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.
Part one: Pakistan’s Shaukat Mukadam: My daughter Noor
Mohammad Ali Mukadam on his sister Noor:
I remember Noor as a cute baby girl with curly hair, very fair-skinned, very chubby. I remember she was always playing with her stuffed toys. Despite being six years younger than me, Noor was so easy to get along with. She never threw tantrums and was never an annoying child. I remember that even when she was little, she was very fond of animals. She used to play with stray cats, always so loving towards animals.
I was very close to my sister Noor. She was not only my younger sister but also my best friend. Noor, a very loving, a very warm-hearted younger sibling, was so much fun to be with. Being adaptable, she was always interested in doing things that mattered to me. She used to play football and cricket with me. Noor was quite into sports, which worked out well for me! She’d also play video games with me and do other activities that she knew I loved to do.
Noor was also deeply religious, and her interest in understanding Islam was profound. She prayed five times a day. Noor also liked listening to Islamic lectures, Ahmed Deedat [South African Muslim scholar] was her favourite. I introduced her to the lectures of brother Nouman Ali Khan [American Muslim scholar], and she liked listening to his lectures too. Noor started wearing a hijab when not many girls her age would think of doing so. She was a very pious person.
Noor was always smiling, always laughing. She was such a positive person. She always saw the good in others and loved and cared selflessly.
Sara Mukadam on her sister Noor:
I remember the day Noor was born. Our parents told us a baby girl was coming home. I was so happy because I had always wanted a sister. On hearing the good news, the first thing we [my three-years-younger-than-me brother and I] did was to make a massive card for her!
I remember when Noor came home, we were stunned when we saw her. She was a big baby, almost 11 pounds. A beautiful, healthy baby. As children, something we still remember, her beauty amazed her. Noor was beautiful all her life. When she was little, she was very pretty, with the loveliest, long, curly hair, the kind of curls I’ve never seen on anyone. She had gorgeous ringlets, lovely cheekbones, a beautiful face.
From the moment Noor was born both my brother and me, we fell in love with her. We were completely obsessed with her. She was this little person we could play with, have fun with, take care of.
What I remember the most about Noor was she was such a good child. Often, my mum, my brother and I reminisce how some children throw tantrums or become stubborn about something they want to do or a certain toy they want, we never saw Noor make any demands. She was such an easy-going child. Even in her 20s, I never heard her make any fuss about a request or a demand. If she wanted something she’d ask once, and she never showed any anger if the answer was in negative.
Noor, she was just very special.
I asked my mum if Noor had ever given her a hard time with food, how children are generally very particular about their food habits. Noor as a child wasn’t a picky eater and she never fussed about food.
My sister Noor was a perfect child.
I remember once we had a pet rabbit. Noor wanted a cat, but my mum wasn’t ready to have a cat in the house, so she got her a rabbit. Something happened to the rabbit, and he died. Noor was devastated. She cried for three days because her rabbit had passed away. Noor loved animals and was never scared of any. In Dublin, if we came across a dog on a street, we’d tell Noor to walk ahead of us, telling her to deal with the dog before it attacked us! Brave, and at the same time, sensitive and loving. The perfect child always.
Noor was the most amazing sister.
We were very close, literally, from the moment Noor was born. We were inseparable. I was more like Noor’s protector when she was younger, looking after her, feeding her. As she got older, we became best friends. She also had a great relationship with our brother. She’d take part in things he was interested in. This is something I remember so clearly about her as a little girl: Noor was so easy to get along with.
When Noor was younger, I used to look after her, care for her, cater to her needs, whatever she wanted. Being her older sister, I’d walk with her holding her finger, taking her wherever she needed to go. As she got older, we did girly things together, doing her hair, helping her pick out clothes, baking stuff. When Noor was older, despite our nine-year age difference, we talked more. We talked all the time.
My sister Noor was always empathetic.
There were times when I’d get worked up about an issue, and the same thing wouldn’t bother her. So many times, I used to ask Noor why she didn’t get upset or angry, and her answer was always the same, “Sara, things don’t get resolved with anger. I refuse to get upset because anger doesn’t hurt anyone else but yourself, so why’d I even put myself in that position?” So many times, she told me, “Sara, whenever you’re upset, always put a smile on your face, and just see how it changes your mood.”
