From the first time my eyes touched the story of Dr Saalih AR,it tugged at my heart. It has remained one of my favourites from the stories of “In the hearts of the green birds.” Perhaps it was his awakening conscience, his personality that shines through, his role of doctor and Mujaahid and giving up all comfort when he could have “had it all.” Let me hand you over now to the narration of Shaikh Azzaam AR about the doctor who led the race to Afghanistan… Dr Saalih AR.( AR- Alaihimur Rahmah; May mercy envelope him)
The treatment is prayer, then food, then medicine.”
I only met a few people who had such nobility and honour. He arrived from Britain, prompted by his vast hope for attaining martyrdom by which to enter Paradise whose width is that of the heavens and earth. He was studying paediatrics (children’s medicine), but the longing for Paradise pulled him to the land of Glory and Jihad. He could no longer bear to see the traffic of the busy London streets nor the smoke of its factories. His ears could no longer bear to hear the surge of the Thames, or the ticking of Big Ben. He found a new love, that of Afghanistan, which seized his heart, so he tried to join it.
He was born in 1951 in Benghazi, Libya. He attained a MBBS degree from the University of Qaaryounis in Benghazi.
He reached the land of Jihad and searched its field but did not find a single Arab doctor on the frontline. So he carried his gun in one hand, and his knife and first-aid kit in another. After enquiring further, Allah guided him to travel with the Mujahideen to Ghaznee, where he stayed for eight months, eating, drinking and sleeping with the Mujahideen, not thinking of wages nor searching for luxuries of the worldly life in London compared to the life of a Mujahid, where a meal consisted of bread and tea. As for dinner, it was Afghani broth, which had a thick layer of fat and none of the non-Afghans were safe from the possibility of severe diahorrea, which could sometimes be fatal.
The arrival of the first group of Arab Mujahideen to North Afghanistan – Abdullah Anas, Abu Asad and Muhammad Ameen – was a blessing amongst blessings. It took them 46 days to reach Balakh (Mazaar Shareef) after which Muhammad Ameen was on the brink of death, and the youth of Abdullah Anas had fallen. And Balakh was filled with the people wanting to see the Arabs they used to read about in books. How many old people whose hair had turned white, walked on snow for days, leaning on his walking stick with his right hand, while taking, by his left hand, his young or grandson, for this child to get the blessings of an Arab hand on his head.
I ( Shaikh Azzaam) met Dr. Saalih on his return from Ghaznee. Abdullah Anas had already returned from Mazar Shareef after he was appalled at the presence of French westerners in a hospital equipped with modern instruments. Abdullah Anas flew into a rage with the leader of the area, Muhammad Alam, and the judge of the area, Abdullah. Their answer was: “Until now, we have not seen an Arab before you, and those French people had arrived a few years ago. Why don’t you bring an Arab Muslim doctor, or a non-Arab, so we can dispense with these people?”
Abdullah Anas persisted in search for an Arab doctor, so Allah ordained to lead him to Dr. Saalih, another Egyptian doctor, so they headed for Balakh – the city of knowledge and scholars, famous in its history.
The Arrival of Dr. Saalih
Dr. Saalih arrived in Balakh and the French had reached into the depths of people’s hearts. Not only did they treat them for their illnesses, but they also took presents and sweets to the patients, visited them at home, and gave them money.
Upon the arrival of Dr. Saalih in Balakh, the French were alienated from the land. After the hearts used to open to allow these foreign doctors to enter into their depths, suddenly they were immediately discarded following a ruling by the judge Abdullah, which stated: “Treatment by the French is forbidden, as is mixing with them and sitting with them.” Thus, in space of one day, Balakh had become hostile towards them. Treatment by them was previously a necessity, and necessity are considered as such by their need, but there was no longer a need. The French felt this hostility and isolation, so they said to the leader of the province, “It appears you have no need for us.”
The reply was “Yes,” so the French asked to take their instruments, to which the Mujahideen did not object, and said to the French: “Whatever you want to take, take it and leave the area.” The French did so.
The Miracle of Dr. Saalih
A short time before Dr. Saalih’s arrival, one of the Mujahideen had been affected with the shrapnel in his spine, which reached his spinal cord and paralysed him. He was shown to the French who said, “It is impossible for any doctor to cure this.” But they uttered the word of disbelief, they said “Allah is unable to cure him.” Glorified be He from the (great falsehood) that they say!
