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Being a mother – How breastfeeding can save lives of Pakistan’s infants

breastfeeding pic
By Farahnaz Zahidi

August 7, 2016

The myth that just mother’s milk does not suffice has caught on, and this trend is an imminent danger to the lives of Pakistani infants

Her fifth child is due any day. Nazeer Bibi lives in a shanty part of Qayyumabad, Karachi, and has already decided that she will feed her baby formula milk.
“I work in three houses as a domestic help to support my family. I leave at 8 am after dropping my older children to school and return by 4 pm, and the baby will have to be at home. What option do I have? Besides, dabbay ka doodh (formula milk) makes babies healthier. I want my baby to be healthy like the babies in advertisements.”
Nazeer’s baby will be one of the 62 per cent Pakistani infants who are not exclusively breastfed. Only 38 per cent of infants under the age of six months are exclusively breastfed, according to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) 2012-13. The rates are the lowest in South Asia.
The myth that just mother’s milk does not suffice has caught on, and this trend is an imminent danger to the lives of Pakistani infants, a danger that is not talked about often enough. As the World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated globally from August 1-7, the conversation around breastfeeding needs to be more audible and frequent in Pakistan. But bringing up the topic inevitably initiates parallel discourse regarding how lives of infants are less safer till formula milk is promoted as a choice. “From tobacco, to sugar, to formula milk, the most vulnerable suffer when commercial interests collide with public health,” says an editorial in medical journal The Lancet.
“Formula milk should only be given when there is a medical reason for it,” says Dr Azra Ahsan, an expert in mother and child health. “The baby gets complete nutrition through breastfeeding. The mother passes on her protective antibodies to prevent common illnesses in the baby. As no water is required to prepare it, unlike how formula milk is prepared, the chances of diarrohea and vomiting are minimised.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), breastfeeding has the potential to prevent about 800,000 under-five deaths per year globally if all children 0-23 months were optimally breastfed. Pakistan has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the region, all the more reason that breastfeeding must be encouraged, especially among the lower income strata.
The PDHS 2012-13 findings also show increase in bottle feeding rates in Pakistan.
“Babies who are born to mothers from the lower income strata are more at danger if they are not exclusively breastfed. The water these mothers use to prepare the formula is unhygienic, and the bottles are not sterilized. Also, formula milk is not cheap. Once they start the baby on it, they start diluting the milk over time so that the formula powder lasts longer; as a result, the baby becomes malnourished,” says Neha Mankani who works as a community health midwife at a hospital in Karachi.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), breastfeeding has the potential to prevent about 800,000 under-five deaths per year globally if all children 0-23 months were optimally breastfed.
Once the baby is started off on top feed, the unaffording or unaware mother, over time, starts substituting it with unboiled cow’s milk or low quality tea whitening milk powder which is unsuited for an infant. “We can try and convince the mothers but only till they are in the hospital. Also, Community Health Workers (CHWs) have no access to women who deliver at home,” says Mankani, adding that she and her colleagues try to convince mothers to breastfeed.
