My Friend, Hasan Jehangir Hamdani
By Mohammad Ashraf Chaudhry
Pittsburg, CA

On 21st July 2007, hundreds of votaries of this great man, popularly known in the area as “The Nightingale of Bay Area” gathered at the Veteran Memorial Hall to pay their homage to him on his first anniversary. The anniversary, or what his brother termed as urs, was attended by people of all faiths and denominations, which included Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Mormons, Sikhs and Hindus. The writer was also specially invited by his wife to say a few words about Prof. Hamdani as he often graciously remembered me in his conversation. It was, indeed, an honor to be in the good company of Hamdani.
The following is the text of the homage the writer paid to Prof. Hamdani:
Ladies and Gentlemen: one full year has passed when this gem of a man departed from us. He was, indeed, a great friend of mine. Before I may say a few words about him, I deem it proper to share with you some noble thoughts expressed by Rumi and Abu Darda, both his favorite:
When you see my funeral, don’t say, “What a separation!”
It is time for me to visit and meet the beloved.
Since you’ve seen my descent, then do see my rising!
Why complain about the setting of the Moon and the Sun?
Which seed that went under the earth failed to grow up again?
- Rumi
Hamdani, my friend, was one such seed. Gathered here as we are in hundreds, any one who can bother a little bit, can see it for himself that physically he did go down under the earth, but like a seed that Rumi alludes to, he did not fail to germinate, grow and blossom. He is very much alive and fresh in our memories today. Last year we saw his descent under the earth; now we are seeing his rising…ostensibly through the nobility and universality of his thoughts and scholarship.
Somebody once asked the honorable companion Abu Darda,. “I want to be a good man, but my heart is sick and hard. O, Imam, prescribe for me a remedy”. Abu Darda said to him, “My son, perform the funeral prayers, go around the hospitals and visit the cemeteries. This will cure your disease”.
This man acted as advised. He performed the funeral prayers as our funeral Imams do; he visited the tombs more often than the grave diggers; and he paid visits to the sick in hospital and took care of them as nurses do. But his heart stayed dark and hard. No change occurred. He came to Abu Darda and said, “O Sheikh, I followed your advice, but my heart is as hard as ever. I derived no benefit whatever”.
Abu Darda replied, “As you were performing the funeral prayer, did it occur to you to think, it is I who am lying in this coffin and these prayers are for my funeral. Did you say to yourself, it is I they have stripped naked; it is I who has been deprived of wealth and rank; my wife is a widow, my children are orphans; they are putting me away in the dark earth. Here I’m alone with my deeds; now the two angels will come and question me; what am I to do alone in this house of darkness?”
The man said, “No, I thought of no such thing”. Abu Darda told him, “You will gain nothing from performing the funeral prayers as you did. On the contrary, it will blacken your heart. Now go and do it again”.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Hamdani departed from us with truck-loads of good deeds. He had that ability to completely immerse himself in the occasion he was invited to. The saying of the Qur’an came true on him that those who know most, fear Allah most.
Once Hazrat Umer asked the Noble Prophet, “What things were especially to be sought in the world?” The Holy Prophet answered, “A tongue occupied in the remembrance of God; a grateful heart and a believing wife”. How true and far-reaching in consequences are these three golden objectives. Hamdani was one such fortunate person who possessed all three; he possessed a tongue that never tired in the remembrance of Allah and His Prophet. As far as I know, he never missed a chance to present himself in a Mehfil arranged for the remembrance of Prophet Muhammad. He was also blessed with a grateful heart that didn’t know how to hurt others; and with a God-fearing wife who helped him live the way he wanted to live.
Ladies and Gentlemen: I will be failing in my duties if I miss to acknowledge my personal gratitude as well as that of the community associated with the Islamic Center of East Bay in Antioch to Prof. Hamdani, because it was he who made our dream of a Center in that area come true. He participated with his entire family when we initially met in a garage; and he joined us unfailingly when we bought our own building. In all the four fund-raising dinners that we arranged in a period of 10 years to totally pay-off the loan on the Islamic Center, Hamdani, invariably remained the main speaker on three; on the fourth, however, his name was read aloud; but alas, he didn’t turn up because he had passed away just a few days earlier. We, undoubtedly, felt his presence there in the function because everybody talked about him and his contribution to the Center.
I can go on and on forever because I am well-stocked with his memories. He always addressed me, even in writings as, Dr. Ashraf Chaudhry. I remember, correcting him on more than many occasions that I, no doubt, have been a college teacher with foreign degrees, but I don’t qualify myself to be addressed as a doctor. I knew he was never short of memory. As I learn today from most of you, it has been one of his very special traits to hold his friends in somewhat excessive esteem. May God shower His infinite blessings on this wonderful human specimen, who once was with us, and whom we always addressed as Prof. Hamdani. Ameen.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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