“Who is going to live forever?” he said the last time we sat together and then left. Little did he know that this would be the last I hear from him; I also did not know that I had kept away many things I wanted to say, and which he would never hear again.
I would always make things sound easier than what they really are when it comes to his health, as for him, he was quite the realist every second of it, as if he was preparing everyone around him for his departure.
The more he felt his death nearing, the stronger his confidence in fate grew.
Two years ago, the doctors told him that he would never walk again, he replied lightheartedly saying “We have walked for a longtime in this life, what’s wrong with a few more years with no feet to walk around?”
He never allowed his illness to get the better of him. As he left this scenic existence we call life, he departed in solemn silence which was well earned. He turned around the last page the way he wished it to be, a white pleasing farewell to all those who know him. You may reap what you so hardly worked for, Ali.
Truth be told, I’m not the person to go for when it comes to writing eulogies, it’s not my knack nor am I best at it. However, the tribute here is that of our esteemed colleague, friend and mentor Deputy Editor in Chief Ali Ibrahim, who had passed away after a long fought battle with illness, thus it is irrelevant how good I write eulogies or not.
What is important is that regardless of who you were and still are, this prestigious institution, Asharq Al-Awsat, will endure, it is independent of any employee including the greats of Editors in Chiefs who had passed and left it… giants of journalism… talented journalists… singular executives…
Nonetheless the equation has its factors altered when Ali is the subject; he was missed when he got ill, and no one was able to fill the gap. My colleagues and I know it well that the few hours of Ali’s presence bring about magical touches enough to leave everyone amazed… “It was right there before us, how could we have not seen it?” That’s his trick which left us wondering, his finesse was very much repeated and the colleagues will always find themselves confounded.
Ali left the newspaper offices on a gloomy Wednesday; no one ever imagined he would never return to his sweetheart and beloved newspaper. He only left after exhausting his soul and body just so that those around him and who love him can be prepared for his nearing leave. Oh dear Ali, even in your presence did you bear the burden of your departure!
After his heart condition forced him to a long bed rest, a part of him managed its way back, while another part was lost to the forsaken illness, I whispered to him : we need you much chief, please do not overwork yourself. He then replied with his infamous consent.
He then gradually went back to work, burdening himself more of what he could bear. I repeatedly requested his rest; he would then answer with the same acceptance and then go back to what he does best.
I unceasingly complained to his wife, he would only smile and answer with “yes Sir.” It wasn’t until one day I found myself enraged, and said “take it seriously, I do not claim being afraid for your health as much as I desire having you around another day, could you please stop working and leave home now? He then answered with an uneasiness rare to his persona “being around the team has some fun and healing to it, could you just leave me to my own comfort?” that time it was I who conceded.
We let you be dear Ali; however, death had another take to it.
Over a decade from now, I worked as a contract reporter with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, and Ali Ibrahim was my chief. Later I became a responsible editor, and he stayed my chief; I then became Deputy Editor in Chief and he still was my chief, afterwards I became the Editor in Chief, and my friend Ali, did he ever change?
No, he never changed, whether a chief or a peer, his rich courtesy remained unchanged, his smile never faded, his honest word rarely ever took a wrong turn. You could only learn from him, and if you cite the success of his advice, he would only humbly reply as if it wasn’t his in the first place.
You would come to him with shoulders bearing a world of burdens, and you would leave him as if they never existed. He always reiterated: a calm voice is far fiercer than a loud one, modesty breaks through ego, and good manners defeat crudeness always. We have been left burdened with your absence dear friend.
May Allah bestow mercy upon the soul of my friend, colleague and mentor Ali Ibrahim. Our only solace for my colleagues, I, and his patient wife Mrs. Tafida and daughters Noha, Salma and Shereen is that he left something in us that would never disappear with him. He deeply rooted his presence so deep in us, so that death itself will never be able to do away with it. That we promise dear Ali.