Every Tuesday, our dear colleague Asharq Al-Awsat Deputy Editor-in-Chief Ali Ibrahim would write his weekly op-ed. However, for two weeks now he has been absent from his family, friends and readers—as well as his extended family here at Asharq Al-Awsat.
After attending the editorial meeting on the morning of Saturday, February 14, Ali Ibrahim returned to his office with a smile on his face. However, later that evening he unfortunately suffered a sudden heart attack in his office, something that has not only affected him, but all his colleagues here at the newspaper. He was rushed to hospital with everyone at Asharq Al-Awsat praying for his speedy recovery. Within just a few hours, the doctors took the decision that this good-hearted man would need to undergo serious heart surgery.
It was a complex and serious operation that took almost ten hours to complete. Ten days have now passed since the operation and his health has stabilized although he remains in the intensive care unit. Since that day all his colleagues and all those who love him have been repeating the same question: When will Ali Ibrahim return?
Due to the nature of our profession and the pressures and problems associated with it, we miss many beautiful things as time goes by. We forget our relationships with those who are closest to us, such as Ali Ibrahim who joined Asharq Al-Awsat in the early 1990s, and who has slowly but surely assumed more and more responsibilities in the newspaper. He sees Asharq Al-Awsat as his life and home which he would not dispense with no matter the temptations.
Ali Ibrahim has a wonderful ability to reconcile contradictions. He is always the first to arrive and the last to leave the newspaper’s offices. His colleagues who would enter his office angry would leave feeling cheerful, thanks to his delicate manner of dealing with problems. No sooner does he reproach them for their mistakes than he puts the blame on himself. No sooner does he treat them harshly than he fiercely defends them. I do not remember any of his colleagues ever complaining about or disagreeing with him. Ali Ibrahim has a particular management theory that he has always promoted: Don’t be too emotional with your colleagues, and this will have a positive effect. I now admit that his theory is correct but still the question remains. When will Ali Ibrahim return?
Perhaps, dear reader, you are used to opinion articles that focus on political issues, with no place for emotions. But today, as I am writing on behalf of my colleagues at Asharq Al-Awsat, we must talk in emotional language, particularly as we are talking about a man who has always worked diligently and quietly beside us, achieving so much while keeping his inherent humility. Even now that he has had to leave the newspaper temporarily, he has left a void that no one can fill. We have all been absent from the newspaper at one time or another, but there is only one person whose absence is so affecting.
In our Arab world, we are used to expressing our emotions and feelings about those who are closest to us only after we lose them, honoring them as they deserve only after they leave this world. We have not learnt to express our feelings openly towards those who deserve our appreciation. But now that our dear colleague Ali Ibrahim is experiencing this health crisis, we can only express our heartfelt hope that he will soon return to full health and the warm embrace of his loving family. We at Asharq Al-Awsat say this having failed to find better words to express our solidarity with our absent and greatly-missed colleague. We are praying for him everyday and looking forward to his return.
God willing, he will recover soon and return to us, and we will see him indulge in his passion for reading the news once again. There can be no doubt that his beloved Asharq Al-Awsat will be the first newspaper that he reads after his recovery! So, we are all waiting for Ali Ibrahim’s recovery and return to his natural environment and family. Until then, I suppose I must get used to people asking me: When will Ali Ibrahim return?