“Do you really think that you will enter Paradise before Allah knows which of you who fought (in His Cause) and which of you are patient?” [Quran 3:142]
The Journey into Afghanistan
The first time I met Suraqah was when we were about to embark on our journey to enter Afghanistan. I can still recall the smile on his face as I approached him and greeted him with salams. He was a thin man, of medium height, fair complexion with bright, shining eyes that emanated sincerity. The noor (radiant shine) of his face and smile that day was something my heart will never forget. He was patient throughout the journey, remaining alert to any dangers and always looking out for the well-being of his brothers. At our first stop, I can remember asking him jokingly why he hadn’t eating anything, to which he told me how bad his diarrhoea had been and that he didn’t want to risk anything!
He had been very patient despite not having any food for many hours, something that is very difficult on a long journey, but he didn’t want to inconvenience anyone, so he bore his hunger in silence. I smiled because he was a new brother and I told him that his stomach problems were only going to get worse when we were inside! He smiled and gave me a determined look, almost as if he knew exactly what he was here for and that no sacrifice was to be too small for his Lord.
En-route we stopped to pray Fajr. We had a short break and then set off again. After a while, we reached one of our pre-planned stops and all of us were to rest here before we were to be taken into Afghanistan. We had some food, of which he did eat a little and that made me smile. We had only rested an hour or so, before we were told that we could go in now, and as we were all keen, we agreed to this and set off once again. This was to be the more dangerous part of the journey and we all began to make remembrance of Allah and pray that we would reach our destination safely.
I remember when we had finally crossed the border and I saw him with a big grin on his face. We had entered the one land where every Muslim and Mujahid felt safe, may Allah return that safety to the Muslims in Afghanistan. As our journey into Afghanistan continued, I can remember seeing that he had become a little more relaxed and even light hearted at times. All of us were happy that we had got through safely and I noticed how he was just continuously looking out of the window, admiring the scenery and perhaps thinking about the future this land would hold for him, his family and his religion.
The First Stages of Struggle
How wonderful the lands of Jihad are, in that those who have travelled, lived and been patient together with sincerity, whilst having left their families and materialistic life behind, become of the closest of companions and friends in this world.
We had some preliminary work to do before Suraqah could go and get his training. There was a lot of research, meetings and translations that needed to be done and Allah had blessed him with many skills, all of which were vital to our task. This was the time that I would get to know him properly. During this time, one of our brothers fell very ill and had to return; the rest of the brothers went to those places they had come here for, which left him and I alone to do the work and this is how Allah had destined that we were to spend time together.
Initially, we had been living in a place on the outskirts of the city, where we had a lot of work to do. However, progress was slow and I can remember how much of a testing time this was, since both of us wanted to be in the ‘action’, but we always exhorted each other to patience. Our typical day during this time was usually uneventful and we would sometimes remind each other of our times back in the West and all the things we used to get up to!
One time we were speaking about families and I was telling him how difficult it always is to say goodbye to a tearful mother, not knowing whether you will meet her again in this life. He was silent for a while and then said, “No, brother, the bond between the wife and husband is a bond that is different than that of the mother and her son. It is something much stronger.” I could sense that he felt a little sad when he said that, for he had told me that he had left his young wife and two young children behind, but I saw from the expression on his face that this was the sacrifice he was willing to give for the honour of this Deen (Islam).
He would tell me how hard he had to work for the past year so that his family would have enough money when he left. He told me how he hated living in the West and how happy he was to be in this land of Islam. I would always see him reciting and memorising Quran. Once we were speaking about the Muslims in the West and he said: “What have we to do with the countries of the disbelievers? By Allah, it’s like living haram (forbidden things) every day, from the morning you wake up until the night that you sleep in. I had so little time for my prayers, for reading the Book of Allah, for learning this Deen and now I am free to worship Him as he deserves to be worshipped.”
Throughout the times when we had nothing to do but be patient, I would see him reciting Quran or praying to his Lord. I saw in him a man who was determined to do something for this Ummah, a man with ambition for this Deen and true concern for the honour of this Ummah.
