Haji-Daoud Nabi: First victim of Christchurch massacre finally at peace

12:32 pm on 22 March 2019

Haji-Daoud Nabi is finally resting in peace. Seven days ago, he was the first to be shot by the gunman.

Yama Nabi, son of Haji-Daoud Nabi, who was killed during the Christchurch mosque terror attacks.

Haji-Daoub Nabi's son, Yama Nabi, and his family invited RNZ to attend, record and report on the funeral service for his much-loved father. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Haji-Daoud Nabi was standing at the entrance of the Al Noor Mosque at the time. A small shelter for his Muslim brothers and sisters to remove their shoes before they entered the main building to pray.

He welcomed the gunman with the words, "hello, brother".

Moments later, he was dead.

The burial

Yesterday, hundreds of Muslims were gathered at Linwood Cemetery. Some of them have travelled from as far away as India, Dubai and Pakistan.

By that point, they were somewhat familiar with the site. It was the second day of burials, and the hearses just kept on coming.

One after the other, the bodies wrapped in cloth, would be carefully removed from the vehicle and carried by family into the large white marquee.

Within 20 minutes, each body would be gently placed into the ground, facing Mecca, and the burial process would be complete.

Scenes from the burial of Haji-Daoud Nabi

A group of motorcycles make a distinctive sight at Linwood Cemetery. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

But when a motorcade of motorbikes revved through the cemetery, just before 2pm, the heads of mourners turned.

The temporary fence was opened and a large black, glossy hearse appeared.

As it drove onto the worn-down grass next to the marquee, a Muslim brother guided it with a stirring haka. He'd been waiting for this burial all morning.

The motorcycles followed closely behind, some carrying mourners, and revved with all their might.

After the sounds settled, the boot opened, and Haji-Daoud Nabi's body was hoisted into the air.

He wasn't inside a coffin; his body, wrapped in two pieces of white cloth, was carried into the temporary marquee in a bier.

It was just close family and friends that slowly paced behind him at first. Some wept, others held each other. Some carried signs with Haji-Daoud's face and the words "hello, brother".

The short time inside the marquee was peaceful. Circled around their father, grandfather, husband and friend's body, men stood on one side and women on the other.

As per tradition, the Muslim brothers then entered the marquee, or makeshift mosque, to pray. Women were asked to step outside.

"Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar" rang through the PA system at the site.

Much like before, Haji-Daoud Nabi's body was lifted towards the sky, as he was carried to his final place of rest.

Over the PA system it was announced he had so many family and friends present, so no other supporters would be allowed to enter the burial site.

Scenes from the burial of Haji-Daoud Nabi

Mourners watch as Haji-Daoud Nabi is laid to rest. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

I watched from an area designated for women, or sisters. The large crowd surrounding Haji-Daoud Nabi's body, as he was lowered into the ground, made it difficult to see.

His body, like all other Muslims, was placed facing the direction of Mecca.

A wooden board was placed over him and those standing above the grave, including his grandchildren, sprinkled dirt on top.

And just like that, Haji-Daoud Nabi was finally at peace.

Yama Nabi's invitation

It is incredibly rare for media to be invited to a Muslim burial.

RNZ was invited by Haji-Daoub Nabi's son, Yama Nabi, to attend, record and report the burial process.

He told me he invited us because he wants New Zealand to learn.

"To show we've got hearts like everybody else. I've been here 30 years, I'm a Muslim and I'm a Cantabrian. To show, we are one."

Yama, who has been organising the burial since his father's body was released earlier this week, was happy his father was finally resting in peace.

"That's what I wanted. I didn't want anything from anyone, I just want Dad to rest in peace."

The support for his father, showed just how loved he was, he said.

"There was a lot of support behind Dad, the bikies were there, he loved his bikes and Harley Davidsons, so that just showed Dad that the people out there, they do care about him."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs