Remembering Merchant Bhai

We all miss our beloved brother Mr. Mohammed Merchant who was better known as Merchant Sahib or Merchant Bhai. I used to call him Merchant Sahib. Few of us used to call him Mohammed Ekka. He left us a year back on December 17, 2006, succumbing to a battle with cancer for a couple of years.

Merchant Sahib was a legend for the new immigrants to Canada, especially from Kerala, even though his help and support were not limited to our Keralaite community alone. I still remember the first meeting with him back in July 2001. This was 2 days after I landed in Toronto and was still going through the jet lag. I got a call from Merchant Sahib, whom I never knew or heard of before, introducing himself as Mohammed Merchant. I was half asleep when he called and I could only understand the Merchant part of the name. I was telling myself “The sales guys do not give anybody peace of mind anywhere in the world”. Anyway I asked him to come in the afternoon. Around 4.30 pm the bell rings and there comes a very humble, good looking man promptly at the agreed time. We sat down and spoke for almost 45 minutes. Even though every piece of information and advise that he gave was so useful and comforting, I was still scanning around to find out what this gentleman is about to sell me. After about 45 minutes, he got up to leave. As he was leaving, I asked him, “What do you sell?”. He replied “Selling? I don’t sell anything? “I was embarrassed for a moment having not understood his name well.Few days later, I went up to his home and met with his family. All through the meeting I was admiring the simplicity in this man. From there, grew up a brotherly relationship that lasted until his death.

Merchant Sahib used to let us know the moment he gets a contact of a new comer and then we all would call them to introduce ourselves and to offer any help that we could provide. From there grew a small network of people, who were ready to support the newcomers. As he became ill, we all started taking over a better role in supporting the new immigrants. In early 2006 under the initiative of Merchant Sahib, we also re-generated the Family Forum which he said their friends used to regularly have several years back. The family forum is a very simple get together of families who are interested in learning more about Islam and Quran. Each month we would take an Islamic or Quran based subject and discuss. The member in the group with the best knowledge would be the moderator or leader. I also suggested starting a Charity, for which he immediately offered his whole hearted support and initiative.

Accordingly in few weeks we re-started the family forum and a charity under a un published name “Drop of Kindness” for which we provided collection boxes to each of the members in the family forum. Unfortunately Merchant Sahib fell sick again after the first family forum meeting. However we continued his initiative and the charity which is going quite well under the name of M S Merchant Foundation. Last year we had been able to donate our collections to a Cancer Palliative Centre in India. This year we are planning to support the same group as well as other needy and also to donate few books for an Islamic Centre.

All of us have atleast one or more story to tell about our beloved Merchant Sahib. He had been the source of inspiration for all our social work, which also lead to the start of Soccer Koottam, which meets every Sunday for Soccer / Yoga / Cricket. Soccer Koottam has turned out to be an event that keeps all of us in contact on a weekly basis. In spite of being very sick, Merchant Sahib used to join us for the Soccer games when ever he could as our goal keeper, inspiring us even when he was physically too weak.

He has left a load of good work and legacy behind through the excellent work that he rendered to our fellow community members. No gatherings of ours go without remembering him. He shall be in all our prayers and we all look forward to keep up the good work that he has started. May Allah reward him for his good deeds and grant him Jannah.

Written by Sajeeb Koya

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