He would tell me how much he longed to seriously learn this Deen and that he wanted to sit with a certain Sheikh in Afghanistan, and to become a serious student of knowledge. I would talk to him about all the plans we could have for the future and after meeting many important people, he told me how he wanted to migrate here with his family. He loved to see Islam being established in its entirety like he saw in Afghanistan and whenever he heard something of justice or good that had happened, his face would light up in happiness. I was amazed at how quickly he became attached to this place and the people, almost as if Allah had rewarded him for all his efforts of Dawah (Islamic propagation) and preparation when he was at home and that He had answered his supplications. Indeed Allah had chosen this as his final destination and brought his precious soul here to honour it with martyrdom in His Way.
The Character of a Shaheed
As the weeks went by, we had started to make some progress, but there was still a lot to do. There came a time where I became lazy in completing the tasks and I would take long breaks of rest due to illness. However, he would always continue from where I had left off and I remember waking up in the middle of the night and saw him typing away at the work. It was because of him that we met our deadlines and Allah Willing, the work he did will continue to inspire many in the future.
There was an Afghani man who would come and give us food and he would spend a lot of time with him, since I wasn’t always in the place we were staying in. This man was very poor and he would walk for hours on end just to get to the place where we were staying. Suraqah came to me one day and suggested that we should buy him a bicycle, so that he could be self sufficient in doing more work and feeding his family. It’s as if he was genuinely concerned about this man, and this is from the many things that made Suraqah so special.
I can remember how much of a task it was to get that bike back to the place we were staying! I remember how much he laughed when we both tried to sit on the bicycle, only to end up puncturing one of the wheels and we got so fed up and tired in the end that we stuffed it in a taxi! Suraqah kept saying that ‘this is to help a good man’ and I kept quiet and smiled.
When we used to walk in the streets, we would have many poor children and old women coming to us and asking for money. I had become used to this, but it affected Suraqah in a big way. He couldn’t help but give 10 rupees to every child he saw, and this happened on a number of occasions. I asked him as to why he didn’t just ignore them, because it only fed their habit. He replied, “Every time I see these children, it reminds me of my own kids and I can’t bear to see their faces so sad.” It was almost as if he relived the memory of his own family through being generous to the people, may Allah have mercy on him.
After meeting many of the Foreign Mujahideen, he had made the intention that he would bring his family here and live a life of a Mujahid. I remember how sometimes he regretted not bringing his family with him. He would always tell me about what he would say to his mother and father especially in trying to convince them to come here and help the Muslims through their skills. As soon as he had intended this, he spent a lot of his free time in writing letters to his wife and his brother. I can remember him smiling as he would write, perhaps this was his way of feeling there was still a physical connection between him and his family – such is the life of a Mujahid.
I can remember that he wanted to get into the ‘action’ as soon as possible and go to the front-line, but I kept stressing how important this work was and that he should be patient. He was a little frustrated one day and said to me: “I’m not made for sitting around, I want to go where the action is, this is what my nature isâ€¦.” I said to him: “Be patient my brother, your time will come.. ..” He smiled and continued with his work in silence. I could feel how much he wanted to be free and be training and fighting with his brothers for the Sake of Allah. It was almost as if he had been waiting for this all his life and now that he was here, he didn’t want to be delayed any longer.
Our Final Moments
We had to move to another city, for we had many people to meet and liase with. Suraqah was happy that we were on the move again and that his chance for being in the action was drawing near. I can remember the journey being a very difficult one and a brother with us had become very weak, dehydrated and couldn’t stomach anything. Suraqah had studied basic first aid and medicine before, so he would very patiently make some re-hydration preparations for his brothers. Not once did I hear him complain throughout the journeys we had and I would always see him in deep thought and reflection. We would always try and pass the time by being light hearted and if provoked, he could always bring me to tears of laughter! May Allah bless me to join you dear friend so that we may laugh together in the highest of Paradise as we used to laugh in this life.
After we arrived at the city, then, as my time was drawing to an end, it seemed as if Suraqah became more detached from talking and speaking like he used to. He had become very inspired by meeting all the people he had only ever heard about and I saw that he had become much more serious than before.
