Embracing a Suicide Bomber

“When I started working in Afghanistan, I would greet my father daily in his room before leaving for work and after work when returning home. Never in my life did I think I was going to go to his room and find his bed drenched in his own blood.”

One year ago, on the evening of 20th of September, I witnessed my father get killed in a suicide attack. Words cannot explain the shock and horror of seeing a parent get killed in such a manner – the sight of the aftermath of an explosion, the smell of gunpowder and the smoke that engulfed the hallway of our house, and the confusion that follows. From experience, I can say that the pain of such tragedy does not go away with time. Not a day has gone by since then that I have not thought about my father.  And while the pain of such an event will never leave me, there is no doubt that I – or anyone in my family – no matter where we are, will ever turn around from carrying on to bringing into reality, the vision that my father had for Afghanistan and the Afghan people.


My father giving speech to the General Assembly in United Nations


The fact that my brother made the very difficult decision of accepting my father’s role is a clear message that we are willing to put ourselves at the same level of risk and go the same distance as my father did to make sure that all the hard work has not gone to waste. These are the lengths we are willing to go, but the question is: how far are others willing to go with us in this journey? Looking ahead, I would be disappointed to see the efforts being put in place to bring peace and stability come to a standstill as a result of abandonment or loss of interest in the process by our allies. We certainly cannot promise peace but we consider it our duty to try.

While we seek peace for this country, we also seek justice. As a family, we seek justice for what happened to my father. It has been a year and the parties that should be investigating my father’s assassination seem to have become comfortable with the little or no effort in doing their part in the investigation process. At the end of the day, we are the generation that, in addition to peace, seeks justice and accountability. Moreover, those who claim they support us would not want to be remembered as the people who did not care.

In a country where vengeance is customary, as a family, we made a conscious decision that we will continue working towards peace. People brainwashed by militant Islamic ideologies, and others brainwashed by militant secularist ideologies, are not the enemies of Afghanistan. It is the ideology itself and the people who support such ideologies in any way and those who preach these ideologies – they are the enemies of vulnerable countries like Afghanistan.

Leadership Mastery in Afghanistan

When people ask me what were some of the qualities of my father, patience and compassion come first to my mind. But compassion was not the only character of my father a person could sense merely in his presence. He was a leader who created and inspired other Afghan leaders. If we look at the foundations of most of Afghanistan’s active and successful leaders today who have enormous support from the Afghan people, their fundamental values stem out of the principles of the political party my father founded over 40 years ago. The main reason for this is that the values that my father lived by are the very essence of the Afghan society. For anyone to go against his wisdom would be no different than going against our nation as a whole.

These leaders are a living proof of the success of my father’s leadership in that the approach my father took in terms of his policy of inclusion and recognition of all Afghans from all walks of life, and the empowerment of the Afghan people through education as the way to move forward. He was the example of how any form of extremism, religious or secular, in Afghanistan will not work. Afghanistan needs many more intellectuals like my father who will use none other than in-depth knowledge of Islamic theology itself to challenge the corrupted beliefs of those who recognize themselves as part of us. More than 6 months after my father was assassinated, we were receiving phone calls at home from people we had never met or known who told me that I may have lost my father, but I have thousands of uncles all over.

The first Commemoration Day of his Life and Legacy

Yesterday, the first anniversary of my father’s assassination was officially held in Kabul. Guests and speakers included President Karzai, current and former first and second Vice Presidents of Afghanistan, Parliamentarians, Ministers, Senators, Governors, and religious scholars and tribal leaders. While the guests were coming in to the Loya Jirga hall (national assembly hall), the organizers put on a documentary on the large projector screens outlining my father’s life in his own words – a timeline story of his youth, how and when he became an activist, what caused the circumstances that led him to becoming a student activist, then a professor and then a leader, how he escaped the university he was teaching in with the help of his students, the birth of his political party, and the moment that he thought at the time, was a final goodbye to my mother before leaving the house thinking he would be killed by the Afghan communists. Seeing my father speak of his life was a very surreal moment. It was as if my father came back to life to tell his story in his own words, marking every detail of the atrocities of Afghan communists against the masses of doctors, professors, intellectuals, religious and tribal leaders and population in general.

The sunset view from the top of the hill where my father’s mausoleum is.

