I moved to Staten Island, NY at the end of 1993, the city was one Jamat and Bait ul Zafar (previously a small Jewish girls school) was our Mosque in Queens. The President Nazir Ayaz Sahib a man with a great and disarming smile, welcomed me and suggested that I might find it convenient to attend Juma in Manhattan where it was held in a Hotel for people who worked there.I found him really pleasant, informal and direct.
I was thereafter appointed Qaid MKA Manhattan, Bronx & Staten Island and began to have a relationship with 'The Boss' as we called him which lasted 23 years. Respected Karim Sharif Sahib (now Zaeem Sahib Boston) was our Imam and did a great job, he had to go to Pakistan and Ayaz Sahib asked me to give the Khutba and lead Juma. I found this very strange that a President would attend Juma but instead ask a novice like me to lead. I told him I had never lead Juma, he said you have a week to prepare, I said I might turn out to be a disaster he said he would take a chance, finally in desperation I requested if I could bring a cheat sheet with the Khutba Thania (in Arabic) he said that was OK. The first Juma someone reported me to him that this 'Imam' did not even know the Arabic verses of the Khutba and was reading them from a piece of paper which seemed very unseemly, yet he very patiently stuck with me till I had the verses memorized. In fact he was so happy with me he appointed me Imam of Manhattan where I served till moving to Georgia in 2002.
Subsequently I was appointed Metropolitan (city) Qaid and then as Regional Qaid MKA Northeast.Respected Ayaz Sahib was born in East Africa and I suspect never really worked in any Jamat Auxilliary organization to any great extent till he moved to the US. This lead to some tension & disagreement between us as I thought things should be done one way and he another. To his extreme credit and my undying love for him, he never held a grudge, the disagreement was temporary but our cooperation and relationship continued uninterrupted.
Due to his unique circumstances I found Ayaz Sahib to be a quite an incongruous person, he looked like a Pakistani yet behaved if you would, like a Teutonic (German) administrator. He would complain that when he asked Pakistani guy's to show up for work at the Masjid they would just say 'Inshallah' and leave him at a loss as to whether they were going to show up or not!
I guess other people do Jamat work because it is a part of their life, with Nazir Ayaz Sahib it seemed that Jamat work was all of his life. He would personally be the first to arrive for any Jamat activity and the last to leave, If no one did the work he would do it himself.
One Wednesday he called me, Eid was on Sunday and the 28 outdoor carpet rolls for prayers had to be transported to the venue for Eid. I requested if he could please let me do it on Saturday since it would be easier to get help, he did not say anything. he put 5 rolls in his car himself and made 6 trips delivering them ahead of time and never said a word to me about it ever. It was not that he was mad at me, the work just needed done and by God he did it!
He was an ever practical man and would convey practical solutions to problems. Hazrat Khalifa tul Masih IV came to visit New York I believe in 1994. Nazir Sahib arranged for 2 Police Cruisers to escort Huzoor back and forth and to Alladin Sahib's house in Long Island where he was staying. Major Mahmood Sahib on Huzoor's security team told him that Huzoor did not like escorts, when Nazir Sahib started presenting his case, Major Sahib said you can talk to him (Huzoor) yourself. Nazir Sahib went to see Huzoor and said Huzoor do you know what New Yorkers call I-495 Long Island Parkway which you would be commuting on daily? Huzoor said I don't know, what do they call it? He said 'the worlds largest parking lot'! Huzoor agreed to take the Police escorts.
He preferred not being the center of attention and If he knew that you were a committed Ahmadi he would use you for Jamat work whenever he could not find someone better. He had gotten an Asia House membership for the Jamat. It was a very prestigious organization on Park Avenue in Manhattan. The Foreign Minister of Kazakistan was to address it and Bajwa Sahib was out of town. He called me to the Mosque gave me a copy of The Holy Quran with Russian translation and told me to go and give it to the Foreign Minister. Next morning I went to The Asia House, was treated like royalty, served a magnificent breakfast and made my way in a line to meet The Minister. The Head of Conoco Phillips Petroleum was ahead of me and the President of Chase Manhattan bank immediately behind me!
Yet another time Najam Sethi the Information Minister of Pakistan was to give a press conference at the NY Press club, Nazir Sahib called me and gave me 2 questions that I was to ask the Minister on behalf of Jamat Ahmadiyya! Time passes and people forget, Not Nazir Ayaz Sahib! I had been out of New York for over 10 years, yet whenever I would visit there , usually on Waqf e Jadid trips he would make sure to arrange my stay, my schedule, either pick me up himself or drop me at the Airport himself, take time off to have lunch or dinner with me as well.
I pray Allah that he shower His choicest blessings on this chosen servant of His who I was lucky to have as a friend and mentor and provide for his loved ones in even more meticulous manner than Ayaz Sahib would when he was able to do so.