When I was young, I remember telling everyone that Cik Jaja’s my favourite uncle. Even then, I knew that we are not supposed to have favourites but you know the human heart. It works in its own way. Cik Jaja was kind and had an infectious laugh. He was extremely generous and always made me feel very comforted and welcome. I was so attached to him that he allowed me to sleep in between him and Aunty Ani during their wedding night! No kidding.
I remember the first time I met him while wearing the hijab. I had been struggling internally with the change that, to me, was pretty drastic. He paused when he saw me. Then, his face broke into one of the most sincere smiles I’d ever seen. He said reassuringly, “Alia, you are very brave.”
I also remember seeing Cik Jaja at Port Dickson. He really wanted everyone to reunite there for a family holiday. We already had plans to meet him merely 2 weeks later but it felt right. Without even thinking, we booked tickets to go.
Cancer has a way of changing a person. Cik Jaja’s hair was almost all gone. He looked peculiar without his eyebrows. He was breathing short gasps. He had dark circles under his eyes. However, his eyes were gleaming with immense joy. He couldn’t stop smiling. Cik Jaja had always loved family reunions. That’s just how he is.
When it was time to leave, I hugged him as tightly as I could.
“See you soon, Cik Jaja!”
A week later, Mama called me while I was working. She was crying so hard that I could not make out what she was saying. I figured it out – Cik Jaja was gone. My hands trembled uncontrollably. I felt my head spinning. My heart was so shattered. “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un,” I whispered to myself, almost reluctantly. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. We didn’t even get to see his face for the last time because the burial was in Malaysia and took place too quickly.
My aunt later told me that the whole time Cik Jaja was in the hospital, his tongue was moist with Zikr and his right index finger was always raised, as if he was constantly reciting the shahadah. Ma Shaa Allah.
It’s funny, isn’t it? We dwell in forgetfulness. We sleep through Fajr prayers. We hurt others. We let anger overcome us. We concern ourselves with things that don’t matter. Yet, we mourn for the dead but we don’t mourn for those who are still living but are spiritually dead. We cry for the life that has returned but we fail to see how we have meandered in our path to Him.
The Prophet (saw) said: “He who remembers his Lord and he who does not remember his Lord are like the living and the dead.”
Who is dead, really?
La Hawla wa laa quwwata illa billaahi al’aliyy Al-‘Atheem (There is no might nor power except with Allah, Most High, the Great). We breathe only because of Allah. Every breath is a gift. Every breath is a blessing. Every breath is a second chance. When we internalize the fact that Allah is present in every single breath we take, we can’t help but be in a state of constant remembrance. When we start living in breaths, every action will be an act of worship. We are in worship when we wake up. We are in worship when we leave our homes to go to work. We are in worship when we choose what to eat. We are even in worship when we go in and out of the toilet.
As long as we remember, we are alive. And as long as our intention is right and as long as we persevere through the struggles and don’t give up, we succeed, no matter what the outcome is.
“It was We who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.”