However, part of the problem could be that healthcare providers are not doing enough to raise awareness. “Healthcare professionals are the main culprits. Instead of advising new mothers to breastfeed, they help perpetuate the trend of using formula milk. They are given incentives by formula milk companies. Research shows that children delivered in hospitals are more frequently formula fed,” says Dr DS Akram, Founder, Health, Education & Literacy Programme (HELP).
The laws protecting the right of the infant to health and nutrition are there. Lawyer Summaiya Zaidi says that the primary focus of laws like the Protection of Breast-Feeding and Child Nutrition Ordinance 2002 is to protect the nutrition of the child and promote breastfeeding as a primary source of nutrition. After the devolution, each province developed its own Acts for the purpose.
“The Sindh 2013 Act stresses that manufacturing, advertising and sale of alternate sources of child nutrition cannot be promoted as better than mothers’ milk or even compared to it. This stresses the primacy of breast milk as the best source of nutrition for a growing baby, and only when the mother is unable to provide the same to her child should alternatives be made available. It basically controls the manufacture and advertising of child nutrition products by placing certain legal limits on promotion of the same,” says Zaidi.
Yet, the tussle between public health experts and forces of consumerism continue. Companies producing or distributing formula milk refused to give any statement regarding how they justify the tempting advertising campaigns.
At the 69th World Health Assembly earlier this year, a resolution welcomed WHO’s guidance on ending the inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children. The guidance states that in order to protect, promote and support breastfeeding, the marketing of “follow-up formula” and “growing-up milks should be regulated. This recommendation is in line with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
“The laws are there, but the implementation is a distant dream. Formula companies continue to particularly tantalise urban markets,” says Dr Akram, adding that the government does not seem interested in this cause. Dr Akram and her team run the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) of WHO and UNICEF successfully in Pakistan for a few years. “When external funding stopped, the government was not interested in investing in it,” she says, adding that companies that produce formula milk mainly target the urban market to tantalise consumers.
“For the poor population in rural areas, breastfeeding is mostly the only available option. The urban social landscape is more challenging when it comes to breastfeeding. More mothers are working mothers; more options for top feed are available here; more people can afford to buy formula milk. Awareness is needed in both rural and urban areas,” says Dr Sara Salman of WHO Sindh.
According to Mankani, despite trying to raise awareness, most mothers follow popular myths. “They feel the baby is healthier if fed formula, owing to the aggressive marketing of formula milk.”
The biggest challenge for exclusive breastfeeding is the perception that mothers are not producing enough milk and should supplement with formula because the baby cries, says Meredith Jackson-deGraffenried from Helen Keller International. “This perception is driven by the misunderstanding that if the mother is undernourished and poor, she must be incapable of adequately nourishing her baby.”
“We try to teach these women basics about expressing their own milk and how to store it. Mother’s milk stays fine for up to three days in a refrigerator, and up to six hours at room temperature. It’s an economical and healthier option. But myths are hard to fight,” says Mankani.
Despite proven benefits like the mother who breastfeeds return to her pre-pregnancy state much earlier, and the incidence of breast cancer in women who breastfeed being much lower, as Dr Ahsan says, the myths seem to be winning.
“Socially, breastfeeding proves a challenge as well. There are usually no crèche or nursing rooms at work. That’s one reason working mothers stop breastfeeding,” says Dr Ahsan.

