Thursday, January 22, 2015

Angel among us


"Plots for Tots Cemetery"  is the infant burial area which is adjacent to the Islamic Memorial Gardens Cemetery  in Westland , Michigan , USA . When you walk in this area you cannot hold back your tears by looking at tiny teddy bears , flower pots and reading  the headstones about the babies  resting there ."Plots for Tots " is a section dedicated to babies in the Muslim Cemetery of West Land  ,where fetuses, infants and young children of Muslim Families are buried . Najjah Bazzy a nurse and a social worker and a mother herself bought this piece of land where miscarried babies, infants and toddlers could be buried in accordance with Islamic rituals .
“People need closure,” said Bazzy. They parents are quite heartbroken on the death of the baby and they want to bury him or her in a dignified way.
It is one of a kind infant cemetery in the state of Michigan and perhaps in the entire United States which is dedicated to only Muslim babies .
Parents often find out about the program from physicians ,funeral homes and mosques.
Plots for Tots burial site was dedicated in 2009 and the first baby was buried here in 2010. 39 babies have been buried here up till now and there is room for 190 more . Most of the babies or infants who are buried here belong to poor families whose parents could not afford burial costs.

This program under the umbrella of Zaman International Hope for Humanity  was established in 2002 after Najjah Bazzy became aware of 222 fetuses in a local hospital of which many had been there for years.

Najah Bazzy is an Arab Muslim who was born and raised in Detroit . She is a good friend and a source of inspiration for me . Zaman has " Bayat al Zehra" a food pantry for underprivileged families .Trucks of Zaman International deliver groceries , gently used clothes and furniture to many families living in poverty in the metro Detroit area. She also started the BOOST program which offers sewing lessons to women who were victims of abuse .
Sister Najjah  as I call her is somewhat an "Angel " among us . She always greets you with a smile in the office of Zaman International in Detroit "s suburb of Dearborn . There is no speck of makeup on her face yet it is always glowing maybe with "noor" .
When I asked Sister Najjah  about the need for Plots for Tots she replied "One day I was giving a lecture to a group of nurses on caring for Muslim mothers. I was out of state and speaking at a hospital that served a high concentration of Muslim women seeking obstetric services. My lecture was on Women in Islam and Care of the Muslim Mother .I was explaining the ethical code of Islam concerning birthing, death, burial of babies and other related issues. When the discussion ended, a managing nurse came to me and asked if she could see me privately. She wore a troubled expression. I was obliged . The nurse invited me to visit their pathology laboratory. As I followed her through the corridors we approached the a room, and then we entered a typical pathology lab. The woman raised her hands and gestured to the shelves lining the walls. "Here is our museum of babies," she said. "I don't know what to do with them all. I've had them on shelves here for years."

I could see by their dated labels that some of the containers were seven years old. I looked at the white tubs filled with human beings, little bodies of babies .Some of the containers held two and three babies .They ranged in fetal age from 12 weeks to full term. Little hands and feet, little faces and bodies.
I thought of the Prophet.

Each day as our Prophet left his home, on the way to his Mosque ,he would stop at the cemetery along the way. He would stop on the way and again coming back and say "Salaam" , to the people resting in their graves.

I asked to be left alone for a while. When the nurse had gone, I began to lift down the containers one by one. I said "Assalamu Aleikum, little ones".

It taught me two things: The babies in their jars were orphaned, homeless, helpless. And I was guided".

Sister Najjah "s reply made me burst into tears .

This year in 2014 Sister Najjah  was able to raise enough funds to expand her projects with the purchase of a building in Michigan  that will serve Zaman "s headquarters .

Sister Najjah is a humble down to earth lady , she dresses in simple clothes and a white scarf . She greets you with a smile .She works like any other volunteer in the office answering phone calls , packing donated clothes and toys in boxes .

Sister Najjah bathes the bodies of the infants herself in the funeral house before sending them to the cemetery .

Sister Najjah says " we are all created by God and we all deserve dignity .......young or old , born or unborn ".