On the passing of Sister Rehab el Buri

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Sister Rehab El Buri was a former ABC News staffer. On March 6th 2011 Sister Rehab El Buri died of cancer at the age of 25. Rehab, an Islamic activist, was loved by all those who knew her and a cause of inspiration for those who didn’t. We would like to share some of Rehab’s own reflections, on her trials, taken from her blog. We ask Allah to shower his mercy on Rehab, and enter her into the company of our beloved Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family).

We leave you with Rehab’s words:

“I know I ended my last post pretty abruptly. At the time I was writing it, going through the play by play was difficult.

It took me about three days to accept my death. On the first day, as you read, my mind was in chaos. On the second day, I was numb. And on the third day, my husband and mother began talking sense to me, and I finally came to some important realizations:

1. We are all going to die. The people who took the news of my disease calmly and those who panicked- they are going to die one day too. Death is one of the few realities we can be certain of in this life, and yet we somehow slip into thinking that we are exempt.

2. We live this life for the next. I was living my life as a Muslim…praying and fasting, but I had somehow allowed my real goal in life to be swallowed by buying salad plates for my next dinner party, and trying to get free shipping on my next jcrew order, and finding pillows that popped against my cream sofa. In between being a consumer and entertaining myself to death, I let what really matters in my life slip away from me. If I was truly living my life for the Hereafter, I should not be so fearful of the future I had created for myself. The Quran says, “And this life of the world is nothing but a sport and a play; and as for the next abode, that most surely is the life- did they but know!” [29.64]

3. I am in the same boat as everyone else. None of us are given anyguarantees in life. Our health, our wealth, and our families are trusts give to us by Allah- and they are His to take when He, in his infinite wisdom, deems fit. We all claim to believe this, but in practice we often falter. I don’t know why I thought I could push the thought of death out of my mind for at least a good 30 or 40 years. Allah (SWT) could claim any of us at any time. I am in the same boat as everyone else- I have no idea when my time is, but I should try to live everyday as if it is my last.

4. Each day is a gift. Receiving this wake up call is such a blessing in that each day Allah grants me is an opportunity to do some more good and try to make up for some of the mistakes I made in the past. For some reason, the mornings are usually a little rough for me. I think it’s just waking up from my dreams and realizing that I still have to live with this disease. But every morning I try to tell myself, “Alhamdulilah, I feel good today, what good can I do today?”

These realizations, and the support of my mother, husband, his mother, my sisters, his sisters, my father, his father, my friends, and my community have helped me not merely cope with what I’m going through, but actually seek the reward of going through this trial, and try to sincerely accept what Allah wills for me.”




And here is a tribute that her husband Zaied Abbassi wrote for Rehab:


May the Peace and Blessings of God be Upon You


On Sunday night (March 6th, 2011) I gave a very brief reflection on core lessons I learned from the life of my beloved wife. I have tried to transcribe that message as accurately as possibly here for those around the country, and the world, who would have liked to be there but could not.


In the Name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful


I have spoken publicly many times in my life but I have never been as nervous as I am tonight. I was not sure if I wanted to speak tonight – and let me explain my nervousness for a moment.


A few months back, Rehab learned of a close friend who had an illness in her eyes that needed an operation that costs roughly $16,000. The girl’s father had recently passed, and I believe her brother had also recently suffered a tragedy – in short the girl had little support.


Rehab decided she wanted to help collect the $16,000 and planned to do a bake sale after Friday prayers. Most people thought “it’s sweet, but no way you’ll raise $16,000 from a bake sale. If you’re lucky and people are generous, you might get to $2,000 – but even that is a stretch”. The bake sale generated over $20,000 in sales and donations, and Rehab drove the money to her friend in Baltimore the next morning.


You see there was a strange barakah (blessing) in her deeds near the end of her life. Things would just work for her. And, as I sat here earlier listening to Islam (Dr. Islam El-Fayoumi – a local speaker and teacher) give his talk, I thought “How perfect! This is exactly how Rehab would want this gathering to be. People coming together to understand the Book of Allah, and from Islam – whose classes she loved to attend” I figured Allah was protecting this gathering for Rehab. Islam would go until 8:00 and I wouldn’t have the chance to ruin it. But, Allah has Willed that I speak and I hope there is some benefit in it.