Originally published here: http://tns.thenews.com.pk/mother/#.V6hsuPkrLIX

Qawwal Gali after Amjad Sabri

Farahnaz Zahidi July 24, 2016

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/qawwal-gali-sabri/#.V5RfIfkrLIU

The palpable fear after Sabri’s murder in the historic neighbourhood in Karachi and much more

Qawwal-Gali-0081
Qawwal Gali is the collective name given to a group of five streets, named after five renowned Qawwals. — Photos by Faisal Sayani

The atmosphere in Qawwal Gali is uncharacteristically subdued since Amjad Farid Sabri’s life was snuffed out prematurely. “I knew him from the time when I called him Ummi and he called me Saifee, and we were just young boys, not Amjad Sabri qawwal and Saifuddin qawwal. I still cannot believe he is no more,” says Sabri’s friend, Saifuddin Qawwal, still shaken weeks after his death.
Waves of fear after Amjad Sabri’s murder in broad daylight have reverberated 9 kilometer south from the late qawwal’s residence in Liaquatabad to Qawwal Gali, the historic neighbourhood in Karachi where the clans of the famous Qawwal Bachay reside. Yet, these custodians of the Qaul refuse to shift to more affluent or safer residential localities of the city. “This is not just our area. It is our tradition. Our lifestyle.”
Karachi’s Qawwal Gali is the collective name given to a group of five streets, named after five renowned Qawwals: Munshi Raziuddin Qawwal, Moeen Niyazi Qawwal, Kallan Khan Qawwal, Jaafar Hussain Nizami Qawwal and Bahauddin Qawwal. Between 80 to a 100 families of qawwals reside in these streets near the Shoe Market area. They safeguard a tradition that travels back to almost 800 years, when their ancestor Miyan Saamat learnt this spiritual musical art form from Hazrat Ameer Khusro, the 13th century Sufi musician, poet and scholar. Popularised versions of the unforgettable and powerful poetry of Ameer Khusro, like “Chaap tilak sub cheen” and “Mun kunto maula”, have trickled down to Pakistani masses, who get a feel of spirituality through these renditions. But the hub of the original, undiluted art is the Qawwal Gali. These families have been guarding these compositions over the centuries, and their entire lifestyles are moulded to fulfill the responsibility of keeping alive a tradition they see as almost sacred.
While Sabri was not a Qawwal Bacha, a shared tradition and profession has led to lasting bonds between all networks of Karachi’s qawwals. In the wake of his death, all of them, too, are overcast by fear. The qawwal Gali in downtown Karachi, then, is ironically the one place that they feel safe in. “It is our sanctuary. Fear is nothing new to us. Staying here is our only survival,” says Saifuddin, who is an important member of the Najmuddin Saifuddin Qawwal Brothers ensemble.
When asked if he is ever tempted to leave this profession or Qawwal Gali, Toqeer’s answer is a vehement no. “This profession is our recognition; we must protect the tradition our ancestors left us with. I started learning this art at the age of seven.”

Qawwal-Gali-004
The fear factor is not just about safety; they also fear their younger generation will get lost in the contemporary world and lose out on this art they see as a divine gift. Their offspring, with increasing exposure to the outside world, do express the desire to move out towards better areas. “But we explain to them how important it is for us to stay here,” says Saifuddin.
“Our community has a lot of unity. Our joys and sorrows are shared. There are certain cultural traditions we live by. We would not survive elsewhere and neither would our art,” says Rauf Saami, the eldest son of Ustad Naseeruddin Saami, and part of the Saami Brothers ensemble of Qawwals.
Rauf does not believe in coercing his children into this profession, but wishes that this ilm (knowledge) does not die out. “But times have changed. I’m realistic.”
Qawwal-Gali-004
The work of qawwals is very nocturnal in nature. “Our work is at night. We leave home early evening and return around twilight. The more posh parts of Karachi are not alive during night time. Can you imagine what neighbours of Karachi’s affluent parts would think if 12 men are entering a house every day at 4am?” says Saifuddin.
The Qawwal Gali does not go to sleep. Its residents sleep during the mornings and are up and about in the evenings. The chai dhabas never close. The riyaz (musical practice) never stops. The hustle and bustle never dies out.
“While we are away, whether for performances at night or during our frequent travels outside Karachi, we are at peace that our families are safe. Here, everyone watches out for each other’s families, despite professional rivalry.”
Rauf echoes that sentiment. “We don’t only look out for other qawwals but also for our supporting members of the ensembles. We are there for each other whenever we need each other.”
The qawwali business is seasonal in nature, and the flow of money can be ad hoc. The community also supports each other in lean times when the earning is limited. In such times, they pay each other’s hospital bills and children’s school fee.
The women of Qawwal Gali are the biggest support for their men. “The women of our households do not have any complaints. They understand the demands of our profession,” says the 26 years old Toqeer Ahmed, who belongs to the Khurja Gharana’s Nohar Bani branch. Their ancestral lineage are one of the first things they learn, but their women’s names are not registered in those lists, neither are they allowed to sing. Till today, a majority of the qawwals marry within their families.
“My nikah is to be held soon,” shares Toqeer with a smile. The match was fixed within his family, “but my choice was also considered. This is a big decision. How can it be done without my choice?”
When asked if he is ever tempted to leave this profession or Qawwal Gali, Toqeer’s answer is a vehement no. “This profession is our recognition; we must protect the tradition our ancestors left us with. I started learning this art at the age of seven.”
In Toqeer’s opinion, if the Qawwals try their hand at any other profession, it would take them hundreds of years to make a mark.
“Why should we lose out on the honour and respect this profession has given me? And as for the Qawwal Gali, it is the only place in the world I feel I am me. It is my identity.”
In true Qawwal Gali-esque style, Saifuddin sums it up by reciting this couplet in Urdu:
Apnay markaz se agar door nikal jaao ge
Khaak ho jaao ge, afsaanon mein dhall jaao ge…
(If you wander away from your pivot,
You will become nothing but ashes, nothing will remain of you but tales and fables)

