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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Ramazan diaries – From Makkah and Medinah

By Farahnaz Zahidi Published: July 31, 2013

The millions are just tiny specks of people trying to get closer to the Ka’aba. PHOTO: REUTERS

Sitting in a lounge for the privileged, waiting to board a flight to Dubai and then another from there to Jeddah, I find myself texting away. I have a million things on my mind. I have a life.

Four hours later…

I’m at the Dubai airport, about to board a flight to Jeddah; the only words on my lips are:

Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik

(I am here, my Allah (SWT). I am present.)

Prior to my flight, concerned friends had been warning me about a viral infection that is widespread in Makkah, and the unbelievable rush in Ramazan especially due to the underway expansion of the Masjid-ul-Haram.

“You should not have gone in Ramazan.”

I am going anyway. It is my ‘calling’. I have been called, right? He who has called me will manage.

A seven-day detox:

Paradigm shift within hours, change of heart within minutes, priorities falling into place within seconds – this is precisely what a visit to Makkah and Madina does to you.

Here I am, one amongst millions. It’s suddenly clear. I may be important in my comfort zone but here, I am just one of them. And the millions, from a bird’s eye view, are just tiny specks of black and white, men in white and women mostly in black, all scurrying to get closer to the Ka’aba.

When the props fall off and masks wear off, I have nothing to hide behind. I am as real as it gets. In hordes of people and thousands of heads, I am only searching for my family. Perspective becomes clearer.

I go around in a pair of chappals (slippers) that I wouldn’t even dare to wear at a grocery market in Karachi. I have no access to the internet, which means I have no way of succumbing to moments of vain indulgences where I tweet about my achievements. Most of my suitcase remains packed as is. I learn to survive on basics.

My DSLR camera rests in the hotel room. I’m lapping up images through the lens of my eyes and heart. And these images are not Photoshopped, nor Lighthoused. This is hardcore spirituality – a reconnection of souls with their Creator.

Each step of this ‘ritual’ as we like to call it has been carefully designed to help us grow and cleanse to the fullest.

Yet, they say ‘I believe in spiritual but not rituals’? Nothing makes the spirit evolve and soar like these rituals. They were designed by the One who created the souls, right?

I can feel my system being flushed out of anger, resentment, pride and negativity, if any. I am also not taking as many medicines as I usually do, apart from the occasional Panadol. Food is simpler. Walks are more. Squatting in the courtyard of the Grand Mosque with my family and extended family, life is beautiful – simpler. I am happy.

The funeral prayer:

A unique act of worship that women don’t get the opportunity to do usually is praying the namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayer). In Makkah and Madina, after each namaz, it would be called out:

“As-salaat ‘ala al-amwaat-i yarhamukumAllah”

(Prayer for that the dead [so that] Allah’s (SWT) mercy be upon you).

I selfishly join in. When my time comes, I want that many prayers for me.

Makkah the powerful; Medinah the soothing:

Makkah is intense, and comes on strong. Its landscape is dry; its people are strong and goodhearted but tough. How did my beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) manage to plant faith and compassion in the hearts of Makkah’s people? I wonder. But it was this very toughness that enabled the people of Makkah to give the sacrifices they did and endure oppression and migration.

Medinah will always have oasis in sight. Promising date palms give away the hospitality of the people of this city from a distance. The land of the Ansaar (the helpers). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) chose to be here till his last day.

En route to Madina, the farms and farms of camels are a lovely sight – camels of all colours – fawn, brown, dark brown, white. Much like the diversity of people we meet in Makkah and Madina, they are all different, yet the same.

The clock tower makes me sad:

I am here after eight years. Taken aback by the sight of the humongous high rise structure in front of the first gate to the Ka’aba, this is my first meeting with the Makkah clock tower and the adjoining towering hotels. It looms higher than any of the minarets of the Haram. With millions of pilgrims visiting all year round, it is understandable that Makkah will need high-rise hotels. But so high and jarringly juxtaposed opposite the Haram? I cringe inside.

Without judging those who can afford and stay in these elite hotels just next to the Haram, the “towers” make me sad on another level too. Now, only the rich can afford to live right next to Haram. The poorer you are the farther you stay, the tougher it is for you to commute to the Masjid.

I prefer the earlier more eclectic mix of hotels all around the mosque, allowing both rich and poor to live close to it for the days they are there.

Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

Afternoon siestas:

Makkah’s relentless summer heat is at its peak in the afternoon. If you’re fasting, the body’s reservoir of energy that we get from food is depleting, and a sluggish wave of drowsiness engulfs you. You lie down on the carpets or on the marble floor of the Haram, depending on where you get place, and doze off with your eyes fixed on the Ka’aba. Bliss!

The world’s best “all-you-can-eat”:

Iftar in both the holy mosques of Makkah and Madina is a unique and beautiful experience. I am at the receiving end of charity. It is something I will probably never get to experience in my homeland. Around Asar namaz, one sees people competing with each other and talking to the organisers to allow them to distribute Iftar in a certain part of the mosque.

At Maghrib time beautiful children appear from nowhere, distributing a variety of dates, laban (butter milk), zamzam water, and traditional Arabic kahwa, delicately scented and instantly refreshing.

Boxes of traditional Arabic saffron-treated rice and roasted whole chicken, with dates and small packs of juice are the popular menu in Masjid-e-Nabawi. The hospitality of the people of Medinah is not overrated. No one goes hungry.

Photo: Farahnaz Zahidi

That moment

We all have our special moments. This time, I had my moment at Masjid-e-Nabawi on our last evening in Medinah. I had gone to pray at the Riazul Jannah (the place the Prophet (pbuh) called one of the gardens of paradise) and to offer Salam to my beloved Prophet (pbuh). It hit me where I was in that moment…and that I was going back home soon.

But there is so much I am taking back with me. When life pulls me down, I know now, more than ever, Who is there by my side, watching out for me – none other than my Allah, my Creator.

Published at : http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/18359/ramazan-in-makkah-reconnecting-with-my-merciful-creator/

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Ali (ra) – The eternal hero of a Sunni Muslim woman

For me, he is the emblem of heroism. Of wisdom. Of passion. Of love of Allah.

He accepted Islam as a ten year old child, when very few were willing to risk their life. He grew up, literally, in the house of Allah’s beloved (saw). He resembled Rasool Ullah (saw) in mannerism and action. On the night of the migration from Makkah, he slept in the bed of the Prophet (saw) with the risk that the enemies may kill him in place of the Prophet (saw).

Our beloved (saw) trusted Ali (ra) with his treasure, his youngest daughter Fatima (ra). He was the Prophet’s (saw) kin.

While Rasool Ullah (saw) breathed his last on the chest of our mother Ayesha (ra), Ali (ra) was the one to bathe Rasool Ullah (saw) after his death.

Ali was a lion in the battlefield and most humble in private life. In worship, such was he that he told people to pull out an arrow lodged in his body during salaat (namaz) because when in the presence of his Rabb in prayer, he focussed on nothing else.

Ali (ra) is my hero, forever.

They are all my heroes: Abu Bakr (ra) and Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra) and Uthman bin ‘Affan (ra) and Ali (ra). Each a sparkling gem warding away darkness and showing rays of light. Each with their own beautiful unique personalities. Each chosen by God for special work. Each guiding us in their own way.

Yet, with the mention of Ali (ra) the heart softens with the realization of how beloved he was to the Prophet (saw) of Allah. He is the father of Hasan (ra) and Hussain (ra), and the love of Fatima’s (ra) life.

These glimpses from ahadith and seerah remind me even more why Ali (ra) is who he is to me:

 Abu Turaab

So many incidents are recorded about the beautiful way the Prophet (saw) used to solve disagreements between Ali and Fatima.

One such incident resulted in Ali getting the title Abu Turaab – “The man covered with dirt” – this title was one of the dearest to Ali. For once the Prophet went to visit his daughter Fatima & he did not find Ali home. He asked about him, so Fatima told her father that she had some argument with her husband so he left home angry in the afternoon without taking his usual nap. The Prophet told someone to go & look for Ali. He came back saying that he is in the mosque. The Prophet went to him to find him lying on the floor with his dress falling off his flank which was covered with dirt. The Prophet woke him up clearing the dirt off his body & addressing him with a smile: “Wake up you who is covered with dirt”.

The Prophet’s (saw) Kin

When the verse 3:61 was revealed to the Prophet (saw): “Now that you know the facts, say to them ‘Come, let us summon our sons and your sons, our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves and pray Allah and beseech Him to accurse those who intentionally assert falsehood’”; he summoned Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hussain and said: “O God, & these are my kin”.

