On December 7, 2008, after a short illness, my aunt Budrey Yusuf was called by Allah. She left this earth peacefully, surrounded by her loved ones. It is fitting that she passed away on the Day of Arafat, the most unified day in the Muslim religious calendar. On that day, Muslims gather on Mount Arafat in an act of unity to pray, fast and offer sacrifices.
This is a personal tribute to my eldest paternal aunt.
Budrey Yusuf, or Big Budrey as we called her, was an impeccable and fastidious dresser, wearing perfectly matched saris, slippers and handbags, and later, when she began covering her hair, perfectly matched scarves. Up to the end of her life she was very particular about cleanliness and appearance. Indeed, she was a strong believer in cleanliness being next to godliness.
When I was a child, Aunty Budrey lived on Green Path with her mother, my grandmother, whom we visited every evening at 4. She would gather us round the dining table every Thursday evening to pray the Ratib ul Haddad. I do not recall her scolding me even once, although she did run her household with a firm hand.
My sister and I were not the easiest of children to handle. We were naughty in the old-fashioned sense, breaking windows, trampling on plants, and so on. But she put up with our nonsense. She had a gift for making all her nieces and nephews feel that each was special in his or her own way.
She was very tolerant of my controversial views, but would engage me in feisty debates if I dared stray from the correct path. When I got married to a Sinhala Buddhist, she sent her apologies. But subsequently, after she got to know my husband, I believe she felt true affection for him, and was extremely gracious and kind to him whenever we visited.
After she moved to Horton Place with her eldest daughter, it became a tradition that I would swing by to visit her every couple of weeks. Seated at the dining table, we would talk about life, the state of the world, Islam, marriage, death and her childhood.If there is one thing about my aunt that stands out in my mind, it is her unwavering devotion to the memory of her grandparents, especially her mother’s parents and her parents. She would not hear a word against them.
When I fell ill last year, she prayed for my recovery and was overjoyed when I got well.
For a long, long time, Budrey Yusuf was ready to meet her maker. She had had a good run as a daughter, mother, aunt, grandmother and great-grandmother. She was now ready to leave this world and go to her Lord. In fact, like the Sufis, she longed to meet her maker. In the words of Jalaludeen Rumi:
“At last you have departed and gone to the Unseen.
What marvellous route did you take from this world?
Beating your wings and feathers,
you broke free from this cage.
Rising up to the sky
you attained the world of the soul.
You were a prized falcon trapped by an Old Woman.
Then you heard the drummer’s call
and flew beyond space and time.
O heart, what a wonderful bird you are.
Seeking divine heights,
Flapping your wings,
you smashed the pointed spears of your enemy.
Now the words are over
and the pain they bring is gone.
Now you have gone to rest
in the arms of the Beloved.”
Aunty Budrey, God bless you and keep you in His care.