Noor always had a positive attitude. God, she was such a positive person.
Noor was always self-assured. She refused to ever be stressed; being frazzled was not in her nature. And if she ever was, I’d find it strange as I was not used to seeing her like that. My brother and I, we couldn’t bear to see Noor upset or with a frown on her face, always rushing to ask her what was troubling her. Noor didn’t ever want to trouble others with her problems. We always told her to share, but she never wanted to burden anyone. She was always thinking about others, putting her own issues aside.
Our closeness, we were inseparable. Completely inseparable. Noor was my other half. I’d just have to look at her and she’d know exactly what I was thinking. And it was mutual. We understood each other perfectly.
Despite having separate bedrooms, we’d mostly choose to be in the same room, watching movies, talking, laughing, sleeping. We used to talk about life, about nothing and everything.
Growing up, Noor was with our mum a great deal, but I was always there to look after her. My status with Noor was that of a protector, and Noor’s role in my life was that of a counsellor. No joke. She was my counsellor. Usually, it’s the younger sister who goes to the older sister for counselling, but it was the other way around for us: I used to go to her for advice as I always thought Noor was so much wiser than me.
Whenever I’d come to Pakistan, I was always more excited to see Noor and the things we’d do together than about anything else. Noor was Noor. She was this person who brought joy wherever she was.
Gifted with an excellent sense of humour, Noor used to crack the funniest jokes in the tensest of situations. She knew how to turn an awkward setting into a neutral one, so good at breaking the ice, and turning things around.
Noor always found it easy to make friends. That was something my friends and I used to marvel at. I remember conversations with my friends as a teenager how good Noor was at making friends. Any room she entered, any place she walked in, she’d just pull people towards herself. I wonder if it was her smile, or the way she talked.
Noor’s heart, her biggest heart, her larger-than-life heart. Her compassion.
Being utterly mouldable, Noor simply adjusted well to any environment, with any person. Always finding it easy to talk, she’d find a common ground to connect with people of any age. If she was sitting with a child, she’d colour, do the ABC, or a puzzle with them. If she was with an older person, she’d find something nice to say to them to make them feel better and smile.
That was the kind of a person Noor was, very humble, always putting others before herself, one of her major qualities. She was always concerned about people, and what was happening in the world. I know that she truly wanted to do something. And I truly believe that even with her departure from the world, she has changed Pakistan, she has changed people, she has changed the world.
Noor was simply an incredible human being.
And Noor’s faith. Evident throughout her life, her faith was immensely strong. So was her will power. When it came to faith, to religion, she always wanted to learn more.
Noor was constantly questioning things. It stemmed from within her, she didn’t get it from an outside influence. I think she studied most of the major religions. She wanted to know more about life: the human existence, the purpose of life.
I don’t think there’re many young people who beg their parents to take them for Hajj. Noor did. My parents were going for Hajj, and she told them that she really wanted to go. She made it happen—Noor performed Hajj at the age of 20.
We were in Korea, and I think it was just before I got married. Noor, then 17, decided to wear the hijab. She wore it for about four-five years. At first, I was a little surprised as it was a big commitment, but I knew if anyone could do it, it was Noor. As her family, we supported her decision; we always encouraged everything Noor wanted to do. We never stopped her from doing things she truly believed in. We always believed in Noor; we knew that anything that she chose for herself must be the right thing. I don’t think there’re many females who have the will power at the age of 17 to start wearing a hijab, especially without any familial or societal pressure. Noor did it on her own.
Noor didn’t care if anyone saw her in a certain way or judged her. She never cared about any of that. When she decided to do something, she’d stick to it, which was truly admirable. I think that was one of her most amazing qualities because now that she is gone, I realise how much strength Noor had given us, her siblings. Noor was our strength.
Noor was our pride, our happiness.
I really feel Noor helped us become better people. My parents had always prayed but I became more regular in my five-time prayers because of Noor. My sister, nine years younger than me, was my inspiration.
