(UPDATE at the end)
Abdullah Alkadi, a California State University Northridge student went missing on Wednesday, September 17th after selling his car on Craigslist. His mother posted on Reddit a desperate plea for people to find him, explaining he had just graduated from CSUN and was selling his car in preparation to come back. A month later, on Thursday, October 16th his remains were found alongside Interstate 10 near the Cook Stress overpass in Palm Desert. According to his family, Abdullah was murdered and two people have been detained in connection with the case. His father is on his way to California now. Instead of watching his son walk across the stage to receive his degree to mark the start of his life, he will be receiving a coroner’s report and a death certificate. He is here to bury his child.
Abdullah was 23 years old. He has been in the U.S. with his older brother Ahmad for almost four years studying engineering. They lived together in the 9900 block of Reseda Boulevard in Northridge. The media hardly talked about his case other than briefly mentioning it when he went missing, then briefly mentioning it when his body was found.
Many people go missing everyday. And many people are brutally murdered everyday. But the sad reality of our human condition, which is reinforced through biased media coverage, is that we value the lives of our fellow human beings on different scales. Two American journalists and a British aid worker were beheaded in Syria, and the world all of a sudden seems to remember that the country is going through a civil war, battling a tyrant who does not want to step down.
The way ISIS killed innocent Westerner’s has moved the West enough to call for action. According to the UN human rights chief, the Syrian death toll has reached more than 191,000 casualties. So we are basically looking at a ratio of one Western life equaling about 64,000 Syrian lives. I want to say “precious” when I speak about a life taken, but our collective lack of recognition for the preciousness of every life as these numbers show makes it hard.
I cannot help but wonder what if Abdullah’s missing had a different end. What if Abdullah happened to have sold his car so he could take off and join ISIS? I am sure the propaganda machines masquerading as “news” media would have loved that. Abdullah’s name would have been plastered all over the news. His being a Saudi student would have been exploited to its fullest extent. After all, Saudi Arabia, a country with different tribes, customs, and even perspectives on Islam is constantly vilified with gross generalizations against its people. Even Muslims want to dissociate from it so they can mitigate the negative stigma of being Muslim, even if for a little bit.
“When you are niggarized you are unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, hated for who you are, you become so scared that you defer to the powers that be and you are willing to consent to your own domination.” These words of Cornel West ring true for Muslims at large and Saudis in specific. We are a “people who have been so terrorized and traumatized and stigmatized that we have been taught to be scared, intimidated, always afraid, distrustful of one another, and disrespectful of one another.”
For us Muslims we really have to come to terms with the reality that we have been niggarized. Despite supposedly being equal citizens in the West, we are not treated as such. Everyone speaks of human rights as universal. But the problem is that not everyone shares the same definition of “human”. The recently sparked discussion on Islamophobia and bigotry is ironically one that highlights this. Everyone gets to talk about Islam and what Muslims believe and want, except for Muslims. We are the bystanders in this conversation about us. Even when a Muslim is brought on to talk about us, as in the case of professor Reza Aslan, he is not representative of mainstream Muslims by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, most mainstream Muslims would reject what he says about Islam as a religion and what they believe about its role in our lives according to him. The presence of Reza Aslan as the most prominent “Muslim Voice” actually serves to further stifle the mainstream Muslim Voice, but such is the consequence of our niggarization.
Going through Abdullah’s Twitter account is emotionally taxing. His profile says that he was “an ambitious guy who’s looking to make difference in the future.” His last tweet was a prayer that can really summarize what every mainstream Muslim wants and thinks about, regardless of how they define their Islam:
“O God, make me happy more than I had been in pain, and in more ease than I had been in difficulty, and don’t disappoint my hopes, for you are sufficient for me and a beautiful support.”
