Yesterday was sobering. After spending many hours trying to work through my inbox, catching up on my backlogged emails, my wife received a phone call from Atlanta, Georgia. Exhausted from seven straight weeks of coast to coast travel, culminating in a non-stop ten hour flight from London to San Francisco on Monday, I turned in early. My wife abruptly awakened me to relay the news.
A longtime Family friend, Basim Crumbley, originally hailing from Irvington, New Jersey, had passed away. His death was not a total surprise, for he had recently suffered a debilitating heart attack, and for a long time had battled a series of health issues, including a lupus attack that led to kidney failure, dialysis, and eventually a kidney transplant. However, it was a stark reminder. As the scripture says, Every soul will taste death, then unto us you are all returning. (29:57). None of us can elude death and we should all strive to live our lives in light of that reality.
Basim’s passing is indeed a reminder. Every passing breath we take brings us that much closer to our own inevitable demise. None of us are an exception in that regard. We should all stop and ask ourselves, “What will be my reckoning if my account were taken today?” “How would I stand before my Lord?” Asking these questions today encourages us to be more diligent in our religion, and to work harder to take advantage of every waking moment to endeavor to send forth good for the benefit of our souls.
Reflecting on the time we spend together is a reminder of simpler times. When we first met, I was working towards my BA at The American University in Washington DC, and he was a football player at one of the area colleges. Then his kidneys failed and he had to give up that sport. He also had to cease the martial arts lessons he was giving us, himself holding a black belt in Karate.
Along with our other friends we would attend local Islamic events, all of us, including myself, anonymous faces in the crowd. How free and unencumbered life was during those days. It was a simple time. Sometimes it is easy to long for the simpler times we have known. However, we have to remain focused on seeking Allah’s good pleasure. He knows where he wants us to be right now. The challenge for us is to be content with His Decree, and to try to give every situation He places us in its full right.
One of the spiritual sages mentioned in this regard, “Whoever desires to be famous is a slave of fame, and whoever desires to be obscure is a slave of obscurity. One who finds the two states equal with him is a slave of Allah.” In other words, one who finds complete contentment in the situation Allah has placed him in, whether it involves fame or obscurity—he is the true servant of Allah. Remembering this aphorism helps us not only to be content with the Divine Decree, it also helps us to find ways to be pleased with our life as it is. When that occurs, we long for what is ahead of us, our meeting with Allah, and not that which is behind us, that which can never be recaptured once it escapes.
However, there are still many fond memories, and one miracle that I recall involving Basim. As for the miracle, when the operation to transplant Basim’s kidney was complete, the surgery was performed at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC, Basim’s body began to reject the new organ. To reduce the chance of rejection, his immune system was intentionally weakened. As a result his body was besieged with a dreadful infection, which the doctors could not cure. His entire family was summoned to the hospital from New Jersey as the doctors deemed his death to be imminent. They literally gave up on him.
A group of us gathered around him and recited Ya Sin, and other chapters from the Qur’an, interspersed with Dhikr, La ilaha Illa Allah, Subhanallah, Al-hamdulillah, and Du’a. Slowly but surely, Basim began to show signs of life. His body began to fight the infection, and the rejection of the new organ began to subside. A few days later he walked out of the hospital. The leader of his medical team came to us and remarked, “I don’t believe in God, but if I ever get sick please come and chant for me.”
As for the lighter moments, one of the funniest occurred at his Basim’s wedding reception. At the time, I was in graduate school at Rutgers University in New Jersey. I drove up to Newark with a group of his friends for the wedding. Included in our party was a dear Egyptian brother, who was being treated for a mild mental disorder at the time. At the reception, which was at the family home in Irvington, many of his non-Muslim relatives had gathered. They brought their choicest liquors with them, Hennesy, Chivas Regal, Johnny Walker Red, etc. They were seated “respectfully” on the porch not actually inside of the house. When they went inside to get their food, the Egyptian brother went out to the porch and poured all of their alcohol over the rail and into the flower bed. When they returned you can probably guess what sort of scene ensued.
However, overall, Basim’s life was a struggle. In addition to the problems with his health, he had to deal with the challenges of raising Muslim children in a very hostile environment. It was sometimes difficult for him to find suitable employment. However, throughout all of his struggles and challenges, in Washington DC, in and around Newark, New Jersey, in New Haven, Connecticut, and more recently in Atlanta, Georgia, Basim’s faith remained strong. As a martial artist, he was a courageous fighter during his youth, and as he entered ever deeper into the arena of life he battled just as courageously.
One reason for that is because he was blessed with two wonderful, supportive wives to help him wage his battles. His first wife was an exceptional young lady, ‘Alima. Her character and grace were two qualities that helped to sustain Basim during their time together. His second wife, Halima, who I was blessed to see grow in Islam during my days in New Haven, is exceptional in her own right, a woman blessed with incredible strength and character. She was by Basim’s side until the very end. Both of these sisters are gems. Thinking of them I am reminded of the Prophet’s words, peace upon him, “The entire world is something to be lawfully enjoyed and the greatest enjoyment in it is a virtuous spouse.”
Now, the memories remain, but Basim is gone. If we use his passing to remind us of our own ultimate destination he will not be forgotten. May Allah accept his good deeds and pardon his misdeeds. May He shower him with His mercy and forgiveness, may He reward him for his struggle and his faith, and may He make his life and his death a reminder for us all. At the end of the Day we are left to proclaim, Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi Raji’un (We belong to Allah and unto Him we are all returning).