262. In loving memory, Zarifah Alias.

I first heard of her passing one night while scrolling Facebook. A fellow ANU alumni had posted a link to a news report, and wrote her nickname.

Ziq. It couldn’t be.

Suami isteri antara tiga maut nahas bas di Bentong.
(Husband and wife amongst three fatalities in a bus accident in Bentong)

How does one begin to grieve?

By understanding the loss? By remembering all the good times and wishing you’d stayed in the moment longer? By knowing that someday you’ll be reunited, in unknown circumstances?

Grieving is such an essential human experience. Not easy, but when reminded of our shared mortality, life takes on a different kind of urgency.

It’s been a while since I’ve grieved. A loss. A life. Missed chances. Unbid goodbyes.

I have been meaning to write this since she left but I knew I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to write an emotional, grieving tribute to a dear friend. No. I wanted to write something that was true to her spirit, and if anything, her spirit was pure and full of hope. I met someone the day after I heard the news, in the hope to fill up the sudden void I felt. He was a good companion, and I’m grateful he was there. I wouldn’t have known how to handle it alone otherwise. I guess at the end of the day, I still do need someone, right?

But this isn’t about me.

This particular quote from a friend who had contacted Kak Ziq a month before her passing knocked the winds out of my stomach:

She was still as bubbly and cheerful and funny as I’ve always remembered her. At the end of the conversation, I told her that I was so happy to hear that she got married and is 4-months pregnant and she said, “Alhamdulillah sangat-sangat… sangat bersyukur, Nadia… dah takde benda lagi dah, semua Allah dah bagi.”
[Alhamdulillah. I am so grateful, Nadia. There’s nothing else I want, Allah has given me everything.]

“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]…’” (14:7)

They say the best way to grieve is to tackle it head-on. Let me try it in my own way.

Dear Kak Ziq,

There are so many words I’d like to write, so many hugs I want to give, so many prayers I want to say with you.

But this silence is what I have to contend with, this lack of reciprocity, this lack of warmth.

Why do we always need to face a death, a loss, a hurt, before we realise what truly matters?

It’s been nearly a month since you left to meet Our Creator. Your beautiful soul, together with the little flicker of hope you were carrying five months along and your husband, met a tragic twist of fate.

It’s been years since we talked. It’s amazing how so much time flies and nothing transpired between us. But this isn’t a letter of regret, it shall not be. Your passing shall not be in vain, dear sister of mine. This is a letter of hope. For that was what you gave me endlessly while I was in Canberra back in 2009.

You took me under your wing, and shared with me your heart. You embraced me in a manner I did not deserve, but you saw within me what I myself did not see yet. You looked beyond my insecurities and confusion, and saw me as someone who could be better.

I remember the weekend I stayed over at your house. We had chicken rendang, kampung-style. So many of us gathered that night, but I cannot remember for what occasion. You offered me your bed to sleep in, and you went in search of comforters and mattresses to make your own bed. It was still winter, I remember. I woke up to snow flakes resting on the grass in the backyard. But you were fine with sleeping on the floor.

You woke me up for subuh, and we prayed in congregation. You always loved to pray in congregation – there was immense blessing in it, you’d say. You shared stories of prophets with me, and of the Hasan al-bana movement you were a part of. You would remind me to read the Quran, and modeled it for me. It was a time when I was still searching for myself and my faith, but you were a constant role model. You enchanted me with your faith and your smiles.

We played kampung games that morning. It was a round of tag followed by a game we played with slippers built into pyramids. I went on to the swing and you pushed me. It was cold but nobody took notice – we were too happy together.

You were always so bubbly and cheerful. So smart, so willing to help others and so giving of yourself. You were free with your hugs and there were times when you’ll just lie your head on my shoulders. I never told you this, but you made me learn to embrace the human touch again. You showed me that touch need not hurt, it could heal and show love too.

When I was faced with one of the darkest moments of my life, when what I thought was my future was robbed from me, you were the silent comforting presence I needed. Together with the other sisters who rallied around me, you gave me hope and strength to hold on to my faith. I didn’t want to leave Canberra not only because I didn’t want to leave that life behind, but because I didn’t want to leave all of you behind.

You gave me a beautiful Quran – the most beautiful one I’ve had. I read it religiously for a while since it was my only connection back to you. But life happened and things changed. I started getting too busy and I wasn’t reading it as often as I should have. I still have it today, in fact, I’ve been trying to read it religiously ever since you left. I hope that in my feeble attempt to reconnect with Allah, you will reap the rewards. It’s the little I can do for you.

I miss you, very much. Last year, some of the ANU alumnis had a reunion. I met Kak Safuraa, Jehan, Aina, Sarah, to name a few. Your name was mentioned, I remember.

“How is Kak Ziq?” “She’s fine.”

I was planning another reunion this year, and I was thinking of getting in touch with you. I wanted to meet you again, to once again receive your warm hugs and love, because I know you’re still true to that person. I heard you got married in December, and I was so very happy. You deserve all the best things in this world and in the next.

But that reunion this year with you shall not happen. Maybe not this year, but inshaAllah in a better place and time. Allah knows.

Thank you for everything Kak Ziq. Thank you for staying true to your self, and for being so giving of your soul. Thank you for holding on firmly to your faith and enticing people into the little bubble you call your world. Thank you for believing in me.

Thank you for reminding me to never take anything for granted, that life is meant to be lived well, and good relationships are meant to be maintained.

You are so, so, so loved. There are so many people grieving for you, yet at the same time, we are so happy to know you are in a better place. I heard of the manner your burial had taken place- so beautiful and so becoming of your person. I can only pray that I can pass away and be buried in such a beautiful state.

Perhaps all that matters is that at the end of our lives, we end it well, for Muslims, in a state of husnul khatimah. And knowing that we’ve given life our best shot – we’ve spent every bit of our being doing the best we can to make the world a better place, for ourselves, for our loved ones and well, hopefully for everyone in general.

Your life has brought so much love and blessings to many; your death has brought so much inspiration and hope.

May Allah ease your trials in the grave, may He place you amongst the righteous and His beloved, and may you be rewarded with Jannah.

I hope to see you soon Kak Ziq. Until then, your spirit lives on. Through hope, through inspiration, and through love.

kak ziq

In loving memory, Zarifah Alias (the one on the left). ❤

With much love and warm hugs,

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