In my almost 6 years of life with Rehab, I learned quite a bit. The lessons cannot be counted. But I wanted to share today two profound lessons, and I want to explain them by telling you two stories from the last few months of her life.


First – In October of last year, Rehab and I were driving to Memorial Sloan (the cancer center where she was treated) for an appointment and Rehab was talking to me about wanting to give up many of her projects and responsibilities. For months the news on the cancer was getting progressively less optimistic – we found more than 20 tumors in her brain, new tumors in her ribs, etc – and Rehab was thinking she needed to focus on her health. When we met with her oncologist that day, we received the first piece of optimistic news for as long as we could remember – the tumors in her brain had been stabilized (they had stopped growing) by her radiation treatment, and we had some hope – some more time to wait for a new drug to become available that could systemically treat her illness. As we walked towards the elevator after the appointment, I looked at Rehab, and with tears in her eyes she said “Wallahi [I swear by Allah] life is about ridaa Allah [seeking the pleasure of God], everything else is just circumstance” I immediately knew what she meant. She felt guilty that on the car ride over, her goals had changed. Her goal became trying to get healthy – now there is absolutely nothing wrong with focusing on her health, mind you – but she was guilty that her end goal had changed. On the way back to the car she kept repeating “Life is about ridaa Allah, and everything else is circumstantial”


Second – This past week in the hospital, the Muslim Chaplain at Memorial Sloan would stop by Rehab’s room several times a day hoping to get in to see her and praying for her. He would come sobbing, and would bring her gifts to keep her comfortable even though we knew we were just waiting for her to pass. He was so emotional, yet if you wanted to stretch it you could say Rehab and the Imam had spoken for maybe two hours in their entire lives. Now, as I observed on Rehab’s Facebook page this past week, and through all the phone calls, emails, and text messages we have received it became abundantly obvious that Rehab touched people in a unique way, and I thought the Imam at Memorial Sloan was a perfect example.


A few months back, during one of Rehab’s hospital stays in the summer; the Imam came into her room and sat with us for roughly an hour. He talked to us about his strategies for the hospital, challenges he faced, how he handles working with people of other fatihs etc – a very unusual visit for a Chaplain to make in the middle of his rounds. It was obvious during the conversation that the Imam held Rehab in high regard. Wanting to know why this man was so enamored with my wife while practically ignoring me in the room, I brought up the question of “why” – why did he feel so strongly about her. His response was simple…


A month or so before that visit, the Imam was telling Rehab and I about a program they do every Eid where they buy gifts for all pediatric patients in the hospital and make a celebration of it. Every year, he explained, they would fall short in financing and would have to skimp on the gifts and decorations. Rehab, completely exhausted, with IVs running into every possible vain looked up at him and promised she would get him the money. Less than three weeks later, she handed him a check for $1,500. The imam had a surplus of cash to hold over for next year’s celebration.


So, when I asked him why he was so enamored with my wife his response was simple “She said she would do something, and she did it. Not many people are like that” The lesson I pulled from this was – 3amal (action) trumps everything. When you can combine the intention I mentioned from the first story with action – Allah will make remarkable things happen.


Believe me; these two lessons were at the core of who Rehab was. If I was to ask you for anything today, it would be that you take heed of these lessons and live them out in your life.


Thank you, and if I may I will end with a small prayer for my wife.


Oh Allah, all Thanks and Praise are due to You until you are pleased with us

And all Thanks and Praise are due to you if you become pleased with us

Oh Allah you are the only one to forgive sins and accept repentance – forgive us our sins and accept our repentance

Oh Allah we ask of you Paradise, and seek refuge in you from Hellfire

Oh Allah forgive Rehab’s sins and accept her repentance

Oh Allah you have tested your slave with a difficult trial, and she was patient and content through out so accept her as one of the martyrs.

Oh Allah accept her as one of the martyrs

Oh Allah she lived her life only seeking your pleasure so be pleased with her.

Oh Allah her greatest du3a [prayer] near the end of her life was to be from among the “sabiqoon” so accept her as one of the sabiqoon.

And we end by saying All Thanks and Praise are due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.


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