Channel: Omar Suleiman
Why do we grieve and what can we learn from celebrity deaths? Sh. Omar Suleiman addresses the recent death of basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, and why celebrity deaths affect us so much as well as what we can learn from moments like these.
We begin by praising Allah subhanaw taala by bearing witness that nun has the right to be worshipped or unconditionally obeyed, except for him. We bear witness that Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam as his final messenger, we ask Allah to send his peace and blessings upon him. The prophets and messengers that came before him, his family and companions that served alongside him and those that follow in their blessing path until the day of judgment, and we asked a lot to make us amongst them a lot. I mean, your brothers and sisters, many of you probably don't know, or have not memorized the date for a reason. That exactly one year ago, we prayed janazah on brother miles, Rahimi, the son of
our brother Parvez, my wife's parents and make it easy for him, your wife, your family, in Las panatela, comfort you, Allah subhanaw taala to join you all together and generated for the dose. And I want to start with that alone. I mean, I want to start with that for a reason. It was one year ago that we lost miles, 24 years old, in this community. And most of us in this community did not know Him that closely. Most of us knew his smile, we knew his warmth, we saw him a few times, but very few of us had an involved relationship with him outside of his family.
But still, when he died, there was so much pain that we all felt for the family seeing the pain in our brother's face and reminding him and his family today that they're in our drives, because I know how hard it is for that one year to pass. And Subhanallah It's strange that so many of us probably loved him, those of us on the outside more in his death than we did in his life, meaning we didn't know him that much when he was alive. But when he passed away, we saw those few images, we remember those few interactions. And that caused us to love him. But when it comes to the family, they still have the childhood memories, they still have the pain of every birthday that passes the pain of
every significant date that passes and the memory that they would have of their son is so much different from the way that we would remember a person of that sort. And I want us to actually think first and foremost to make up for them on this day. This is a very difficult day for that for this family. And so make do out for them and make sure that you comfort them in Charlottetown and let them know that they're in your neurons today. And that we remember that painful episode in this community and that we will remain connected in the nightgown as much as we can and try to be a source of comfort to them. Then a question. Why is it that so many of us connected more to him in
death through a few pictures and a few interactions? Then when he was alive in our community? What is it about that human exposure that makes us see people in such a different light? And this is exactly what I want to speak about inshallah Tada, today. Last week, we had our brother from the oiler community talk about the pain that the Oilers are going through being subjected to that cruelty and that oppression at the hands of the Chinese government's millions of people in concentration camps. And you listen to them speak and they speak about a mother that they haven't spoken to in years, a father that's disappeared, a brother, a sister, a brother in law and aunt and
uncle, a child that they have no connection with over the last few years, and are left to their own devices to think about how bad it must be for them. And I was here as that brother went through the statistics. And I've been through many of those presentations. Brother, it went through the statistics about what's going on to the OIG community. Over 3 million people in concentration camps completely disappeared from our sites. And most of us when we sat here, and he talked about that we we sat here and yes, it's painful to hear those numbers. It's painful to hear those statistics. But the moment that caught every one was not some brutal video where someone was being sliced into
pieces. It was not the image of someone with amputated limbs. It was actually the short video that was played of that Father that came out of those camps who had been subjected to such torture, that when he saw his own little daughter, he couldn't recognize her anymore, the blank face that he had when he saw his wife and his daughter due to the trauma that he had experienced. And it's actually very profound what Allah puts in us. That incident was more painful for us to witness many of us and I'll speak to myself first, then to hear a number like 3 million or 5 million people being in concentration camps. Why? Because 3 million and 5 million remains a number. But each one of those
three to 5 million people has a family. Each one of them have those that grieve over them and that don't see them as a statistic.
But that's just who we are as human beings. That's how a lot programmed us, when we see exposure, or when we are exposed to those types of things, then we're likely to feel a deeper human connection. And that's not often at the mercy that Allah has put in our hearts. And that's a good thing. If you don't feel pain, when you see people in pain, if you don't feel pain, when you see humanity in front of you, in going through whatever it is that it's going through, especially your brothers and sisters, from the Oilers and Hassan it live all over the world where the oppression is just ramping if you don't feel pain and a human connection, that's not good for your heart. That's a sign of a
lack of Rama, a sign of a lack of mercy.
