It is rare to write about a man whose name came to the fore not for vanity or play, but for service and sacrifice for other so different from himself and yet, to him, so alike. It is truly tragic when the price of this man’s selflessness was his life.
A brilliant student and graduate of Kings College, Dr Abbas Khan was a Specialist Registrar at the highly prestigious Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, on the outskirts of London. With a wife, two children and a promising career at the young age of 31, he took the momentous decision to travel to Syria and provide medical aid to Civilians trapped in the fighting.
Dr Abbas’ generosity of spirit, driven by his deeply held faith, saw him in service to his brothers and sisters in Syria as an Emergency Surgeon for two days in 2012. Then the forces of the Al-Assad regime arrested him. It wasn’t until early 2013 that Dr Khan’s family were able to track him down to a military prison in Damascus, where he was found weighing little more than 32 kg and barely able to walk. He had been subjected to torture and by his own account was routinely held in solitary confinement. Despite all this, with months of painful negotiations, when Dr Khan wrote to his family he spoke optimistically of his hopes of being free. On 16 December, soon after his release was announced, Dr Abbas Khan was murdered, according to his family. He was 32 years old.
Dr Abbas Khan’s Janazah service was held on 26 December 2013 at Regent’s Park Mosque. The crowd attending the Dhuhr Prayer rivalled the congregation for Jummah. People had travelled in their thousands to pray for him and to stand in solidarity with his family, perhaps in a small way mirroring his having travelled thousands of miles to stand in solidary with the civilians suffering in Syria. The funereal prayer itself was short and silent. Thousands of men, women and children standing in prayer behind the Imam, praying for Dr Abbas Khan and his family, and then his brother stood to eulogise him. Shah Nawaz Khan spoke in a clear and unfaltering voice of the depth of his and his family’s loss. He told the story of a brother who had been a beacon. He told the story of a father and husband who put other before himself. With stoic grace borne of profound faith he told the story of a brother in whose footsteps he once trod.
Ultimately, it is in the words of Dr Khan’s brother that a life lived for the sake of other and the glory of the Almighty can be summarised; “my brother, to us, was our star – his star shone on our family”. May Allah, the Almightly, accept the martyrdom of Dr Abbas Khan and may His Majesty make his example of selflessness and compassion a guiding star to his young family and to us all.
Dr Abbas Khan leaves behind his wife and two young children.