Assalamalaikum Sharjeel bhai,
If you ask my family, they would tell you how pro I am at writing letters and to be honest, I had thought about writing this letter since months, going through every nook and corner of this letter in my mind. Sometimes, I even slept rehearsing this over, but now with open eyes and a pen in my hand, it seems impossible. I could start this letter just like how I start others, but it’ll be an injustice to someone as important as you.
It was a winter evening when I was scrolling through Instagram, with one hide-n-seek biscuit in my hand, waiting to be dipped into the hot cup of coffee (don’t scrunch up your nose bhai). But my eyes were fixed on the poster that was just posted from a page that I followed. I looked up to Munazza,
“ Yeh Sharjeel Imam kon hai? Kal aa raha.”(Who is Sharjeel Imam? He’s coming tomorrow”)
“Hoga koi, JNU se hai” ( Must be someone. He’s from JNU) Munazza chirped as she opened her mouth big enough for the samosa to fit in. Laughing, I replied
“Jo kaho, naam toh kaafi achcha hai MashAllah (Whatever you say, his name is very nice MashAllah)
By now, hide-n-seek biscuit was in my mouth and coffee had almost finished . I got up rubbing my hands and moved to Bhai, asking for another cup of coffee. Light breeze touched my face as I laughed at something Bhai said, not knowing your name would change my whole perspective towards the situation, my Ummah and life.
Photo from google
Next day, I couldn’t make it to your speech, something I regret even today. But I remember when you surrendered. It was raining heavily that day and as I sat under the blue polythene, trying hard not to get drenched in rain, my mind was numb.For the first time, I couldn’t think straight, I was feeling so much, confusion, hurt, disappointment and most of all anger. I looked up at some aapi telling us to not speak on the matter and as my now-slightly-red fingers played with Munazza’s burkha, I didn’t know who I was more disappointed in, the state machinery or the AMU community for abandoning you at that moment.
Now, again if you ask my ammi, she’d tell you that if I make up my mind to do something, it’s something that I do, for sure. So, next day when Zulfiqar Bhai, pushed me in front of the camera, expecting me to give the first interview of my life. I spoke, I spoke about you fearlessly and for the first time, my voice didn’t falter. The courage I had in me, that day, because of you, I cannot put it into words.
I have gone through everything that is there about you, and that is very little but my heart knows how much I agree with all that you’ve written or said. You taught me that I don’t need to be apologetic about my identity, that I don’t need to bow down every time in a situation, that I need to know who is my friend and who is against me, that all political parties are the same, that I need to embrace my identity , be proud and stop waiting for majoritarian approval, that I need to stop expecting them to come with us, that we need to be organized and not give in to people like Kanhaiyya, that speaking for your community doesn’t mean speaking against other communities, to call out people of your own community who are wrong but most of all, you taught me what courage looked like.
“Lathi padi hai musalmanon pe, toh neta musalmanon mien se niklega” ( It’s Muslims that have been attacked so the leader will be from the muslim community)Sharjeel Imam
Your voice still rings in my mind every time I’m alone and to be honest I thank Allah paak that in these bad times, He gave us leaders like you. When times get tough for me, I plug in to your speeches, remember the one you gave at Jamia? There’s just a snippet of it on Instagram. You haven’t said anything motivational in it, but there’s something in it that I cannot pin point. Something that sounds like guidance, like hope.
I can only imagine how it must be for you all who are behind bars, just for the fact that you people chose to speak against injustice and I wonder how you all stay hopeful behind those bars, but then I read you all read books and I’m glad that books accompany you all in these hard times.
I was initially very upset that people don’t talk about you as much as they talk about other political prisoners. But then I realized, that you call spade a spade and don’t hesitate in calling out your own. That is what they fear and that is what we love. I hope when you walk free, you see us, the people who are inspired by you, the people who saw the reality because of you, the people that you led the way and the people who know courage by your name. I hope your heart flutters when you see our love.
I hope you read this as a free man and I hope this gets a smile on your face. Girls dream of meeting Sharukh Khan, I dream of meeting you all. I’d talk to everyone some other time, but now that you’ve reached almost the end, give me a chance to meet you, and I promise I’ll not bail this time. Pinky promise.
Until then, JazakAllah Khair for inspiring us and showing us the way.
Insha’Allah looking forward to meeting you as a free man.
What say? Central Canteen? Chai?
Okay I’d stop, waiting for the confirmation 🙂
And, I promise you, all your sacrifices won’t go in vain.
Fi’AmanAllah (May Allah protect you)