And so last week, when Kobe Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash, it set off a range of emotions. And it was fascinating to see how different people reacted to it and how different people are reacting to it right now. Over the last week, I've had parents tell me how frustrated they are with their children, for how devastated they are over the death of Kobe Bryant. Why is it that you are so devastated over the death of an NBA star? The man had it all he lived a life of glamour. You know, he has everything. There are so many other people that die in that go through tragedy all the time. Why are you so sad over this? And parents will actually admonish their children people will
admonish people online Of course, Mashallah. We have the online Messiah, right that will admonished everyone and say, What is wrong with you? and How dare you feel any type of mercy for this, how dare you feel pain and stop feeling so much pain. And I want to reconcile as much as I can here for a moment that sometimes there can be two valid emotions that are at odds with one another.
The valid emotion of mercy that someone has in their heart, a child or an adult, when they see a picture of a man and his daughter that perished so tragically, and the daughters and the family that they leave behind the sudden nature of death to someone that they've been exposed to, for a very long time, some children having grown up with him, some children, having imagine themselves being him on a basketball court, all of that that's a valid emotion, and we should not try to invalidate that emotion, we should try to channel it. Don't crush your children, because they feel that great sadness over that death. Instead, help them process that emotion to where they can channel it in a
way that's productive.
Well, how many other people do die and they don't get this tribute? Don't they deserve that type of tribute, as well? How many people are desecrated, have their dignity and honor taken how many people die so tragically, usually at the hands of another person. And we don't really care for them. We don't learn their names. We don't we don't connect with them. That's not you are wrong, or you have a problem because you feel that emotion. That's, that's mercy in the heart. And so let's start with that. Let's start with the first valid emotion here and not try to invalidate it. I cannot imagine. The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam looking at an image of a father and a daughter smiling,
hugging each other, clearly a lot of love between them having perished as tragically as they did and not feeling drawn on his heart and not feeling that pain, I can't think of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam seeing that, and I'm not I usually don't like to do if he was here, but there's some things that you can bank on certainty. The lad I mean, a mercy to the world. I can't imagine the profits lies on with his capacity, seeing that image and not feeling pain. philatelic about here enough second, a third of him the one who worried both over the the dunya and the, you know, the salvation of every single human being that came around him. That's mercy. That's mercy. And you have
to remember that this is the prophets lie, some of them who was an orphan himself looking at three orphan daughters, no money is going to be able to replace the father in their lives. Nothing is going to be able to take care of that the prophets lie some had that depth. And it was the prophets lie Selim, who stood up when the funeral of an unknown Jewish man passed by. And the Sahaba were surprised at what were the words of the prophets lie some Elisa nevsun isn't it a human soul? I can't imagine the profit slice alum. simply turning his face and saying whatever. There are bigger problems to worry about. It's a valid emotion of Rama and mercy that Allah puts in our hearts. We
shouldn't negate it. We should not admonish our children because they feel hurt. We shouldn't admonish people when they feel that hurt and pain. Some people don't know why they feel so hurt. I'm one of them. Who Yes, I would hurt over it. But a lot of people it's I don't know why I've had so many people say I don't know why I'm grieving.
So much I feel a little guilty for the amount of grief I have over the death of Kobe Bryant does not making sense to me. And I'll get back to that in a minute. The valid emotion that exists on the other side, which is a valid emotion as well, what about the others, also a valid emotion, starting with the other passengers on the plane that don't get the tribute that don't get the tweets that don't get the tears on TV that don't get the endless coverage, whose debts just seem so insignificant when compared to Kobe Bryant and his daughter. And somehow a lot if you were to walk into a grocery store in Dallas, you would you there's a possibility you would bump into the brother
of john altobelli, who actually lives here, john altobelli, his wife and daughter all perished in that helicopter crash, you'd see him and you wouldn't know that that was his brother, his sister in law, his niece that were in that helicopter as well. And he was interviewed on on on local Fox. And he said Kobe Bryant deserves all the press he's getting and he was a tremendous person. But so was my brother, different person, different sports, but same kind of personality. He was a great giver. I want people to know that about him. Can you imagine the pain those families are feeling right now that their loved ones are seemingly insignificant in this? So that's a valid emotion? How do we get
