It has never been easy to be the son of Dr. Muhammad Imady. I discovered this early on when I would be stopped by passers-by who would want to talk to me about my father; how he had once taught them, or employed them, or helped them through various government processes obstructed by others. They would often speak to me at great length about what my father had done for his country, how he had returned Syria to work with people adamant at preventing him from achieving reform of any type, however minor or insignificant. I would be obliged to listen to story after story, though I was well aware of the minute details of each. Their regalings would end, invariably, in an ardent petition for me to emulate my father’s example. But I knew then, as I know now, that I lacked the essential characteristics that qualified my father to be the man he was.
My father’s secret did not lie in the fact that he was highly educated, extremely talented, and a man of noble character, although he embodied each of these rare qualities. His secret, rather, lay in the fact that he was able to bring all of these to a world which was almost organically at odds with everything for which he stood, and able to remain loyal to such a world for over half a century.
I have many memories of sitting in my father’s office, watching him interact with gentleness and wisdom with people who were neither willing nor capable of understanding the ideas he was trying to explain. I was aware of the fact that my father carried the banner of reform in a world that was waiting for him to commit just one mistake — intentionally or otherwise — so that it may turn against him.
Reform, I learned, is both easy and impossible. Easy because you are, in essence, asked to place what would benefit people first. And impossible because you cannot place what benefits people first unless you are willing to interact with everything else as merely foam, transient and dissipating. Yes, there were those with whom my father enjoyed working; men and women who believed, as he did, in the imperative of striving to elevate the status of their country, but they were like scattered trees in an ever-expanding desert.
My father’s secret was also this: that he did not regard himself as having another option, though in truth he had many. Those who loved him would often speak to him of the possibilities of other places or positions which he could, if he wished, depart to away from a world that caused him endless headaches, pain, and even fear from the threats of various enemies. In response, he would smile and change the subject, as though to say: I was created to be here, and I will serve my country to the very end.
My dear father, you have departed to a world which truly recognises and appreciates who you are, and what you were trying every day to achieve. I entrust you to the Most Gentle, the Ever Aware, the One with Whom all trusts are protected.