Just like his friends, Abdullah is in fact the typical Saudi. Not the image that media has implanted in people’s minds. His Twitter timeline is filled with love, prayers for people, life counsels, beautiful reminders, and reflections on the small things that matter in life but we often do not pay attention to. He even has funny remarks here and there. His death may be an isolated greed-driven crime rather than a ideologically-driven one. As the details become uncovered, we will soon know. But given that his story will be barely covered, and most people will know him as “Alkadi” rather than “Abdullah”, I thought I would translate some of his Arabic tweets. May be in his death, he can serve as a voice of humanization of Saudis and the rest of Muslims in the West. I never knew Abdullah, but I really wish I did. My heart is broken.
“O Lord, whenever my dad and mom raise their hands to you, spread your treasures for them and make them happy and lengthen their lives – because I have no life without them.”
“O Lord, I have a person who doesn’t know I mean him in this prayer who I love in the amount of my heartbeats. Do not deprive him comfort, health, and wellbeing..and do not deprive me of him. Make his heart always happy, and give him what he desires.”
“To choose a person from all people to tell them the simplest details of your day means you’re telling them they mean a lot to you but in a different way.”
“Be loving to your parents, supportive to your brother, a help to your sister, faithful to your friend, and beautiful to your neighbour… This life is perishing and we’re all in journeying.”
“Love is not words of infatuation and flirtation only.. It is have care and interest in who you love and staying with them your whole life without changing your feelings towards them even for a second.”
“When a door of happiness closes, another opens. But we often keep staring at the closed doors and don’t see the others that have opened for us.”
“Love of people is not measured with how much you see them, because there are people who inhabit the heart despite only seeing them very little.”
“Strength is not always in what we say and do. Sometimes it’s in what we keep silent about and leave out of our own will and willingly ignore.”
“Your being in perfect health is a matter that is worth all that is in this world, so praise be to God always and forever.”
“I seek forgiveness from God for those who I’ve backbitten, annoyed, and hurt. Please God forgive me and them.”
“Better for you to walk like a turtle on the right path than to run like a deer on the wrong path.”
“Don’t hope too much without action, and don’t await success without struggle. It’s been said in a counsel: Before you dream about flying, learn how to walk properly.”
“When olive is pressured, it gives oil, and when fruit is squeezed, it gives us the sweetest of juices. So if you feel the pressures of life, do not feel sorrow, because challenges bring out the best in you.”
“If you reflect on your state, you’d find that God granted you things without you asking. So be confident that God didn’t ward off something from you that you wanted except if in warding it off was a benefit.”
“Don’t say that life has given me its back, because you might the one sitting the wrong way around.”
“Our community is more concerned with the evil eye that with busying itself with doing something worthy of envy.”
“O God, do not deprive me of the pleasure of seeing my country…from the airplane window.”
“Don’t try to be a person who doesn’t make mistakes, because that’s impossible. Rather, be a person who learns from their mistakes, because that’s a great one.”
“I seek refuge in God from sad hearts, death of beloved ones, illness of parents, and separation from friends.”
“That life does not stop for anyone is a true statement. But with everyone who departs, a part of us departs. And with every death, a part of us dies. Yes, life doesn’t stop, but it diminishes.”
To God we belong, and to Him we shall return. He possessed what He took, He owns what He grants, and everything is appointed to return to Him at a set time. May Abdullah rest in peace, and may God grant him Paradise and his parents, family, and friends patience. His beautiful soul was too big to be caged in his body and in this world for long. Now he is free to be with his Lord.
UPDATE Friday October 24, 2014
Abdullah’s mother was granted her request from Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah, the Foreign Minister, to have her son buried in Al-Baqi’ Cemetery where the relatives and companions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ rest. Abdullah’s brother Abdulrahman said their mother read Abdullah’s tweets and felt that he’d want to be buried with martyrs. Hence, she made a request for his body to be sent to Medina where the funeral prayer will be conducted in the Prophet’s Mosque and Abdullah will be laid to rest between the martyrs in Al-Baqi’.
Abdullah’s body is expected to arrive to Medina Friday evening, and the funeral prayer will be conducted after Fajr on Saturday.
After the traitorous murder of Abdullah, his cousins have chosen to leave the U.S. and not finish their studies. They are all deeply scarred and cannot bear the reminders brought about by continuing their stay in the country.