Husam Kaikati of Cambridge returns to Allah

29/3/10: Bismillah.  We buried Husam on Saturday, rahimahullah. Omar Mahroo, jazahullahu khayran, drove me and our elder boys up to Cambridge. At the funeral prayer and/or burial, amongst several hundred mourners, were: Sheikh Sejad, the young Bosnian imam (behind whom I used to say the Friday prayers at Hendon mosque) who led the Zuhr prayer; Abdul Jalil Mirza, who flew all the way from Saudi the day before, just for the funeral; Abdul Qayyum Arrain; Abdul Lateef Rajput; Aahmer, his dad and many of their clan; Dr. Abdul Ma’bud of the Islamic Academy in Cambridge and student of the late Prof. Syed Ali Ashraf rahimahullah; Ellis Karim; the sons of Abdul Shakoor Chilwan, who was abroad; Yusuf, teenage son of Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad (also abroad).  Husam’s younger brother Yasir and three sons were there, of course: Muhammad, Abdullah & Umar.  They are all handsome young men now, masha’Allah, but are obviously devastated at the moment.  The last time I saw the elder two, they were toddlers running around their house, 18 years ago.  Their mum Julie and younger sister Safiyyah were presumably in the women’s section of the mosque; there were no women at the burial.

It was good to see several children, all boys aged 7-12 roughly, at the funeral and burial: children above an appropriate age are not traumatised or emotionally scarred by witnessing a funeral; rather, they are strengthened emotionally and begin to learn that most valuable of lessons: that death often punctuates life unexpectedly.  The more materialistic our lives and societies are, the more we become in a state of denial about death, and the harder it becomes for us to face up to the reality of the death of a loved one.  And, as far as I know, it is perfectly acceptable in Islamic tradition for women to attend burials if they so wish, and perhaps this should be encouraged, especially since it may help a grieving mother, wife, sister or daughter etc. come to terms with their loss.

There were many old friends there: a very emotional reunion in obviously sad circumstances.  Husam was buried next to Abdul Majid Arain, Abdul Qayyum’s father who died last year, rahimahullah.  Here are some tributes to Husam.

Yasir Kaikati: “My brother was an imam and khatib who wasn’t afraid to speak the truth based on what Allah and His Messenger said.  He visited prisoners to help them and also made many trips to talk to students at universities in London.  He would often be the first to literally jump into graves to help bury deceased people.  People would ask him to lead the funeral prayers for their relatives.  It’s almost unbelievable that it’s now his turn to be buried. Rahimahullah.”

Aahmer: “A great loss to Cambridge.”

Mujahid Khalid: “inna lillahi wa inna elaihi raajioon – I’m devastated to hear this news. I loved this brother for the sake of Allah. We last met in Riyadh 2 years ago with our brother Muhammad an-Najjar. May Allah have mercy on him and his family.”

Ziyad Abubacker: “Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon. IA may Allah grant him peace and rahmah. He was Alhamdulillah, a kind man and brings back many fond memories of our early days in Cambridge. He was the khateeb in the masjid and used to run the Friday study circle.”

Ibn Abdil Shakoor Chilwan: “My father moved with us, the entire family, from Haverhill to Cambridge to be closer to Husam and Mustafa.” [Mustafa is a Libyan brother, another regular at the Friday circle during my time, now settled abroad.]

Which reminds me, that at the Friday circle 1989-92, we would all introduce ourselves briefly at the end of the circle, before the tea & biscuits.  Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim insisted on this: it was a good practice he seemed to have learnt from his al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun training, although it seemed a bit pointless on the days when there were no newcomers, since we all knew each other pretty well by then. Br Abdul Shakoor would always say, “… I live in Haverhill, about 20 miles from here.” After hearing this weekly for months, Husam finally teased him once, asking, “Why do you always say: about 20 miles from here ?!”