Always positive and good at motivating people, Noor was always ahead of me. Even when I thought I was doing a good thing, Noor always had a way of topping anything I could do. We all have our own way of thinking, processing things in a certain way, but Noor always had a unique way of seeing things. She’d present her idea, and I’d literally go silent. Speechless. I’d say to her, “Noor, I can’t even think on your level.”
My sister Noor was brilliant.
Now my life’s mission is to do everything Noor stood for. The person that she was and the things that she wanted to do in life. One thing is for sure: she always wanted to change the world. Some of her favourite songs were also about changing the world. She wanted to do something, and I’d always say to her, “Noor, what can we do? She’d respond, “I just want to do something, Sara, something.” And I’d add, “Well, hopefully our time will come. One day we will be able to do something.”
Noor loved art. She also felt very strongly about helping people. In a world in which so many young people are having a good time, focusing on their careers, and achieving worldly things, there were other things that mattered more to Noor. She wanted to open a café where she’d encourage young people to do artwork, poetry, and even sewing, whatever they were passionate about. That was one thing she had set her heart on. Doing social work was another of her passions. Fighting for women’s rights was also a cause that meant a great deal to Noor.
Our family’s mission now is to do everything Noor wasn’t given a chance to do. And inshaAllah, we will try to make all her incomplete plans a reality.
My house in Dallas where Noor lived for a few years, I’m so happy we had that time together. So many memories with her, so many of her things at my house. It’s unimaginable that I will never see Noor again.
I don’t want to go anywhere in Islamabad anymore because of so many memories of Noor. Everywhere in Islamabad there’re desserts and things she loved, and now I can’t go to any of those places. So many memories of Noor all over the city. I see Noor’s face wherever I am.
Noor is everywhere.
We must have faith in Allah’s plans. And this is a part of Allah’s plan. InshaAllah, it will be for the betterment of Pakistan, I really believe that. InshaAllah, I truly hope that because of Noor something good happens in Pakistan.
My sister Noor was the most beautiful human being I have ever met in my life.
I was lucky to be Noor’s sister. Lucky to have all those memories with her. Lucky that she shared 27 years of her life with me. I will always be grateful for that. I will always cherish those memories. Our loss. This is a loss we can never recover from. We cannot ever go back to our normal lives. Our lives are destroyed completely. Our family is destroyed completely. But at the same time, we are also very united. We know our Noor is in the best place. We have no doubt about that. And not just us, everyone that we’ve spoken to or meet, they all have no doubt that Noor is in the best place. And that gives us tremendous courage.
As a person I’m nowhere close to Noor. Noor was… I don’t think there’re people who have never hurt anyone, but our Noor was that person. She had never hurt anyone in her life. Not with her words, not with her actions. She had never raised her voice at anyone. She only knew how to laugh. And spread joy. I’m going to try to become that person. Now before responding to someone or talking to someone, I always think how Noor would respond in this situation. What would Noor do right now? Anger was unknown to her. No outbursts, never stubborn. Now it’s my life’s mission to be like Noor.
The other mission of my life is to do all the good I can in this world because I want to go where Noor is. To earn a place in heaven where I would be able to see her. For that I must be a good, an amazing person like Noor. This is my mission now: just do everything right. InshaAllah, once we are all there, no one can separate us. That is something I feel very strongly about.
As siblings Noor and I, we were literally the epitome of what sisters should be like. People used to give our example. We had the most beautiful relationship, the most, most, most beautiful relationship. I couldn’t live without her, and she couldn’t live without me. We were inseparable from the time she was born.
My sister Noor was my life.
I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone as much as I love her. I love other people in my life too, but Noor is at the very top.
Noor’s loss has killed me for the rest of my life. I miss Noor constantly. All the time.
Losing Noor is a pain that is unimaginable. As a family, we will never ever be okay.
But as we believe that we all belong to the Almighty Allah, and we shall all return to Him, therefore, we must be patient and pray that may our Noor rest in the highest place in the Jannat-ul-Firdous. Amen.
(Part two of the two-part article)