How can a believer not love Ali (ra)

Zirr reported: ‘Ali observed: By Him Who split up the seed and created something living, the Apostle (may peace and blessings be upon him) gave me a promise that No one but a believer would love me, and none but a hypocrite would nurse grudge against me.
Reference: Book 001, Number 0141: (Sahih Muslim) 

The strength of Ali – in fighting the enemy and fighting anger

I love the incident where Ali (ra) was fighting with an infidel on a battlefield. Ali was about to thrust his sword into the other man’s heart when all of a sudden the infidel raised his head and spit at him. Ali immediately dropped his sword, took a deep breath, and walked away. The infidel was stunned. He ran after Ali and asked him why he was letting him go. “Because I’m very angry at you,” said Ali.
“Then why don’t you kill me?” the infidel asked. “I don’t understand.”

Ali explained, “When you spit in my face, I got very angry. My ego was provoked, yearning for revenge. If I kill you now, I’ll be following my ego. And that would be a huge mistake.”
So Ali set the man free. The infidel was so touched that he became Ali’s friend and follower, and in time he converted to Islam of his own free will.

He whom Allah and His Messenger (saw) love

Narrated Salama: Ali happened to stay behind the Prophet and (did not join him) during the battle of Khaibar for he was having eye trouble. Then he said, “How could I remain behind Allah’s Apostle?” So ‘Ali set out following the Prophet . When it was the eve of the day in the morning of which Allah helped (the Muslims) to conquer it, Allah’s Apostle said, “I will give the flag (to a man), or tomorrow a man whom Allah and His Apostle love will take the flag,” or said, “A man who loves Allah and His Apostle; and Allah will grant victory under his leadership.” Suddenly came ‘Ali whom we did not expect. The people said, “This is ‘Ali.” Allah’s Apostle gave him the flag and Allah granted victory under his leadership.
Reference: Volume 5, Book 57, Number 52: (Sahih Bukhari)

He was to the Prophet (saw) what Haroon (as) was to Musa (as)

Sa’d reported Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying to ‘Ali: Aren’t you satisfied with being unto me what Aaron was unto Moses?
Reference: Book 031, Number 5916: (Sahih Muslim)

For whosoever is Prophet (saw) Mawla, Ali is Mawla

Sayyidna Abu Sarihah (Radhi Allah) or Zayd ibn Arqam (Shu’bah is uncertain about it) said that Prophet (salallaho alaihi wasalam) said: He for whom I am Mawla (friend, beloved, helper), Ali is Mawla
Reference: Sunan al Tirimdhi Hadith No. 3733 – Imam Abu Isa Tirimdhi (rah) said: This Hadith is “HASAN SAHIH”

Published at: http://www.mybitforchange.org/2013/ali-my-eternal-hero/

To Amir Liaquat Hussain about Taher Shah & the big snake

Mr Amir Liaquat Hussain

Assalamualikum.

You have done a lot of things in the past that have scandalized, traumatized and shocked people. More evolved people, at least. But you have a huge fan following of naive masses who still are head over heels over you. You know very well, sir, how to win them over. You are very entertaining to some. And so you have been going on.

As someone who is always the devil’s advocate and likes to see the good side in people, I have always liked to think that you, like all of us, are a combination of good and bad. Secondly, no matter what, you talk with love and reverence about our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw). And so I always try and give you the benefit of doubt.

But this time, Amir Sahab, you have pushed it to far. And it is better that I say it to you directly as an open letter, rather than back-biting about you.

In yesterday’s Amaan Ramzan transmission of GEO, aired at Iftar time on 25th July 2013, you publicly humiliated and insulted this singer called Taher Shah who sang the viral song “Eye to Eye”. You made fun of him, embarrassed him, touched the grown man’s hair and brought attention to it in an offensive manner, cut short his song as he tried to sing, and you put a huge snake on his shoulders.

To Taher Shah, I digress and give a very short message: Sorry that this happened, Taher. But you should have known what you are getting into. And for the record after seeing you insulted like that, I am feeling remorse that I laughed about your Eye to Eye, although it was hard not to, but I accept I should have done better than mock.

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Coming back to Amir Liaquat Sahab. Well, sir, this has nothing to do with Taher Shah really, or about one particular show. My worry and concern is at deeper levels.

The first and foremost is that people call you, for reasons best known to them, an Islamic scholar and as a member of clergy. And that places HUGE responsibility on your shoulders. Because you are the most prominent pop tv cleric as they are calling you, people associate everything you do with Islamic scholars. We, the human race, love to stereo-type and pass sweeping generalized statements. We make people heroes too quickly and write them off too soon. And so I have heard friends say “ALL Islamic tv shows, specially in Ramadan, are drama. They will do anything for ratings. Look at Dr Amir! They are ALL the same.” Fact is, they are not! I have heard humble and peace-loving Muftis and Aalims on tv imparting their knowledge, some of them not there for money or ratings but simply because they feel they must share the knowledge they have. It is disturbing to see that they are being doubted because of something that someone else might be doing.

Secondly, I have honestly and sporadically respected you for the fact that your love of Rasool Ullah (saw) is so intense. When you initially became a celeb, your naats and the way you talked about the Sunnah of Rasool Ullah (saw) and his life and times was very motivating. But what’s happening now, sir, is that in the same sitting you are mocking people which is against the Sunnat of my beloved, may upon him be peace, and you are also reciting durood. Yes, we all make those mistakes at times. And we shouldn’t. But with honour comes responsibility. You, sir, represent a lot more than the average man. Your voice is heard by millions and your sentiments are echoed across the globe. You need to be more careful with the trust people have vested in you.

Many feel that your current way of distributing gifts in your shows when they answer questions is unethical. I don’t think so. “Neelam Ghar” is legend in Pakistan, and you are filling that gap. So good for you. But how come people respected Tariq Aziz sahab so much but you are under such tough scrutiny? Because it all depends on HOW something is executed. You need to re-think how you are doing it.

Other morning shows have also been known to have orphan or abandoned children given to couples who wish to adopt. Why did it make to the international media when you did the same? Why did it hurt people so when you gave that baby away? Again, sir, its the way you did it. On one side lawn and motor bikes were given away and on another a human baby! That is simply in bad taste.

There is nothing wrong if media persons, to encourage people to take parent-less children as their own, with legalities and background check, have such things on their shows, though it’s debatable if such private things should be done on media in the first place. But if the element of respect and decorum is missing, it even makes a good act unsavoury.

Please re-think all that you are doing and the precedent that you are setting. Otherwise you may be the most watched anchor person but not the most respected.

Sonnet LXXXI: “Rest with your dream inside my dream” – Pablo Neruda

Already, you are mine. Rest with your dream inside my dream.
Love, grief, labour, must sleep now.
Night revolves on invisible wheels
and joined to me you are pure as sleeping amber.

No one else will sleep with my dream, love.
You will go we will go joined by the waters of time.
No other one will travel the shadows with me,
only you, eternal nature, eternal sun, eternal moon.

Already your hands have opened their delicate fists
and let fall, without direction, their gentle signs,
you eyes enclosing themselves like two grey wings,

while I follow the waters you bring that take me onwards:
night, Earth, winds weave their fate, and already,
not only am I not without you, I alone am your dream.

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Junaid Jamshed and the ‘maternal instinct’

By Farahnaz Zahidi / Photo: Ameer Hamza

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A side to this man shrouded from public eye has to do with his work as philanthropist whose focus is maternal health. PHOTO: AMEER HAMZA

A side to this man shrouded from public eye has to do with his work as philanthropist whose focus is maternal health. PHOTO: AMEER HAMZAA side to this man shrouded from public eye has to do with his work as philanthropist whose focus is maternal health. PHOTO: AMEER HAMZA

Who would have thought that the pop-icon turned televangelist who irked women with the statement “it is better if women are not taught to drive” has invested the last ten years trying to save the lives of underprivileged women of Pakistan

Junaid Jamshed — the name brings to one’s mind an image of two juxtaposed pictures: one of a drop-dead handsome young Junaid, the other of a seasoned man with a long beard and a mellower face, beckoning people to come towards Islam.

Yet, there is a side to this man shrouded from the public eye. And that has to do with his work as a philanthropist whose focus is maternal health. Once known as the darling of female fans, Junaid is still very connected to women — he is helping save the lives of thousands of them in Pakistan. The man continues to surprise us and challenge stereotypes.

