Earlier this year, I was blessed to visit our Beloved Messenger ﷺ in the beautiful city of Madinah. Whilst there, I learnt a dear friend and teacher of mine had fallen ill and was admitted into hospital. As a small gesture, I recorded a short video making a dua’a for him before our Prophet ﷺ, asking Allah to cure his illness and restore him to full health.
My teacher, Nabeel Al-Azami, was a man who had dedicated his life to studying the Prophet ﷺ, documenting each quality that made Him the greatest leader there ever was. Through his studies, my teacher learnt to master them, then dedicated his life to teaching others how to do so. Muslims and non-Muslims alike flocked to him, working with some of the biggest corporations to teach them how to become great leaders by emulating our Prophet ﷺ. His work won the most prestigious awards in the field, earning him the respect of all who knew him. He had transformed da’wah, bringing to life the legacy of our Prophet ﷺ by contextualising it to the modern world and embodying it in the way he lived.
Shortly after sending the video, Ustadh Nabeel replied with a tearful voice note I will never forget. His illness was far more serious than I had assumed; it was terminal, and he had a few weeks to live.
Immediately after landing in the UK, I asked permission to visit him. The news of his illness was still new and many of his family had only just learnt of its severity. As I arrived at his hospital ward, I entered the most spiritual place I have ever encountered. Here was a man who had dedicated his whole life to serving His Lord, and was now confronted with the reality of his mortality.
Despite his circumstances, it was Ustadh Nabeel who comforted me. He saw my discomfort and wanted to put me at ease given the circumstances. That is the nature of this beautiful soul; he always placed others before himself.
To this day, I have never forgotten the words he told me:
“Have you ever booked a holiday you really look forward to? As the time gets closer, you become more and more excited at what you will do, picturing the sites and experiences you will go through.
In 6 weeks, I will make my own journey. My soul will leave this world and I will travel the heavens to meet my Lord and our Beloved Prophet ﷺ – what a meeting that will be! I will meet my mother whom I love and miss. I will witness heaven and all its beauty. It’s as though I am going on my own travels.
Today I have been given a gift few people ever receive; time to prepare for my departure. I can set all my affairs in order, make right my affairs and pray for the remainder of my days – and for that, I am eternally grateful.
Whilst it pains me to be leaving my family, friends and community, I am comforted with the knowledge that Allah will look after them as He has looked after me. Now is my time to prepare to meet Allah.”
I have never heard a more vivid image of death and the journey that follows. Whilst it is a reality we all must face, it is often obscured from us by life and its distractions. Seeing Ustadh Nabeel, all those illusions were stripped away and its reality was laid bare before us. Whilst many like me would be terrified to face their mortality knowing what their life entailed, Ustadh Nabeel imbued a peace I have never felt before, not for any arrogance or self-righteousness on his part, but the surety of a dying man who countless testify he had spent his whole life serving His Lord.
During my visit, my teacher left me with one more request, something I have taken as a duty for me to fulfil; to teach. Just like I benefited from him, I too must benefit and serve others to continue the legacy we inherited. May Allah make easy the task ahead of us.
Today, after Allah granted him a few more months of life, Ustadh Nabeel began His journey to His Lord. As the world mourns the loss of a tremendous human being, the heavens celebrate in welcoming him to the divine presence.
May Allah shower him with mercy, open every gate of heaven for him, pardon every sin, make heavy his scale of good deeds and unite him with our Beloved Prophet ﷺ in Jannat Al-Fidaus! May Allah give patience to his wife and children, make easy their affairs and allow them to grow following the legacy of their father and his teacher our Beloved ﷺ.
Indeed we belong to Allah, and to Him we shall return.