Lessons I Learnt After Attending The Funeral Prayers Of One Of My Pupils

I think burying your child must truly be the most excruciating ordeal in this world, but only people who love and trust in God can deal with it calmly, and learn to be at ease.

Attending the funeral prayers of anyone is a thought-provoking and humbling experience, and I’ve been to many in my life. However, the funeral prayers of a teenager you’ve known and taught for a few years is quite hard-hitting and sticks with you.

Almost two years ago the school I worked at got the saddening news that one of our pupils, who I must admit I probably looked at as a little cousin, passed away. Souad (her parents kindly allowed me to use her real name) had suffered from a heart condition for years, but if I or her friends were to describe her in three ways I believe it would be; full of life, compassionate and determined.

I had been her head of year for several years, and her family was known to the school with an excellent reputation and up-beat spirit despite trying times. Her father was always calm and remains a good friend, whilst her mother was always softly spoken and kind enough to send in trays of homemade Lebanese snacks for those of us who worked closely with Souad. 

It was tough to think a young person has returned back to God, unable to enjoy what most of us take for granted in our (often misspent) youth. Harder still was the first day back at school when I had to tell the rest of Souad’s year group that their friend and peer had passed away, and watch many children break out into tears.

However, I am a firm believer in taking lessons, and this piece most definitely isn’t written to dwell on difficulties – that wouldn’t be very Souad-like. So, what can I learn from her passing away?

1. Quran 40:60 – Call Me and I will respond to you

The reason I wrote this, in the final nights of shahr Ramadhan, is because this year I neglected to ask Allah for the chance to be blessed with the ability to experience the glory of fasting and laylatul qadr next year. My first thought, for some reason, was that Souad’s passing should always remind me that death is not prejudiced, so always pray for the chance to enjoy something again, even if that something has become habitual.

2. Quran 26:89 – Those who come (return) to God with a sound heart

I probably won’t forget the funeral prayer of Souad, and the devastation on her father’s face. However, he has said nothing but ‘alhumdulillah’ since that day when he speaks of her passing. I think burying your child must truly be the most excruciating ordeal in this world, but only people who love and trust in God can deal with it calmly, and learn to be at ease. Therefore learn to accept and love God’s will and plan. 

3. Quran 2:214 – Or do you think you will enter paradise without a test…Definitely the help of Allah is near

Never give up, and have hope in God despite your trials. I don’t remember Souad ever complaining – literally never. She managed to somehow muster the energy and courage to sit her GCSEs – and do well in them, practice her faith, be a good friend, an outstanding pupil, and exemplary human being in the time I knew her. Her health just never got the better of her emotions nor her attitude, and most definitely strengthened her faith. 

4. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) has said: “Surely Allah loves the young who spends their entire youth in obedience to Allah”

Spend your youth wisely. Souad was never rude, always polite and humble, meticulous about her modesty (in manner and dress), and could speak about matters, even religious, very maturely. Despite her health issues, I do kind of envy how she lived her teenage years – it almost feels ironic when thinking about it this way. 

5. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) has said: “Allah has made generosity the greatest moral virtue”

Small acts of kindness can lead to incredible bonds. I don’t proclaim to have done much for Souad, besides chasing teachers for some work and sending it home, and trying to be a friendly face for her parents when they came to school for a meeting. However, this seemed to open doors of brotherhood with her father, who, over the last two years, has generously offered to help me with various personal issues to an extent I can’t do justice to. 

Occasionally I see Souad’s parents’ WhatsApp profile pictures and statuses, and they are always in memory of their beloved daughter. I know the welfare officer at school, who was extremely close to Souad has felt a sense of deep loss too. Souad’s friends will, I’m sure, never forget the friendship they built with one another due to her. Above all, I hope Souad will serve as an example and lesson to myself and all those who knew her.

“…Indeed we belong to Allah, and to Him shall we be returned” (Quran – 2:156).

Please recite al-fateha for Souad’s soul.

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