From a Friend
Muhammad Al Hindi died at a hospital in Beirut 14 December, 2006, at the age of 75. He and his wife, Taqia, are the parents of Musa, Sa’id, Ihab, Zacharia, Rami, and Ali. They have six grandchildren (to date). Musa and Sa’id came to live with us in the summer of 1984. We met Muhammad in 1985 when he came to visit his sons. This was the first of three visits to the United States. Muhammad and Taqia came together several years ago to visit their sons and families again. Muhammad was expelled by the Israelis from Akka on the coast of Palestine several times when he was a teenager. As an adult and the father of six children, he described himself as a mother cat moving his children from one place to another when the Israelis invaded and bombed Beirut in the early 80s. His death came only several months after the most recent Israeli invasion and massive bombing of Lebanon. My most vivid memories of Muhammad during his first visit, were the times he would sit alone in the dining room recording his experiences on cassettes to take back to Beirut for his wife. They listened to these tapes many times after his return. The deteriorating economic situation in Beirut witnessed the closing of the bank he had worked for, and the drastic cut in his retirement money. Palestinians remain without the legal protection and rights enjoyed by the Lebanese. Muhammad lived in an age when Zionism first denied the existence of Palestinians, and then settled for denying their human and civil rights. Western agendas in the Middle East radically changed the life of this man, and the hopes he had for his family. Throughout it all, Muhammad remained an honest man with a generous heart who worked hard on behalf of his family. He will be missed.
From His Son, Musa currently of Nebraska
Though he suffered from acute diabetes, my father's overall health was fairly decent, especially after his diabetic condition was brought under control years ago. His condition began to deteriorate after he and the rest of my family had to endure a long drive to Syria in the wake of Israel's bombardment of the Southern Suburbs of Beirut last Summer. The trip back from Syria was especially difficult, long and physically taxing due to the destruction of the bridges connecting northern and eastern Lebanon, on the one had, and Beirut and its environs, on the other. It was during that time that my father developed an acute infection which then spread to his organs.
I first received news of his admittance to the hospital during the meeting in Cleveland. On the afternoon of Saturday, November 11, Abbas informed me that there was a message on his cell phone from my wife asking that I call her back immediately, which I did. She informed me that my brother had called and left a message for me to call Beirut, which I did. I found out that my father had suffered a couple of minor strokes. We were told that the damage was minimal and that he would leave the hospital in a couple of days, which he did. However, his situation deteriorated the beginning of last week and he was rushed to the hospital.
The situation was, I believe, made worse by the psychological impact of last Summer's war on him. According to my brother, he seems to have the desire and will to live during and after that war, particularly after seeing the massive destruction suffered by the neighborhood in which my family resides (though our house and the buildings and streets around it were not bombed). It was especially difficult for him to have to rush his little grandchildren to safety. I spoke to him by phone the day Israel's bombardment of Lebanon began. He, my mother, my brothers, and their children and wives were in a bomb shelter. He told me that he had it. He is tired of spending his life having to rush his family to safety. "First, it was my sick mother, elderly father and younger sisters and brothers from Akka to Aleppo then to Beirut; then, it was keeping you and your brothers safe during the different Lebanon wars; now, I have to deal with my grandchildren being exposed to Israel's wrath. I had it. Enough is enough."
What makes his passing away more difficult is that it occurred before his US permanent residency and citizenship papers were completed. The main incentive behind obtaining him a US citizenship was to allow him to visit Akka (Acre), his hometown which he had not seen since 1948-50 (he and my uncles tried to return to Akka three times between 1949 and 1950, only to be caught at the Lebanese-Palestinian border, imprisoned for a few months, then shipped to the Lebanese side of the border).
A while back I broached with him the issue of possibly visiting Akka. I asked him which he would prefer to do first, visit Akka or perform the Hajj. Expecting that he would choose the latter, he was quite for a few minutes before replying "Akka". I recall that I replied: "Wouldn't it be better to do the Hajj, breath the sacred air of Mecca, see and feel al-Masjid al-Haram, touch the Black Stone, and visit and greet (and be greeted back) by the Beloved Prophet in Medina?" I recall telling him, half-jokingly, "I can't believe you would miss an opportunity to upset the Wahhabi guards who try to prevent pilgrims from seeking blessings by touching the Black Stone and the Prophet's tomb." (He never had any affection for the Wahabis for a number of reasons, but especially due to their negative attitude towards Sufis and Sufism). He started to get impatient with me. "You asked me Akka or Mecca and I told you Akka...performing the Hajj is between me and my God...do not interfere between me and Rabbi (my Lord)...besides, If, it were up to me, I would rather irritate one yahoudi instead of 100 hundred Wahhabis", he replied. I got the message and replied, "Ok...as you like".