productive on that side, the way that you're productive with that emotion of natural Mercy is good. You feel empathy. When you see a father who lost his daughter, or who died with his daughter and the three daughters. That's a good thing. That's how do I expand that? How do I expand it? Not? How do I crush it? How do I expand it and make it more inclusive, more expansive? So I can include those who I've been ignoring all of this time? Maybe? How do I expand the productive emotion on the other side? Imagine if we expose ourselves more to our brothers and sisters, in adlib over 20 of them that perished in a day this week in Gaza. The Rohingya, the oysters, all of the Imagine if we exposed
ourselves more to them. Imagine if we humanize them? Imagine if we took the time to learn about them. Imagine if we connected ourselves with our brothers and sisters that have been invisible eyes by oppression here and abroad. Imagine you know there's a scene in the Joker movie if you haven't watched it. I'm not recommending you go watch it per se, where you know, he talks about the five men that these five rich guys why does everyone feel bad over five rich guys, you would kick a homeless person on the street and not care about them. Imagine if we connected ourselves to brothers and sisters that often disappear. Our own brothers and sisters that often do not get that type of
exposure. Because if we expose ourselves to people, our heart naturally will expand. What did the prophets lie Some say to obliterate all the Allahu tada at home or when the man came to the Prophet slice Allah as narrated by who said, My heart, his heart, he said, You need to spend more time with an orphan. Expand your hearts. Just like gratitude expands weather in Chicago, as he denticon gratitude expands, empathy actually expands. If you process it in a healthy way, exposing yourself further empathy expands. So instead of saying, Why do you feel so much pain over the the death of the superstar and celebrity and there's so many other people that die? How do I expand? How do I
start to feel a greater sense of empathy for the people that die and don't often have the tribute or the supports that a Kobe Bryant would have? We also have to think about this complex that exists today. You know, like, I'm not a psychiatrist. But if you read about parasocial relationships, and this connection, this bizarre connection that we develop with people on TV, and people, you know, on the internet, people that we never meet in life, but we feel like we know them, we escaped to them. They are they're more a part of our lives, and we know them more than we know our own neighbors. Some of the brothers and sisters that may be moved from other countries. You don't care who Coby
Ryan is, but you might be able to connect back to a celebrity and I remember, you know, when Michael Jackson and shadow ledger breehn Rahim, Allah died the same day. How many people were grieving over a scholar versus a singer? But it's Hey, that's I grew up with him. I don't you know, I saw him I saw him every day he was dancing across the screen. It's different. Right? How do we understand this in our day to day, Paris, social relationships, which are these connections that we that we forged with people that we don't really know, but we feel like we know, often fill the void, with real relationships that we don't have. And we have an epidemic of loneliness. Now, more so probably than
any point in human history. People suffer now more from loneliness than ever before. And so we develop these attachments to people that seem larger.
than life. We know celebrities more than we know our next door neighbors. What point in human history can you go to where people know more about the family life and every single detail of someone then they know about the person that lives next door than right now.
And that should give us some, some pause. A lot of times, we escaped our own troubles in life to go to their glamorous lives, and we see their glamorous lives. And it seems so wonderful. And then when their lives fall apart, we feel betrayed, hey, this wasn't supposed to happen to you, this happens to people like us, doesn't happen to people like you fax them handle, if you read historically, people in poor societies, poor and the lowly classes and societies grieve more for the rich and the elite when they die, especially if they're perceived to be benevolent, or they had some sort of an impact on their lives. They feel a lot of pain, even though when someone from my village dies, it's
really hard to take care of those that are left behind when someone from that class dies, you know, they're not going to have to worry about their expenses, they're not going to have to worry about whether or not they'll be able to afford school or what what the implications are financially, they don't have to worry about those things. But still, there's an attachment that we develop. There's a psychiatrist in Seattle by the name of Dr. Jill gross, he said, our relationships with celebrities don't necessarily follow typically understood measures of time and space, making them subconsciously immortal to us, they don't even age with us, you still remember them, and they're in their prime,
they don't even age with us, it's a different type of attachment. And so because they have oversized influence in our lives, while they're alive, their deaths also have oversized influence to us, even with our own imminent deaths. I'm more sad about the death of this person than I am about the fact that I'm going to go one day too, and I don't know what's going to happen to me.
So that's one of the connections that we make. And we have to prosecute ourselves for this tragic disengagement that we have with death.
You know, I was reading brother Moby invades, he posted an excerpt from a book about how in Victorian times, children used to be kept away from intimacy and birth. And they likely never even witnessed the birth or witnessed intimacy, but they would all be very familiar with death. Why? Because when the elderly age, everyone in the house has to take care of the elderly. And then, you know, there's the washing in the burial process, there's no professional thing to do that everyone is engaged. So people witnessed death.
