But the discomfitting mystery remained.
Could it be true that Mehboob, president of the Dar AlNoor mosque, or musjid, in Woodbridge and one of Northern Virginia’s most highly regarded Muslims, had committed suicide? Why would a faithful, beloved man known for his candor and grace commit this sin?
After a nearly 12-week investigation, Fairfax County police and the Virginia medical examiner’s office confirmed that Mehboob had killed himself by jumping off an overpass into the Occoquan River. The news has confounded his friends and family, and forced a tightknit religious community to try to reconcile the loving, generous, actively devout man they knew with the unholy act of someone in grave despair.
“For Muslims, we believe that life is very precious. Life is a gift from God. We are not to take anyone’s life, including ours,” said Rafi Ahmed, the current president of Dar AlNoor and a close friend. “Knowing the knowledge he had of the religion, knowing that something like this is not permissible, this is why I find it hard to believe.”
For many who knew Mehboob, the lingering religious question mingles with a deeply personal pain.
“He knew . . . how to talk directly to your heart,” said Cemal Gumus, the imam at Dar AlNoor.
On Thursday, June 28, Mehboob, 58, left his home about 3:30 a.m. The time of morning is not suspicious. Morning prayer starts at 4:15 a.m., and Mehboob was almost always early, unlocking the building and sitting with a book or praying as the sun rose.
But when he didn’t appear later that day, his family reported him missing. And when his old Lexus was found, several frantic hours later, on a bridge on Route 123 that crosses the Occoquan, friends and family gathered in dread. The site is several miles past Mehboob’s normal turnoff to go to Dar AlNoor.
Ahmed, who called Mehboob an “elder brother,” said that Mehboob had just placed an order for his favorite cereal. In their frequent daily talks, nothing seemed amiss, he said. Others at the musjid echoed the same sentiment.
Relatives did not return calls for comment about the medical examiner’s determination. In earlier interviews, they declined to address the possibility of suicide.
Instead, they talked about the concept of sabr — the Islamic virtue of patience when dealing with obstacles. The word is also interpreted to mean patience with God’s plan.
“He was a slave of God and went back to him,” said Mehboob’s son, SherAfgan, 31. “It’s our belief it was his time, and we will make sabr.”