There is nothing in the world darker than the death of a child.
There is nothing in a life more painful than parents burying their child.
There is nothing in this universe more soul-shattering than a family mourning the murder most foul of their beloved daughter and sister.
I’m unable to articulate the pain that I know is unimaginable despite the most scrupulous wording.
Noor’s life is not what happened to her on July 20. It cannot ever be.
In celebration of a life well lived, of the person who was luminous, I asked Noor Mukadam’s family to say something about their precious, special, beautiful daughter and sister.
Noor’s father Shaukat Mukadam on his most beloved daughter:
Noor was a beautiful child. Being the youngest of the family, Noor was everyone’s darling. A big, healthy baby, she was born in Amman, Jordan. The Jordan Times even published the news that a lovely baby girl was born to a Pakistani diplomat.
Noor’s habits were always so adorable. And she was effortlessly loving. She liked chocolates. She loved to play with her dolls. Noor would try to speak in Arabic with our female domestic staff [in Jordan and Iraq]. Noor’s childhood was laughter-filled, happy. Some children have the habit of creating fuss on small things, but Noor was never demanding about anything. We’ve countless sweet memories of her as a child in Jordan and Iraq. And when we moved back to Pakistan.
Growing up Noor’s likes were simple, innocent. Many of her friends were the children of other diplomats. She loved eating and making desserts as a child and as a teenager. Sweet things were big on her favourites list.
In Islamabad, we enrolled Noor in the Lahore Grammar School. Noor’s love for Islamabad was special. Before her O levels, I was transferred to Korea as Pakistan’s ambassador. Noor joined the Seoul Foreign School, an international institute. She did her high school in Korea. At times, she used to complain that it’d be very difficult to do high school in a foreign country, but I’d say to her, “Look, whatever challenges you may face, they are like passing clouds. They will go away.” Even on the day of her graduation Noor remembered my words. She had scored a great GPA.
For a while, Noor attended the all-women Ewha Womans University, one of Seoul’s most renowned colleges. After the completion of my three-year tenure, I was transferred to Kazakhstan as ambassador. The university year in Kazakhstan had already started. I met the president of the Nazarbayev University in Nur Sultan who advised Noor to wait for 8-9 months. We decided to send Noor to the United States to live with our oldest daughter Sara. Noor joined the Collin College near Dallas.
When Noor began to feel a little homesick in the United States, we urged her to come back. In Islamabad she joined the Roots College International IVY, an affiliate of the University of London. Noor’s major was international relations.
At a young age, Noor became interested in religion. She studied comparative religion. Her deep and continuous interest was the study of Islam. She had quite a good understanding of the lectures of many modern Muslim scholars, including Ahmed Deedat and Nouman Ali Khan. At one point, she expressed her desire to join the Bayyinah Institute, but I advised her to finish her education first and then study religion. I told her that I’d also study with her as her plan was a truly noble one.
Most of the time when Noor was with her friends, or the girls and the boys she studied with, her conversation almost invariably turned to religion or a story that had an important lesson.
My daughter Noor was a very beautiful, tall, graceful young woman with a charismatic personality. Always smiling. She had inner confidence, which she perhaps developed through her strong belief in religion. She used to, at times, advise us on the correct way of doing things. She also liked to study and understand Arabic.
One of Noor’s most noticeable qualities was her smartness; she was so knowledgeable about various subjects that at times even I was stumped. She had a passion for calligraphy, making desserts, for organising things the proper way, to put things in the right order.
With her words and actions Noor wished to spread happiness and share her loved ones’ anxiety and melancholy. Noor had unlimited empathy. She was always there to help everyone in their hard time, their moments of pain, to share their difficulties.
That was a unique hallmark of her personality.
Noor was different. Not interested in expensive things, she never demanded that she be given this or that thing. If she liked something, she’d mention it once, and if she couldn’t have it, she was fine. No hankering for fancy stuff, Noor was satisfied with the simple joys of life.
My daughter didn’t just love human beings, she also loved animals. Once Noor was sitting in the car while her brother went inside a shop. It was a scorching summer day, and she saw a dog panting on the pavement. She went inside the shop to buy a bottle of water. As she was giving the water to the dog, her brother exclaimed, “What’re you doing? This isn’t a pet dog, it’s a stray, he’ll bite you.” Noor smiled, “Not a problem, I’m not worried.” Noor loved stray dogs. If there was a dog outside the house, she’d feed him.