Now, it's been reversed, not just storing the elderly away as we do in our societies. But also how many people have the experience of actually washing a dead body, putting someone in the ground that's beloved to them, what is what is that whole experience like and that's something we have to remember the prophets lie, Selim taught us to engage a note, to engage death, not just to remember it, but when we have opportunities to participate in the ritual of it to remind ourselves, because people are disengaged from that concept altogether. And so when it hits, it seems unreal, the prophets lie, some taught us to familiarize ourselves with the inevitable, don't make it unreal, and
push it off as a thought it is inevitable. And if you engage it in a healthy way, just like everything else that's inevitable, but stressful, you manage the stress about it better. So you have to engage. And we have to learn to think about it in that way. And for some people, of course, there are those that have lost loved ones, that when they see the death of someone publicly, it reminds it triggers their own loss. That's also a psychological component, a human component, I buried someone beloved to me. Every time I see someone burying someone beloved to them, it reminds me of that pain. I was reading sister ft. Hodge, Mohammed talking about her sister, who passed in Ramadan, and how
the whole thing brought it back to her. A lot of people express that sentiment as well. I've buried someone Beloved, to me, it reminds me of the tragedy of the separation of families, that death brings us for Kobe Bryant himself, beyond just the natural mercy that we feel in our hearts, and the prayer that we that we can make for his family, his his wife, his his his, his three children that are left behind that a lot, give them comfort and guidance and tranquility and healing and really mean that for the family that's left behind no money is going to be able to compensate for the loss of a father loss of a husband. So beyond that, what do we do? We can look to some of his good deeds.
We can celebrate some of those good deeds without turning him into a prophet without overlooking some of the more problematic aspects of his legacy which hurt a lot of people without doing any of that. What can we learn from that? Well, for one, if you think about some handle on what this conversation provoked in terms of girl debt, the father of daughters, and the love that a father has for their daughters, something that the poor and spoke to
Very early on when the bush shooter had to have an answer when a person is given the glad tidings of a daughter, and the love that he spoke about for his four daughters now he would have been happy to just keep on having daughters. He didn't want any sons. We could learn from that, that love that a father would have for his daughter, and he talks about what that meant for him in his life. There's a brother by the name of Dr. Amir Hassan Loggins who wrote an article for bt, called Kobe Bryant and the father mentality and he said something very beautiful. He said, I cannot relate to Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers, I can't fathom winning an NBA championship or earning an Olympic gold medal.
But I wholeheartedly can relate to Kobe Bryant the Father, the man who loved and dedicated his life to his children. He was my favorite version of Kobe. Your parents give you a name when you're born. But then there is a moment in life when a new name presents itself as a gift. This time your child names you some say Baba Some say pops Some say Daddy, some say dad, but it all translates to the same thing. Father, it's a name that you must earn. It's a name that you must live up to. You are a father fatherhood is beautiful, it is boundless it can make you feel as full as the belly of a feasting fool. And at other times as empty as the stomach of one starving during famine. At moments
that hurts us deep. at others. It's it hugs us tightly. And it's what makes a beatific struggle. It's a beautiful reflection. Some of us saw dad there, you see a father and you relate to that. And we start to take lessons from that. That's one thing that you can take from the victims of police brutality, no family connected, or I felt a greater connection to than the family of Jordan Edwards, who a few years ago, two years ago, in fact was was was murdered here. 15 year old child shot in the head by a police officer in a car doing absolutely nothing wrong in the head, his brains blowing out in the laps of his of his brothers, who were so traumatized by that incident, that they couldn't
sleep with the light off. You know, boys that are teenagers that are grown that did, you know, did nothing to deserve witnessing that tragedy. And the father I remember looking at Odell Edwards, the father of Jordan Edwards, who knows forgotten in the press, who did everything he possibly could to raise those kids so that they don't have to witness that type of tragedy, right? So his young black boys could be protected in a crazy society. But it happened anyway. And somehow, Allah I'll never forget. And this is actually where my personal opinion on Kobe Bryant changed. When Kobe Bryant sent a bunch of autographed jerseys and sneakers to the to the brothers of Jordan Edwards. That was the
first time they'd smiled in weeks. That's something we can admire. That's something we can benefit from caring, understanding as a father what it must be, like, seeing pain in another father's eyes, and learning from those things. But ultimately, it comes back to us. The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said, Actually ruzicka has him and let that
be frequent in remembering the destroyer of pleasures death. He said, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam and this is a hadith from urban Amato the law I know that you often don't hear that a man came to the Prophet sly sentiment, he said which of the believers is best? Who's the best of the believers? He said, a son of whom who's the one who has the best character? And then he said in which of them is the wises the profit slice and I'm setting a cutter homeless Moti decla. Well, accidental home Lima burger, who is Tara dadon una, he can guess. prophets lie Selim said that the wisest amongst them are those that remember death frequently, and are the best at preparing for he said, those are
