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Prayers for principal

<p>The friends and family of Shemina Hirji gathered in her honour twice in the past week — first to celebrate her wedding, the second to mourn her death.</p>

Thousands mourn Shemina Hirji at funeral

The friends and family of Shemina Hirji gathered in her honour twice in the past week — first to celebrate her wedding, the second to mourn her death.

The popular 41-year-old Surrey principal was murdered in her Burnaby townhouse last Thursday during an apparent home invasion.

She had married five days earlier at the Vancouver Fairmont Hotel.

Yesterday, more than 2,000 friends, family members and co-workers attended the hour-long outdoor funeral ceremony at an Ismaili centre in Burnaby.

Following the service, Hirji’s remains were interned in a private gathering at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Burnaby.

Men recited prayers at the traditional Ismaili burial ceremony, each one taking a handful of earth and placing it beside Hirji’s body to represent her return to the earth.

Zahir Khoja, a volunteer with the Ismaili community, described the memorial service as sombre.

“Everyone was here today to offer respects and offer prayers for the family and soul of the deceased.”

Judging by the number of people at the funeral, he said the A.H.P. Matthew Elementary School principal had clearly touched the hearts of many people, many of whom she might not have known personally.

“It’s a tragedy, and as a human being and a fellow Canadian, it touches your heart and makes (members of the community) come out to show their support.”

While the community gathered to mourn Hirji’s murder, the RCMP continued to search for the culprits.

Yesterday morning, the RCMP searched her Sierra Ridge townhouse after spending the night outside the home waiting for a search warrant.

Police are not commenting on the search, but Cpl. Dale Carr of the integrated homicide investigation team said they were gathering evidence about the home invasion.

They haven’t made any arrests yet and have not said how Hirji died.

Her husband, Paul Cheema, has said three men attacked the couple just after noon on Thursday. He was only able to provide police with descriptions of two of the three suspects.

He suffered minor injuries during the attack and was released from hospital later that day.

Traditional Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim funeral

  • Shemina Hirji was remembered at a traditional Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim funeral. The service was held at an Ismaili Jamatkhana, which means place of gathering.

  • Mourners remove their shoes and sit on the carpet with members of the congregation.

  • Throughout the ceremony, the Salwaat — an Ismaili prayer for the soul — is recited.

  • Traditionally, women do not go to the cemetery, but gather to offer condolences to the women in the family while the men accompany the deceased to the gravesite.