By Abdirahman A. Issa
From Allah we come and to Him we return. Geeridu nimaanad garaynin iyo Geeljiray ku wacan tahay , is a Somali lamentation about death, which roughly translates, “The news of death is less painful if the passing is about an unknown person or a camel herder.” Life is a precious thing. We, humans as we all know but conveniently forget, have a fleeting moment on this earth.
All of us have a choice to make while kicking and munching while alive. Some choose to pass through life as what the American author and motivational speaker Les Brown called “lived but not used up” These categories of the living lived but never made their mark on this planet. They never shared themselves with the rest of humanity with their ingenuities, acumen, talent, leadership skills, or any other God-given attributes that they might have when they were walking among the living; while others lived every day of their life in the true sense of Mr. Brown’s dictum. In other words, they were “used up” when they were alive. We felt their presence. To say it another way, they were useful. They touched us while alive with their kindness, generosity, or contributed to humanity in so many beneficial ways. One of those “used up” people was a departed dear friend whom we lost a few days ago.
On 5th January 2021, my friend and mentor, Hassan Mohamed Abukar passed away in Phoenix, AZ. I read the news of his death on Facebook and still cannot process that he is no longer with us. He departed too soon from us at a time we badly needed his pen to hold those in power to account. Hassan was a decent, kind, and humble human being. Somalia has lost one of its finest, a giant and towering intellectual.
Hassan was born in Afgooye, 30 KM south of Mogadishu, in 1960. He moved to Mogadishu with his mother and sister in the 1960s and attended Macallin Jaamac elementary and intermediate School. In 1978, he graduated from Bendadir Secondary School. After his graduation, he got a job from Somali Airlines and moved to Cairo, Egypt. In 1980, he went to USA to pursue further education. He did his BA in Political Science and Government (1980-1985) and MA in International Relations (1985-1986) at Ohio University. He did another MA in Political Science and Government (1986-1989) at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), where he also pursued his PhD.
Hassan started writing blogs in 2009 and became a widely read columnist and a regular contributor to Wardheernews.com, where he was also WardheerNews Editorial Board Member. He was a prolific writer, a master storyteller with a great sense of humor. He used to write on a wide range of issues including Somali political and social issues. Hassan’s writing style was unmatched by any other Somali writer. His writing standout because of his wit, humor, simplicity, and clarity, and above all speaking truth to power.
I always looked forward to his interesting articles that pushed the envelope with inimitable clarity, depth, and balance. He wrote numerous investigative pieces that irked corrupted politicians. He was not shy to name and shame and expose the corruption and mismanagement that crippled our country for decades. Hassan was a role model for many young aspiring writers. He was supportive of young writers and helped many in editing and proofreading their writings. He was easily approachable and always ready to offer advice to anyone who approaches him. He left many interesting articles and essays but Mogadishu’s Memoir is his masterpiece. He recollects Mogadishu’s life in the 60s and 70s as a young man coming of age. I read the book two times and awed his sharp memory of remembering people, places, and events. His plain, lucid middle of the grade English was something that everybody, with those high degrees and those of us who learned English in one room “private” schools back home, could understand. In other words, he had ways with words. His erudition was second to none.
Hassan was urbane, sophisticated, and high caliber intellectual but humble and down to earth person at the same time. He had that rare quality of putting people at ease. He did not radiate haughtiness and knows all attitudes that seem like the hallmark for the learned Somalis, especially those who spent many years in the diaspora with degrees to boot. His sense of humor was irresistible.
Through his writings, he preserved an important part of our history for the generations who never had the pleasure and the experience to live a peaceful and united Somalia. And also, to those who will come after us. For this, we owe him a great deal of gratitude. May Allah reward him the highest Jannah.
He had involved in many voluntary and community works. When many Somalis fleeing the civil war settled in San Diego, he co-founded a non-profit organization that provides legal support and interpretation services to Somali immigrants. He was also instrumental in the establishment of Somali North American Imams Association. He became later the executive secretary of the association.
I was introduced to him by his childhood friend through email in 2011 and since then we became close friends. We used to contact regularly through Email, Facebook, and what’s up. The last time I chatted with him was 5th December 2020. I wish I could have said goodbye one last time. I met him in 2018 when he came back to the country after 30 years of absence. Villa Somalia offered him a speechwriter position but some staffers who felt threatened refused to give him a chance to serve his country. He abruptly left Somalia and wrote a scathing piece on how things fall apart as he arrived in Mogadishu.
My meeting with Hassan was very brief and lasted a few hours. He came back a few months later to participate in the Mogadishu Book Fair. He gifted me a copy of his book ” Mogadishu Memoir “. He Autographed the book,”to Abdirahman, a friend, and Abti”. He used to call me Abti since his mom hails from Puntland where I also from. After the book fair, he stayed behind which gave me a chance to spend a good time with him. I enjoyed his company, and he gave me valuable writing advice. He informed me that he finished a book on Somali families in the Diaspora and was planning to publish it.
Hassan also had in mind to write a book on how Mogadishu fared the last three decades. I’m grieved that his books wouldn’t see the light of day. For that and many other reasons, my eyes shed tears and my heart is heavy for the loss of my dear friend and mentor. Brother Hassan, Rest in peace, you will be sorely missed by all those whose lives you have touched. My condolences to his children, Family, and friends, and the Somali people at large.
Abdirahman A. Issa
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