It was early June, if not late May. Mustafa and I were in the middle of a large meal at Behesht Restaurant on the Harrow Road. As always we started off the meal with his favourite Salad Olvieh and Naan bread before moving on to the large Mixed Special Kebab, which although was designed to feed four people, never really posed us any difficulties. It was somewhere between the tender baby lamb fillet and the succulent chicken that our thoughts turned to the subject of Ramadan.
Only a month or so away, the pre-Ramadan excitement had slowly started to build. We began to reminisce nostalgically about the many past Ramadans we had shared. From the Ramadans we were less proud of when we would sneak out of the London Central Mosque after 8 rakat (units of prayer) as teens to go and smoke shisha on the Edgware Road to, alhamdulillah (praise be to God), more recent Ramadans where we would spend the 27th night together praying qiyam al-layl (late night or all night vigil) at the London Muslim Centre in East London. With these memories in mind, we started to plan for this year’s Ramadan.
Mustafa and I looked forward to the end of July. We were excited for our annual iftar trip to Behesht (praying maghrib in the forecourt of a nearby mechanic). We looked forward to the nights of taraweeh (optional Ramadan prayers after Isha) at Al Manaar Mosque in West London followed by mint tea and patisserie in Shepherd’s Bush (mille-feuille was his favourite). We also looked forward to the nights of qiyam (optional night prayers) at the LMC followed by a bagel (or 4 in his case) on London’s famous Brick Lane for suhoor (pre-dawn breakfast); all actions which, by now, had become traditions that added that little bit of colour to our Ramadan each year.
So this past Saturday night, as was customary, I was being driven across West London to Al Manaar mosque. Much to Mustafa’s frustration I never quite got round to taking my driving license. Unlike last year however, or the year before, Mustafa wasn’t the one driving me to the mosque.
Mustafa, or as his gravestone will read, Amir Mustafa Noor Mohyuddin, was buried on Friday, 20th July 2012, the first day of Ramadan. Three days before Ramadan, at roughly 5pm on Tuesday, 17th July, Mustafa knocked on his neighbour’s door to borrow his motorbike and ride it down the road for a test drive. Just after 6pm, Mustafa was declared dead. He suffered multiple injuries in an accident. No one knows quite what happened.
The only certainty from that day is that 25 years and 43 days after his birth, Mustafa’s appointed time had caught up with him. Truly to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) we belong and verily to Him we shall return.
Mustafa was young and healthy—this August he was due to celebrate his second-year marriage anniversary with his wife. His death came as a shock to us all, to his loving elderly parents, to his doting wife, and to his closest friends.
Last Ramadan as Mustafa and I prayed side by side at Al Manaar mosque, or as we over-ate across the table from each other at Behesht, little did we know that it was already written for him that he would not live to see another Ramadan. How many of us are observing Ramadan this year, oblivious to the fact that it may be our last?
There are, of course, many things we can all do to ensure that we maximise the potential for Allah’s forgiveness and rahma in this holy month. Are we maximising our recitation and study of the Qur’an? Are we performing taraweeh prayer and qiyam al-Layl on top of our 5 obligatory prayers? Are we refraining from lying, backbiting, gossiping, and cursing to ensure our fast is accepted? Are we giving as much as we should in charity?
Ultimately we will all decide to spend Ramadan in our own way. Therefore, I leave you with one simple question: What would you do differently during these last nights of Ramadan if you knew it was your last?
As the Ramadan fatigue starts to hit, just remember Mustafa and what he would have done to pray one more qiyam, to give one more sadaqa (charity), and to make one more du`a’ (supplication).