Sophie and Sara Rouin, two sisters who were found dead along with their father in his car in West Sacramento on New Year’s Eve, were mourned by more than 200 people who attended their funeral Thursday at Salam Islamic Center.
The girls were buried at the Sacramento Muslim Cemetery in east Sacramento County, their caskets draped in green and gold prayer shawls. “Those are the colors mentioned in the Quran,” said Asif Haq, director of Salam’s Center of Higher Islamic Learning. “When you are in heaven, you will be wearing green and gold silk brocades and bracelets.”
Many mourners, including religious leaders, struggled to come to terms with the deaths of children who by all accounts spread joy, kindness and compassion wherever they went. “I’ve been consoling people for 15 years and this time has really tested me,” said Imam M.A. Azeez of Taribiya Institute, where the girls and their mother worshiped.
Sophie and Sara, ages 12 and 9, were discovered in the car of their father, Hamdy Rouin, in front of a West Sacramento Subway. Their mother, Amy Hunter, had planned to pick them up from their dad there. Rouin and Hunter were divorced and had been going through a long custody battle.
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Rouin, 46, was pronounced dead at the scene, while the girls later were declared dead at UC Davis Medical Center. There were no obvious signs of trauma, West Sacramento police said, and the cause of death is under investigation. Authorities have called the case a murder-suicide by the father.
Imam Kashif Ahmed of Salam led the mourners in prayer, declaring, “in every decision of Allah there is wisdom. ... These are innocent people. Those kids that died at a young age, Allah has a special place for them. There is a great reward (in heaven).”
Ahmed said he knew the girls personally. “Sophie and Sara were my students for about three years,” and were friends with his two daughters, he said. “Two weeks ago they were here for family night and Sara asked, ‘Where is your daughter?’ There was always a smile on her face.”
Ahmed advised the mourners “to show our support and love” for the family. “May Allah give us patience and have blessings and mercy upon them. ... We are here to ask for our own forgiveness.”
After the service, Ahmed asked: “How do you explain a devastating tragedy? God cares for all his creations. It is a great loss for our people, our families and our community. But they have gone to a better place we cannot visualize.”
An interfaith memorial service honoring the memory of two sisters will be open to the public from 5-7 p.m. Sunday at the Salam Islamic Center (4541 College Oak Drive, Sacramento).