RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: April 2012

He can change diapers, & She can get the car fixed.

Why not?

Once upon a time, men used to go out at the break of dawn. Into the jungle. With their crude weapons. In groups. They would play predator and prey, and come back with their game, proudly guffawing in happiness at the lamb or deer they had hunted. On return, they would hand it over to the women after slaughtering and butchering it. The women, who had basically been tending to the children and waiting all day for the men to return all day. They’d all happily share it, and go to sleep. And the next day would be the same.

Simple times. Innocent times. Not so anymore.

As humanity progressed, people started to need more out of life. Every subsequent generation complicated life a little further. And complicating things is not necessarily a bad thing, and is a natural part of human progression. So the demands of modern life increased. Consumerism made us want more. Happiness began to be associated with “things”. Both men and women now needed more out of life. For men, the thrill of the chase became focused at more than one goat or lamb. They needed achievements that show how well they had done in the big bad world of cut throat competition. The houses, cars, trips abroad, kids in elite schools, a beautiful wife. All these wants are today needs. Women, of course, also simultaneously evolved. More ambitious, more driven, more consciously aware of what all it entails to be socially successful. Even if you don’t have it all, you at least strive for it.

The world has changed. We all strive for a better quality of life. And for that, in a growing number of cases, one pay cheque is  is simply not enough. Thus, the working woman makes an entry into the world. She may be working in the fields picking cotton. She may be working as house help. She may be working in a textile factory. She may be a teacher, or a woman working in a salon, or a female actor. Or a banker or a doctor or an executive. Or she may be a journalist. But the fact remains that the working woman has arrived.

Women are natural born multi-taskers. They can take care of a lot more things simultaneously compared to men. And modern lifestyles are making her use this natural skill to the fullest. Even if a woman is not a working woman, she is juggling so many balls of responsibilities, it is not even funny. Ask any XYZ urban woman of Pakistan, and she will confess that she is doing so much with her life.  She is giving birth to kids, feeding them, weaning them. If they are a bit grown up, chances are that a major chunk of her time is spent on the road, picking and dropping them from school or tuition. She buys groceries. She goes to the bank for work like utility bills. She monitors the domestic staff and makes sure everything is clean right from the kitchen counters to the cupboards. She cooks, even if she has help, as her family likes that. She has to give time to her own parents and her husband’s. In addition, she must look good, so add to the list the endless trips to the tailor and the shopping sprees, and the aerobics and the trips to the salon. And she has to be a contributing member of society so chances are that she is part of some sort of social welfare activity. She entertains and socializes. She is also a counselor or a therapist to her sisters, her friends, her children, and her testosterone-fueled husband who needs loads of attention. On top of it all, she even drives! Because no driver in Pakistan today is willing to charge less than 10 k.

And on top of it all, IF she is a working woman, she also goes to work and pools into the family’s money pool!

Perhaps one of the MOST irritating questions to a woman is “so what do you do”? Even if she is not bringing in money to the table, she IS a working woman. We all are.

In defence of the men, their roles are also less simple compared to what they used to be. Their work hours are longer. The driving conditions are horrendous and it takes them often hours to get home. The work stress is not just physical anymore, unlike the stone age. The public relationing, the staying on top of the game, the making sure that he does not lose his job in these times of unstable economic conditions world over. And the joyous pain of having better halves who are much more aware, awakened and in some ways more demanding than their counterparts of 50 years ago – life is not easy for anyone.

Coming to the real point of this blog. The pertinent question here would be: What is the problem with both men and women exchanging and sharing their over-lapping roles in today’s world that is forever in a state of flux anyways?

I hope I am not misunderstood here as an angry feminist who feels that all men are out there to take advantage of women by making them slave. And I hope I am not thought as someone who sees a problem with a woman being a woman and a man being a man. I enjoy the whole routine of cooking and cleaning and looking good and being a mom. I also do not have issues with the traditional gender roles. But I am realistic in realizing that over-lapping and sharing of responsibilities in the genders is a reality.

The problem arises when “she” is expected to be super human and do it all, in addition to earning. Or he is expected to earn enough to cater to all the ever-increasing financial demands. To me, the problem arises when changing the baby’s diaper, making coffee for both of them after dinner or cooking is off limits for him. Or if she thinks that by driving or paying the bills, her femininity is being challenged or compromised. The problem for me is when, if he is taking care of the house and kids in a time period when she is preparing for her post-graduate medical studies, eye brows are raised. The problem for me is when, if she is the secondary contributor to the financial needs of the home, he is made to feel less of a man.

