Thursday, 17 February 2011: Christmas and summer holidays in Clonbrook on the East coast of Demerara, my mom’s ancestral village, was a right of passage when I was growing up. There was never a dull day. Although I had the choice of staying with any of mother’s four brothers, the home of uncle Hakeel and aunty Neisha was the only acceptable option for me.

In those days my uncle worked long hours from early in the morning to late at night. He had a rice field to maintain, cared for his livestock and attended to a vegetable garden, all in a single morning. If I wasn’t ensconced on his tractor as he seeded the field or reaped the harvest, I was lazily picking tomatoes and getting bitten by the dreaded Guyanese marabunta. Those were memorable days of perils and much laughter with my many older and caring cousins.

One summer in particular I will never forget. I rode with Uncle Hakeel in his tractor trailer to transport a crop of mangoes from the field to his home where it was packaged for sale. Sitting on top of the most mangoes I’ve ever seen in my entire life and able to eat as much as I wanted amounted to dying and going to heaven.

Aunty Neisha, may Allah give her a beautiful resting place, would always fuss to ensure she cooked my favorite food and to make my stay in her home comfortable and fun-filled. If I wasn’t swimming in the dirty trenches with my cousins we went fishing for hassa in even dirtier ponds. And when I was bored there was always a fight to pick with my younger cousin Fazrul.

These were days of racial strife and political turmoil made even more potent because gangs roamed villages preying on the weak and vulnerable. If they ever came to Clonbrook the home of Uncle Hakeel was not an option. His nickname was “tiger” and my uncle was fearless. When angry, which was fairly rare, he was not a person anyone wanted to cross paths with.

He knew local politics like few I’ve ever known. He saw the flaws at the micro level often overlooked by short-sighted and corrupt politicians. Uncle Hakeel was never afraid to call them on their waste and nepotism. We all knew he wasn’t doing it to win cookie points with the PNC or the PPP. They couldn’t buy his support with a poorly built road or an incomplete retrenching project.

As my brother and I grew older and got seriously involved in Islamic activism, planning programs and teaching Islamic classes, uncle Hakeel was a staunch advocate of what we were doing when many elders were eager to condemn us rather than nourish our enthusiasm.

Today Allah has taken Uncle Hakeel from this world while he was asleep at his son’s home in Toronto. I prayed for him when I received the sad news. And I pray that Allah grant him the company of the Awliya and Saliheen in Jannah Inshaa Allah. He was a man of salt, a farmer who lived off the land, tough, combative, fierce yet gentle, generous and compassionate. He embodied the resilience of his ancestor’s generation and today our lives are all the more better because of the sacrifices he made.

Missing you. May you rest in peace Uncle Hakeel.  His real name was Akeel.  

Mohamed Hakeem (Akeel) Khan (1935-2011)
Inna lilla he wa inna elaihe rajioun

It is with great sadness that the family of Mohamed Akeel Khan, announces his passing today, Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Br Akeel was the father of Haniff Khan (past Director of the Islamic Institute of Toronto) and Fazrul Khan also of the IIT. 

The family will be accepting condolences on Friday February 18 at 7 pm, at the Islamic Institute of Toronto.

Janazah will be held tomorrow (Saturday, February 19) at the Islamic Foundation of Toronto after duhr (duhr at 1 pm). Burial will be at the Pine Ridge Memorial Gardens in Pickering:

May Allah forgive Br Akeel and grant him His Mercy.