I’ve just remembered another anecdote: Husam once took me and another student friend to visit a middle-aged Turkish friend of his, originally from Adana. (Syria & Turkey share a border, of course, and there is much friendship between the peoples of the two countries.)  This chap was well-educated and a wise man.  During our conversation he mentioned the story of Sayyidina Umar b. al-Khattab, whilst in Madinah, having a waking vision of his commander Sariyah in trouble battle in Syria or Persia.  Sayyiduna Umar called out, “Sariyah! [Move towards] the mountain!”  Sariyah heard a voice exclaiming the same advice hundreds of miles away and somehow knew that it was from Umar.  He obeyed the advice and the tactic proved successful.  Anyway, this was the first time I had heard this story (which I finally read over a decade later in Suyuti’s Tarikh al-Khulafa’ or History of the Caliphs) and my initial reaction was that it was a weak hadith or some Sufi nonsense, and said so. (Remember, I was a radical young salafi at this time.) Husam corrected me, and the two of them seemed to be surprised that I didn’t know the story.  One lesson I’ve learnt from this and countless other incidents is that many Western Muslims, converts and others, travel to the East with wide-eyed wonder and learn many things which we then give lectures, sermons or talks based on, when many Eastern Muslims learnt those things as children and often scratch their heads in amusement at their Western friends’ wearing of a very childish Islam on their sleeves.

To reiterate: I knew Husam 1989-92 and got to know him very well, and loved him a lot.  He was roughly 25-28 years old during this period: a young man with a young wife and children.  He recited the Qur’an beautifully, although he didn’t lead the Friday prayers etc. until the mid-90’s, although he was always an active member of the community.  Unfortunately, I largely lost touch with the Cambridge mosque community over the last 18 years although I maintained intermittent contact with the university Isoc.  Husam spent much of those 18 years abroad, pursuing his business interests, but his family were now resettled in Cambridge and he was hoping to move back there himself, although he obviously paid regular visits.  I hope that other people will share their memories of Husam, especially those who kept his company for longer, such as his close family and friends, since my recollections are for a relatively short period and long ago.  Imam Sakhawi said, “Whoever biographs a believer, it is as though s/he has brought him/her back to life.”

Husam’s mum and his wife had requested that someone who knew him personally should lead his funeral prayer: his sons were the obvious choice but had no experience of doing so.  So the family asked br. Abdul Qayyum to lead, but he asked me to lead.  Sheikh Sejad was kind and understanding in this regard.  I thank Allah and then the Kaikati family & friends for the immense honour and privilege of leading the janazah prayer of a long-lost, dear friend, although I was trembling internally at the time, as I am know whilst writing about it.  And I’ve never buried a dearer friend, so it was difficult to leave the graveside.  I can’t imagine what it must be like for those who have to bury close family members.  I thought of my father leading his own father’s funeral prayer, three years ago.

It was a beautiful, sunny day in Cambridge during the burial on Saturday afternoon, just like the sunny Eid al-Adha day many years ago when I last saw Husam alive.  Allah’s decree is most mysterious: Husam had invited me to lead the Eid prayer, and I didn’t see him again until I led another prayer that has no adhan or iqamah, his funeral prayer 18 years later.  The two Eids are themselves symbolic of the believer’s joy at meeting God, coming as they do after the month of fasting, which symbolises the tribulations of life, or the Day of ‘Arafah, which is a symbol of the Day of Resurrection.  I therefore pray that Husamuddin Kaikati’s funeral prayer was indeed like the Eid prayers, a prelude to the Ultimate Happiness.

27/3/10: Bismillah. The funeral prayer of our dear, departed friend, Husam Uddin Kaikati, will be held after the afternoon prayer (1.15pm) today, Saturday 27th March 2010 at Abu Bakr Siddiq Mosque on Mawson Road, Cambridge CB1 2DZ. Burial at the crematorium, Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0JJ, God-willing.

Husam, originally from Syria, died on Thursday 25th March at the age of 46 of some kind of heart attack, it seems – he had been fitted with a pacemaker many years ago.  He was in Austria, attending to some business interests, when he died.  He leaves behind his English wife Julie, and four children: three sons and a daughter, the youngest.  I’m told that the two elder children are in their twenties whilst the younger two are teenagers.  Condolences to them all.