Day 20, 21, 22, 23 #Ramadan #Quran #ConflictResolution #CallTowardsAllah #Good #Evil

Day 20, 21, 22, 23 – CALL TOWARDS ALLAH, RESOLVE DIFFERENCES WITH GOODNESS & PATIENCE,

& SEEK REFUGE IN ALLAH

And who speaks better than he who calls to Allah while he himself does good, and says: I am surely of those who submit?

And the good deed and the bad deed are not equal. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is good; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was an intimate friend.

And none are made to receive it but those who are patient, and none are made to receive it but those who have a mighty good fortune.

And if an evil whisper from Shaitan (Satan) tries to turn you away (O Muhammad, upon him be peace) (from doing good), then seek refuge in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.

Verses 33 to 36 –  Surah Fussilat:

Verse 41:33 – In a world full of words, talks and conversations, there is so much noise and too much info. Analyze the words we utter, speak, write, share. So many are undesirable – they may hurt others or be in-factual or exaggerated, or simply useless. But you can be sure that the most beautiful are the words that help others connect with Allah. Here, the act of dawah (calling towards Allah and towards Islam) is being called the best speech. But conditionally – the person doing so must couple it with righteous actions, and reaffirm his/her own faith. Needless to say that the act of dawah cannot be done effectively with hikmah (wisdom), rifq (gentleness), ‘ijz (humility) and naseeha (sincerity). yet, some from among believers must continue doing it, and the reward is multi-fold in an era where people are not ready to listen. Like today. That is precisely when it is most needed.

Narrated `Uthman:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The best among you (Muslims) are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it.” (Bukhari)

Verse 41:34 – We lose it sometimes. We say things that cause friction and rifts, and cause fights and disagreements. We have falling outs of friends and break ups of spouses. Sometimes we feel it is just too late to say sorry or to make up. And sometimes, it is truly the fault of the other person. In either case, the casualty is the relationship. Here, the Quran says something beautiful: Good and bad behaviour are not the same and therefore yield different results. And if at all you make a mistake of hurting someone or souring a relationship, act toward that person with kindness, sincerity and affection. The golden rule here is that good repels evil, just like clean water washes away dirt. So even of your behaviour is faulty and full of mistakes, keep doing good deeds to makeup for your mistakes. Exceptions will always be there, but as a general rule, loving and kind behavior can makes friends out of foes and can rejoin broken ties.

Verse 41:35 – But to be nice to someone with whom you have had an unpleasant episode is not easy. Imagine having to say sorry after a fight. Imagine being kind and gentle to someone who was rude to you. This might be the path to rejoining relations, but its not easy. Yet, to crush one’s ego and take that first step, according to the Quran, is something also those with patience can do, and in the sight of Allah only the lucky ones get to do it.

Verse 41:36 – Remember when you contemplated being the first one to say Salam or say sorry or extend the hand of friendship after a fight? Shaitan will dfinitely whisper to you that it makes you look small, and remind you that you are not in fault, and plant in your mind the question “Why should I do it?” Because the reward of doing the right thing is so much, seek protection in Allah from such misleading whispers of Shaitan, and do the right thing anyways.

 

Day 18. Day 19 #Ramadan #Quran #Verseoftheday #HumanLifeIsSacred #ValueOfLife

Day 18 – VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE

Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had killed the entire mankind. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved the emtire mankind. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.

This is verse 32 from  Sūrat al-Māidah, Chapter 5, of the Quran.

