What I Learned from My Grandfather : Rubeya Abdullah Bin Faris, Who Just Left this World


My paternal grandfather passed away yesterday evening at his home in Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania.“Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.”
As I’m trying to process my emotions and go through my memories of him, I keep coming across nuggets of wisdom from his life story that I thought I’d share. I pray that this is considered beneficial knowledge that grants him more reward, as per this hadith: Abu Hurairah raḍyAllāhu ‘anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported: “ The Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end, except for three: A continuous charity, knowledge by which people derive benefit, and a pious son who prays for him.” [Muslim]

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)

So, here is my grandfather’s story…
His Early Life: Struggle & Patience

My grandfather (or “Jeddi” as we endearingly call him) was born in the valley of Hadramout in Yemen and lived a tough early childhood.
He told us how he’d wake up early in the morning to squeeze milk from the she-camel and that would be his breakfast along with a piece of bread, there’d be no lunch, and in the evening he’d drink another bowl of camel milk soaking in it any leftover pieces of bread from the morning. They rarely ate meat or rice except on Eid and special occasions.

A Decision to Migrate: The Power of Tawakkul (Trust in God)
With the harsh conditions in Yemen, it was not uncommon for young Yemeni men to try to find a better life abroad. A friend of his approached him and suggested that they should take the next boat that’s leaving the sea-port in the morning for Saudi Arabia.
Jeddi told us how he approached his father and asked for permission to leave and his father gave him his blessings to migrate.

With hardly any provisions, he and his friend left for the seaport. Upon arriving, his friend realized that the boat was not going to Saudi Arabia anymore, but was going to East Africa instead. He didn’t want to tell Jeddi this in case Jeddi changed his mind, so he kept quiet until they were well into the boat journey about the true destination.

So here we have two young Yemeni men, with no official documents, minimal provisions, going to a foreign land where they don’t even speak the language!
I always thought about this decision and how it changed not only his story, but his children and grandchildren’s lives as well.
Starting a New Life in East Africa

The boat arrived in Mombasa (Kenya), and to avoid the border officials, they waited until the evening, hid in a cargo full of timber and managed to enter the city.

Upon arriving, they were able to find a Hadrami diaspora living there who directed them to the house of a Syed (a Yemeni religious scholar/nobleman, often considered a descendant of Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)). The Syed hosted them for three nights, and on the fourth day, my grandfather mentioned to him that his father has a friend who lives in Dar-es-salaam (Tanzania). The Syed gave Jeddi the bus fare, and he got onto the bus from Mombasa (Kenya) to Dar-es-salaam (Tanzania).

He arrived in Dar-es-salaam, somehow managed to find his father’s friend in the bustling city and again, the man hosted him for three nights. On the fourth day, the man gave Jeddi a small amount of money, showed him the market, and told him to start his new life.
His ‘How I Met Your Grandmother’ Story

Jeddi started his “career” as a vegetable seller, arranging tomatoes and green leaves on the sidewalks and in the market, learning the local Swahili language, and establishing himself in the Hadhrami community of Dar-es-salaam.
He became close friends with a Yemeni butcher, Omar Amir Balhabou, who later on became my maternal grandfather (another man of honor, humor, and generosity, whose stories deserve an entire post).

One day, Jeddi Omar noticed that Jeddi Rubeya would flush every time a particular young lady came to buy vegetables from him. Jeddi Omar asked him if he wanted to marry her. He said yes, but wasn’t sure if she’s interested in marrying him. With his humor, Jeddi Omar suggested that the next time she comes to buy vegetables from him, he should offer her some sweets, if she accepts the sweets then she’s interested, and if she refuses, then he should forget about her.
After a few days, the young lady came to buy vegetables from him, and he nervously offered her sweets. She accepted it and smiled. That same evening, he went with his friend to the young woman’s father and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. That young woman became my grandmother.
Years later, we asked him, “Didn’t you wish you got on the boat to Saudi Arabia instead of Tanzania?” He instantly replied, “If I did, I wouldn’t have met your grandma!”

His Manners as a Wholesale Trader
Years went by and Jeddi was able to collect enough savings and rent a wholesale shop in the middle of downtown Dar-es-salaam.
As I was growing up, I used to visit him during summer vacations, and he’d encourage me to work in his shop. I observed him as he treated each customer fairly, negotiated with suppliers, gave charity to any poor who passed by (before they even asked), trade honestly, and close his shop for Salah (prayer) no matter how busy the shop was getting.

Building a Family & Strong Legacy despite Trials
He had six children, and from his wholesale shop (which still operates today and is run by his sons), was able to feed his family, build a family home, and slowly but surely build his wealth (in Tanzania and Yemen).
In the 1970s, Communism hit Tanzania, and some of his properties were confiscated by the communist government. Despite that, he was still able to survive and thrive in the years to come.

He lost a son, uncle Khaled, who died in his 20s, but he was patient. Today, he’s survived by his wife, five children, 13 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren. Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah).
Being a Man of Habits & Routines
As life settled for him and he got older, he paid meticulous attention to his habits and routines:
He was consistent in prayers, consistent in recitation of Qur’an (every day after Fajr and after Maghreb), consistent in his afternoon walks (before his knee failed him, and he stuck to doing small exercises at home or in the yard), consistent in his naps, consistent in his medication, drinking water, calling his relatives and siblings, checking his finances, eating his meals, and of course drinking his beloved red Yemeni tea after lunch.

What I Learnt From His Life
الله يرحمك يا جدي
May Allah have mercy on you, Jeddi
1. You’ve lived a good, honorable life, despite the challenges, ups, and downs you faced.
الله يرحمك يا جدي
May Allah have mercy on you, Jeddi
2. You taught me the power of trusting in Allah subḥānahu wa ta’āla (glorified and exalted be He) and true tawakkul and that there’s barakah in movement (في الحركة بركة) and to take action and never surrender to one’s situations or conditions.
الله يرحمك يا جدي
May Allah have mercy on you, Jeddi
3. Whenever I achieved any success, you’d comment and tell me “نيتك طيبة” (“you’ve good intentions”) to remind me to keep my intentions pure at all times because that’s the secret to success.
الله يرحمك يا جدي
May Allah have mercy on you, Jeddi
4. You’ve taught me that there’s barakah in trade and entrepreneurship, even if it’s selling vegetables on the sidewalk or a small wholesale shop.
الله يرحمك يا جدي
May Allah have mercy on you, Jeddi
5. You’ve taught me how to be loyal to one’s family, friends, relatives, and community, even after they die. I still remember your small journal where you kept track of all your friends, including the years they passed away.
الله يرحمك يا جدي
May Allah have mercy on you, Jeddi
6. You’ve taught me how to age well with the power of habits, consistency and adapting our spiritual, physical, and social habits to suit our age.
الله يرحمك يا جدي
May Allah have mercy on you, Jeddi
7. You’ve taught me true contentment and to be thankful. Despite your illness, despite your trials, I never saw you stress about this world, but you were always content and thankful with whatever condition you were in.
الله يرحمك يا جدي
May Allah have mercy on you, Jeddi…
I pray that I’ll continue to pray for you… for as long as I live and remember you.

Your loving grandson,
Mohammed Bin Abdullah Bin Rubeya Bin Abdullah Bin Faris

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)


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