I first met Husam at the Cambridge Mosque in 1989 when I began at university.  He was a regular at the daily prayers and at the Friday night tafsir circle where Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim (the mosque khatib at the time), Hisham Quwaidir, Abdul Jalil Mirza, Abdul Shakoor Chilwan and others were also active. The other regular students at the circle included Mujahid Khalid (Girton), Ridzuan Abdul Rahim (Churchill), Wan Ahmed Saifuddin (St. Catherine’s), Elyas Patel and Samir Siksek.  In later years, there were Taqi Hashmi, Mahbub Gani, Ziyad Abubacker, Tawqeer Rashid and others.  All of these people will be heartbroken at Husam’s departure, as I am.  Condolences to them also.

Husam recited the Qur’an beautifully – he had a lovely voice.  His recitation was probably the best at the tafsir circle during my time there. And I’m told he led the Friday prayers at the mosque in the years after I left Cambridge.

But he wasn’t a scholarly type: rather, an active businessman.  Always wheeling and dealing, buying and selling cars from auctions etc, a kind of “Del Boy” with the joviality and sense of humour to match.  He opened a grocery shop around the corner from the mosque around 1990 and we would often have lunch there.  I remember he once stopped me from buying a £2 sandwich from his own shop, saying that it was a rip-off and would be taken back by the sandwich company in the evening, since it was on a sale-or-return basis.  “For £1, you can buy a loaf of bread and cheese: you can eat, I can eat, everyone here can eat!”  On another occasion in the same shop, he was speaking to Abu Muntasir on the phone and before passing the phone to me, pretended to put me through on a switchboard with a Fonejacker-esque crackling sound.

All my memories of him involve his smiling face and his constant humour.  Like many of the Arab brothers in Cambridge, he was very keen on football: playing and watching.  I remember he took me to a friend’s flat after our final exams in 1992 for dinner etc. and an England match was on during the European championships.  Husam had nicknamed England’s midfielder Carlton Palmer, “the chicken-man,” because of the way he ran with his long legs and noticed that Palmer would often fall over whilst in possession of the ball.  He kept saying during that match, “Weyn [colloquial Arabic for “where is”] chicken-man?  He’s gonna fall over!” and chuckling away.

Husam used to pray at Sheikh Albani’s mosque in Damascus as a young man. He once told me that Albani would usually say his dhikr after the fard prayers whilst walking home, where he would pray the sunnah rak’at.  I had come to Cambridge as an ardent Albani-fan (all of us at JIMAS were, at the time, of course, except that JIMAS was called HISAM at the time, a word essentially the same as Husam, meaning “Sword” [of Islam]). It was Husam who, upon discovering that I was a fan of his Sheikh, immediately gave me a brand-new paperback copy of the Sheikh’s book on prayer which I translated into English by the grace of Allah, 1989-90, eventually published by JIMAS in 1993 as The Prophet’s Prayer Described.  That book has had an official print-run since then of about 50,000 plus unauthorised prints, so alhamdulillah, tens of thousands of people have benefited from it, especially from the full range of exquisite Prophetic supplications for every posture in prayer, a feature that I have not seen in any other book, in any language.  Certainly not in such an accessible manner.  The book also raised the ijtihad/taqlid issue and eventually helped to provoke a furious, though erroneous, madhhabist reaction.  The madhhabist/anti-madhhabist debate is still ongoing in English-speaking circles although more and more people are realising how anachronistic it is, as we appreciate the significance of Maqasid theory.  Thus, I hope that the reward for every person who has benefited from that translation, or still does or will benefit from it in the future: the reward will accrue to Husam’s account in the presence of the Almighty.  I don’t think Husam knew that it was his gift to a young student that would become a best-selling book in translation, since we never met after it was published.

Husam always reminded me of the Companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who would laugh and joke a lot.  When some of the more austere Companions complained about this to the Prophet, he replied, “da’hu fa innahu yuhibbu’Llaha wa rasulahu – Let him be, for he loves Allah and His Messenger.”

عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ، عَنْ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ، قَالَ: التَّاجِرُ الصَّدُوقُ الْأَمِينُ مَعَ النَّبِيِّينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ. سنن الترمذي، مشكواة، باب المسائلة.

Imam Tirmidhi transmitted the hadith on the authority of Abu Sa’id, who said: The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “The honest trader will be (raised) with the Prophets, the truthful ones and martyrs.”

(Mishkat, Chapter on Mutual Flexibility, hadith nos. 2796-7).

Although Tirmidhi and Albani declared the isnad to be weak, the meaning of the hadith is acceptable: my grandfather included it in his Intikhab-e-Hadith (no. 283) / Way of the Prophet (Islamic Foundation, no. 276) and Yusuf al-Qaradawi quoted it in his Al-Halal wa l-Haram fi l-Islam (The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam).  My grandfather commented thus:

This Hadith makes it clear that Islam is not merely a few rituals of worship; rather, honesty and integrity in trade are also important parts of the religion, without which the performance of worship rituals have no weight with Allah.

Husam certainly loved God and His Messenger and was a scrupulously-honest trader in our estimation, and only Allah knows everyone’s true state.

I’m pretty sure that the last time I met Husam was on Eid day in 1992: he had invited me up to Cambridge from London to lead the Eid prayer, so I spent Eid night at his house and he drove me to the community centre for prayer in the morning.  There had been some confusion as to whether or not there was anyone available in Cambridge to lead the prayer, and someone else led in the end.  But it means that the last time I saw my dear friend alive in this world, it was a day of immense happiness for both of us and our families and communities.  I pray that we meet in the next life, also in a state of overflowing joy.

May Allah accept Husam Kaikati’s lifetime of love, worship and hard work, forgive his mistakes and draw him near to His Presence in the Gardens of Paradise.  May He bless Sister Julie and the rest of Husam’s family and grant them peace, strength and fortitude.

Usama Hasan, London.  Completed at the breaking of dawn, Saturday 27th March 2010 / 11th Rabi’ II 1431

The original 20-year-old copy of Albani's prayer-book that Husam Kaikati gave to Usama Hasan

The first English edition of Albani's prayer-book, 1993

Bismillah. Sad news received this morning (Thurs 25th March 2010).

Verily to Allah belongs what He took and to Him belongs what he gave, and everything with Him has an appointed time.

Assalaam alaykum wrwb. It is with great sadness that we announce on behalf of Sister Julie and the Kaikati family that their beloved husband and father, Husam Uddin Kaikati, passed away in Austria early this morning. We will forward on details of the funeral arrangements for those of you who would like to attend as soon as they are received Insha’Allah. Wasalaam.

The Office of Cambridge Muslim Trust
office@cambridgemuslimtrust.org
Website: http://www.cambridgemuslims.co.uk
Registered United Kingdom Charity
Registration Number: 1125964

“O Allah, guide me among those you have guided. Grant me safety among those you have granted safety. Take care of me among those whom you have taken care of. Bless me in what you have given. Protect me from the evil you have decreed, for you decree and nothing is decreed upon you. No one who is in your care is humiliated and there is no honour for the one you take as enemy. Blessed and Exalted are you. O our Lord may you bless the Prophet Mohammed.”

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2 Responses to “Husam Kaikati of Cambridge returns to Allah”

  1. Wan Ahmad Saifuddin Says:

    Salam Usama,

    A wonderful piece indeed. I remember well the days with Husam, always the most energetic among us, and also the football matches! Also if I am not mistaken I had a great meal at his house once. I am humbled by your mention of me, and have 2 copies of your Al-Albaani translation, lest my wife and I fight over it! Syeikh Abdul Hakim Murad is currently, or was recently in Kuala Lumpur doing the Cambridge Mosque fund-raising, insha’Allah will try to catch him when I am back. Currently in transit in Frankfurt on the way home.

    • Usama Hasan Says:

      wa ‘alaykum as-salam, Wan Sai. Thank you for the comments. Regrettably, I never played football with you guys in those days. I was more into cricket at the time! Hope you’ve returned home safely now.

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