When losing a brother

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Last week was a sad one for me because of the demise of my brother Abdullah after battling with illness for several years. For me, he was more than a brother; he was a good friend and a real mentor. Abdullah and our other brother Saeed, who is older than him, played the role of a father after the demise of our father. The rest of my brothers and me were children when our father died.

My brother Saeed, supported by Abdullah, shouldered the responsibility of the custodianship of their young siblings. Both of them stood by our late mother in taking care of the family. During those difficult times, the family did not have any sources of fixed income. Hence, the family had to rely on the meager revenues received from the small farm that we inherited from our parents.

This financial condition required strenuous efforts on the part of each member of the family to make ends meet. While brother Saeed, along with mother, took care of the agricultural property and managed the affairs of the family, Abdullah traveled to Jeddah and the Eastern Province in search of a job that would help him to support the family. He ended up in Al-Kharj where he worked for several years, and returned after family conditions improved and all the minor siblings had grown up.

One of the most beautiful and strongest relationships between people is the relationship of brothers. It is inexplicable the feelings of joy in the presence of a brother, who rejoices with your joy and feels sorrow over your grief, and stands with you by himself and with his money during times of hardship. Perhaps one of the most beautiful things ever said on the subject of brothers was the position of an Arab tribal chief when his brother had a quarrel with his son that led to the death of the son. When the tribal chief heard the shocking news, he was attending a meeting with senior tribesmen. He did not stop the meeting, but called one of his sons and asked him to take the body of his son, wash him and bury him. He then sang a song expressing his sorrow over the death of his son and also his grief at the thought of his breaking ties with his brother.

There is an exalted position for a brother in Arab literature. It is said that while someone was carrying his brother on his shoulder, he was asked whether it was too heavy to carry, to which his reply was that this was not a burden because this was his brother!

It is narrated from Sheikh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah as saying: “The example of brothers is like that of hand and eye. If the eye tears, the hand will be stretched out to wipe it, and if the hand suffers from pain, the eye will be tearful for the sake of it.”

Perhaps the poet Al-Muhalhil defined in the best manner the status of a brother when he learned the death of his brother Kulaib. He then cut off his hair, shortened his dress, stopped using perfume and swore to take vengeance on the man who murdered his brother.

Al-Muhalhil abandoned all the pleasures of life until he took revenge for the blood of his brother. The poet visualized his desire for revenge in many poems.

Al-Khansa was the well-known female poet who lived both in the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods. It was Tumadir Bint Amr Ibn Al-Hareth Ibn Al-Sharid, popularly known as Al-Khansa, who learned Islam, and eventually became a Muslim. She surpassed every description in her lamentation of her brother Sakhr to the extent that her poems written for Sakhr were later quoted as proverbs and narrated as words of wisdom.

The position of brother is irreplaceable. If one loses his brother, he will lose a big support in life. One woman was asked: What do you do if your brother, your son and your husband are in danger, and you are asked to save one of them. Whom do you choose? She said: I can have (another) husband, I can beget a son but that is not the case of a brother and therefore I would pick my brother to save from danger.

Therefore, the only panacea for our woes is to repeat the words of Allah, the Almighty, when we are faced with a calamity. The Holy Qur’an says: “Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: Truly, to Allah, we belong to and unto Him is our return.”

May Allah shower His infinite mercy and forgiveness on my brother and accommodate him in His Paradise.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com


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