If there is one thing anyone should remember from the commemoration day held yesterday, it is the bold, direct, and confrontational speech given by Ustad Sayyaf (one of the most prominent Mujahidin leaders of Afghanistan). He used Islamic teachings and quotes directly from the Quran to challenge the idea of suicide bombings in Islam and gave a very spine-chilling message to those who support, organize, and create suicide bombers in madrassas under the umbrella of Islam. An example he used was when he stated that, “even someone who is a killer gets a chance to seek God’s forgiveness, but when terrorists resort to suicide bombing, they do not even have a chance to seek forgiveness.”

A Leader’s Letter: Volume 1

The first volume of a book titled ‘A Leader’s Letter’ in Farsi citing my father’s quotes and selected speeches in 2011 has been published on the first anniversary of his assassination. Future generations of Afghanistan are now given the opportunity to understand the plight of Afghan patriots who sacrificed everything and paid the ultimate price for the sake of their country and people. Wherever my father quoted from the Quran or the Hadith to relate a situation and give example based on Islamic history and Afghanistan’s political reality, the book highlights specific reference points for people to look into for further studies. It is an intellectually engaging and thought provoking book that will continue to challenge the critics of Afghan Mujahidin leaders for a very long time to come.

Gone but Never Forgotten

As I write this, I remember that last year, in this very moment, our house was in a state of chaos. As the sun was setting behind the rugged mountains of Kabul, I visited my father’s mausoleum yesterday to remember him at the very moment when the suicide bomber took his life away. While I have made peace with his absence in my life, I cannot bring myself to make peace with extremist ideologies, both religious and secular, that are designed to punish humanity and anyone who fights for humanity. This morning, I went to the room in our house where the suicide bombing took place. I stood right where my father was and thought about what it must have been like to be him at that very moment. I wondered what was going on in my father’s mind. Did he ever think he would be killed by the very people he entrusted so much to have welcomed them in his house so they could make peace? Did that 20-something year old suicide bomber look like anything evil to him as he embraced him like a son? Did my father’s enemies who organized and sent this suicide bomber think this will be the end of the Rabbani legacy in Afghanistan?

Visiting the mausoleum at the very moment he was killed a year ago.

Two years ago when I started working in Afghanistan, I would greet my father daily in his room before leaving for work and after work when returning home. Never in my life did I think I was going to go to his room and find his bed drenched in his own blood. When he was taken to hospital on the night of his assassination, I went to his room with my nieces and found his glasses on his laptop, the cup of tea on his desk was still warm, his luggage from his travel still unopened, and the books he would read every night on one side of his bed. I sat on the corner of his bed as we took our time to grieve in disbelief, hoping we would get some closure. I took two tissue papers and dabbed his bed and it only took a little pressure to notice the mattress was soaking in his blood. I have those tissue papers framed in my room today because every day when I return home from work, I want it to remind me of what my father lived for, what he fought for, and what he died for.

And if it is any consolation to my father’s enemies and critics, I am willing to do the same.


8 thoughts on “Embracing a Suicide Bomber

  1. May Allah already granted you paradise and be relex and rest at all the time! You have lived like a real man and gone like a real man. Bear in our mind that you will never be forgotten and your path is on-going by your followers and peers till end of the survival and the day hopefully.


  2. Stankzai is the person who brought suicide bomber who assassinate you last year. Hopefully when will of God comes and grant us power then we will get revenge and hang him up quickly soon. It is not possible now, because the current government fully protect and support him, moreover other mojahiden leaders are discouraged and thinking all the time about money and power, but really new generation will hang up your enemies and will take this revenge from facsist karzai and his team in the future hopefully.


  3. Shuja brother,
    Although I am a victim of and witness to Kabul’s civil war and atrocities, but for your father’s struggle for peace in his final days and Shahaadat, may Allah reward him Janah.
    By the way, you are an amazing writer; looking forward to read more of your writings.


  4. Heart touching written dear Shuja, it is not possible for anyone to understand your feelings at that moment and even now, but that news gave all of us the biggest shock ever. He created a vision, a way of life, he worked for this vision, he lived for it and finally he gave his life for it. It is the highest point a mankind can reach. God Bless him and God bless all of us. Stay safe my friend.


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