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On late Saa’du, other martyrs of COVID-19 – Part 1

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“Dr Zaidi was a dedicated General Practitioner (GP), and that dedication cost him his life.”. Irony. What an irony of life! The Andalusian poet and prose writer, Ibn Zaydun, pondered the category of irony in human life when he said that “surely, drugs could become poison; the patient could die from that which should ordinarily give him life; the thirsty could indeed die while drinking water”.

In other words, humans should expect death in and from the very vocation in which their passion is located. Such is the case with those who died atop their female concubines; they died like ants inside the sugar-box; they died in the midst of action while pleasuring their souls to hell.

Ironically, the converse is equally true for men and women of nobility and high spirituality. Those who died while in sajdah position praying to the Almighty; those who, like Dr Alfa Saa’du and other medics in UK, US, Italy have departed this world due to this war against COVID-19. They died while giving life to life (Quran 5: 32); they died as heroes and heroines. But more importantly, they died as martyrs.
Martyrs? Yes. Martyrs they are. Drs Alfa Saa’du, Zaidi, Adil al-Tayar and others who have died since the outbreak of the ongoing global pandemic have become martyrs.

“They were devoted family men, committed senior doctors, and dedicated decades of service to their communities and patients; they gave the ultimate sacrifice while fighting this disease”, They are martyrs because that exactly is their representation and description in Islamic hermeneutics. He is a martyr- “one who dies in a plague; he who dies of intestinal ailments; he who dies of drowning, he who dies under a collapsed building, and he who dies as a martyr in jihad”. Yes. He is a martyr – ‘he who dies while defending his own possessions; he dies while defending his own life or that of others; he who dies while guarding his own faith; he who dies fighting in order to defend his own family”.

Consequent upon a review of the sources from which the above perspectives on martyrdom are evident, Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani states: “we can conclude from these traditions that martyrs are of two types: Those who are recognized as martyrs in this world, and those who are recognized as martyrs only in the Hereafter. A martyr recognized in this world is one who has died fighting in the cause of Almighty without having retreated from the battle. But those who are recognized only in the Hereafter are those upon whom the laws of martyrdom are not applicable in this world, although they merit rewards of martyrdom.”

But exactly who are the martyrs of interest to us today? Here are insights from their life history. Dr Zaidi “was a very well-liked and respected doctor and was the embodiment of what everyone looks for in their GP. He was kind, caring, friendly and jolly. The urge and desire to be there for the other in crisis, in distress and in pain constantly drove him to the edge”. He was already ready to put his own life on the line in order to save the lives of others. He sacrificed his own life in order that others may live. He became infected in the process. He died in the process.

One of former patients of his was grief-stricken when she heard of his transition. She then said: “Dr Zaidi was a dedicated General Practitioner (GP), and that dedication cost him his life.” This statement is reminiscent of that of Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte is reported to have said that: “It is the cause, not the death that makes the martyr”. In other words, it is not COVID-19 that bestowed martyrdom; it is what those who have died stood for. Dr Zaidi and others died for a cause that would outlive them at a time their fellow men would prefer to die in the pursuit of the ephemeral and the chimerical.

What about Dr Adi al-Tayar? He “was an organ transplant consultant who graduated from the University of Khartoum in 1982. He had been working at Hereford County Hospital in the west of England as a volunteer in the emergency department amid the pandemic, where his family believes he contracted the COVID-19 virus. He began to self-isolate when he displayed symptoms but was eventually hospitalised and placed on a ventilator. He eventually gave up the ghost”.

What about Dr Alfa Sa’adu? He was our compatriot. He was born in Pategi, Kwara State. He was a product of Ibadan, of the great University College Hospital (UCH). He belonged to Class-76. Upon graduation, he decided to travel out. He left for the ‘centre’. He departed the ‘periphery’. In the seventies and eighties, the United Kingdom was the Centre of the ‘Centres’. On arrival London, Alfa Saa’du joined the British National Health Service and began his medical career as a consultant physician in geriatric medicine.


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