Obituary: In Memory of My Loving Mother Rafiqa Khatoon
By Riaz Haq

My sister and I and our families bid a tearful goodbye to my loving mother Rafiqa Khatoon (1922-2016) yesterday, July 11, 2016. Our extended family and many of our friends joined us for her funeral service at the Islamic Society of East Bay and later burial at Five Pillars Muslim Cemetery.
Ammee, as my sister and I called her, was an extraordinary woman. She lived a long, fulfilling life of 93 years. She lived for others more than she lived for herself.
Ammee was a pious woman. She took care of her obligations to God and to His creation, giving equal importance to both Huqooq-ul-Allah (prayer, fasting, hajj) and Huqooq-ul-Ibad (welfare of fellow humans). My late father often described her as a one-person welfare foundation doing khidmat-khalq for all comers, regardless of relationship, race, ethnicity, or religion. If she were a man in Pakistan's male-dominated society, she would probably have become another Abdus Sattar Edhi .
Ammee was a great example for me, my children and others to follow. I hope her legacy of altruism continues to inspire us to live a life of service to others.
Rafiqa Khatoon was born on September 6, 1922 in Nagina, a small town in District Bijnor, UP, India. Her father Ahmad Saeed worked for the Nawab of Rampur as his office superintendent at the time of my mother's birth. He later joined the British civil service which he left when Gandhi started the Quit India movement.
My mother married my father Zahoor ul Haq on February 28, 1944. It was an arranged marriage. My father was ten years her senior. He passed away in 1981. My parents chose to have a small family well before it became fashionable. My sister and I are their only children.
Ammee made two migrations in her 93 years: First from her hometown Bijnor to Karachi after the partition of 1947 and second from Karachi to Silicon Valley, California . She spent about one-third of her life in each of the three countries: India, Pakistan, the United States. She is now buried in Livermore, California, a distant land thousands of miles away from where she started her life.
Ammee was home-schooled in the basic three R's (Reading, wRiting and aRithmetics) by a tutor hired by my nana. She received Islamic education from another tutor who helped her read and understand the Qur’an.
She remained an avid reader throughout her life. She read the Qur’an on a daily basis. She also read books and various magazines. She saw very few movies but she loved to watch desi television soap operas from India and Pakistan.
Ammee saw meaning in her life as long as she could be of service to others. When she had difficulty walking, she first used a walker and then a wheelchair to continue to do whatever household chores she could. She found fulfillment in sewing, cooking and cleaning. She was always looking for something to do. She would not accept NO for an answer.
The onset of dementia after she turned 90 made life difficult for her. Instead of being of help to others, she became totally dependent on others' help to live. She spent the last 18 months of her life at a Fremont nursing home where doctors, nurses and other round-the-clock caregivers looked after her. This was not acceptable to her. Life had lost all meaning for her. Even though she couldn't communicate well in the last few months of her life, I could see that she had lost the desire to live.
I visited her every day at the nursing home and sat with her for hours. I often took her out onto the patio to get fresh air and sunlight when the weather permitted. I usually took some of the home-cooked foods she liked and fed her with a spoon. In addition to spicy desi food, she also loved mangoes and kheer which I brought to her as desert.
She stopped eating in the last days of her life. She would close her lips tight when I tried to feed her. I could see in her eyes that she was willing and ready to meet her Creator. May her soul rest in eternal peace! Amen!!


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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