Throughout the few weeks that we were in this new place, Suraqah started to become regular in Tahajjud (voluntary night prayers). I remember waking up in thirst one night and I saw him standing in prayer. He excelled in his memorisation of the Quran and I always found him attached to his personal copy of the Quran. I never saw him leave the remembrance supplications of the morning and the evening and he would be regular in reciting the Quran after the Fajr prayer. He had fasted a few days when we were in the previous city but it was here that he became more regular. The days here are very long and Suraqah wasn’t used to fasting in these environments. I knew he had stomach problems, but still he continued to fast. There was one day where we were both fasting and it had been a very hot day. In the last hour before sunset, we were just lying on the floor, utterly exhausted, when he said to me, “Don’t you know that the Salaf would cry on their deathbeds in that they wished they had fasted on those days that were long and difficult?” I can never forget the way he said that to me, may Allah accept all of his deeds.
On another occasion, we had a small journey to undertake and I suggested that he didn’t fast so that he wouldn’t tire himself out so much. Suraqah looked at me and said, “It is through these extra deeds that Allah will raise our status and give us the victory, just like the Sahabahâ€¦I will not stop fasting.” I thought a lot about what he had said and realised then that this was no ordinary man. It was statements and actions like this that I believe made him so special infront of Allah, for Allah only takes the best of believers as martyrs.
One hot summer’s night in August 2001, he woke me up in the middle of the night and said, “I had a strange dream tonight.” I asked him about what he saw and he said, “I saw a tall structure that looked like the Eiffel Tower and it had been destroyed and there was a news broadcast saying how thousands of people had been killed.” We joked about it and I told him to go back to sleep, but maybe he had seen what was to happen in the future, Allah knows best, for Allah bestows good dreams to those whom He loves.
Two Companions Part
The time had come for me to leave and Suraqah was to join his brothers in the action. I remember sitting with him a lot and he advised me to come back and give help and victory to the Muslims in this blessed land. We went to the market one day and he was looking for a gift for his wife and children. I remember him joking about how he wouldn’t buy just any old clothes for his wife and that nothing was here that she would have liked! He smiled a lot that day. We walked by a shop and he saw some clothes for his son and he asked for the best quality and chose the best colour. He bought it and handed it to me and said, “I want you to get this to my kids, so that my wife and they know that I haven’t forgotten them.” I was taken aback by the way he said that and I can still remember the sad look on his face. I cheered him up and started joking about how we got ripped off in the market and how terrible his bargaining skills were!
He asked me to get his letters to his brother, who he always spoke very highly of. I could see that they were close and I can remember him saying how much he wanted him to get married and come here to join him. He always spoke with such enthusiasm for he had many ambitions for his Deen and his family – may Allah rejoin them in the highest of Paradise.
A few days went by and it was time for Suraqah to leave for the action. We sat and talked that morning and I advised him on things to do when he got there and what do in certain situations. He was so happy that day, for he was finally about to go where he had been longing for all his life. I felt happy for him but sad that we were to part company and that maybe I would never see him again.
His transport came that morning and I embraced him. Since there was nothing more for me to say; I just smiled and asked him not to forget me in his prayers. He smiled back at me and sat in the jeep. I just stood there looking at him and I can remember feeling very sad and thinking as to whether I would see him again. I remember this moment as if it was yesterday and when I found out that Allah had taken him as a martyr, a day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t thought about my friend.
He was from the sons of this Ummah, who fled from the deception of this materialistic life to the honour and light of Jihad. A patient warrior who lived his ambition for the victory of this Deen is how this Ummah will remember you, my dear friend. May Allah inspire many from the story of your sacrifice and may He join your family, loved ones and Companions with you in the highest of Paradise.
The Battle for Tora Bora
Thus began the latest Crusade against Islam and its people in October 2001. When the Taliban decided to leave the cities and withdraw to the mountains, Suraqah was amongst the brothers who withdrew to the lofty mountain range of Tora Bora, in Eastern Afghanistan. In November 2001, the American Crusaders attacked the positions of the Mujahideen in Tora Bora and there commenced some of the fiercest battles of the war to that date.
