Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Our late friends

We stick to life because we knew there is death… we knew what death does to us as it deprives us of the people dearest to us… it also takes away enemies… and so, it can sometimes make us grieve and some other times make us happy while we are still alive… it is true that many things start small and then gets bigger… except for death – as said in Quran – as it starts big and with time gets smaller… it is God mercy upon us that it is so.

Perhaps we can say that our feelings turn from panic and difficulty to adapt with death to accepting it… also, they turn from mere feelings of panic and sorrow into a chance for deep thinking, calm contemplating and wise handling of situations… I believe every one of us has been through this experience; from aware children to old men.

I myself witnessed this experience for the first time at the first half of the fifties of the last century when I was five or six years old… I am now seventy one… I still remember the pavilion erected before the mayor’s house while there was a small ox being slaughtered in preparation to feed all those who came to offer condolences and the crowd that came to listen to Quran recited by Sheikh al-Hosari whom they went to bring from his village Shubra an-Namla near to Tanta… the deceased was my maternal aunt As-Sayeda.

After all this time elapsed, here I am… having feelings mixing between sorrow and sadness… hope and contemplation… as some of my friends left our world recently following one another… without chronological order, they are poet Sayed Hegab, intellectual translator Talaat ash-Shayeb, artist Gamil Shafiq, Dr. Hisham Sadeq, Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish, Mr. Azer Farag, Mr. Sayed Yassin, Dr. Adel Ghoniem… I hope I have not forgotten any other names… I knew all those, was close to them and had friendships with them… I owe some of them favors I always talk of and admit.

A whole bunch of friends I lost in less than a year… they were preceded by other bunches where friends used to leave our world following one another as if they had an unwritten or unspoken agreement to leave together… perhaps the bunch of friends that included Sayed Khamis, Ra’ouf Ayiad, Fawzi al-Hawari, Gouda Khalifa and Hamed al-Awadi was the one that left the most profound effect in my life.

Furthermore, writing about late friends in a journalistic article with limited number of words seems as if one is washing his hands by appearing like a loyal friend to his late ones… meaning to remember them and pray for God’s mercy upon them… while it really deserves more than this… especially that all of those who left – with no exception – have legacies of giving and doing noble things… the thing that deserves we should detect and make morals out of it.

For example – and despite this may be unfair towards the others – I knew Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish when I met him for the first time almost two decades ago when we were on our way to Yale University in New Haven in America… we were invited to a seminar discussing the Western-Islamic relations held by Yale Divinity school in cooperation with Alexandrian Bibliotheca… during the seminar days, we – Dr. Abouleish and I – interacted together until it seemed as if we met long time ago.

Our relation went deeper until Dr. Abouleish started establishing Heliopolis University and we discussed in the phenomenon of extremist religious radical ideology wide spreading among students and graduates of STEM faculties… upon our discussion, I knew he sought the approval of the official entities to teach the subject of history and civilization for the students of his university in STEM faculties… at that time, they were faculties of engineering, pharmacy and business administration.

I was surprised when he asked me to teach this subject for the students of those faculties… and already I agreed to do this mission… I started teaching the subject under a broad title; that was the question: what has Egypt given to humanity throughout its history?... the man, along with the university chief, faculties’ deans and professors, were keen on attending those lectures and participating in the discussions that followed.

If I had the chance to write about this experiment in detail that in the beginning was received by reluctance and disapproval from most of the students asking in reproof what a student of alternative energy engineering or clinical pharmacy might benefit from history, I believe the details would be very important to tell… as lecture after another, students started to have interest in attending and began to interact too… even after I told them that the exam would be from “The Dawn of Conscience” book authored by James Henry Breasted and that there would be a whole question over the history of the Egyptian Church and its contribution to humanity.

I used to go where my friend Ibrahim Abouleish used to live in an elegant simple house receiving light and unpolluted air… in a place where he used to eat non-cancerous simple food… always having a gentle smile over his face and a soft voice tone… despite all this, he was attacked by a microbe that sickened and killed him… indeed Ibrahim Abouleish lived his life as he wished… an epic of continuous giving and on-going innovation.

It is certain that I will write about the rest of my friends whom I mentioned some of their names in the above lines as I started recently to write about friends like Kamel Zoheiri, Muhammed Ouda, Mahmoud as-Sa’adani, Tarim Omran and Muhammed Hassanien Heikal… I did not write an eulogy but rather I tried to write about a biography.

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar

This article was published in Almasry alyoum on July 5, 2017.

To see the original article, go to:

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