Balance is the name of the game. If they both can negotiate on responsibilities, and come to a mutual understanding, life is wonderful.

A couple is a team. In every possible sense of the word. They complement each other. Together they make up the whole. Alone, they are parts. In unison, they complete and bring together a home. And for that, if she sits behind the steering wheel and he sits in the passenger seat, or if he washes the dishes on a Sunday morning while she goes through the newspaper, so be it.

Lending a Helping Hand – A Sunnah I Aim To Follow

Journalism entered my life by default. I knew from the age of maybe 6 or 7 that I had a lot to say. As I grew up, I realized that I loved to express my thoughts through writing. I realized that whatever I said needed to have a “purpose”.

Graduating in business studies gave me a degree but somehow it did not fulfill my desire of being Me. An internship in a magazine was destined to tell me that being a writer was my calling. But, again I will say, journalism came by default. And that too development sector journalism (related to social welfare) which over the years automatically became my choice, my niche.  It seemed to fulfill my aim of “purposeful writing”. In defence of the media, unlike those who say that media is all bad and irresponsible, I sincerely believe that media also  spreads a lot of good in this world.

The Turning Point in My Life

Among the  many turning points in my life, a huge one was yet to come. A blessing, a gift. The most joyful and most rewarding, albeit at times exhausting, journey of discovering the Qur’an. In the very words of the Qur’an,    فَإِنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا

“For indeed, with hardship (will be) ease.”
[Al-Quran: Ash-Sharh (The Relief), Verse 5]

The journey, I am grateful to report, Alhamdulillah continues even today, more than a decade after it began. I hope will continue till the moment I take my last breath. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know of this treasure!

In the initial stages of  re-discovering my faith, the humanitarian in me at times clashed with the “Muslim by Choice” in me. This happened maybe because in everyday conversations, I often heard people say “humanity is the best religion”. Due to no fault of theirs and my own naivety, I began to see humanitarian efforts and the attempt to adhere to my faith as the two banks of a river, flowing in a parallel fashion but never meeting. I saw them as distant, apart, even though the waters of goodness continued to splash on both of them.

And then, in the course of understanding the Qur’an, I went through Seerah (life of Rasul Allah صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم). The Seerah opened new doors to a deeper understanding of things. I understood the Qur’an better when I read more of the Seerah. I understood humans and relationships better than I had ever understood before. My relationship with the universe, the environment, with other humans and very importantly, with myself reached new heights. The disbelievers of Makkah are on record in asking for miracles to prove Rasul Allah’s (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) prophethood. I wonder if they ever really observed his life closely.

The miracle walked amongst them for 63 years, every single day of those 63 years equaled more than a century in splendour. The way Rasul Allah (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) talked, walked, ate, slept, worshipped Allah in salaat or fought battles on the battlefront was exemplary. And ever so importantly, the way he dealt with people, his relationships, hisikhlaaq (character), his human-centred attitude and his understanding of human psyche led to more and more clarification of life as I dug deeper into its study.

The Realization
What became clearer was the meaning of this beautiful verse:

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy for the worlds”
[Al-Quran: Surah Al-‘Anbya (The Prophets), Verse 107]

The mercy of Rasul Allah (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم)! It showered, among other forms, in the form of alleviating the pain and difficulties of the down-trodden and the under-privileged. And, with Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) Mercy, I understood soon that humanitarian efforts and practicing Islam are not antonyms, neither are they different banks of the same river. Rather, Islam is the river of all things good. It is the river of every Khair (goodnesss), of every Hasana. And that good must translate into efforts that remove pain and suffering of humanity. That is the teaching of Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) Book, and the Seerah of His beloved Prophet Muhammad (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم).

