Jumu’ah.” At 3.30 he was buried at The Vale Cemetery, Luton (plot HH-12-02), with about 150 people present. Prayers for my dad were said across mosques in Luton, the East London Mosque, and mosques in Bangladesh. May Allah accept them all.

Du’a

We pray that Allah, the Most Forgiving (Al-Gafur) and Most Generous (Al-Kareem), gives maghfirah to my father Haji Faizur Rahman Khan rahimahullah, accepts all his good deeds and enters him into Jannat al-Firdows. We pray that Allah keeps the doors of sadaqa al-jariya open for him forever. For Allah is the Most Merciful (Ar-Rahman) and Most Loving (Al-Wadud) whose mercy descends on those who show compassion to people, and we pray, “My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small” (Qur’an, 17:24). Ameen.

[2] This corresponds to 9th Mag 1350 in the Bangla calendar and 26th Muharram 1363 in the Umm al-Qura Hijri calendar.

[3] “Munshi” was an honorific title given to the families of administrators, head of departments, accountants, and secretaries hired by the government in British India, and these families were unofficially regarded as nobility.

[4] The “Windrush generation” refers to citizens of former British colonies who continued to arrive in the UK during the post-war period up to 1 January 1973, when the rights of such Commonwealth citizens to live and work in Britain were substantially curtailed. While a large proportion of them were of Jamaican/Caribbean descent, they also included other South Asians.

[5] Houssain Kettani, Muslim Population in Europe: 1950-2020, International Journal of Environmental Science and Development, Vol. 1, No. 2, June 2010

[6] Registered Mosques, 1915-1998, http://www.brin.ac.uk/figures/registered-mosques-1915-1998/.

[7] Literacy is defined as, “being able to both read and write with understanding in any language.” See: Sandeep Kapur et al., Literacy in India, August 2009.

[8] 27 Claremont Road was one of the main hubs for people from Beani Bazar, and it is thought that up to 20-30 people lived at the house in different shifts at one point.

[9] https://buryparkmasjid.co.uk/

[10] Among the leading founders of Bury Park Jamie Mosque were: Haji Abdul Bari, Haji Abdul Wahid, Haji Mukhaddas Ali; Haji Kazi Habibur Rahman, and others.

[11] See tafasir material.

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1 Response

  1. Mohammad Chowdhury says:

    Noble and kind. I never met him much but this came across when I did, in your memorial above and I see it in you. Allah rest him in peace.

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