At the Muslim Charity fund-raising dinners in Manchester, Birmingham and London May 31 to June 2, 2013. PHOTO: MOHAMMED RAYAZ

Yet, he does not reveal this side to his life readily. The first of a series of interviews, as he agreed to talk to The Express Tribune, revolved around Vital Signs and his metamorphosis into the world of preaching. Sitting in Shahi Hasan’s studio, his fingers, a couple of times, delicately traced the contours of the guitar strings. But an inner commitment is stronger than the temptation. He hummed a few lines, but stopped. The darling of the Pakistani masses is no longer a balladeer. The passion has been channelised towards a higher love. His songs formerly talked about how to woo a beloved… his nasheeds and naats still do. But the Beloved has changed. JJ has evolved.

The second interview was hard to schedule. His travelling is incessant, more for philanthropic work and less for proselytising, contrary to popular belief. “I think I am ready to talk in detail. It is time people hear my side of the story. I may come across as someone who has something against women. I’m NOT!” he said on the phone while he was at the site of a model village of 200 houses near Rahimyar Khan built with his support for flood-hit people.

Meray oopar bohat zimmedari hai. As a human, a Muslim, a Pakistani, a person whom people know. I cannot turn away from these responsibilities; that would be [ingratitude]. Being grateful increases blessings and being ungrateful sucks them away,” he said at the second interview, sitting in his comfortable home in DHA, Karachi. He had just returned from a trip to the UK to raise funds for charity.

A suitcase is forever ready for the globe-trotter. It is pertinent to wonder how he balances family life and his added responsibilities. “I try my best to balance. Whatever time I give to my family is quality time. Ayesha and the kids will vouch for it,” he said. Any conversation with him is incomplete without periodic mention of his wife Ayesha. But he does agree that there is a price to his philanthropy. “The life of this world and the Hereafter are like two wives of one man. If you please one, the other will be upset. It’s a choice you have to make. Fact of the matter is that when we struggle for the Hereafter, Allah is pleased. And when Allah is pleased the life of this world improves automatically. Theek hai na?” he said, smartly interspersing an element of preaching in the interview. He never lets go of that opportunity.

 Muslim Charity has established five hospitals in Pakistan in Jhang, Faisalabad, Mangani,  Rawalakot and in Lahore. PHOTO: MUSLIM CHARITY

“Pakistan’s women should not have to go through this.”

“The year was 2003. I remember reading somewhere that a woman travelling from Jhang to Faisalabad on a tonga in full-term labour died because no maternal health facility was close by. That story shook me,” said Junaid.

At the Muslim Charity fund-raising dinners in Manchester, Birmingham and London May 31 to June 2, 2013. PHOTO: MOHAMMED RAYAZ

Comparing it with the comfort and facilities which are available to women in the cities, like his wife at the birth of their four children, he felt deeply disturbed at why so many women in Pakistan had to go through this. “It was during that time that I came to know that this organisation called ‘Muslim Charity’ was working to improve the state of maternal health. I contacted them to ask how I could help in my small way. I have been affiliated with them since then.” Junaid now works as the vice president of Muslim Charity, and uses his public influence, talks and naats to raise funds for the causes.

Till now, with his support, the charity has managed to make five hospitals in Pakistan mainly focusing on maternal health. As a global initiative, the charity works on improving maternal health the world over.

The masjid schools

A fascinating project Junaid has been working on is an interesting attempt at consensus-building between the clergy in Pakistan’s rural areas and those who believe in literacy as the answer to Pakistan’s problems. “How we do this is simple. We identify impoverished rural areas and broken-down mosques. We then reconstruct mosques and construct small houses for the village imams. In return, we request them to allow use of the mosque from 8 am to 12 am,” he said.

Part of this project is to sensitise locals and persuade them to send their children to these schools. These are regular schools where the children have the option of also learning the Quran. “The idea is to get these kids off the streets. We make them realise that they have a responsibility towards themselves. With mentorship, they realise that education is their path to a better life. Our aim is to produce peaceful and responsible citizens.”

In Sindh alone, up till now, they are responsible for putting 3,500 children back in school, both boys and girls. “One of them recently sat his CSS exam. I had tears when I heard this,” he said.

On men, women and balance

“It is sad how women are objectified. Rights to women have been given by the Creator. There is no problem with women working. Didn’t Hazrat Khadija (RA) work?” he said almost defiantly when asked about his views on women and their rights, adding that limits have been defined by God for both men and women. “Women should not be coerced in any way. A man needs to be more sensitive towards his wife. A woman’s biggest insecurity is loss of control.”