The Qur’an warns us lest we forget this when it says:

أَرَأَيْتَ الَّذِي يُكَذِّبُ بِالدِّينِ 1

فَذَلِكَ الَّذِي يَدُعُّ الْيَتِيمَ 2

وَلَا يَحُضُّ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ 3

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُصَلِّينَ 4

الَّذِينَ هُمْ عَن صَلَاتِهِمْ سَاهُونَ5

الَّذِينَ هُمْ يُرَاؤُونَ6

وَيَمْنَعُونَ الْمَاعُونَ 7

“Have you seen the one who denies the Recompense? For that is the one who drives away the orphan. And does not encourage the feeding of the poor. So woe to those who pray.[But] who are heedless of their prayer – those who make show [of their deeds]. And withhold [simple] assistance.”
[Al-Qur’an: Surah Al-Maun (The Small Kindness), Verse 1-7]

And then I glance at his life; the life of he who was mercy to the worlds. And I see his hand on the head of the little orphan Anas (رضى اللهُ عنها ) who is in his service for ten years. And I see examples of Rasul Allah’s (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) unending deeds of charity. And I see him preferring others over himself and walking the talk and leading by example. I see him as a caretaker of the slaves and the poor and the needy and the widows and the orphans. I see him sending humanitarian aid to Makkah at a time of famine; and this is a time when Makkah is in a state of war with Medina. 

I see him protecting the rights of the most down trodden strata of society. Women were a part of the patriarchal Arab society who had no rights. I see Rasul Allah (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) giving women, by the command of Allah (سبحانه وتعالى), the right to choose a spouse or to divorce him, and a woman the power to exercise her rights awarded by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) just like the men. Women have rights that are different but not less in any way. I see him protecting the rights of slaves. And I see him making sure that the widows and orphans get their rightful shares in inheritance. I see him making sure that the rich and powerful do not oppress the poor. And that in Islam, in the light of his Seerah, I know today that there is no discrimination or marginalization on the basis of colour or race. If there is such a thing in a Muslim society today, I know that we as Muslims are at fault, and not our religion.

Realizing that ibaadah (worship) is done in a multitude of ways, I know today that serving humanity is a part of worship, for it is one of those deeds that win Allah’s pleasure. A hadith of Rasul Allah (صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) states: Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to mankind.”
[Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 473].

Dawah done without sincerity and being a true well-wisher of humanity will be empty; something like a colourless flower with no beautiful smell emanating from it. Our calls towards Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) book will bounce back from ears that are blocked by hunger or disease or suffering. Dawah is powerful only when done with true sincerity, for a hadith of Rasul Allah(صلي  اللهُ عليهِ وسلم) aptly says: ‘Ad deenu naseeha, ad deenu naseeha, ad deenu naseeha’  – The Deen is sincere advice, the deen is sincere advice, the deen is sincere advice.  [Sahih Muslim].

This realization has given me a calm; a peace Alhamdulillah. A good Muslim will, for sure, be involved with social welfare, and use it as a form of showing gratefulness to Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) for His infinite mercies. Today, when I write anything as a journalist, and call attention towards a problem that causes humans like me to suffer, and want to increase awareness that may help reduce the suffering of humanity, I know that in addition to the rituals that are the foundation of my faith, this too is a form of ibaadah (worship).

About the Author
Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam is a freelance writer, columnist and blogger. Her forte is writing about human rights, gender and health issues. She is a member of the Al Huda family of workers.

Our Authors: 

“I keep telling Imran that we have to make tough decisions”. Asad Umar Speaks

Some 27 years ago, his first pay cheque at Engro was Rs 8170. When he made a suave but much debated exit while he was CEO of the company, his pay cheques of 2011 are reported to be Rs 5.7 million a month. He was the Midas behind Engro, who took the company from mainly fertilizer manufacturing into being a giant venturing into food, energy, chemical storage and petrochemicals among others. The conglomerate diversification helped and within a span of 7 years, Engro’s revenues in 2011 had climbed up to 114 billion as compared to the 13 billion in 2004. Another feather in the cap of not just the Institute of Business Administration Karachi, this home-grown wonder-man is also a feather in the cap of Pakistan.

As a speaker, Asad Umar’s mettle is undisputed. He engages with the audience, has them spell bound, makes them say what he wants them to say, convinces and makes the whole experience of listening to him rewarding. And he does all this in a very humble yet in command way. He makes the GDP sound like the most interesting topic. And he does not use a display of melodrama and histrionics to achieve this.

Asad Umar believes in Pakistan. And change. And for such a man, his strong sense of social responsibility being translated into political leanings was just a matter of time. But his joining PTI (Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf) soon after he took an early retirement was both expected and unexpected. While it was expected that he would not join the other tried and tested political parties, it was unexpected that he would make a leap of faith and take a risk with Khan’s PTI, often called an idealistic spin by the intelligentsia who believe Khan cannot deliver all that he promises. But Asad Umar believes there is no other way.

His “conglomerate diversification sensibilities” have made him use his own potential to the maximum. Asad Umar has entered the political realm. And his joining PTI is not just a good omen for the party but also a reason people start respecting the party more before they write it off saying the party is inducting the same tried and tested faces.

Asad Umar has joined and is actively participating in PTI’s “Insaaf Professional’s Forum” (IPF) sessions.

Enough said.

Let us look at some of the things he said at a recent session of IPF members held at Karachi on 28th April, 2012:

  • I have not joined Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf for Imran Khan. I have my own selfish reasons. 
  • I have no foreign passports. I have no bank accounts outside Pakistan. Everything I have or own is at stake in this country.
  • I am convinced that the status quo in this country cannot last for long now.
  • When we look at the situation of this country, there is fear. But there is also reward.
  • I want my two sons studying abroad to eventually WANT to come back to this country.
  • People tell me why don’t I become just an adviser to Imran Khan. My answer is: Pick up any fundamental issue of Pakistan and the answer lies in the core political system. There is no dearth of technical advice. But that is not enough. What we need is fundamental reform. Just good governance will not be enough.
  • We need a political party who is committed to political reform and is not sitting on top of vested interests.
  • I do not believe in personality worship. Mein azmat e insaan ka qaail to hoon Mohsin, Lekin kabhi insaan ki ibaadat naheen karta
  • The first part is the correct vision. And the second part is that the vision should be grounded in correct good values. Imran Khan has both.
  • To bring change, you have to be in power. But how you will come into power will decide whether you can bring that change or not.
  • Building a just, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan!
  • I keep telling Imran that we have to make tough decisions. So he recently answered back: “What could be tougher than deciding to hold a jalsa in Quetta?”. And I said no, even tougher decisions will have to be made.
  • What PTI is trying to do is the most dramatic revolutionary scheme ever brought to Pakistan.
  • PTI, admittedly, has a lack of diversity. Which is why the communication coming out of it also has a lack of diversity. This is not out of malice but due to human limitation.
  • The common man has a lot of sympathy for Imran Khan. All that needs to be done now is to translate that sympathy into political change.
  • This political party will HAVE TO go through the process of inducting new people.
  • There is nothing less Pakistani about a man from Daadu (Sindh) than a woman from Karachi or a boy from Lahore.
  • (On the subject of devolution of power and land reforms): Most of what people say, with sincerity of course, is what they say sitting in Karachi or any other city. The things we say is a very urban phenomenon. On ground level, visit the rural constituencies with me and understand their sensibilities. Then we’ll talk.
  • The leader does not have a choice in whether he can displease some or not. His choice is to choose who to displease and who not to displease.

An Issue worth Re-Visiting. Unsafe Abortions in Pakistan, an avoidable death sentence


Life sentence 
Unsafe abortions are akin to a silent epidemic that claims lives of many women each year in Pakistan

By Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam

In the heart of the bustling city of Lahore, on Temple Road, is a small clinic, infamous for being one of the quickest ways to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy. This is one of the many such clinics on the street. The clinic’s doors are open to any woman who comes for an abortion. While its staff promises to do the procedure safely and hygienically, its claim to fame is quite the opposite: Horrendous tales of incomplete body parts and remains of aborted foetuses floating past the open drains that run through the area are well-known.

As one enters, they welcome you warmly. A nurse introduces the patient to a lady who “claims” to be the doctor, who is lying on a bench and…

View original post 1,468 more words

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below”…Talking Shakespeare

It is almost 400 years now, when he died, this day, the 23rd of April, and the year was 1616. If he were alive, we would say no other 448 year old has aged so elegantly. I am a literature buff. I am sitting in my home in Karachi, in a place and a time which is a far cry from the world and the time and the era Shakespeare lived in. Yet, so rich is his work and so expansive was his imagination and so varied and impactful were his characters that four centuries later, he is still a part of my life. He refuses to leave us and has left an indelible mark on how literature, and drama in particular, has effected humanity. One cannot help but praise him on the crutches of certain cliches because those cliches, in his case, are just so true.

