Two Saudi heroes

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The story of the two Saudi students who drowned while rescuing two American youngsters in the US is remarkably sad but it is a story that should make every citizen of the Kingdom proud to be a Saudi. These two brave young men paid the ultimate price, made the ultimate sacrifice to help a couple of individuals - who they did not know at all - continue to live even as their own lives ended.

It must have taken extraordinary courage for Theeb Al-Yami, 27, and his cousin Jasser Al-Yami, 25, to jump into the powerful currents in the Chicopee River in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, in an attempt to rescue two American children who were being swept away in the river on June 29. They had no second thoughts about trying to rescue the children, no hesitation. They did not think twice about themselves and whether the attempt was too dangerous. All they could think of was trying to save the children after their mother and passersby failed in the endeavor. Having seen the children safely exit the water, Theeb and Jasser could not pull themselves out before they went under.

What the Al-Yami cousins did, saving someone from turbulent waters, is akin to racing into a fire to save somebody, or to save someone being robbed at gunpoint or being shot at by an aggrieved individual. It is the bravest, most-selfless act you can do in this life.

As such, the cousins have been duly honored. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman ordered the two bodies flown to the Kingdom for burial. Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Khalid Bin Salman provided assistance. Najran Emir Prince Jalawi Bin Abdulaziz Bin Musaed along with other high-ranking government officials from the province received the bodies of the two students. A large crowd of mourners attended the funeral prayer as the bodies were laid to rest in Najran.

Abroad, the two universities in which the students were studying issued statements in which they expressed their condolences, affirmed that they appreciated the heroic stand of the two students and expressed their full solidarity with the families of the deceased. Theeb’s Hartford University will be working with his family to determine the most appropriate way to honor his memory. US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert issued a statement expressing heartfelt condolences and that the young men drowned “while courageously attempting to save children in distress”.

However, US news organizations did not give the incident the coverage it deserved, perhaps because the rescuers were Arabs and Muslims, two things that still strikes fear and hatred into the hearts of many misguided Americans. Had the rescuers been American locals or foreigners from the West, news coverage would have probably been more extensive.

Still, the story of Theeb and Jasser should help clear up the whole immigration debate in the US. Muslims living in the US are in the vast majority not evildoers. They do not take lives; in this case they saved lives.

One of the central principles of Islamic Shariah is helping others. The Holy Qur’an highlights how helping another human being regardless of faith and cultural affiliations is a fundamental aspect of the Islamic faith. One verse of the Holy Qur’an says: “Whoever saves one [soul] – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely”.

Theeb and Jasser had their whole lives ahead of them. They had been studying civil engineering in the US for the past five years and were about to graduate in a couple of weeks. They had planned to return to Saudi Arabia after their graduation and marry. A relative said that they had high hopes and a vision for the future. Their families, who had not seen the young men for three years, and indeed all of the Kingdom, should take solace that Theeb and Jasser died as heroes and, Allah willing, martyrs.


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