The words are powerful and clear. While the contextual address is to the Bani Israel, all of humanity, and every witness and reader of the Quran is addressed here. Allah (swt) who loves each human, His unique creation, more than the love of 70 mothers put together, is reminding us what each life means to him.  Prophet Muhammad (saw), in his last Sermon on the sacred day of Hajj, the 9th day of Dhul al Hijjah, 10th year after Hijrah, in the ‘Uranah valley of Mount Arafat, said these words that remain etched in history:

O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust.

This verse 5:32 needs to be read and re-read, in our hearts, from our lips, in private and in public, to remind us of the value of the life of each person in the sight of Allah.

The same message is repeated in Verse 17:33 of Surah Bani Israel (Chapter 17):

And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right. And whoever is killed unjustly – We have given his heir authority, but let him not exceed limits in [the matter of] taking life. Indeed, he has been supported [by the law].

Saving a single life, by any means, whether medical treatment, charity, and service of humanity, wins us limitless reward. The opposite will have the opposite results. These verses remind us yet again – each life matters.

 

 

 

 

Day 11 to 17 #Ramadan #Quran #GoldenVerses #FormulaForSuccess

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ
Certainly will the believers have succeeded
ٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ فِى صَلَاتِهِمْ خَٰشِعُونَ
They who are during their prayer humbly submissive
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ ٱللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ
And they who turn away from ill speech
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِلزَّكَوٰةِ فَٰعِلُونَ
And they who are observant of zakah (obligatory charity)
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَٰفِظُونَ
And they who guard their private parts
إِلَّا عَلَىٰٓ أَزْوَٰجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَٰنُهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ غَيْرُ مَلُومِينَ
Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed
فَمَنِ ٱبْتَغَىٰ وَرَآءَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْعَادُونَ
But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِأَمَٰنَٰتِهِمْ وَعَهْدِهِمْ رَٰعُونَ
And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَوَٰتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ
And they who carefully maintain their prayers
أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْوَٰرِثُونَ
Those are the inheritors
ٱلَّذِينَ يَرِثُونَ ٱلْفِرْدَوْسَ هُمْ فِيهَا خَٰلِدُونَ
Who will inherit al-Firdaus. They will abide therein eternally.
Beautiful, self-explanatory. Some of my personal favourite verses form the Quran. Ideal for those who want to do some hifz (memorization) and recite these verses in their namaz  after reflecting on their meaning.
These initial 11 verses from Surah al-Mu’minoon, Chapter 23, of the Quran, are one of those portions where a cluster, or a list as we may call it, of dos and don’ts, give us a short cap up of the basics. An example of similar clusters of these gems in the Quran are verses 63 to 76 of Chapter 25, Surah al-Furqan.
What is always unique in such certain key words in each verse.
The first 11 verses of this Surah have so many profound themes in them. The inter-relation of spiritual connection with Allah (swt) through ‘ibaadah (worship), and then social ethics, as well as inner purification and relationships with humans – what a complete eco-system of a good life!
The translations are pretty simple. I will just be going over some key terms.
Verse 1: The word “Aflah” from the root “fa-la-ha” denotes success that is complete, holistic and lasting. It is interesting to note that many words in Arabic that start with the sound “fa” give the meaning of something that is broken or split. “Fallah” in Arabic is a farmer – one who plants a seed, works on nurturing it, and the seed then splits, giving way to sapling and then a plant and then a crop, the benefits of which the farmer harvests. Likewise, a momin (believer), when working hard at pleasing good, avoids what Allah wants him/her to void, and does what Allah wants him/her to do, is traveling on a path that will ultimately lead to complete Falaah – success in both dunya and the Hereafter.
