In tribute to the late Mohammed H. Al-HaifiThe best inheritance is left in the heart [Archives:2007/1016/Opinion]

January 15 2007

What does one say after having lost the closest person to one's heart? This moment in life is fated to be under the control of the Al-Mighty and there is nothing – absolutely nothing – that one can do to cancel it, reverse it or move it forward or backward. It is one of those moments left for the Divine. In most cases of death, men usually surrender this most tragic of life's unending series of calamities as fated and “written” and thus a chance to reflect on the weakness of man to decide his ultimate destiny. But, even such reflection becomes second nature and tends to lead men to forget that indeed they do not have power over themselves let alone power over the destinies of others.

This brings us to the death of those who are so close to us that they have almost become an integral part of our very being. When this person happens to be a gentle and patriarchal father that the father of this observer was, the tragedy is more than multiplied and compounded, because this father was not merely a physical channel by which one's creation came into being, but rather an avenue of learning and scholastic attainment, which no learning institution could ever bring about.

Yes, His Excellency, the late Ambassador Mohammed Hassan Al-Haifi was not just a teacher, but an institution of renown prominence, who was declared a mentor for a significant community of admirers, who looked to him for guidance, comfort, solace, inspiration and relief from the awesome pressures of mundane existence and the seemingly unsolvable difficulties of life. For the 95 years or so of his life, my father was not the mentor of his children only, but the pillar of wisdom and hope to which many of the members of his large clan looked to. More than that, even his thousands of acquaintances throughout his life took it upon themselves to maintain rapport and continued discourse with this sagacious scholar – the product of learning that is based on Eastern philosophical and theological conceptions and western progressive social principles, which he also understood to be rooted in Islamic moral and social ordinances, which he proudly had mastered. My father considered scholasticism the ultimate wealth in life and any other measures or standards of wealth resting on mundane or material substance are worthless in the valuation of human life. In fact to the last day of his life, when death came to him unannounced or forewarned by any of the tortuous signs of human fatality, he was sitting majestically (he actually died sitting down, with his arms resting peacefully on the arms of his favorite rocking chair), beside a small table that stacked a number of books, which he was studying, over a stack of the most recent newspapers that he had just went over the night before. He wanted to make sure that he was on top, when it came to current events, while also making sure that the events of the past presented a sound basis for all his ideas and thoughts. It is this thirst for knowledge that was such a strong inspiration for his seventeen children, most of whom he outlived (he was survived by only one son and two daughters in the end).

On the other hand, without prejudice to his stubborn pride in his traditional values and traits, he was a man of the world. In fact, he has seen most of it, during his long diplomatic career, from the United Nations to the Organization of Islamic Conference and the many missions he was assigned to and conferences and seminars he attended. He was able to develop a universal attitude of brotherhood among people of all walks of life, religious persuasions, national affiliation and professional or vocational practice. PhD's and laymen looked to him with the same level of respect, because all knew that the scholastic attainments of my father were engrained by years of deep and agonizing research into the mysteries of life – past and present. Even those who disagreed with my father, well knew that his arguments were difficult to challenge, because they were based on the fundamental backbones of scholasticism – reason, logic and fact.

For this observer, a faithful, sincere and immaculately incorruptible father has been lost – a truly irreplaceable partner. May God bless his soul!

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.