Yesterday, I found out by chance that Lina Mattar had passed away on the 5th of July and was buried on the 8th at Um Hiran cemetery near Amman, Jordan.
I first met Lina in December 2010 when I interviewed her for a post at the New York Institute of Technology in Jordan where I was the Academic Dean. She easily outshone all the other candidates, and by the following February she had become one of the pillars of the Dean’s Office at NYIT Amman, along with my dear friend Dr. Ahmad Abd al-Hadi. I worked closely with Lina on various student related projects and activities until June 2012 when I left NYIT and moved to the UK. I remember having complete confidence in Lina’s ability to navigate her way through the often complex and problem-ridden terrain of student life.
But all of this I have already spoken of on several occasions in the past and have also documented in my recommendations of her work. What I wanted to share today, forty days after Lina’s passing, is different. I wanted to speak about the person I came to know in the last few months of my time in Amman. This Lina is a person who trusted me with deep insights into how she saw the world, and what she hoped to become. “I want to be a masterpiece,” she would confide in me, “a masterpiece for God.” She would then proceed to elaborate on how exactly this would unfold. Perhaps as the first ballet star who wore a headscarf, or perhaps as a public influencer, touching millions with her insights about self-worth and kindness. Lina’s face would glow as she spoke of these dreams, just as her face would shine as she spoke of the father she was so proud of, her creative, artistic and energetic mother, and the sisters she loved so dearly.
She would often ask me for advice, and I felt honoured not only by the trust that someone as bright and pure as Lina had placed in me, but also because I knew that in sharing with her my thoughts, I may indirectly be contributing to the magnificent masterpiece she was becoming.
After my departure from NYIT, our discussions and communications gradually ceased, but I continued to follow her achievements from a distance. Her MA thesis, entitled Is there a difference or is it just fabric?: Implicit Cognition and the Headscarf, reflected her desire to do something meaningful for Muslim women, her sisters in identity and faith. I read carefully her intricate and eloquent analysis. What I enjoyed most, however, were her tweets, consumed with the causes she felt strongly about: the suffering of Palestinians, and the empowerment of women. She tweeted under the name Hajjeh Lina, a title she fully earned after she performed the Hajj pilgrimage.
I remember clearly how when she went on ‘Umra, or the smaller pilgrimage, in April 2012, she dressed in a white gown as though prepared for her wedding. It was, as she would later describe it to me, a beautiful wedding of the spirit, and the prayer beads she carried with her were the symbol of this new bond between her and the Heavens.
I could easily write much more about Lina, stories upon stories of how she perceived the world and all the things she wanted to achieve. But the deep sadness I have felt since yesterday is more about a world without Lina, than about a Lina without this world. Lina was a hidden masterpiece, and it consoles me to know that although she will no longer be witnessed in this world, she will be seen in full in the place she now resides.
To Lina’s family, loved ones and friends, I extend my deepest and sincere condolences. May we all be honoured in the world to come by being reunited with her.