Verse 2: “Khaashi’oon” – The verse is not merely asking us to establish prayers, but goes a step further, and talks about what really makes an act of worship we perform 5 times a day worthy of Allah’s pleasure. To have Khushoo’ is to submit to God in complete humility, with acceptance of His Power, His Majesty and His Mercy. Thus, namaz (salaat) is not to be just a physical exercise but the heart must be involved.
Verse 3: “Laghw” – Speech that is useless, non-productive, evil (against one’s self or against another person), dirty – in short, all kinds of words and speech which Allah would disapprove of. Simply put, it displeases Allah (swt) when we misuse the beautiful gift of speech we have been given – cursing, profanity and expletives, backbiting, rumour mongering, verbal abuse, lying, and callous loose talk just for what everyone today calls shughal or fun. Not ok. Have to avoid consciously.
Verse 4: “Zakat” – Simply means purification. Notice how the verse literally says that the successful one’s are doers of purification. Obligatory charity is called Zakat because it purifies not just our wealth (from spending on wrong things, from over spending or from being stingy), but also purifies our heart from greed and selfishness. Tazkiyah – a word from the same root – is used for purification of the inner self from diseases of the soul like hate, jealousy, malice etc. This is a constant process Islam wants us to do till we are alive.
Verse 5:”Haafizoon” – Those who guard; here, guarding their chastity. A recurrent theme in the Quran is to not give in to physical lust or temptation. The pleasure one derives from that is temporary, but the guilt and consequences (in both this world and the next) are lasting.
Verse 6: “Ghaira Maloomeen” – Not blameworthy. The same act, in a relationship (marriage) prescribed by Allah, becomes an act of worship, for when a person fulfills one’s inherent physical desires in a relationship permitted by Allah, it becomes an act of obedience. Fidelity in marriage is important for a Muslim. Married or not, certain sins need to be kept at bay – “love” does not make it ok.
Verse 7: “‘Aadoon” – Those who transgress. Those who seek sexual fulfillment beyond the permissible, and insist on their sins, even though they have understood that this is forbidden, and feel no remorse, and have no intention of doing taubah (repenting).
Verse 8:”Raa’oon” – Beautiful word. Those who attentively guard. Two things to guard mentioned here: Amaanaat (trusts) – whatever Allah has entrusted you with (all the blessings and everything in your control which you could use or misuse to please or displease Him) and ‘Ahad – commitments, promises, pledges, whether you made these commitments to Allah or His creations. Islam does not take breaking of commitments lightly.
Verse 9:”Yuhafizoon” – Those who guard – here, referring to guarding their prayers. The daily obligatory prayers in particular are our constant connection with Allah. We may become wonderful human beings in other ways, but that does not make up for the required connection with Allah. Inner cleansing and spiritual connection with the Creator is not possible without regularity in namaz (salaat).
Verse 10: “Waarithoon”, some may pronounce it “Waarisoon” – the inheritors. Implying that they are deserving of what they will inherit in the Herefter – Paradise.
Verse 11: “Khaalidoon” – eternal. Jannah is worth struggling for because in this world, no pleasure is forever. Everything in this temporary world withers, changes and eventually ends, whether it is physical beauty or the joy of love or a moment of enjoyment. Imagine a world where joy, love, satisfaction, peace and happiness does not wither, change or end. That is what we should strive for.

Thank you Abba, for making me the woman I am

Published: June 19, 2016

All I want to do is be a good person like him, so that I can become the best legacy he left behind. PHOTO: PINTEREST

It’s been almost nine years since Abba left us. I have written much about Ammi since then, about how she did not take his going so well, about her dementia. But I have somehow avoided writing about my father. Perhaps there is too much to write and it is difficult, even for someone like me, for whom words come easy.

In the last few years of his life, his health was flailing and he knew. He started to wrap things up, though he loved life and fought for it till the end. In that twilight phase, what came up repeatedly was him and I mutually agreeing that he needed to pen down his biography.

“I can be your ghost writer,” I had suggested. “You can be my assistant, and help me edit it. The rest I can do myself,” was the expected reply.

He really didn’t like depending on others.

It is Father’s Day today.