the wisest of people. They put death in front of them, and they craft their life accordingly. They don't get deflated depressed by it, manage it unhealthily. They use that thought of the janazah. And they craft their entire life in accordance with that janazah How do I want my janazah to be? How do I want to meet my Lord? Everything goes from that. And so I end with the advice of the Prophet slice Allah, where he said either constantly salaat it suddenly Salatin wonder,
if you stand up for your prayer, pray as if it is your last prayer. Whether that lesson comes through us through the through the loss of a beautiful young, 24 year old in our community, or a 41 year old celebrity that we never actually knew, except through the screens and the images. Remember, remember, the most important relationship is your relationship with your Lord. And you have to ask yourself what you've prepared for your meeting with him. And that's what made Muhammad Ali so great. I think a lot of the greatest athlete and one of the greatest people that this country knew, he said, God doesn't care if I beat Joe Frazier. God wants to see if what I'm going to do in this life
to get to heaven. That's what God cares about. He doesn't care if I beat Joe Frazier, or if I become a world champion. The records go the only records that matter
are the ones that are going to be presented to you of your deeds. So what you
Your own legacy. What's your own book look like? What will you leave for people to pray for you in this life? What will you take with you, for Allah and the angels to pray upon you in the hereafter? The second thing, what are two column B column and the woman who hadn't Don't say things today that you're going to have to apologize for tomorrow? You know, all the tributes pouring out after the death of Kobe Bryant and people talking about, you know, their last memories of him, they're going to be so many incidents that you're not going to hear about where people are embarrassed and losing so much sleep and beating themselves up because they probably didn't have a good last interaction
with him. They might have had a fight with him, they might have parted ways there. There are so many stories you're not going to hear. Some of them will be honest. Shaquille O'Neal talking about how it's been years since he actually spent time with him and regretting it and crying on TV and saying that I'm going to do a better job with the people around me to call them and then you have these stories of other people reconciling. Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins those of you who don't know basketball, don't worry about it reconciling because they said the death of Kobe Bryant caused them to put their feud aside, what do we learn about the fact that whether you if you're a star with the
best helicopter in the world, or you drive a 1990, whatever type of car, or you're just walking in the street, or you're the healthiest person or the most unhealthy person that can snatch you away from people just like that? Do you really want the last thing to be between you and someone that's beloved to you and important to you a fight or a feud, squash those grudges. Because if one of you dies before the other one, and you don't get a chance to squash it, that's a lifetime of regret. And it might even have implications in the accurate on the hereafter. On little having had to study how the prophets lie. Some said a lot does not look at the deeds of two brothers that are calling. Allah
says leave these two until they reconcile amongst themselves. And finally, what Admiral Yes, Murphy aiding us, the prophets lie. Some said don't long for what other people possess. I want you to think about how rapid and sudden the nature of death is. Kobe Bryant walked out of his mansion with his daughter, who he loved very much, who knows a lot knows what those last moments were like between him and his family. Maybe it was just another day, hey, we're getting on our helicopter, we're gonna go to a basketball game. But the point is, is that within an hour, if you would have told that man walking out of your mansion with all the money that's on you all the money in your accounts, the
helicopter that you just got on your private pilot, that in one hour, you're going to be an international headline with rip next to your name. How crazy is that?
Subhanallah like really think about that. And all of a sudden, your entire everything he earned that palace, those shoes, the the car, the limo that probably took wherever it is, or his private helicopter pad means absolutely nothing. At that moment.
That's a reminder, that's a powerful reminder for all of us to think about. And right now, there is no difference in the grave between Kobe Bryant and the other eight people in that helicopter, whether we remember and choose to memorialize one or two of them as opposed to all of them. Whether one's grave has a lot more there's a whatever it is that's built on top of it. all nine of them have the same thing that they're going through at this point. all nine of them have to proceed with meeting their Lord. And that's the case for all of us. Celebrities, heads of state, boxers, basketball players, movie stars, comedians, and the homeless person that dies in the street of
Dallas absolutely unnoticed. And the oppressed Muslim brother or sister that dies in those concentration camps, unnoticed at the end of the day in the realm that they go to. All of this is absolutely irrelevant. Well as you might get some MFA done us What are we doing with our own priorities? What are we really longing for? What are we aiming for? That's a lesson for all of us to take as well. old and young, hurt or not hurt whether we like Kobe or don't like Kobe, whatever parts of his legacy we want to celebrate or desecrate. That's something all of us really, really need to take a step back and say, Wow, that's it, huh? Just like that, and it's all gone. We ask
Allah subhana wa tada to prepare us for that day. We ask Allah subhanaw taala to allow us to live our lives in a way that's pleasing to Him to allow us to meet him while he is pleased with us. We ask Allah subhanaw taala to make the end of our lives the best of them. We ask Allah subhana wa Taala to grant us historically term a good ending a good death a lot I mean a cooler quality how there was stuff like the lack of money, certainly some infrastructure when
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