Then this Mujahid was shown to Dr. Saalih, who said to me, “I found him to be broken, physically and emotionally. He became unable to leave the bed. He would urinate and empty his bowels on himself. So I said to him, ‘It is simple, it is simple, if Allah wills. Our Lord will cure you.'” Dr. Saalih said, “I told him to uplift his broken spirit.”
Dr. Saalih began to treat him with medicine and prayer. It was only a short period of time before the Mujahid was restored to health, and rushed to the front line to continue his struggle on the path of goodness facing the enemies of Allah.
The people of Balakh began to repeat:
“A righteous (Saalih) friend has arrived. His name is Dr. Saalih.”
Two Years in Balakh
Dr. Saalih has spent two years in Balakh. He was a very good father and educator to the brothers. Sometimes, he could be found teaching them Quran, other times you would find him sheltering them around him like the hen does to its chicks.His Arab brothers called him ‘Abu Haatim’ because of his generosity. He never saved any of his wages, he spent his money either buying things for his Arab brothers or things for the hospital. Due to the shortage of medicine, he was forced to send us to Peshawar to ask for an advance on his salary for the next six months, so he could buy medicine for the hospital.
Abbaas said: “I lived with him for six months and used to advise him to decrease some of his spending. To this he would reply, ‘It is my trade between myself and my Lord.'”
A Marriage Proposal
It is known that Afghans are strict in letting their daughters marry non-Afghans, but with Dr. Saalih, it was they who offered their daughters to him in hope, for what they thought of his goodness and loyalty.
The Return from Mazaar Shareef
Dr. Saalih returned to Peshawar and stayed there for a while. The Battle of the Lion’s Den took place in Ramadan 1407AH (1987), he participated in it and was wounded. You never hoped to see him in a place which was blazing with fire, but you always saw him there. The doctor’s wounds were not serious. He was on the frontline of fire where the earth erupts with volcanoes and the sky showers the earth with burning lava.
We then chose him to accompany the convoy of Abu Ibraaheem to Takhaar. The convoy was the biggest one to have entered Afghanistan, and carried with it whatever one could imagine of appliances, medicine, and boots. It also contained twenty-one Arabs whom Abu Ibrahim had selected from various camps. The caravan also had another two doctors, Dr. Abu-Dardaa’ Al-Misri and Dr. Muhammad Umar Al-Iraqi. Upon their arrival to Takhaar, they had a medical course for a group of Afghans and trained them as nurses. Dr Saalih only used to treat patients after taking from them their packet of cigarettes and made it a condition of his care.
Dr. Saalih stayed in the hospital for 16 months, but he was searching for the fighting. He wanted death wherever he could find it.
The Song of Dr. Saalih
He always used to repeat the lines:
“What do you want?
I want a single people on the Qur’an,
Who do not fear threats or promises,
Who take the example of Usaama bin Zaid and Khalid bin Al-Waleed.
It’s only hope is to die as a martyr in the Way of Allah.”
The Return from Takhaar
Dr. Saalih returned from Takhaar in Ramadhan 1409 Hijri, but did not rest or settle. The Battle of Jalalabad was fierce, and at its most intense period. He stayed in Jalalabad amongst his brothers who had been swallowed by the land one after the other, till the number of martyrs equalled ninety, including many of the best soldiers in the Land of Tanjarhaar. Indeed, they were the cream of the nation, the best of its children – we consider them thus and we do not elevate anyone above Allah.
Dr. Saalih’s treatment
He used to tell the patients that the treatment is prayer, then medicine, then food
Martyrdom on 20 October 1989 (20 Safar 1410AH)
Thus came the bomb which Allah decreed to mark the end of the journey. So it seized him along with another honourable brother, Ahmad Al-Mubarak As-Somali, and the life journey of the Arab Muslim doctor ended; the doctor who led the race to Afghanistan, since he was the first doctor to enter Afghanistan. The body which was dyed with blood reached Peshawar and the funeral walked in a dignified procession to Pabi where the graveyard of the martyrs lay. There, Dr. Saalih was buried between his martyred brothers, both Arab and Afghani.
I mourn for you, not lying, the pain does not go,
O’ you, at whose meeting the eternal Hoor smile,
If all of the wounds of my heart were healed,
The wound caused by you, O Doctor, would not heal,