It’s not that I am big on celebrating ‘days’ personally. But it is because he was big on celebrating every occasion and so everything would become an excuse to celebrate – me getting good marks in a test, Father’s or Mother’s Day, Eid, second day of Eid, third day of Eid, some uncle or aunt performing Hajj, a promotion, returning from a trip, or something as simple as making a decision.

“I have decided I want to be a journalist and writer abba. I think I wasted time studying Business and Economics,”

I recall telling him after I was midway an internship at a magazine after my Bachelors.

“If you are sure that’s what you want, then I am sure you will excel at it. Let’s celebrate, everyone, we have a writer in the family now,” he said, taking the family out to eat.

The celebrations were usually at Bundoo Khan near Quaid’s mazar or some old Chinese place in Saddar, with generous helpings of food and lots of conversation.

My father was born in a remote village in Sindh. I have been asked multiple times in my life that he must have favoured his sons, my three brothers, more than us three sisters. I honestly reply that he loved each one of us equally, but if at all he had a tilt, it was towards the daughters – he treated us more gently and with more tenderness and gave the same opportunities to all his children irrespective of gender.

There is something about daughters who have had a father’s unconditional love and support – they are inherently equipped to handle what life throws at them, both the good and the not so good. We have read it so many times but nothing could be truer – a father is the first and the most important man in a daughter’s life. He acts as the wind beneath his daughter’s wings in a world that may sometimes try to put her down. He fills up the gaps which life may create in the niche of her heart. He stays with her, every step of the way, whether he is there with her or not.

I choose not to sanctify my father. When my siblings and I sit down and talk about him, we do not pretend that he was a saint or perfect just because he is no longer alive. We still laugh about some of his things we used to laugh about in his lifetime and we still recognise where he could have made better decisions. But we could not be more thankful having him for a father – he was an unusually soft-hearted, brilliant, smart and sensitive man, who was par excellence in his roles as a husband and a father.

From a village in Sindh to Aligarh Muslim University to a never-ending journey of acquiring education to serving his people, so that today it is one of the few and almost completely literate villages in Sindh, he lived quite a life. His book is due soon.

Till then, I walk around this world with many of his ideals etched in my heart and I live by them. Like him, I believe books, education, travelling and health are most deserving of spending your money on instead of clothes, shoes and other tangibles, because the things we buy don’t last, but human experience does.

I hope I can do even a minuscule portion of the kind of work he did to serve humanity, but I do believe, like him, that we are here for a purpose bigger than just our own little lives. Most importantly, he taught me that one must not be afraid to be one’s self, he allowed me to speak my mind and voice my thoughts.

Thank you Abba, for not stifling my thoughts and allowing me to learn to agree and disagree with people, yet respect and cherish them. Thank you for all the times you allowed me to debate and engage and converse with you about politics, religion, poetry and the many faces of activism. That has helped me become my own person. And thank you for teaching me what selfless parenting is all about.

I look so much like my mother they say and I am so close to her. But here I am, walking around the world with my father’s imprints – the rock on the bridge of my nose, the impatience when the other person does not get me, that slight lack of tact, the desire to forever have something to do, the tilt towards the mystic, the excitement at seeing every day as a chance to do more and so much more.

It’s pretty worthless telling people the ceremonial things like “take care of your parents till they are there, you don’t know how it feels when they are gone.” If they love their parents, they do and will for sure. Each one of those who read this, especially the daughters, will have their own stories to tell, stories of them and their Abba, dad, papa, baba, Abbu – whatever you call that most important man in your life  – the man who unwittingly made you the strong, loving, feisty and dedicated woman that you have hopefully grown up to be.

The circle of life continues and you are giving back the same to your children.

On Father’s Day, I don’t want to cry remembering my father, or on any day for that matter. All I want to do is be a good person like him, so that I can become the best legacy he left behind. That’s what children are supposed to do when parents have left – become for parents a Sadqa-e-Jaria (a continual charity). That way, we can continue to serve them and cherish them. And love them.

Day 8, Day 9 & Day 10 #Ramadan #Quran #Verseoftheday #Paradise #Charity #AngerManagement #Forgive #Chastity

– Day 8, Day 9 & Day 10
Forgive and be Forgiven  

And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous.

