Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Obituary: In Memory of My Loving Mother Rafiqa Khatoon (1922-2016)

My sister and I and our families bid a tearful goodbye to my loving mother Rafiqa Khatoon (1922-2016) yesterday,  July 11, 2016. Our extended family and many of our friends joined us for her funeral service at the Islamic Society of East Bay and later burial at Five Pillars Muslim Cemetery.

Rafiqa Khatoon 1922-2016
Ammee, as my sister and I called her, was an extraordinary woman. She lived a long, fulfilling life of 93 years. She lived for others more than she lived for herself.

Ammee was a pious woman. She took care of her obligations to God and to His creation, giving equal importance to both Huqooq-ul-Allah (prayer, fasting, hajj) and Huqooq-ul-Ibad (welfare of fellow humans).  My late father often described her as one-person welfare foundation doing khidmat-khalq for all comers, regardless of relationship, race, ethnicity, or religion. If she were a man in Pakistan's male-dominated society, she would probably have become another Abdus Sattar Edhi.

Ammee was a great example for me, my children and others to follow. I hope her legacy of altruism continues to inspire us to live a life of service to others.

Rafiqa Khatoon was born on September 6, 1922 in Nagina, a small town in District Bijnor, UP, India. Her father Ahmad Saeed worked for the Nawab of Rampur as his office superintendent at the time of my mother's birth. He later joined the British civil service which he left when Gandhi started Quit India movement.

My mother married my father Zahoor ul Haq on February 28, 1944. It was an arranged marriage. My father was ten years her senior. He passed away in 1981. My parents chose to have a small family well before it became fashionable.  My sister and I are their only children.

Ammee made two migrations in her 93 years: First from her hometown Bijnor to Karachi after the partition of 1947 and second from Karachi to Silicon Valley, California. She spent about one-third of her life in each of the three countries: India, Pakistan, the United States. She is now buried in Livermore, California, a distant land thousands of miles away from where she started her life.

Ammee was home-schooled in the basic three R's (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetics) by a tutor hired by my nana. She received Islamic education from another tutor who helped her read and understand the Quran.

She remained an avid reader throughout her life. She read the Quran on a daily basis. She also read books and various magazines.  She saw very few movies but she loved to watch desi television soap operas from India and Pakistan.

Ammee saw meaning in her life as long as she could be of service to others. When she had difficulty walking, she first used a walker and then a wheelchair to continue to do whatever household chores she could. She found fulfillment in sewing, cooking and cleaning. She was always looking for something to do. She would not accept NO for an answer.

The onset of dementia after she turned 90 made life difficult for her. Instead of being of help to others, she became totally dependent on others' help to live. She spent the last 18 months of her life at a Fremont nursing home where doctors, nurses and other round-the-clock caregivers looked after her. This was not acceptable to her. Life had lost all meaning for her. Even though she couldn't communicate well in the last few months of her life, I could see that she had lost the desire to live.

I visited with her every day at the nursing home and sat with her for hours. I often took her out onto the patio to get fresh air and sunlight when the weather permitted. I usually took some of the home-cooked foods she liked and fed her with a spoon. In addition to spicy desi food, she also loved mangoes and kheer which I brought to her as desert.

She stopped eating in the last days of her life. She would close her lips tight when I tried to feed her. I could see in her eyes that she was willing and ready to meet her Creator. May her soul rest in eternal peace! Amen!!

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Tribute to Edhi

Huqooq-ul-Ibad in Islam

Edhi Lived and Breathed Huqooq-ul-Ibad

Partition of India: Furies of 1947

Muslims in Silicon Valley

Eid in Silicon Valley

Pakistani Diaspora


Anonymous said...

Rip..she seems a very dignified and upright woman.You were lucky to have such a mother.

Ras S. said...

Thanks for sharing this beautiful writing Riaz.

In this life we are all migrants.

And in the next life?

Mayraj said...

Please accept my heartfelt condolences. Your mother, as you described her, was a wonderful human being. You are lucky to have had her for so long with you. She must must be content with such a good son.

