Remembering Ahmed

I mentioned last week how a dear friend, Ahmed Hussain, had passed away unexpectedly.   Sabih Khan has set up a page that is a treasure trove of wonderful pictures of Ahmed over the years.  It’s a fitting tribute that give you a hint of what a fun, loving, and much loved person Ahmed was.  (Thank you, Sabih.  You did a great job!)

There’s even a picture of me with Ahmed, so I guess my secret identity is now blown (time for the Mossad to relocate me).  I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you which one.  (Remember that game, "One of these things doesn’t belong"?)

Joined a large group of people whose lives had been touched by Ahmed the night of his funeral.  We reminisced and swapped anecdotes about Ahmed’s zest for life and puckish sense of humor.

When I shared one wonderful anecdote that was not only a bit naughty–like me, Ahmed had a soft spot for double entendres and earthy jokes–but also a smidgin irreverent, I scandalized a few people.  As was completely appropriate.  Ahmed was always startling uptight moslems with naughty oneliners (but never vulgar ones–for all his jokes, he was actually very innocent, very sharif).  I don’t know whether this was conscious on his part, but I think his double entendres and subversive wisecracks slowly educated those around him.  Like some subversive sheikh, he needled his interlocutors with wisecracks and jokes that  implicitly challenged all these stiff, pretentious MSA-style norms about how a "good Muslim" is supposed to behave in public.

Lets face it, Muslims can be real wet blankets.   Thanks, I believe, to the combination of dysfunctional imported cultural attitudes and the diasphoric instinct to overcompensate and posture, many American Islamic orgs have a disstressing tendency to turn warm, vibrant people into uptight, mirthless automatons reminiscent of "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers".  They’re harmless and mean well, but it’s a depressing pattern that you see over and over again. So-and-so decides to gets "serious" about Islam…and becomes a self-righteous prig whose disapproving, uptight stare can empty a room in nanonseconds.

Ahmed knew it wasn’t meant to be thus.  He never got the happiness-is-haraam memo.

Ahmed never bought into the idea that it’s undignified or unsophisticated to be warm and unpretentious.  He knew you could be profound and still be goofy.  And, most importantly, he didn’t assume the demeanor of an undertaker when the subject of Islam came up.   To the contrary, that was when he was most jovial, masha’Allah.

I didn’t put my finger on it till that night, but that’s what I treasured most about him.   He didn’t keep himself in hermetically sealed boxes.  He understood that the sublime and the absurd, the sacred and the profane, exist within us all, and he didn’t apologize for comingling them enthusiastically.  He was balanced.  He was real.  He’ll be missed.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon. We belong to God and to Him we return. (Quran 2:156)

Ahmed Hussain 1974 – 2006
[Note: You'll want a fast connection for this page, as there are a lot of large photos.]