The images of Shakespeare are of a gentleman typically of the Elizabethan era, looking almost like a male counterpart of Queen Elizabeth I whose reign he witnessed

Shakespeare was an interesting man in a very mundane way. He did not marry multiple times. His life does not fit the lifestyle expected of a bard of his caliber. It was, in fact, boring and predictable at many levels. He was not aggressively disturbed, unlike greats like Christopher Marlowe (a personal favourite, who died at the age of 29 after a self-destructive life was cut short by an enemy). From a middle-class background, he went on to become the favourite of the monarchs of his time. Yet, things about him were unusual as well.

His early life remains shrouded in mystery. He never got formal education beyond grammar school. He married Ann Hathaway who was 8 years his senior. Mother of his three children, she survived him and expressed a desire to be buried in his grave! The average English-speaking person uses around 2000 words everyday. But so ornate and rich was Shakespeare’s language that he used some 29,066 words in his plays! Not just that, he contributed between 1700 to 2000 words to the English language. Words like “birthplace” and “coldhearted” and “amazement”. And phrases like “All’s well that ends well” and “All that glitters is not gold” and “It’s Greek to me”.

Shakespeare’s characters are so strong that they have become archetypes and household names over the centuries. Hamlet, the sad prince forever moaning his father’s death and talking to himself in a state of neurosis, with his soliloquies forming lasting parts of English literature. Romeo and Juliet, eternal lovers, ending in a tragedy, living on forever. Romeo a synonym for intense love, Juliet the more sober of the two, but together their love is legend. Cleopatra, the central character of this geographically well-traveled tragedy, is an enchantress and a character open to different interpretations, each interpretation magical and at times disturbing. And her mate, Marc Antony, has become the archetype of a man torn between love and duty. And Macbeth – relentlessly ambitious, courageous warrior but simultaneously showing a lack of belief in himself. Shakespeare’s characters were not simple. They were complex and often self-contradictory, which is why they can be related to even today.

What is amazing is how much variety there is in his sources of inspiration for these characters, for which he was at times criticized. Romeo and Juliet were real lovers from Italy. The magical “Midsummer Night’s Dream” had characters inspired from the Greek mythology, English traditional fairy tales, work of Ovid and the London of Shakespearean times. Some didn’t quite get it, for example Samuel Pepys who called A Midsummer Night’s Dream “the most insipid, ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life.”

Yet, he continues to be knows as THE bard, the greatest dramatist ever and the English writer who had to have the most lasting influence. And to enjoy him, you have to go with the flow of his pen, traveling through romance and comedy and tragedy. As Ludwig Wittgenstein said “It may be that the essential thing with Shakespeare is his ease and authority and that you just have to accept him as he is if you are going to be able to admire him properly, in the way you accept nature, a piece of scenery for example, just as it is.” (Culture and Value, 1980).

Shakespearean magic has contributed magnificently to celluloid magic. Countless movies have been made based on his work: Much Ado About Nothing, Love’s Labour Lost, The Merchant of Venice, All’s Well That Ends Well…..the list goes on. Closer to home, Bollywood’s classic comedy “Angoor” (1982) was an adaptation of The Comedy of Errors. The critically acclaimed “Maqbool” (2004) was adapted from Macbeth. And “Omkara” (2006) was but of course Othello-inspired.

Here are some quotes of Shakespeare that remind us why he was….well…..Shakespeare.

1. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose.

By any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet. II,ii,1-2)

2. If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die. (Twelfth Night. Act 1, scene 1, 1-3)


To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life. (Hamlet, Act 3, scene 1, 55-87)


What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,
to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—
nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so. (Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2, 303-312)

5. “Et tu, Brute?” (Julius Caesar. III,i,77)

The Tapestry of My Life


I weave memories of moments that have left footprints on the sand on my heart…..fibre by fibre, thread by thread, nimbly, gently……memories of different colours and shapes and sizes…..

Memories of faces……

….many faces have whizzed past and are nothing but a photograph in creative motion blur….lasting but unclear…..

….Others faces are indelible…..etched…..carved………with each detail……..radiant smiles……living words….a tear drop snuck away carefully…..laughter that reverberates inside me, so distinct that I often turn back to see if that laugh is in the here, is in the now……

Memories of touch……

….the touch of my mother’s caress on my forehead…..the touch of my father’s pat on my back….my hand gliding over the silk of my wedding dress in anticipation… finger tracing each feature of my newly born baby girl in my arms….the feel of a pen, and progressively, a keyboard in my hand – my tools for sharing the never-ending rush of ideas and emotions that are piled up waiting to be unleashed; my tools for making a tiny difference in this world……the sense of that first laugh-line at the sides of my lips giving away that I have smiled a lot……the sense of that tear drop of mine I quickly wipe and slide under a smile……

Memories of sound…….