Those who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good.

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And those who, when they commit immorality or wrong themselves, remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah? and (who) do not persist in what they have done knowingly.

How beautiful is Islam, full of hope, for the door to forgiveness is always open till the last breath.

These verses from Surah Aal-e-Imran have multiple inter-related themes. Here I am, marveling at each verse and each word and each letter that is meaningful beyond comprehension. With gentle love and care, our Merciful Rabb shows us the path towards salvation, guiding us each step of the way, motivating us, telling us what to do.

The surface of the key subjects in these 3 verses can be at best barely touched upon as under:

  • Verse 133: Allah (swt) is using the word “Saa-ri-‘oo” – rush, hasten, run, compete towards Allah’s forgiveness. The word implies that we must not delay, for each moment is precious. Allah’s forgiveness is the only thing that can lead us to the unimaginable Paradise that He has lovingly prepared for the God-conscious. What fascinates me is the fact that the Quran recognizes that even the God-conscious or “Muttaqeen” who may eventually end up in Jannah with His Mercy, will make mistakes, but with effort and sincere intention to improve, they may attract Allah’s forgiveness. The people of Jannah are not perfect. But they accept their faults and strive to improve, and do good deeds that may wash away their sins. #Hope
  • Verse 134: SPEND – One of the sure shot ways to wash away your mistakes. And spending not conditionally only when you have lots to give, but spending in times of difficulty and financial restrain. Spending what we love. Spending even when we do not have a lot of “extra” to spend. Spend on those who live on earth, and He will forgive you and shower blessings on you from the heavens.
  • Verse 134: CONTROL ANGER – Anger in all its forms. Both inner and outer. Outer anger manifests itself as abuse, violence, taunts, sarcasm and harming the other. Inner anger manifests as grudges and ill feelings. The word “kaazimeen” is so apt – to suppress. Meaning the anger IS there, and in all probability is justified, and the person we are angry with may have hurt us or wronged us. Yet, true strength lies in controlling this negative emotion.
  • Verse 134: FORGIVE: Wow! So if we want Allah (swt) to forgive us, we have to forgive those who have harmed us. So many times, even if we are somehow able to suppress anger, the seething pain and the grudges towards those who have hurt us remain. They do not harm that person, mostly. These ill feelings damage the heart that is housing these ill feelings. Allah (swt) is telling us to let go of whatever it was. After all, if it is Allah (swt) on whom we have tawakkul (reliance), we have to trust that He Knows who hurt us and harmed us and scarred us. If we want to heal, this is the only path – forgetting may not be possible but forgiving (with a lot of hard work) is a possibility. So let go of that anger…..forgive…for inner peace. For Paradise will be home to those who have found inner peace🙂
  • Verse 135: BEGGING FOR FORGIVENESS: Yes, even those who will eventually, InshaAllah, enter Paradise, make major mistakes and commit major sins….sins that come under immorality, indecency, and go against the command to guard their chastity. When they do so, they have wronged no one but themselves. The inner impressions such sins leave harm our soul, bit by bit. The verse addresses those who have harmed themselves. Recognizing that one has erred and accepting that it is we who harm ourselves is the first step towards forgiveness. When they ask Allah (swt) for forgiveness, Allah (swt) showers His forgiveness on His slaves. But the one condition this verse puts forth is this: Do not insist on repeating a sin when you realize it is a mistake. Strive and aim to ward it off, and ask Allah (swt) for the strength to be able to resist the temptations. And its beautiful when the verse says who can forgive but Allah (swt)? The piles and mountains of our sins can only find forgiveness in our Rabb, the Magnanimous and ever Merciful.

As the beautiful Hadeeth-e-Qudsi says:

On the authority of Anas, who said: I heard the messenger of Allah say:Allah the Almighty has said: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as its.” (Tirmidhi)

In this most special of months, let us forgive and beg Allah for forgiveness.

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