Being Sheikh Jamal al-Sudani
ORIGINAL POST - July 29, 2006
Some of you may disagree with Shiekh Jamal al-Sudani's way of life. For me, I wish there were more people like him in Iraq. Here's his story as reported in The Christian Science Monitor on July 29, 2005:
BAGHDAD - Iraq's violence has meant a brisk business for Jamal al-Sudani. Sheikh Sudani quietly goes about the task of gathering the unclaimed bodies of those killed by bombs and bullets in Baghdad. For him it's an act of compassion, giving the fallen a proper Muslim burial.
It's dangerous work. Terrorists want to kill him because he cares for the victims of their suicide attacks. Others see his actions as an affront to their religious beliefs, since the remains of the bombers will end up being buried next to their victims.
But he's also earned praise for doing a job that few others will do - and in a small way bridging the country's sectarian divide by caring equally for the remains of Shiites and Sunnis. For Sudani, the job is simply an extension of his faith.
"I bury people; I don't say, 'That's a terrorist, that's a normal person.' I don't go to the hospitals to look for them specifically. But this is religion, this is what we do," he explains. "He's a human being after all, and if we don't bury him, who will?"
During the last two years, Iraqis lost compassion for each other. We're acting like a big, dysfunctional family. Trying to survive Saddam's regime made us put our differences aside. Now, that the monster school principle is gone, the unhealthy emotions that were suppressed inside us suddenly exploded.
I wonder if we'll ever stop for a second -- Iraqis and non-Iraqis -- and act more like Sheikh al-Sudani. Just a thought. You don't have to agree with me.
UPDATE I - Sept. 10, 2007
It's been more than two years since I wrote the original post. From time to time, I remember Sheikh Jamal Al-Sudani and wonder if he's still alive.
Today, Michael Ware and the Iraqi CNN team answered my question. Sheikh Jamal Al-Sudani is still alive and kicking. He's still doing what he's been doing for many years now. Here's Al-Sudani's latest words of wisdom:
"I only think about one thing: That one day, I will face the same fate as these people have faced, and will there be someone to take care of me and bury me, too?" the sheik told CNN.
"I look to them as human beings, with it my duty to bury them so their sanctity will not be violated again after the violation of their killing," the sheik said.
"When I enter the morgue, I don't see these human beings as Christian, Shiite or Sunni because I see them in death, embracing each other," said al-Sudani, a cleric from a small charity in Baghdad's Sadr City.
"Now you see Iraqis' houses, meant to be a family's safest place, have become like graves for their families, because any minute, any second, they're ready to die by explosion, air strikes or car bombs."
The CNN team put a face to Sheikh Al-Sudani and his team of volunteers. The CNN report is accompanied with an excellent video report on Al-Sudani and his team. The reality on the Iraqi ground is very grim. But, people like Al-Sudani gives us hope that the Iraqi spirit is still thriving.
Thank you Michael Ware for your excellent reporting from Iraq. Keep up the good work and stay safe mate.