……My parents call me… siblings talk to me……my friends laugh at a joke I crack…….my man takes my name with a comforting sense of ownership…..a story of how the day went from my daughter……the sound of my heart pounding inside of me in a moment of excitement or fear, or in a moment of love…..the sound of someone reciting the words of God, forever altering my being……..

…Sounds of the rustle of leaves and the speed of wind and a wave crashing against the rocks and a bird beckoning the morning and the drops of rain lashing against the window….and the sound of a lover crooning in his beloved’s ear, a voice heavy with emotion…

…. I choose to have selective memory…..I sieve and sift and do away with the memory of a face or a touch or a sound that hurts….they re-surface, but I aim to calm down those memoirs….they pale in comparison to the good ones…

I live in today, but memories are an inseparable part of me…They make me the ME I am……

So I weave memories of moments that have left footprints on the sand on my heart…..fibre by fibre, thread by thread, nimbly, gently……memories of different colours and shapes and sizes…..

With these is made the tapestry of my life….

Koi Ummeed Bar Naheen Aati….

Koi ummeed bar naheen aati

koi surat nazar naheen aati…..

Maut ka ek din muayyan hai,

neend kyun raat bhar naheen aati…..

Jaanta hoon sawaab e taa’at u zuhd

par tabiyyat udhar naheen jaati…..

Aage aati thee haal e dil pe hansi

abb kisi baat par naheen aati…..

Hai kuch aisi hi baat jo chup hoon

warna kya baat kar naheen aati…..

Daagh-e-dil gar nazar naheen aata

boo bhi aye charagar naheen aati…..

Hum wahaan hain jahan se humko bhi

kuch humari khabar naheen aati…..

Kyun na cheekhoon ke yaad karte hain

meri aawaaz gar naheen aati…..

Marte hain aarzoo mein marne ki

Maut aati hai par naheen aati….

Kaaba kis moun se jaaoge Ghalib

sharm tumko magar naheen aati

Have You Written Your Will Yet?

We are never really prepared for our death, are we? And a lot of times, in a very melodramatic way, we stop each other from discussing this most reliable of facts and this biggest reality, thinking that somehow talking about it may cause us to die sooner than we are supposed to.

As for writing a “Will”, we hardly ever take it seriously because one or more of the following reasons

  • It’s a scary thought
  • We think a will is only regarding money and assets, and if we don’t have much of that then why should we really write down a will?
  • Even if we are religiously inclined, we don’t know that this is one of those “should do” things
  • Our families become melodramatic if we don’t and go “aisee baat moun se mat nikalain (don’t utter such words)”
  • We think it is something just oldies should do
  • It is not a priority, simply

But there are solid reasons why writing down a Will is a great idea

  • It makes it easier for the family in that time of turmoil when they have lost a loved one and are confused. A will makes sure they know exactly what to do
  • It makes death a reality….one that we actually prepare for. Because harsh as the reality may seem, death may knock on a door anytime
  • It gives you time to reflect and think about things still undone, and things can be done you wanted them to once you are gone
  • Most importantly, this hadith:  “It is the duty of a Muslim who has anything to bequest not to let two nights pass without writing a will about it.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
If you are a Muslim who is convinced that this is something you want to and should do, here are a few guidelines and tips:
1. You can make a bequest of upto 1/3rd of your total assets and property. So 1/3rd, or around 33% of our assets are what you can leave a will regarding. Not more.
2. You cannot bequeath something to someone who is a legal heir according to Islamic rulings of inheritance. Which means that for example you can leave a will for something to be given to your niece or nephew, or to domestic help, or to a friend, or to a charity or trust, but not to your sons and daughters and spouse because they are your heirs.
3. There must be at least two witnesses to your will. Written wills are always a better idea to avoid confusion later. So leave copies with two or more people. People you trust. (For reference see Surah Al-Maidah, verse 106 of the Quran)
4. Mention the debts you may owe to people or organizations/financial institutions/lenders if any. Your will of upto 1/3rd should include your liabilities, religious or otherwise, and what you willed to people or a trust will be distributed AFTER your liabilities are cleared. Your religious liabilities will include, for eg,  the wife’s meher (dower) in case he has not given it yet. Or if Zakaat is due on the deceased, it should be paid off first.
5. Your will should include how would you want your funeral  and burial rites should be performed. Things like if you have preferences regarding who should bathe you, where should you be buried, should you body be flown back if you die abroad, how should your grave be made etc. Also include details like do you want your soyem etc. to be held or not.
6. Leave advice or important good bye letters or messages for your family, specially children. That may be a good chance, when their hearts are soft, that they may pay heed to your suggestions like remaining steadfast in good deeds and staying united as a family once parents, who are the nucleus, are gone. Leaving suggestions for siblings or spouse are a good idea too.
7. If you have any responsibilities and would like someone to take care them once you are gone, appoint a second in command.
8. Important questions are these: Would you want to be on life support (like ventilator) or not? Do you want to pledge your organs for donation or not? Would you like to be resuscitated or not?
For clarity on cadaver donations, visit this site:
It is important for the family to remember that if a will was made for an unethical or immoral or sinful act, then that should not be acted upon.
Death is a reality. Let’s face it and make sure we know what we want is done after we pass away, and our loved ones know it too.
References used:
1. Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Kitaab ul Janaaiz
2. “Mera Jeena Mera Marna” (Al-Huda Publications)

