By Dr. Nakadar and Dr. Aslam Abdullah, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Muslim Observer
This year in December when the members of the American Federation will visit Hyderabad for their annual convention, everything that usually is associated with international conferences will be there. There will be students from all over the country anxious to be recognized for their achievements, educationists eager to share their vision to achieve 100 percent literacy for Muslims of India, and activists keen to share their inspirational and motivational experience in education.
But they all will miss an unsung hero who dedicated his life to empowering Muslims against all odds; they will miss that silent leader who had demonstrated unrivaled qualities to mobilize Muslims especially in Gujarat to brave the carnage that engulfed the state in 2002, and they will miss that soft-spoken individual who never sought any limelight while working to bring to limelight the plight of Muslims of India through Gujarat Today, his daily Gujarati newspaper in Ahmedabad.
Sirajbhai Tirmizi will not be there in person, because he left this world for his final abode on May 30, 2012.
Siraj Bhai as we all used to address him, was our guide, mentor, brother, friend and comrade. Desite his failing health, he would always ensure that he stood shoulder with shoulder with everyone involved in mobilizing Muslim Indian resources for their educational renaissance.
He was a tireless worker and a field soldier. His vision was to create a chain of media resources all over India to give Muslims a voice, an identity and an institution they would feel proud of. Gujarat Today was his project and he knew how crucial its success was for the Muslims of India. During the Gujarat carnage of 2002, he risked his life to bring to national attention the plight of every oppressed person. He fearlessly advocated justice for the victims and compassion for the perpetrators. He challenged the authorities for their incompetence and their indifference to human life. He never hesitated to remind the government that it had failed in its duty to protect the people whose safety and security it had pledged.
Siraj Bhai was a fighter. He had dedicated his life to the betterment of Muslims in all fields of life. Every year he would especially invite the AFMI delegation to Ahmedabad and especially organize a grand gathering of Muslim intellectuals where the most pressing issues of the community could be addressed. He wanted Muslims to recognize their true Islamic heritage through living a life based on the values of the Quran. He was not a scholar, but he knew what true scholarship is and he did all he could to show his respect to scholars. He was not an expert on the Quran or Hadith, but he did all he could to promote a true understanding of real Islam even if it meant taking unpopular stands.
He was a towering figure among the Muslims of India.
His vision led him to different parts of the world, mobilizing Muslim resources to create a viable media institution. He neglected his health, spent his personal resources and dedicated his life to this cause.
The late Siraj Tirmizi being honored by Dr. Nakadar. He is seen wearing a â€œshawlâ€ around his neck, a tradition of honoring an individual.
People like Siraj Bhai are rare to be found because most of us tend to live for ourselves, while he lived a life for others. He never boasted for his sacrifices, he never sought any recognition and any compensation for his work and he never indulged in any petty politics that would undermine his cause. He was a unifier. His vision was to include everyone that matters in the community in the caravan for Muslim progress and prosperity. He never promoted sectarian or factional differences among Muslims. Every cause of Muslim dignity, regardless who raised it, was his cause. Even until a day before he departed this world, he was concerned about unity among Muslims.
Siraj Bhai will be immensely missed by his friends and even by those who had differences with him because he was a man of his words, a simple, honest and straightforward man who would never compromise his principles while maintaining full dignity of his opponents.
So this year when the AFMI delegation will be in India, they will also also visit his grave and his hometown to remind themselves that while Siraj Bhai is not there physically, his cause and values are there. They will assure themselves that it is because of people like him that change is coming to Muslim Indians, a change where his dreams will be alive, a change that he had dedicated his life for, a change that he tirelessly worked for.
Death does not escape anyone. But death cannot erase the cause and the struggle that Siraj Bhai so keenly demonstrated in his life. May Allah have mercy upon him and May he rest in peace. Amen.