About her desire to stop eating. This has happened in my family. An uncle did this and so did his younger sister. No matter when a parent passes away, it is hard to bear.

With sympathy for your great loss from

Ahmed F. said...

A precious memory that comes through in your post. People like her come rarely these days. Interestingly my father worked at the sugar mill in Rampur.

Asif Farooqui said...

Please accept my condolences. May Allah grant her highest rank in Jannat and give you patience to bear this loss.

AJ said...

She was a jannati person. I have very fond memories of her when she visited us in Minneapolis. My mom was also living when she came. Allah will give her the best place in Jannat iA. I knew most of what you have in her obituary or at least I had a sense about Munnan Aunty ' life I was still compelled to read the whole writeup and reread it. What a life she had.

Anonymous said...

My sincere condolence chacha-jan. She looks like a gentle and pious soul, may the allmighty grant her peace and safe passage to the next world.

Imran said...

I’m so very sorry for your loss, losing a parent at any age is tough. It’s obvious that she lived a joyful and complete life and was able to spread her legacy to grandchildren and great grandchildren; who will continue to cherish the memories she left behind. I hope you find comfort in knowing that you were able to take care of her when she needed the most.
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, May God blesses her soul.
-Imran Yousufzai

Rizwan said...

Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon. May Allah grant her forgiveness and a place in the highest Jannah, in the company of the Prophet (saws) and the pious. She seems to be a very caring person, and your love for her is obvious in your post. May Allah give you the patience and endurance to bear with your loss.

NotJudgin said...

Sorry for your loss.

Faced a similar situation with my nana with the dimentia, bedridden and all, she was 94.

It is (not) strange when we are born, cannot talk, walk or even shit by ourselves, our parents refuse to stick us in orphanage, but when our parents turn to the age where God returns them to the childlike state, people who are more civilized than us, deposit/abandon those parent to care facilities.

I dont mean to poke at you, but it is a sad reality, especially if one has money and resources to do otherwise.

May God help us to fullfil our duties.

Ravi Krishna said...

That was a very moving and touching tribute. Mother is mother in all culture. Irreplaceable. My condolences.

Riaz Haq said...

NJ: "but when our parents turn to the age where God returns them to the childlike state, people who are more civilized than us, deposit/abandon those parent to care facilities."

We tried to take care of my mom at home as best as we could for as long as we could. We did it ourselves and had a nurse come to our house to help feed, clean and bathe her.

But when aging adults like my mom with fragile bodies absolutely require specialized 24X7X365 care from skilled caregivers, it is not possible to provide it to them at home.

India, Pakistan and most developing nations now have young populations and average life expectancy is still in mid-60s.

As these countries become more developed and have longer life expectancies, their old population in 80s and 90s will grow and it will require more specialized care in institutional settings.

Foundations like Edhi's have started meeting this need on a relatively small scale now. But these nations are not yet prepared to do so on a larger scale. I hope this reality starts to sink in soon.

Majumdar said...

Heartfelt condolences, sir!


Anonymous said...

Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon. Sorry to hear about your loss. May she be granted an exalted position in Hannah.


Jay said...

Mr. Haq, my condolences. What a wonderful lady.

Out of curiosity, do you know when your ancestors converted from Hinduism? Or do you think they were of Persian/Turkish/ Uzebek/Arab ancestry? Hope question does not offend.

Riaz Haq said...

Jay: " do you know when your ancestors converted from Hinduism"

Humanity is older than all religions, including ancient religions. The ancestors of all of the people of religion alive today converted to Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. at some point in the past in earlier generations.

I have seen our family tree maintained by several people in both India and Pakistan. It does not show any non-Muslim names. It extends back in time many many generations in India. However, it only has male names; no females are mentioned.

We do know that many Muslim men married Hindu women in India. A well-know example is Jodha Akbar who married Jalaluddin Akbar and gave birth to Saleem Jahangir. So it is possible the my family had a similar situation where fathers were Muslims and mothers were Hindus.

As to the genetic origins of Indians, Harvard research shows that most Ancestral North Indians (ANIs that include Pakistanis) have genetic origins in Central and West Asia and the Middle East.


Iqbal Singh said...

