My First Mentor Has Passed Away

I do not generally address personal matters in this blog, but the passing of my first mentor deserves a memorial here, for without her nurture and inspiration I cannot imagine that the Minaret of Freedom Institute would exist today.

My mother, Qudsia (Holazada) Ahmad died at her home on Dec. 2, 2009. She was born on Aug. 5, 1921 in Jerusalem, to an assistant to the Ottoman Governor of Palestine and his Arab wife. She was named after the the city of her mother’s side of the family. (“Qudsia” is the feminine form of “al-Quds,” the Holy one.) She was a graduate of the Women’s College of Jerusalem. She became an educator and the first woman radio broadcaster in Jerusalem.

In 1947 she married Hassan Ahmad, a Palestinian-American merchant.  My father picked her as his bride because she combined the culture of his beloved homeland with an education and independence that could survive the hardships of transplantation to the strange land to which he would take her. Initially, she did not want to move to America, but the massacre at Dier Yasin in 1948 changed her mind, and pregnant with me, she and he booked passage to America and they moved to the house in northeastern Pennsylvania in which she raised her four sons and remained to end of her life.

My mother was a devout Muslim, but there was no Muslim community in the region at that time, so she became active with the local YWCA, an example of interfaith activism a half century before the tragedy of 9/11 forced other immigrant Muslims to reach out to their neighbors. She was a popular with young women who found in her the open-minded yet morally-grounded confidante with which her sons had been blessed. She could make people understand her point of view without making them feel badly about themselves.

She also lectured at schools and churches about her Palestinian homeland and her Muslim religion. In this she had a style that was engaging without being compromising. My father was a courageous man, but he could not match my mother’s fearlessness when it came to the Palestinian issue. In 1967 she wrote a letter to NBC’s “Today” show protesting their one-sided coverage of the Six-Day War. A producer phoned her and said that they had been unable to find anyone willing to articulate the Arab view and they welcomed her to come to New York to be on the program. Fearful of having his business victimized by retaliation by suppliers of merchandise, my father insisted she decline.

My mother still spoke at schools and churches about Islam and about Palestine. Her passing has made me realize more keenly than ever before how much the work I do with the Minaret of Freedom Institute is a continuation of the work she did trying to enlighten, reconcile and empower. To her memory, I rededicate my efforts.

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Ph.D.
Minaret of Freedom Institute
www.minaret.org

3 Responses to “My First Mentor Has Passed Away”

  1. hajj Habib Ghanim sr says:

    innah lillah wa inn ileihi rageon
    May Allah grant her jannah
    accept our sympathy
    Habib and veronica ghanim
    silver spring .md 20905

  2. Sharmin Ahmad says:

    Your mother’s life is a treasure to cheirsh and her life is a true model of faith,resilience and compassion.
    Her poem about immortality is a reflection of her ever evolving spirit. Indeed she has not died.She has merely broken the shackles of physical limitations. She lives forever in our hearts.

  3. Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raj’ioon.
    May Allah give her a high place in Jannatul-Firdous.
    I feel, she keeps on living in you and in the Minaret of Freedom.
    Khalid & Nighat Shaukat
    Silver Spring, MD

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