A different kind of cancer took my father’s life

A different kind of cancer took my father’s life

Led away on a strecture after the shooting Mohsin Al-Harbi eventually died from his injuries. (File/AFP)

My beloved father, Mohsin Al-Harbi, had cancer. He expected that the disease would end his life in the normal way. Instead, God had other plans for him.

I woke up last Friday morning to news of the savage terrorist attack at Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch. My uncle in New Zealand told me that my father had been injured. Later, the news reached us that five bullets from a terrorist’s gun had taken his life while he prayed. He was 61 years old.

At 40, I am my father’s eldest son. Hassan, my brother is 39; my sister Nesreen is 36; my other sister Eman, who lives in Paris, is 30; Ahmad, the youngest, is 27 years. Our whole family was shocked by what happened in New Zealand.

Then my father’s photo was spread all over the world, on social media. It became an icon of the attack, and people around the world started praying and saying their farewells to my father. I thank God for this fate.

It is a tragedy, not just for our family, but for a peaceful country such as New Zealand, where people from different races and different religions lived together. My father, who lived in New Zealand for 25 years, used to remark on this often.

My father was one of the pioneers of Al-Noor mosque. He cleaned it and took care of it

Dr. Feras Al-Harbi

Who was my father? He was a warm-hearted person who respected people of all races and all religions. His character was a simple one, but nevertheless he was well educated and well read. A linguist, he spoke Arabic, English, Greek, German and Hebrew.

He devoured books, especially about the history of different civilizations. He read every day, and he taught us all to do the same.

He did not live his life in the glare of publicity, but more in the shadows, simply and quietly, until the manner of his death threw him into the public gaze. He was one of the pioneers of Al-Noor mosque. He cleaned it and took care of it. I never knew this until a scholarship student told me he had seen my father one afternoon with his sleeves rolled up, cleaning. He was vice president of the Islamic community in Christchurch. We never knew that either.

In our last phone conversation, I was worried about him. I thought, what if he were to die overseas, far away from the family who loved him?

In the end, God had his own plan for my father. He was buried in Madinah, the city of our beloved Prophet. I thank God for that.

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