Educate the Girl Child & You Educate Generations

The school’s building is solid. Spacious. The rooms are sun-lit and airy. I am loving the trees in the lawn where the school band is practicing. As the side-drums roll and the bass drum thunders and the flutes lilt away to the tune of “Pak sarzameen shaad baad”, the trees sway in the breeze – date palm trees and Lignum amongst others.

As you enter, you hear a soothing twittering of chirpy voices typical of any girls’ school. The girls are all ages. Neat and tidy in grey and white uniforms. Tightly oiled plaits and braids. Sounds of “Good morning miss” resound in the corridors. Everybody seems busy. It’s a good school and the kids seems happy and busy.

So neat, well-planned and spacious is the school that it is hard to believe that it is run mostly on charity. The girls, with heads held high, are daughters of under-privileged parents mostly. Chowkidaars, thailay waalaas (vendors), maalish walaas, maasis (maids), dhobis, labourers……and many girls are orphans. I met one who had lost her father in Karachi riots last year. The whole family makes rubber chappals at home and the brother sells them in the Makki Masjid area. Yet once in school, the girls forget their problems, and sit alongside other better off students. Some of those from very poor backgrounds are doing very well in school, which is heartening.

Taaleemgah Dukhtaraan e Awaam Trust Girls’ School, DHA, is sandwiched between the affluent Phase 1 of Defence and Azam Basti/ Sau foot road. The building and land was the kind donation of one of the Sheikhs of UAE. It has more than a thousand students and very sincere, dedicated and trust-worthy staff members.

Most of these girls see their coming to this school as their one chance of better tomorrows – a chance at education, at economic empowerment, at awareness and a better life. A girl’s education can be sponsored with as less as Rs 6000 an year. Lesser or greater funds can be donated into funds for uniforms, books and in some cases even the food for these children.

Educating the girl child is the answer to many of Pakistan’s key problems. If each one of us who can afford to take up at least the task of educating even 1 girl child, how much change could we bring? Good, positive change! But it’s not enough to drop off an envelope of money. See the child you are sponsoring. Give her incentives when she studies well. Follow up on her attendance, even through one phone call every few weeks. The school drop out rate is very high for girls from under-privileged backgrounds. Parents often pull them out of school so that they can help with house chores, or be employed as child labour. Monitoring their progress ensures that they stay in school.

Let’s make a difference. Because these little girls need our help. And Pakistan needs them to be educated.

Contact Dukhtaran e Awaam school at 02135384886

Side-lined by Society

Living on the fringes

Living on the fringes

Every time I am at the stop sign of a traffic signal or am sitting in the car at Khadda market, which is a so-called elite bazaar in the high-end neighbourhood of this metropolis I belong to, I observe a social trend that disturbs me. This area is teeming with eunuchs for some reason; I see them knocking at the car windows of every car that passes by in hope of some money. But it is not the eunuchs that I am commenting on right now, much as I accept both prostitution and beggary as social evils – I am commenting on the reactions of the elite and the educated.

