Sr. Aminah Assilmi died today in a sudden car accident. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji`un. She was 65 and had been ill a few years ago but had been doing much better recently. She died instantly I read. SubhanAllah, indeed it is true we do not know when or how any of us will be called back Home. I heard the news this evening and my mind immediately flashed back to all my memories of her.
I was a teenager in a MYNA camp when I first heard her speak. She walked up mature and elegant, wearing a long skirt outfit and fully wrapped Hijab. A convert to Islam she always told us funny anecdotes and stories about being Muslim. She would then pause while we laughed and go on to give us the teaching point. When I was in MSA we invited her a few times to the Northeast to speak. Usually the topic was something like ‘Behind the Veil’ or ‘Myths of Women in Islam’. She always spoke well and was very equal to answering any obnoxious questions or debating any ‘feminists’ in the audience who felt they knew better. I never knew her to turn anyone away from speaking to her. She had the same quality of the Prophet (saw) where if she was speaking to you, you felt like you were her most prized best friend in the world. She always took the time out to talk to ‘us girls’ and remembered us whenever we met.
In years since MSA, I would see her less and less often at ISNAs and ICNAs and other events. She had been ill for a long time I believe and I’d seen her in a wheelchair for a number of years. About two years ago I received an email that asked for help for Sister Aminah. She had lost her home and income and needed help. She’d been living on campgrounds because she had nowhere else to go. I remember even posting this to others, and I really thought I had sent her some money to help. But I’ve since checked and in the hurry of everyday life I did not.
This past 4th of July ISNA I met Sister Aminah again and we reminsced a little and she talked about organizing a retreat for Muslim women. I told her a little about our retreat in upstate New York and she gave me her card. I asked if we could take a picture together and she happily smiled and put her arms around me wearing the biggest, pinkest sunhat I’d ever seen.
In the 90s we were a generation that was raised in Islamic camps, conferences and university lecture halls. Our parents were Imam Siraj Wahaj, Sh. Hamza Yusuf, Imam Zaid Shakir, Jamal Badawi, Abdullah Idris, Ahmad Sakr, Sheema Khan, Haroon Sellars, Saffet Catovic, Abdullah Adhami, Aminah Assilimi… so many well known names that we heard from over and over again. Teaching us, inspiring us, motivating us. Trying so hard to give us an identity. Today, I can’t even remember all the long-forgotten names. But they made us the strong Muslims we are today. In fact, I can’t even imagine where we would be without them.
Yet when their time of need came and comes, we are not there for them. How many people received the email forward asking for help for Sister Aminah and did nothing (myself included). How many people have received the calls for help for Imam Siraj’s cancer treatment and have donated anything to help. We would be lost and astray without them, yet we are not willing to give back.
I’m reminded of another great man who died on the steps of a nursing home; alone and penniless. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, from whom millions of English speaking Muslims have benefited from. Yet he too died alone with no help from the Muslim Community.
I was unable to help Sister Aminah in life, but I am determined to help her in death and also promise to help my ‘other parents’ when they are in need inshaAllah.
May Allah have mercy on sister Aminah, give Shifaa to her son and patience to her family. May Allah reward her for all her Dawah work for the benefit of the Ummah (she was truly a da’iah for Allah) and enter her into Jannah.
Originally published by Jannah.org