A Muslim Charity tent city in Dadu in 2011. PHOTO: MUSLIM CHARITY

He admitted candidly that Pakistani society was, according to one view, chauvinistic and male-driven. It is a place where men often oppress women. “For the sake of family honour, Pakistani women continue to suffer. Divorce may have been considered an unsavoury thing in the time of the Prophet (PBUH) but [it] was not a taboo, unlike [in] today’s Pakistani society!” he said. “In a society where [the] male-child preference still exists and women are blamed for producing too many daughters, will men not stand up for them? I have always felt strongly about the rights of women.”

When asked why families seem to be falling apart, he has a simple formulaic solution. “Damage control lies in this: men should control their tempers and women [should] think before they speak.”

Junaid Jamshed and Ali Haider performing at the Spiritual Chords Nasheed concert held in South Africa in August 2011. PHOTO: MUSLIM CHARITY SOUTH AFRICA

So is Ayesha allowed to drive?

“I knew you’d ask this!” he said with a chuckle. “Before I got married, I was visiting my father-in-law with a friend. My father-in-law mentioned that my wife-to-be was learning how to drive, and I was happy to hear that. But my friend, a senior, advised me, as experienced friends do: ‘Don’t teach your wife how to drive’. That was what I mentioned light-heartedly in that show.”

Junaid Jamshed helped raise funds for the charity that was involved with the building of Doha village in Sanjarpur, Rahimyar Khan. PHOTO: MUSLIM CHARITY

After he got married, he tried to teach her to drive but couldn’t because of a paucity of time. “She never insisted and never learnt,” he added. “It never really was an issue for us.” Wary of calling himself a scholar, he is clear that he is in no position to pass a verdict about women who drive. “But my personal opinions, likes and dislikes are my own. I have a right to them.”

The crossroad and the road less traveled

It was around 1999 when his solo album Uss raah par was released. The main track of the same title was conceived metaphorically by Shoaib Mansoor. “He knew that something had changed in me,” said Junaid, recalling the lyrics: hum kyun chalain uss raah par jis raah par sub hee chalain. Kyun na chunain wo raasta jis par naheen koi gaya. In a very Robert Frost fashion, the song talked about the road less traveled, which, in JJ’s life, did make all the difference.

“The transition in me had started. That song was about my journey. But at that time we couldn’t have showed it in the video. People were not ready for it.” He had not gone public with his change then. But he had started visiting religious scholars for his own inner healing. “I had everything — fame, money. But I did not feel complete. Being in a masjid made me feel at peace. Masjids still have the same effect on me. It is the place where we discover humanity. I confess that I had no plans of leaving music at that time. But I could feel I was changing. I couldn’t run away from it.”

And does he miss his past life? “Naheen yaar. No withdrawal symptoms of my past life. I own and cherish my time with Vital Signs. I am happy that as a singer I contributed to my country in a positive way. I lived that part of my life to the fullest. But now that is the past,” he said, with a direct look, again defying the pre-conceived notion that he no longer talks to women directly or makes eye contact with the opposite sex.

Ramzan offering

This Ramzan he will be seen again on TV every day, all through the holy month, sharing what he knows. “It will be different,” he said, alluding to an approach that relies on more outreach as opposed to sermons. He agrees that people should be sensitised about civic responsibilities through religious shows. “Breaking a red signal, parking a car behind someone’s, evading taxes: I consider all of these major sins. Religion IS about being a better, more considerate human.”

While Junaid is armed with Islamic study and training, he stops people from calling him amaulana. “It is a compliment when people call me that but I don’t think I am worthy of that.” His pet peeve is “When people use the word mullah or maulvi in a derogatory way.” For now, it appears that he is neither and defies being pegged as one thing or another.

Making a difference

We highlight three other people who are acting much in the same way as Junaid Jamshed to help those around them

Sarfaraz Rehman

The CEO of Dawood Foundation smiles a guarded smile, instantly commands respect, has a command over literature and poetry, and completely owns the floor when he begins public speaking. He is best known for being associated with CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). “Religion is more than just spiritual and ritualistic attainment. It is a code of life intertwined with a belief in Allah, which then helps one live in a fair, calm, equitable manner and makes the plank of value addition to the community a major goal,” says the man who uses religion to support his mentoring and academic activities. The Dawood Foundation just finished a city campus for the Karachi School for Business & Leadership, a graduate management school, established in strategic collaboration with the University of Cambridge, Judge Business School.

