Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tragedy Strikes The Khoja Community

Tanzania in general, the people of Dar es Sallam, worldwide Khoja Shias, but especially the Dar es Salaam Khoja community is struck with terrible calamity on March 29 2013 when a sixteen floor building under construction adjacent to the Khoja mosque complex comes tumbling down like a deck of cards. Thirty-six people lose lives that fateful day, including four young jewel boys from my Khoja community who were playing near the doomed building. I cannot come anywhere close to imagining the horror and heartbreaking anguish parents of these fallen children must still be going through, especially the mothers; needless to state countless duas still pour from all hearts.

The Dar es Sallam Khojas go into high gear immediately; what a splendid coordinated response! Dar es Sallam Jamaat and AF react as a well-oiled machine; I can only marvel at the efficiency. I am glued to FB, emails and telephone for updates, desperately hoping those trapped are rescued. The updates from Dar Jamaat are timely and very useful, marred only by one that describe leader of AF as a ‘Dada’. Apt description, perhaps. For a different occasion, circumstance, venue and medium. I am not questioning the Chairman’s shining hands-on participation and leadership.

What pleasantly catches me by surprise is the response from outside the Khoja community; our cousins Ismailis, Bohris, Hindus and Africans, all bind together in the relief efforts, all very heartening. It is Tanzania as it should be, a kitcro of communities coming together; Nyerere would have been proud? Tanzania, I think, is evolving, as she gets more inclusive to communities outside of core ethnic domains.

During my recent visits to Dar I was always weary of these twin towers creeping up next to our mosque on Indira Ghandi Street. Coming seemingly straight up the earth without an apparent stable foundation gave me the creeps. I would point this out to anyone willing to listen and go out of my way and avoid walking underneath them, what with construction debris and workers making the already congested street difficult to traverse.

While I grieve the loss for so many lives and leave the judgment of culpability of owner / builder / contractor / others to the system / laws (even though perceived inadequate by many) and Allah (S), I must pause and take stock of this calamity. This tragedy hit me home, where precious Khoja children pay the ultimate price of greed, disregard, neglect...whatever. So far, I believe, we Khojas have been securely cocooned by such calamities alhamd’Allah. A building collapsing and killing people in far off India, other calamities worldwide and we can only sympathize and pray for the victims.   

Facebook, Twitter, Emails etc. are abuzz with news and updates of this tragedy, the response from local jamaats and regional bodies swift, resources made readily available, as it should; all good, praiseworthy. The outpouring of support and sympathy come from those who didn’t even know the victims or their families. Wonderful! Why? Because we are humans, foremost. More importantly, my glorious Islam binds and commands me to come together. Even more importantly, the same love that beats in my heart for Ahlebeyt (A) runs in the hearts of victims and survivors. I lost my own. Or, or is it because I am a Khoja?

What would I have done if a building had collapsed next to a Shia Bilal mosque in Dar es Salaam and killed four young African gems? Would my reaction and response match this tragic incident? Why is my vision blurred and (re)action lethargic when that same love for our Aaimaas (S) is stuffed out in others Shias, especially non-Khojas? With a bullet, a bomb blast or a knife slicing through neck. In Afghanistan, Bahrain, Pakistan, Saudi, Syria...?

Yes, I am outraged, for sure. Yes, my heart hurts and blood simmers. But is it with the same passion, intensity and ferocity that match this incident? Remember, the children who lost their lives and their families are only bound to me with the rope of humanity, Islam and more importantly, the love for Ahlebeyt (A). Period. Yet, I feel more close to this hurt and loss. Why? Is it right? Would Allah (S) be accepting of this step brotherly sentiment? Would the Holy Prophet (S), who constantly referred to all of us as his Ummah, be happy?

And Allah (S) knows best.

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