My condolences. May she R.I.P

Mahesh said...

She has left for a better place yet, I am sure, plenty of wisdom for many in this world to cherish. God Bless!

Chandra said...

Very sad for your loss. In her passing, it seems both Indians and Pakistanis have come together to pray for her. Maybe her passing day or on her birthday, Riaz Sir, you can have Pakistanis and Indians say only genuinely good things about each other. Being a gentle person, I am sure she would like that.

Sid said...

Sorry to hear about your Mother. How often did she visit her motherland which is technically India but Pakistan also? What were her enjoyable experiences from both those places? Thank You.

Riaz Haq said...

Sid: "How often did she visit her motherland which is technically India but Pakistan also? What were her enjoyable experiences from both those places? Thank You."

My mom was a frequent visitor to both India and Pakistan for as long as she could travel. Her favorite occasions were big family events like births, weddings, funerals, etc. that gave her a chance to share the joys and sorrows of her family and friends.

On occasion, she also visited family and friends in Europe. I joined her when she went to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj. She needed help there because of her limited physical mobility in late 1990s. She performed Hajj in a wheelchair that I had the good fortune to push as she did sai and tawaf in Makkah.

The last time she visited both India and Pakistan was in 2009. She attended the wedding of my nephew in Pakistan during that trip. My wife, children and I joined her as well in 2009.

Khalid said...

May Allah give her Jana , Very nicely written obituary for your mother ,after reading she is same like my mother always busy looking after near and distant relative ,helping them ,loving them . You are lucky that Allah gave you chance to take care of her .My mother last name is also Khatoon , she also migrated from Bihar ,India to Karachi .

Best wishes


Riaz Haq said...

Khalid: "May Allah give her Jana , Very nicely written obituary for your mother ,after reading she is same like my mother always busy looking after near and distant relative ,helping them ,loving them . You are lucky that Allah gave you chance to take care of her .My mother last name is also Khatoon , she also migrated from Bihar ,India to Karachi ."

Thank you Khalid sahab.

May your mother rest in peace! Amen!!

Riaz Haq said...

NY Times on Indian Police Violence in Nagina, the birthplace of my mother

#India #Police Are Accused of Abusing #Muslims. Cops in small town of Nagina in #Bijnor district chased #Muslim teenagers into an empty house. They grabbed them and took them to a makeshift jail. And then they tortured them. #CAAProtests #Modi #Hindutva https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/02/world/asia/india-protests-police-muslims.html

In Uttar Pradesh, the northern Indian state where Nagina is and the one with the most Muslim residents, the rioting has been among the most intense, and the violent backlash from the police has been the most deadly and troubling.

According to accounts by the detained boys in Nagina, along with family members and other officials in their town who spoke to them immediately after they were released, police officers over the course of 30 hours terrorized them and others who had been demonstrating on Dec. 20.

Police officials in the town deny that any abuse happened, or that minors had been detained at all around that time.

According to two of the boys, the officers laughed during beatings, saying, “You will die in this prison.”

“They were so scared that hardly anyone could speak,” said Khalil-ur-Rehman, a municipal officer in Nagina who met the children at a police station as soon as they were released on Dec. 22. “How do you justify detaining minors, let alone beating them black and blue?”

In an audio recording that some residents and officials say features the voice of Sanjeev Tyagi, the superintendent of police in the Bijnor district, which includes Nagina, a man orders police officers to “break the arms and legs of those throwing stones at police stations.”

“Go and fix them,” he said.

Mr. Tyagi looked surprised and a bit disturbed when asked, during an interview with The New York Times, about this recording. He declined to say whether his was the voice on the recording, which one officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals, said had been radioed out to the police force. Since then it has been widely shared on social media.

After India’s Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act on Dec. 11, hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into the streets in many cities across the country to oppose the law, which favors every major South Asian faith over Islam.

Riaz Haq said...

Today July 11th was the 4th anniversary of the passing of my dear mother Rafiqa Khatoon. Fond memories of her life and times will always be cherished by me, my family and all those whose lives she touched in her 3 homes in #India, #Pakistan & #UnitedStates.