I learned so many new things from Noor. As most young people, she was tech savvy, and used to teach me how to properly use a computer and different options on my phone. I didn’t know how to send the location pin from my phone, she taught me that!
One of the reasons for our warmest, friendliest, and most loving bond with our daughter was because she valued the small things in life. Noor did not just have great love and respect for her parents and her siblings but even for her friends.
My bond with my daughter Noor, how to describe that. A most loving child, a very affectionate teenager, an incredible young woman. With her parents, with her siblings. We used to play carrom and other board games. Her hugs were frequent. She had an exuberant childlike sense of humour; sometimes she’d put clips on my hair! She enjoyed those tiny pranks. She used to wear a hijab in her late teens; once she put her hijab on my head and took photos!
We lost our beloved Noor on the 20th of July. It shocked and saddened the entire country. Even internationally, there was shock and sadness. Many young people in Islamabad said to their parents that it could have been them as most of them know and meet each other, having studied in the same schools and colleges, and even as young professionals. Everyone knows everyone.
We hope that justice will prevail. I have full confidence in our justice system. InshaAllah, justice will be done to Noor. This is a test case for Pakistan. Not only in Pakistan, this case has garnered global attention. I have lost my daughter, but I don’t want any other daughter of Pakistan to be subjected to such a monstrous crime.
Sometimes, I think of Noor having a life like any other young woman—going to university and having a career, getting married and having children. Then I think of what Noor used to say to her mother. And what her friends in Pakistan and in Korea and elsewhere share with us: how she used to say that she was a chosen one from God, and that she conversed with God in her prayers. These are things that we cannot understand. How a young girl could talk about things that we grown-ups don’t even understand. I think she was a God-gifted person. Her mission was to spread the beauty of love and kindness.
Noor’s friends and anyone who knew her have not been able to come to terms with her loss. Everyone is deeply melancholic. For us, her parents and her sister and her brother, it is a very, very challenging time. But sometimes I feel Noor is in a much better place. And she has perhaps given this sacrifice so that many other girls will be safe. There will be new legislations in Pakistan, there will be a movement for violence against women, and there will be vigils as the vigil today [September 22, 2021]. The vigil had a tremendous impact, so many people attended, many media houses covered it.
Maybe Noor has given the sacrifice of her life for a safer and a better world for the females of Pakistan. So that the Pakistani woman is safe in her house, she is safe in her workplace, she is safe on the street.
I reiterate that I have full confidence in Pakistan’s judicial system, and I’m sure it will deliver. I’m also thankful to Prime Minister Imran Khan for saying during his interviews with the media that he is following the case, and that justice shall be done.
I hope justice will be done. And I leave the rest to Allah, the Creator.
The loss of Noor is unimaginable. It is impossible for my wife, my children and me to reconcile to its enormity. Our pain is unending, and unsurmountable most of the time.
Our pain cannot be described in words because this pain is not momentary. It will remain with us for the rest of our lives. On very happy occasions we will remember Noor. In our day-to-day lives we will miss Noor. She was our flesh and blood. We have a lifetime of happy moments with her. Noor was an angel in our home. And not only because she was the youngest one. It was because she had a perfect heart. She never belittled anyone, showed disrespect to anybody, insulted someone’s opinions.
We cannot explain the pain we feel. It is something that is indescribable in words. For a father to bury his child. The most painful thing in the world. But the Creator has also given us patience to bear such losses. We feel a little composed when we feel that Noor is in a very high place, in Jannat-al-Firdous of our God Almighty, Allah Subhanahu wa ta-ala, the Most Gracious, the Most Generous. A shaheed is blessed with one of the highest positions in heaven, and we believe, according to the Quran, that a shaheed never dies. They are eternally living although we cannot see them.
How we feel, it is the pain most terrible. Each day is very painful. But then we feel a little strengthened. That Noor was here to spread the message of good will, patience, love, betterment of humanity. There are so many stories from her friends and the girls she used to meet. We will keep her memory alive. I’m thinking of making an institution for education for girls.
Noor has gone from us physically, but she lives in our hearts forever. Noor will always be alive in our hearts.
(Part one of the two-part series)