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.]

  • Abu Sinan

    May Allah have mercy on his soul. Looks like the brother was well thought of and had many friends.

  • Aisha

    When I read this tribute to your friend I assuemd he was an older man. I was thrown when I saw the pictures and saw how young he was. That breaks my heart. May Allah grant him jannat. It seems he touched many lives for the better.

  • najm

    subhan Allah. I remember chatting with him this past ISRA conference and seeing him around at various masajid. While hanging out at the registration table at ISRA he was mentioning how Krispy Kreme donuts were a tajalli of Allah’s Rahmah, making all the sisters at the table whisper astaghfirullah as they giggled. May Allah shower His mercy upon him.

  • Svend

    Oh, he had legions of friends. Accompanying him at ISNA was quite an experience, as he really seemed to know everybody in that hall.
    He certainly was so young, and he was just starting to make some important changes (e.g., the more recent photos show him the slimmest I’ve ever seen him) in his life when he was taken from us.
    That’s the perfect anecdote, Najm. It’s all his wisdom and enthusiasm for life in a nutshell. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Nadiya

    He will indeed be missed. Very well said :)

  • Sabih Khan

    He was like a bro to as all. He will truely be missed. It was my duty to him to put up this website, theres no reason why all my pictures of him shouldnt be shared. I still can’t really believe whats happend.

  • irshad alam

    I’ll always miss ahmad hussain. I love him!

  • Kamal S.

    Dude, doughnuts ARE tajaliyyat ! Doesn’t everyone know this?
    Ah… I still remember Ahmed, Usman, Shadat alHussain, Nasrudin the ultra Sunnah Tablighi motorcycle driver, Tariq Ahmed, Farhad Askariar, Abdul Rahman Campos, and sundry other George Mason, George Washington, DC Muslim types..
    The brother and I had such adventures, and watching his commitment to Islam, to Tariqa, grow and evolve was a beautiful thing. He was a real inspiration to me in later years as I floated on my own “sacred drift” to the abyss, and back again. His sense and awareness of the sacred AND BEAUTY.
    Not everyone shared this.
    I remember when we remodeled the GWU MSA office a 13 years ago, taking down all of the trashy Xeroxed flyers, moving the desks and filing cabinets that sundry nationalist groups shoved back in the sister’s section.
    (And of the sister’s section? The poor girls got a small curtained off corner used for storage – between the boxes of flyers, and various agit-prop, and sundry other things, and the occasional sister brave enough to venture therein) taking down the Hamas flags (and stashing them in our dorm rooms – great conversation pieces when Peter Weinstein dropped by… I miss Peter!) and painting the room, putting up calligraphy, creating a devotional space and area of beauty instead of a dry office full of dysfunctional angry graduate students.
    Then we perfumed the place with oudh incense.
    Balance. Beauty and sacrality, humor and absurdity, gravitas when needed. All Balanced with a keen sense of the absurd. A brother who could argue philosophy, and kalam, forcefully if needed, and then crack a joke about a girl’s skirt, and discuss 0-day warez and pirated software and the latest Mortal Kombat cheat codes.
    If Mullah Nasrudin hung around MSA offices, he’d probably look a bit like Ahmed Hussain.
    I don’t think I would be able to go to the Food Factory (I miss paan and 1′ foot Nan) again. And the word’s theophany and perennial won’t sound quite the same coming from another person’s mouth.
    Allah keep him and grant him Khair where he is at!