Two decades ago, a man sat in the backyard of our family home in Princeton, New Jersey, very early in the morning, facing the forest which began where the lawn ended, a table on the side of his chair with a glass of water and an ashtray. That ashtray I think was more important to him than the glass of water, and of course it would be to any chain smoker. Sitting quietly all by himself waiting. Waiting for the herd of Deer to show up. He would sit there in silence, puffing on his Dunhill cigarettes and just watching the Deer with an underlying smile on his lips. Like a happy child.
Qibla why do you love Deer so much ? I asked in Urdu as all my conversations were in Urdu with him, but I will translate them for the readers in English here.
Nawasa E Rasool SAWS, my Mola Hussain A.S. loved deer. That was his one line answer and back to staring at the deer again with that same childish smile.
The man was Allama Talib Jawhari. The legend we all knew him to be. Writing today, an obituary of him is one of the most painful things I have ever done. Because to all and the sundry, he was Allama Talib Jawhari, to me he was someone who saved my life, took me out of the dungeons of depression, was a friend, yes a friend, guided me, pulled me away from the filthy mindset of worldly Wall Street and brought me to realize the greatness of Allah, our dependency on the Almighty, the greatness of our Prophet SAWS and his Ahle Baith. He not only guided me through the toughest and the darkest years of my life into an ever increasing light of self-actualization but he also walked those baby steps with me being a giant himself.
He was very interested in Wall Street. How it worked. Whom is it controlled by. Why it is the way it is. Why it could never be based on Islamic Finance. And once after I had left Wall Street we had a long conversation about it all and that was the last conversation we had because he ended his own series of questions with an abrupt comment,
I am happy you are not there anymore Mian. Allah ka shukar Ada Karo.
And we never spoke about that topic ever again.
For the brief period of time I lived in Pakistan during 2000 to 2002, he would come over to my Karachi home at all different times, especially late at night. Sit there and we would talk for hours. Once he did not have a driver, and he rarely drove himself, I told him I would send my driver to pick him up but he refused by saying, I feel like driving, I would be at your home in an hour. And there came Allama sahib driving his Blue color Pajero with his lone bodyguard sitting in the back. This incidence was printed on my mind because the moment he got off the car he said,
Mian Samosay Mangwaey ?
And I burst our into a laugh, Maa’af Keejiyey Qibla, Bhool Gaya. I replied.
Abb Mian App Khud Jaaeye, Hamaray Cigarrette Bhi Laaeye Aur Samosay Bhi. He ordered me and there I went to fulfil my mentors’ wish.
My Psychiatrist, My Spiritual Guide and My Friend, All-In-One.
Fast forward a few years. I have sunk into the dungeons of depression. Darkness all around me. No will to go on. Sitting in Dubai I called him…
Qibla I have no will to live anymore. I do not want to go on. I am suffocating.
And I went on and on while he kept listening patiently. Then he spoke:
Can all of your pain be put on hold for a day or so. Can you wait till I get there. I am coming to you in a few days. We will sit there and talk about it.
And within a few days he was in Dubai. Only for me. Only to share my pain. Only to guide me. Only to start the process of my healing. Only to convince me to see a psychiatrist.
And after he convinced me to see a Psychiatrist and start my healing process, a month later he told me, you want the Psychiatrist to succeed ? Of course Qibla. I said.
He replied: Help the Psychiatrist by making yourself stronger. And the only way to make yourself stronger while seeking mental health medical help is to go towards Allah SWT. Start reading Quran with translation. Let the medication do its swork and let Allah SWT make you stronger. He said.
With my heavy heart and pure ignorance I replied.
How is that going to help me Qibla ? I do not even have enough will to get up from my bed and go to the bathroom. And you are asking me to read Quran and concentrate ?
Just start. Just do this as a favour to me. Just read 10 pages in Urdu a day. Read a few in the morning a few in the afternoon and a few in the evening.
He said And with extreme difficulty I promised him and this was the turning point in my life. Over the next year, sitting locked in my room, only coming out to go see the Psychiatrist, I would sit and read Quran with translation. 21 times in one year. Literally 12 hours a day I did it.
Long story short. It took me time, with medication, therapy and Allah on my side, almost 18 months and I beat that dreaded mental disease. During this entire time Allama stood by me. Calling me regularly. Me visiting his home in later months of my treatment. Sitting for hours upon hours and learning from him. Asking him questions about life, religion, Quran, business, relationships and whatnot. This process lasted for years and without going into details, this man changed a hardheaded idiot like me into a person that you see today. I am still full of faults and sins but comparatively to my past, the change he brought in me, the love of Allah SWT he instilled in my heart, I can never thank him enough for.
He simply SAVED my life. That is all I could say.
He was such a great man, a simple man. A man who cared. A man who was so content with life that his contentment at times bothered me.
Before moving to Lahore I called him and wanted to go see him. He said he was leaving for some time to a place where he would go in hibernation and pray. So I knew I could not see him. On the phone he said, Abb Tum Hamain Chhor Kar Lahore Jaa Rahay Ho ? Magar Jaao. Hum Khush hain. Rizq Ki Talaash Mein Ja Rahay Ho Allah Tumhain Kamyabi Deyga. Magar Jab Bhi Hum Bulaayen, Aaogay ?
I said Qibla, Sirf Hukum Keejieygaa.
And low and behold about 18 months ago he fell sick. He was admitted to Agha Khan Hospital. I was in Lahore. I called and his cell phone was off. With great difficulty I was able to get in touch with him at the hospital room and the first thing he said was:
Waada Poora Karo. Aajao.
And literally without saying a word more I said. Qibla Aaraha Hoon. And the very next morning I was there in his hospital room. (That is the picture most of you have seen of him with me)
We sat, we spoke. And then he said, Cigarette Laaey Ho. And I burst into a laugh. I said Qibla you are sick, you are in the hospital. And you want to smoke. And with a smile he said, of course I smoke a few puffs hiding from everyone when I go into the bathroom. And I was literally shocked but he changed the topic.
At the end all I would like to say is that this man I loved because he brought all the sects together. You see the love of all sects in me today it is because of him. He brought that enlightenment in me. He spoke of Muslims. He did not promote Shia Vs. Sunni or Deobandi Vs. Barelvi.
There is so much more I want to write but I will not because maybe I should have asked his permission before to write about some critical discussions of ours. But I never thought that anything would happen to him, as we always think about the ones we love, so I never asked for permission.
May Allah give everyone an Ustaad like him. A Mentor like him. A friend like him. A guide like him.
Ameen. Ya Rabb Ul Aa’alameen.