The Tora Bora mountain range comprises of low foothills and high mountains. It was expected for the Americans to land at the lower foothills first. Therefore, the Commander of the Mujahideen gave the order for new and relatively inexperienced brothers to go to the higher mountains, leaving the experienced fighters at the bottom. Suraqah tried to persuade his Section Commander to allow him to stay at the bottom since he wanted to face the Americans when they arrived. However, he was denied permission and reluctantly made his way up to the higher mountains, in obedience of his leader.
Throughout November 2001 in the month of Ramadan, 1422AH, the battle raged, with the Americans dropping bombs indiscriminately on the mountains such that there was no difference between the night and the day: there was fire on the ground and fire in the sky. Suraqah had with him a personal first-aid kit that he had brought with him. He was not a Doctor, but his contribution to the battle was more than what the Doctors of the Muslim Ummah contributed. Whenever he would hear on the radio that a brother Mujahid had been injured, Suraqah would take his first-aid kit and make the perilous journey to the site of the injured brother, dodging aerial bombs, bullets and mortars. No sooner had he tended to one injured brother that he would hear on the radio that another brother had been injured 2000ft lower. He would rush to tend to the new injury. Thus it was that he spent his battle going up and down the steep mountains of Tora Bora. At times when he would face the enemy, he would bravely face them and not shy away from a fight.
The Dua of a Mujahid
The Prophet (SAWS) said: “The Mujahid in the Path of Allah and the one who performs Hajj and the one who performs Umra, all are the guests of Allah! He called them and they answered. And they asked Him, and He shall grant them (what they ask for)!”[Saheeh, narrated by Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban].
Suraqah had been there for a few weeks now and the blessed last ten days of Ramadan had arrived. Whilst on the mountain during one night of the battle, a fellow Mujahid saw Suraqah alone, standing on the mountainside. He was in his camouflage clothes wearing his chest rig of magazines and his AK-47 rifle in his hands. Despite the sub-zero temperature and howling icy-cold winds, he was sweating as is normal during intense physical activity. All of a sudden he raised both of his hands straight up in the air and shouted at the top of his voice, “O Allah! Do not let me leave these mountains before you have granted me my martyrdom here!”
The night was the night of Friday, the 29th of Ramadan 1422AH and many of the Mujahideen there testified to the Lailatul-Qadr (Night of Power) that year having fallen on the 29th of Ramadan. The time was approximately 9pm and Suraqah was with a group of 20 Mujahideen who were making their way to another position, on the steep Tora Bora mountainside. Suddenly, the roar of an American fighter-bomber was heard above their heads, followed by the whines of the falling bombs: huge, solid, metal masses of falsehood. As the cluster bomb exploded into many small bomblets, the sound of explosions similar to that of fireworks was heard. One of these bomblets had the name of Suraqah on it and it was in this glorious manner that this lion and hero surrendered his innocent soul to his Lord, thereby irrigating with his pure blood the land of heroism, bravery, valour and Jihad. May Allah accept him amongst the ranks of the martyrs.
Dreams Following His Martyrdom
After Suraqah was martyred, his family and friends had numerous dreams. His wife saw a dream of a bird on a remote island. The bird’s feathers were badly burnt and it was lying prone and immobile. Suddenly, in the distance, another bird flew towards the first bird, and eventually sat next to it. The first bird, which was burnt, then removed its external feathers and from it arose a bird with the most beautiful coloured feathers that she had ever seen. Both birds then rose up and flew away.
His brother had a dream where he came up to someone and asked with great anxiety, “Where is my brother (Suraqah)?” The people then pointed to a distant mountain. He asked again, “Where is my brother?” and they gave the same response. Then he approached as close as he could get to the mountain and asked again. The people then pointed to a white mountain.
His sister had a dream in which he visited her family. There was an immense amount of light shining from him and his size was so large that the people around him had to crane their necks in order to take a look at him.