Still in my 20s, I was in desperate need of a role model around me. In Ayaz Sahib, I found one. He never made a speech, yet he taught. He never sat on the stage, yet he exuded authority. On July 3, 2016, I believe we lost the spiritual Yellow Pages of the Queens Jama’at. It was the spring of 1999. I was moving to Long Island, New York for my fellowship. While in New Jersey, people, after hearing about my move, said, “Oh, so you are going to be in Nazir Ayaz Sahib’s Jama’at.” They used words like “go getter,” “no nonsense” to explain him. It piqued my interest.
During my first visit to Baituz-Zafar in Queens, New York. I saw a lanky, clean shaved man, setting up chairs before the event. Then the program started. That lanky man went and sat among the audience; didn’t say a word, didn’t ask a question. Just sat. Looked around.
Yes. That was Ayaz Sahib.
That evening, on our ride back home, my wife and I had so much to talk about. “Our Sadr Lajna is such a pious and elegant lady. No glitzy fashions; all Taqwa.” My wife said about the then Queens Lajna Sadr, Baji Baushra Butt (as we now call her). “Our Sadr is the most down to earth man I have seen. He was literally picking up the chair himself.” I countered.
Still in my 20s, I was in desperate need of a role model around me. In Ayaz Sahib, I found one. He never made a speech, yet he taught. He never sat on the stage, yet he exuded authority. He never lectured us about Khilafat, yet he inspired people to fall in love with Khalifatul Masih.
You could never say no to Ayaz Sahib. Because when he called, he called from the Masjid. His calls were short. A typical call would go like this: “Faheem, Assalamu Alaikum; This is Nazir Ayaz.” You were at the tail end of your “Wa’alikum as’salam” and he would say, “So and so lives x-number of minutes away from your home. I want you to go, pick them up and drop them off at such and such address. Can you do that in the next 15 minutes please?” And you better respond, “Ji Ayaz Sahib” or you would hate yourself for a very long time. That was that.
Let me share a secret. For the first 30 years of my life, I had never made a speech. Not at school, not at an Ijtima. Never. In the year 2000, Ayaz Sahib approached me at Baituz-Zafar Mosque and said, “Faheem, I have assigned a speech to you at the upcoming Musleh Mau’ud (ra) day.” My heart sank into my boots. “What? How could I?” I wondered. “Insha’allah you will be fine; you will be fine.” He consoled and walked away. I could not say no; came home and frantically started preparing for what was akin to space travel for me back then. With his confidence and the prayers of my mother, the speech went well. I lived. Ayaz Sahib smiled.
Ayaz Sahib was that connector who knew everyone’s strengths and knew whom to use where. Who drives a cab, who runs an IT business, who is a venture capitalist, who can get stuff shipped overseas for free, who knows someone at the United Nations Building, who is a doctor, who can lead Taraweeh. On July 3, 2016, I believe we lost the spiritual Yellow Pages of the Queens Jama’at.
In 2006, I remember that the Sadr MKA USA elections had just concluded at our National Ijtima in Staten Island. Ayaz Sahib came to me, reminded me that I was a former New Yorker (I had moved to Baltimore by then) and started lobbying for a certain MKA sports tournament to take place in New York. I submitted that until Huzoor’s approval, none of these election results mattered and that I would only comment on his ask after Huzoor’s approval. He was relentless. “When your approval comes, don’t forget that you promised me about holding this tournament in New York.” Did I promise? No. But this goes to show that even a Sadr Khuddamul Ahmadiyya better not say no to Ayaz Sahib’s loving appeal.
Then in 2007, we held our Masroor Basketball tournament in New York. With his support, the tournament became international. Soccer was added. Canadian teams drove; teams from Belgium, Germany, and UK flew in. And the scale of the event—despite our limited budget in Khuddamul Ahmadiyya—kept on expanding. Ayaz Sahib would find the missing funds, find the right people.
Ayaz Sahib did not usually attend Ansarullah National Ijtima. He had his priorities. Rest assured, when he was not at the Ijtima, he was not playing golf; he was still serving the Jama’at in some other area. But by 2015, I too had learned some tenacity from my mentor. So last year at Jalsa Salana, I stopped Ayaz Sahib, grabbed his hand and said, “Ayaz Sahib, I know you don’t attend Ansar Ijtima’at but please, this year, I am humbly requesting you to come. Even for one day. If you come, I said, I will feel like my father came.” He promised that he would come. And he did! Nazir Ayaz attended Ansarullah National Ijtima in 2015 when our attendance goal was 1111. Who knows, maybe he was the one!
Ayaz Sahib lived on his terms. It is Allah’s sheer grace and mercy that he granted him a departure which also seems to be on his terms. Passing away during the month of Ramadan, with less than 48 hours of hospitalization, still serving his favorite Jama’at as a Sadr, and then getting buried with prayers of hundreds if not thousands of people, if this is not “Anjaam Bakhair” (good ending) then what is?
In a nutshell, Ayaz Sahib was my mentor in 1999 and was a father figure by 2016. He led by example. May Allah elevate his status in paradise, Ameen.
-- Obituary: Nazir Ayaz, Who Led by Example | Faheem Younus Qureshi