Late Syeda Razia Faiz (Left) with her youngest sister Syeda Zakia Ahsan (Right) -Collected
The month of remembrance of Muharram has begun with Muslims all over the world paying homage to our Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the martyrdom of his grandson Husayn ibn Ali. The day of Ashura in particular, on the tenth day of Muharram, honours their sacrifices as well as the suffering of Muslims who have been disadvantaged and marginalized-historically and contemporarily.
While the Muslim Ummah mourns the sacrifices of our collective ancestors, my family mourns the loss of one in particular: my Nanijaan, Syeda Razia Faiz who passed on the day of Ashura.
In the past few weeks leading up to the Islamic calendar's 6th anniversary of Nanijaan's passing, I have had several conversations with friends and relatives about ancestral history and legacy. In my family, these conversation lead to a discussion of the responsibility of each generation to carry on in the spirit of our elders.
The day of Ashura commemorates the day that Allah(SWT) saved Hazrat Musa and his followers from the tyranny of the Pharaoh. It is only fitting that we take the time to show gratitude and honour those who have sacrificed for us. In remembrance of the duty we have to submit ourselves to the practice of Islamic values, we must acknowledge the ways in which we carry these messages in our daily lives.
Since my childhood, I have always drawn from the example set by Nanijaan. She embodied Islamic values of honesty, integrity, and sincerity. On Ashura and the anniversary of her passing, my family and I engage in our own practice of remembrance.
Nanijaan has always been my anchor; grounding me with the weight of her contribution to our family and our nation. Her life was not motivated by ego, but a duty to do right by the people in her life. This is evidenced by the countless stories I have heard throughout my life about the impact she has made.
From becoming the first woman to be elected into Bangladeshi parliament to her work as Minister of Women's Affairs, she catalyzed a shift in gender roles throughout Bangladeshi society. Moreover, my family and I have been approached by strangers recounting their memories of my Nanijaan- stories I had never heard from her myself- in which she quietly worked to improve the lives of her countrymen.
What is most striking to me is that these stories are not memorialized in a museum or in historical texts but in the collective memory of her constituents, her family, and her friends. It is a reminder that the work we do in service of others is not glamorous: there are no lights or cameras in the trenches. You will only find the people truly committed to doing the necessary work to move our society in the direction of progress, equity, and liberation.
Each of my cousins and I have our own vision of how we might follow in Nanijaan's footsteps. When most of us live outside of Bangladesh, it would be easy to forge our own paths without the social burden of carrying on her legacy. However we've each chosen to pursue a life she would be proud of. Her voice echoes in our lives; her story interwoven into ours.
The writer is a young scholar based abroad
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