A mocking laugh, a turning away of the face, a sneer, a scandalised look. Is this because we disagree to the means of earning that they have chosen? Or is it simply because the binary division of genders is so entrenched in us that gender non-conformity is a sin that we find worthy of punishment? The result? Even if, rarely so, a transgender does attempt to opt for an education or a career choice of considerable normalcy, the society does not accept it. We do not accept a transgender as a mathematics teacher, an accountant, as a household help or a chauffeur. A transgender, in simple words, is out of the boxes we have divided society into.

And this is not true for transgenders only. We find perverse comfort in dividing society into compartments. Anyone outside the compartment has a hard time feeling normal, even though they might not be ostracised openly. As a writer who is interested in people and their rights, my research and observation has often led me to real life stories I wish I did not have to encounter.

I observe marginalisation in blatant as well as understated ways. According to Wikipedia’s definition, “In sociology, marginalization, or marginalisation (British), is the social process of becoming or being made marginal… Being marginalised refers to being separated from the rest of the society, forced to occupy the fringes and edges and not to be at the centre of things. Marginalised people are not considered to be a part of the society. (Arko Koley, 2010)”

How we perceive religion leads us to judge and then, accept or reject people on the basis of what is OUR version of an ideal society. Even within the framework of Islam, we often find people marginalising those belonging to another school of thought. What to then say of those belonging to another religion? Renowned writer and journalist Zofeen Ebrahim is particularly disturbed by this. “I feel when people are discriminated on the basis of religion and then punished for it, it is a disturbing trend and indicates that society is veering towards extremism and bigotry,” says Ebrahim. We live in a society which does not only see a person wearing a cross or a bindi in a certain light and often refuses to accept them, but also will judge a person with a beard or a hijab in a pre-conceived way. When the trend of extremism catches on, it starts working both ways.

The most common example of marginalisation, world over, is on the basis of discrimination people face on the basis of caste, creed and financial standing. In rural Pakistan, even now the first question is about the caste someone belongs to. In certain parts of the country, certain communities have distinct physical features and this results is in serious discrimination. We assume that our ethnic group, community, province and language have an edge over others, and so the prejudice sets in. The result is obvious when Pakistan goes to the polls or when the average Pakistani chooses a suitable match for their son or daughter – anyone outside the box is not welcome.

While we may have our sympathies with them, there is very little empathy society shows when it comes to a special child or a disabled person. People still fear special kids. Perhaps we fear everything that we do not understand. And so it takes experiencing a loved one having such a condition to understand this. The education strategy for special children is not inclusive at all, although it is encouraged world over. Very few restaurants have ramps, wheel chairs and washrooms for the disabled. They do not readily get jobs and cannot drive around comfortably. Generally, they are expected to stay at home and not mingle in society.

Marginalisation has deeply embedded psychological effects on people. Counselor Asma Pal says that “social scientists have been investigating the impact of marginalisation for the last two decades and suggest that it can trigger a range of negative emotions and reactions in people. The psychological effects of these symptoms are a sad and gloomy outlook on life in general and an aggravated sense of injustice. Identity issues, loss of self-esteem, depression, anger, isolation, inability to cope with real life situations and a loss of motivation are some of the problems that may arise.”

Social stigmas like being a widow, a divorcee or the child of a split family causes problems when it comes to social issues like getting married. A man who marries for a second time or a woman who remarries after having been widowed still raises eyebrows, even though religion and law permit this. The most glaring example is when at the time of a mehndi, a widowed or divorcee aunt or friend cannot put henna on the girl’s hand, since it is considered a bad omen.

Personally, I am particularly sensitive to how the elderly are treated. My mother is an elderly person who is old, forgetful, quiet, and is stepping into the twilight zone that brings with it dementia. People often express surprise when we insist on taking her along to restaurants and family get-togethers. I observe that after the formal ‘Assalamualaikum,’ very few treat her and others of her age as normal individuals. Very few take a moment to sit with the elderly and chat with them. The elderly may be old but underneath the wrinkled hands and faces, interesting people still exist, if only we talk to them and have an inclusive attitude towards them. “Sadly, we do marginalise elderly people. We live in an ageist times. We discriminate on age, gender, race, cast, colour, religion etc. You name it, we do it. It’s even done by little kids in school. Sad but true,” says Pal.

Thankfully, there are still an increasing number of people who can look beyond the differences and focus upon the commonalities we have with people. For such people, the limitations are much less when it comes to interacting with others. The world becomes a more tolerant place when we agree to disagree and can disagree with someone yet give them the basic human right of respect and inclusion in society.

 Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam is a freelance writer.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.