Hina Shamsi Nauman

With infectious energy, this mother of three wants to contribute to society. You can find her planting mangroves with her students to fight delta flooding, or selling hand-crafted environment-friendly stationery made by physically challenged people. She teaches Quranictafseer to groups of women, and teaches business ethics and what Islam says about that at university. From a traditionally religious family, she studied Islam in-depth by choice at a more mature stage, and feels that “a leap of faith is what it takes to discover oneself. But it was not easy coming out of the closet about it”. A teacher for the past seven years, this business grad decided to bring religion to her university students, breaking the taboo that religious discussions are only for the madrassas.

Aly Balgamwala

They call him “disco maulvi” and he fits the bill, happy with the description. He tweets incessantly, has his hand in a lot of social causes, and blogs. An entrepreneur by profession, the tech-savvy Aly’s niche is activism for social causes through social media, be it the cause of a better Karachi or raising civic awareness. As a founding trustee of Ihsaas Trust, a not-for-profit set up to provide Islamic Microfinance along with other charitable work, he and his team “use this platform to advocate husn-e-khuluq (good behaviour/ethics) as taught by Islam within the context of business and personal life.” Aly has been a volunteer teacher at “Active Saturdays”, a Saturday class for young men aged 10 to 15 years.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, July 21st, 2013.

Dignity restored: The blessing of being ‘dry’

Read this & realize your blessings! You can save a woman’s life by donating to Koohi goth Fistula Hospital Karachi.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Koohi-Goth-Hospital/460865483924659

Published: June 30, 2013

Only 30 surgeons in Pakistan can treat the condition. PHOTO: SARAH MUNIR

KARACHI: It is 99.9% a disease of extremely poor women. Nobody from the affluent families will suffer from it. So long as its poor women, no one cares, says Dr Shershah Syed, the man responsible for setting up Koohi Goth Hospital, the only primary healthcare facility for women suffering from the condition called fistula.

He has made possible the treatment of 10,000 women suffering from the unthinkable medical condition. Yet, it’s not enough. Every year, the list of women who are suffering from a fistula increases by 5,000 approximately, and trained surgeons in Pakistan who can perform the surgery that can cure them are just 30! Yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Selling goats to get treatment

Nineteen-year-old Noorbano from Khuzdar, Balochistan, is one such woman. She walks slowly towards the dining area from her bed in the recovery ward of the Koohi Goth Hospital. Her wounds are still raw. She has had three surgeries and has three more to go. “I developed the fistula during the birth of my second baby who did not survive. I would keep leaking all the time. Nobody even wanted to sit next to me,” she explains with the help of a translator. “It’s my husband who supported me. He had a few goats which he sold for my treatment. We travelled from Khuzdar to Hub and from there to Karachi. It was worth it,” she says with a smile.

As fistula is directly related to poverty and lack of resources, Balochistan has the most patients, followed by rural areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh.

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Pakistan’s understated scandal

“Is it not the biggest scandal that 30,000 young women are dying every year due to pregnancy-related causes and no one cares?” says Dr Shershah.

The women suffering from obstetric fistula develop the condition when child birth is not done by trained medical persons and the nearest hospital is at times hours away in rural Pakistan with no infrastructure or money to travel. “If the labour is prolonged, which is mostly when the woman is having her first baby, the baby’s head may get stuck in the birth canal in a way that it keeps pushing against the thin wall between the bladder or rectum and the wall of the birth canal, thereby causing and tear,” says Dr Suboohi Mehdi, one of the surgeons at Koohi Goth Hospital.

Another way a fistula may be formed is when an unskilled surgeon performs a surgery and by mistake causes a cut in the bladder or rectum.

Apart from treating women at the Koohi Goth facility, completely free of cost, a midwifery school is training midwives to help women deliver safely. Surgeons are trained to perform the surgeries, and teams then setup small units all over Pakistan. The patients are taught life skills and vocations during the long rehabilitation process. The hospital relies on donations for its running.

The answer lies in efforts for better maternal health for the women of Pakistan.

“The dream is very simple – that every woman has a right  to basic obstetric care, in case of an emergency, at her doorstep, free of charge. And it can be done,” says a hopeful Dr Shershah.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2013.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/570321/dignity-restored-the-blessing-of-being-dry/