Some of my most vivid memories of my father was during the Siege of Beirut during the Summer of 1982. Like most fathers in the city, he decided that we should leave Beirut to Syria. The bombardment the city was subjected to at that time was so vicious and our apartment had received an indirect hit. 16 years old at that time and full of optimism that we could win the 1982 war with Israel, I told him that he was free to take my mother and brothers to Syria, but I was not going to "run away" the way his generation did in 1948. My father was livid. He then decided to stay put in Beirut.
Another vivid memory which I have of my father is that of him and a two other male neighbors chasing a couple of my friends and myself through the narrow slums of our neighborhood, Imam Ali street in Bourj el-Barajneh (my family later moved to the outskirts of the Mukhayyam) after we decided to help in the defense of our neighborhood against Israeli forces who were positioned 1.5 miles away. Many young Palestinians and Lebanese living Beirut at that time actually welcomed Israel's invasion because, they thought, this would give them the chance to confront the Israelis, for the first time, face-to-face and to teach them a lesson. Though in retrospect one may say that that was a naive attitude, it reflected an optimism that is lacking in many Palestinian and Arab circles today.
My father always tried to steer me away from being consumed by the world of Palestinian politics in Lebanon. He feared for my safety. He always tried to conceal or downplay his own emotional and political attachment to el-Thawra (the Revolution). I still recall how he came home one day (it must have been 1979 or 1980) and found the walls of the living room littered with the pictures of Khomeini, Nasser, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Arafat, Ben Bella, Daniel Ortega, Shafiq Handhal, and the Secret Armenian Army. Commenting, with a hint of sarcasm, about what he regarded as an odd "mixture" (referring to the collection of posters as a strange "salad"), he then told me to remove them all.
"How come you have two large picture of Abu Iyyad (Salah Khalaf) and el-marhoom Hanna (Abu Omar) Mikhail hanging in the house", I protested.
(Khalaf was one of the main founders and leaders of Fateh; Abu Omar was a high ranking cadre and leader of Fateh, who was killed during the 75-77 war in Lebanon). He insisted that it has nothing to do with politics. "I was friends with Abu Iyyad when I worked in the Gulf in the 60s and I always respected his intelligence and fearlessness, and I always liked Abu Omar because he was well educated, smart and articulate."
Unsatisfied with his answers, I said "If you do not care that much about politics, why do you always keep telling my cousins how great of a man and leader Abu Maher El-Yamani (one of the principal founders of the PFLP who lived in Bourj el-Barajneh) was?" Getting impatient with my questions, he replied: "Because he is the most honorable and andhaf (untouched by corruption) man in the entire Palestinian Revolution."
What I miss most about those discussions, which my aunts and grandmother used to participate occasionally, was the prevailing and widespread certainty felt by all that total victory was very near. My sixty-five years old grandmother was certain back in the mid-1970s that Fateh (she had been excessively pro-Fateh since the Battle of Karameh) was going to liberate Palestine during her lifetime. "I am going to take you all to pray in the Aqsa mosque" she used to tell her grandchildren.
My father is more free in death than he ever was in life. He is free from his sentence of exile. He is free from the humiliation that Palestinians in Lebanon have to endure, including being referred to as "ghuraba' " (aliens). He is free from the UNRWA Card and from being designated as refugee (laje'). He is free from the mukhayyam (the refugee camp), from 194 and from waiting for justice for his people.
Today, he is liberated from dependence on anything other than God. He is liberated from the Dar al-Fana' (transitory life) into Dar al-Baqa' (eternal life). He is free of the (human) internal tension between al-Nafs al-Ammara (Commanding Self) and Al-Nafs Al-Lawwama (Self-reproaching Self). Today, he has finally attained Al-Nafs Al-Mutmaínnah (Self at Peace)
May Allah illuminate his grave with the primordial light of Prophet Muhammad's luminous face--source of the light of the sun and the moon. May Allah grant him the patience to wait for the Day when his soul will be reunited with its Creator after fulfilling its Primordial Covenant with Allah. May Allah forgive all of his sins and grant him a place in 'illiyyin, next to our Beloved Prophet and the Family of the Prophet.