By IMTIYAZ SHAIKH
“Sister Sumaiyya has passed away today. She recently reverted to Islam. As all relatives of the deceased are non-Muslims, you are requested to attend the funeral at 5.30 pm.” “To Allah we belong and to Him is our return.” August 1, 11, 4.28 pm.
I received the above message on my cell phone while working in my office. I was just wondering who the sister could be, when I received a phone call saying that her husband was not allowing her body for burial. Later her husband finally did agree to hand over the body for the funeral.
When I reached the funeral site, I realised that there were no relatives of the deceased around. A group of volunteering women had shrouded the late sister. The funeral prayers were attended by around a thousand people. Somebody called her son to join the funeral who came to participate in the ceremony. I offered my heartfelt condolences to her son. Her last journey had been in the month of holy Ramadhan. He said my mother must be in the Paradise.
My curiosity to know about this lady was piqued and this is what I discovered. Here is the soul stirring story of Reena Manwani (name changed to protect identity).
52-year-old Sister Reena belonged to a wealthy family and had all the luxuries of life at her disposal. Over a period she had developed various diseases like diabetes, asthma and kidney trouble. She was undergoing treatment with Dr Ayesha Shaikh (name changed to protect identity).
In March 2010 Reena felt ill and visited Dr Ayesha at her clinic. On examination, the doctor suspected Sister Reena may be suffering from swine flu and sent her for an H1N1 test. Sister Reena tested positive for swine flu and was quarantined along with other patients at a government hospital. There were around 8-10 swine flu patients along with her. More than 50 people from the city had already lost their lives due to swine flu. One by one all the swine flu patients in the H1N1 ward died except Sister Reena. She recovered completely from swine flu and started leading a normal life again.
When asked how she survived from the dreadful disease, Sister Reena remarked that she had been saved by Dr Ayesha’s ‘Bhagwan’ (God/deity) as Dr Ayesha prayed for every patient visiting her clinic.
In June 2010 Sister Reena came down to Dr Ayesha’s clinic to express gratitude and told her how she knew she had survived because of her ‘Bhagwan’. Reena wanted to know more about this ‘Bhagwan’.
The doctor explained the concept of monotheism in Islam, that there is one and only one God (Allah) who has created everything. He has ordained for humanity a very simple and straight path which is Islam. She explained how people have carved various shapes of idols and associated numerous partners with God. Allah’s divinity is exclusive and all-powerful and he is not dependent on any other entity or human form to complete Him. Doctor Ayesha was sure that Reena was especially chosen for guidance and hence God had saved her life. This was the turning point in the life of Sister Reena.
Sister Reena was so impressed by the concept of monotheism that the Holy Ka’aba of Makkah began appearing in her dreams. She came to Dr Ayesha to know whether she could visit Makkah and Medinah. Dr Ayesha replied, “Yes. Provided you accept the faith.”
To know more about Allah the Exalted, Sister Reena was given a copy of Hindi translation of the Holy Qur’ān and other books. Thus began the holy journey of the sister from darkness to light.
In July 2010, Sister Reena came back to the doctor and said she had studied the books and decided to accept Islam. In the clinic itself she pronounced Shahadah (the proclamation of faith) and entered the fold of Islam. She changed her name to Sumaiyya, a name she had herself found from the internet.
Sister Sumaiyya’s world changed. She wanted to keep her faith confidential, however she had a concern. She used to say, “I want to save myself from the torment of hell fire.” She had a sense of urgency: “I have very less time. I want to learn how to practise Islam at the earliest”.
On Sister Reena’s request she was provided with female teachers who taught her the ways of worshipping and took care that her faith was not revealed to anybody.
She had stopped going to Satsangs and other forms of idol worship. She started covering herself fully in accordance with the Islamic way of modesty. She cherished the noble and pristine pure teachings of Islam. People who visited her said she was an extremely warm and cheerful person, very eager to learn and practise her new faith.
When asked about her previous life, she would confidently respond, “Forget about my past, now that I have found the Right Path and I am least bothered about my past.”
Simultaneously she was counselling her acquaintances to adopt her way of life.
Sometime in December 2010, her family members began growing suspicious about her lifestyle and started questioning her. Those were testing times for her as she dealt with opposition and resistance from her family.
In spite of her illnesses and torments from her near ones, she never regretted her decision. She was the epitome of steadfastness and stood her ground. As the frequency of her dialyses increased, she asked for only one help – she wanted to make a will proclaiming that she was a practising Muslim and in case of her demise she should be buried in a Muslim cemetery. In July an affidavit was made as per her will, witnessed by her only son and nephew.
On August 1, 2011, when Ramadhan had dawned in some parts of the world, Sister Sumaiyya departed from this temporary abode to meet her ‘Bhagwan’, who had transformed her life from oblivion to eternity.
“O (thou) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back thou to thy Lord well pleased (thyself), and well-pleasing unto Him! Enter thou, then, among my Devotees!. Yea, enter thou my Heaven!” (Qur’an Chapter 89 verse 27 to 30)
As I reflect on her case, I wonder how many more Sumaiyyas may be in the waiting only to be told of the Creator’s message. If our Lord asks us if we have communicated His message to His servants, what shall we reply?