In the best of days, on the blessed day of the week and at the blessed time of Jumuah, Mohammad Abdul Mateen Chida returned to his Lord on Friday, October 11, 2013 (5 Dhul Hijja 1434), and an estimated 2000 people came to pray for him.
The All Dulles Area Masjid (ADAMS Center) was packed to capacity for the Janazah prayer on Saturday, October 12, 2013 for the owner of Halalco in Falls Church, VA, after Dhur prayer; the burial took place at National Memorial Park, 7482 Lee Highway, Falls Church.
Humble, pious, generous is how the community describes him.
“He has helped probably hundreds of people with "random acts of kindness", many can attribute this to their success in life because it was that little boost they needed to take their lives to the next level. Anything from keeping them at his home as a guest when they were down on their luck, or cooking food for them if they lost their job. The amazing thing was he never told anyone what he was doing. He was truly and amazing person!” reminisces Ali Hussein to the Muslim Link.
A productive Muslim who didn't give speeches but personified the sunnah with his actions, Chida's employees remember him with love and respect. The store is still reeling from his loss. He open the supermarket for business in 1977, and is a pioneer of halal trade in the DC Metro area.
Born in 1941, Chida He graduated in Mechanical Engineering with honors from Osmania University in Hyderabad, India, and completed his Master of Science (M.S.) from University of Minnesota and Wisconsin Madison in the United States. An early member of the Muslim Student’s Association during the sixties, he served as the MSA Internal Secretary.
He married a young woman, Maimoona, who supported him in his Islamic work and in sickness and health. Usually men who leave their countries come to the land of abundance to make their careers and amass wealth, however Chida sacrificed his career for the community. He led a very simple life, living in a rented apartment for more than three decades, despite having enough to live in a palace. His cousin, Osman Chida of Hyderabad India, shares that he used his wealth to help people for the sake of Allah.
Thirty employees of different nationalities work at Halalco including college students who work part-time jobs. Tariq Rahman, the store manager says that Halalco will continue running the just like before. An employees since 1997, he believes that, “this was not just a business, it was a mission.”
“Everyone was in shock; he was in hospital for three months, [so we] had some kind of indication from family that his health is getting down but we were hoping for a miracle,” says Rahman. People came to him for small needs and big causes, he added.
Safia Khan has been working with Halalco since 1998 as the office manager and the Islamic book section, “I don't have any words; he was considerate and forgiving with the employees,” she pauses with emotion,”he was so friendly; his customer service was excellent, especially for haram and halal he would go out of the way- if we didn’t carry in the store and the item was requested, he would do whatever he can to get it.“
Chida started an inmate program for the Halalco books section, supplying Islamic books and supplies to correctional facilities. “Inmates don’t make much [money]; sometimes they don’t have the money for shipping or for the items and [Chida] would write it off,” says Khan, “We sell the prison stamps at a loss to help inmates.”
Mukhtar Ahmed was a young 26 year old from Kandahar, Afghanistan, looking for his first job. Despite several attempts he could not find work until Chida offered him a job without demanding prior experience. “I don't know another nice person like him, if there were more people like him in the world, there will be peace in the world,” says Ahmed.
Over the years, Ahmed noticed people coming to visit Chida, no one knows about them but Chida was paying for their rent, medicine, giving them money. For the 22 years that Ahmed knew him, he never acted like a boss; “he never fired one single person, if there was any problem he would try to solve it.” Today Ahmed manages the meat department at Halalco. In a Farsi accent, he stumbles for words to describe his boss. “He was a nice person, the Muslim community will miss him. He treated us like a father treats a good son.”
“The things I am telling you are alike a drop in from the river that was Brother Mateen,” he says in a wistful voice.
As for the future of Halalco, Northern Virginia largest halal grocery store, Rahman says the team is more committed than ever to Chida’s mission, and will not compromise in providing halal meat. “We are very cautious that everything is 100 percent halal; we would rather trash it than sell it to a Muslim.”
When he first started Chida was driving to farms in Shenandoah Valley or Maryland’s Eastern Shore doing zabihah by hand and delivering it to the residents of his locality. “Fifty years back, when there was no concept of halal in United States; Mateen Chida gave a very serious thought to it and accepted the challenge to introduce halal meat in United States. Setting aside all his official responsibilities, he purchased a truck and used to go 150 miles to the slaughter house and bring the halal meat after zabiha [on] a small scale,” shares cousin Osman Chida.
Ahmed says Chida built this business without interest and his customers were happy with him. “Whoever comes in the store is sorry for his loss.” Ahmed, now a father of four, wants all Muslim businesses to do their job right, “there should not be cheating or lying; should be pure; absolutely halal.”
According to Yelp reviews several people of other faiths frequent HalalCo for everything from industrial strength kebab skewers to butcher cut fresh meat.
“I remember, I spent countless hours in his store working during the summers, especially during Eid-Ul-Adha. His wife [is] the sweetest person, always had amazing dinner[s] ready for me when I got back from work with him. What impressed me was he worked crazy, tiring hours, yet he treated every employee there as if they were his children or sibling. He never raised his voice and conducted every transaction with the utmost integrity. Though I don’t have as many employees [in] my own company, I strive to be like him when it comes to how to treat people,” shares Ali Abid Hussain, his only sister's son.
Chida was one of the early pioneers of Islamic work in North America. “When the MSA decided to acquire its own printing facility and purchased a small press in Maryland when (now late) Mohammad Fazil Khan, an engineer, and Abdul Mateen Chida, also an engineer from Minnesota and a former MSA president, left their jobs to run the press. This move allowed the MSA the freedom to print. “Challenged by mainstream printing companies’ refusal to print Islamic literature, the MSA bought International Graphics to produce competitively priced Islamic literature and publications and to provide some revenue for itself,” writes Azhar Azeez of ISNA.
Chida ran the press for seven years.
According to ISNA newsletters, Chida recalled that the printing press was very old and that, for a long time, their work was quite time-consuming: "We had to collate the newsletters by hand, and though we had a typewriter, there was no composer." Sleeping under the press to get the work done, this man did the laborious work, benefiting later generations of American Muslims.
“[His Janazah] is a testament to Br Matin’s good life. Chida was known for his kindness, wisdom, foresight, generosity and much more,” writes Ismail Laher, of the Shirley Gate masjid. Laher is trying to chroncile some of Chida’s work on a webpage for prosterity and inspiration; those who want to help in this effort can visit www.Janaaza786.com and share a positive incident. Chida’s nephew has also set up a Facebook page where people can share photos, leave their condolences or stories of how Br. Mateen has affected their life in some special way: http://www.facebook.com/AbdulMateenChida