Everyone is afflicted with tests at some point or another. Life goes on of course, but it is not quite the same when you have lost someone you love. There is the grief you do your best to keep locked away and there is the void that the memories don’t quite fill. Still, we all have to push along…
You may find that I talk an awful lot about my father… Well, truth be told, I think about him and miss him a great deal. He was a very good man, who loved his family and friends well, mashaa Allah.
Today, I remembered something that my mother told me about my father and it made me smile. So bear with me while I take you on another ‘ramble’. :)
Islam places a great emphasis on good character. We are commanded to be honest in all our dealings and to be trustworthy as well. We are forbidden to consume wealth by means of falsehood and injustice and we must never ever get involved in haraam transactions like bribery, stealing and so on.
“And eat up not one another’s property unjustly (in any illegal way, e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving), nor give bribery to the rulers…” [al-Baqarah 2:188]
My father ma shaa Allah was a man who believed in good old-fashioned solid values. He was principled and believed in doing his best in everything he pursued. He pushed us as children to do well in school and did everything he could to help us – he spent his Saturday afternoons watching us while we had swimming lessons, ferried us for Math tuition twice a week, paid for any books and study materials we wanted and encouraged us with pep talks every chance he got.
Once we started working, he often fussed at us about good work ethics. Whenever I was late for work, he could hardly contain his anxiety and disapproval. He saw work as a trust and often told me, “How would you feel if your employers were to cut your pay by $5 every month? You wouldn’t like it would you? Now tell me, is it fair that you’re always late for work?”
My father started his career in the Ministry of Environment as a Public Health Inspector He would conduct checks that companies, especially hotels, restaurants and coffee shops maintained hygiene standards. He worked his way up and eventually held the post of Assistant Commissioner of Public Health.
The food industry is a competitive one here, so many of these business owners feared the repercussions of a bad report. Failure to maintain standards would result in warnings, fines and suspension of business. Back in the day, some tried to bribe my dad – subtly or directly. They offered cash, expensive wines and cognacs and even women!
My father, however, was scrupulous to a fault and always refused. :) Sometimes hotel managers would invite him to a meal before the inspections, but he only accepted a glass of water. One particular restauranteur offered my father a pack of cigarette. My father refused, saying he did not smoke. The man kept urging him and practically pressed the box into his hand. When my father continued to insist that he did not smoke, the man leaned closer to him and hissed under his breath, “It’s not cigarettes that are in the box!” Allah knows best how many bills he placed in the box – my father never found out.
My father always said that a moment’s indiscretion and greed could destroy a man and his family, so he never accepted nor gave any bribes. It was never worth it.
Singapore has very strict laws – some would say draconian. The government takes a very harsh stance against corruption – any government officer found guilty would be immediately sacked and lose his pension.
One day, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau called my father in for an ‘interview’. He was naturally alarmed for he had no idea what the matter was. He knew that he had always been above board but wondered if someone had incriminated him out of spite.
He turned up at their headquarters sick with worry and there, they told him that they had been watching him round the clock for close to 4 months. FOUR MONTHS, subHanAllah! They had tailed him EVERYWHERE HE WENT, TWENTY-FOUR HOURS A DAY!
When my father asked why, they said they had received a tip-off that my father had had a stake in a bakery that was located close to our home and that he was receiving bribes and favours from the owner. Alhamdulillah, my father could say with a clear conscience that the owners of the bakery were indeed close family friends, but that that was all they were. I can only imagine the fear my father felt – he was close to retirement and the risk of losing everything he had worked for was very real.
It was huge relief when they told him not to worry – they said that they had no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part! In fact, the officers who tailed him often complained to their superiors – they said that it was supremely BORING tailing my father. All he ever did was go to work, do his prayers and take classes at the masjid and stay home with his family.
Their only concern was that there was one day when records showed that my father had left the office for a few hours. This was easily explained – my father clarified that a Muslim friend of his had passed away. Since Muslims bury their dead without delay, he had to leave immediately for the prayers and funeral.
Anyway, the CPIB found NO DIRT on him – my father was THAT trustworthy, mashaa Allah.
This story never fails to make me smile. As a child and a teen, I DID used to think that my father was boring. I’d often wished that he could be a bit of a rebel who let loose sometimes. Now though, when I remember, I think, it wasn’t a bad thing at all…