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After the heatwave: Invisible helpers continue to take care of victims’ families

Published: July 14, 2015
Volunteers hand out water bottles and juice to people outside Indus Hospital during the recent heatwave that gripped the metropolis. Over 1,200 people died of heatstroke in the city. PHOTO: FILE

Volunteers hand out water bottles and juice to people outside Indus Hospital during the recent heatwave that gripped the metropolis. Over 1,200 people died of heatstroke in the city. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: A few weeks ago, Imran’s mother and others like her were making headlines. Today, they have been forgotten by all except their loved ones. Officially, over 1,200 people lost their lives to the brutal heatwave that gripped Karachi. Mumtaz Bibi, Imran’s mother, was one of these victims, reduced to a mere statistic.

“We live in tiny houses with tin roofs that become cauldrons in the summer,” explains Imran, who sells fabric and lives with three siblings in their house in Korangi. “My mother could not take the heat. We rushed her to Jinnah hospital, where she succumbed to the heatstroke five days later.”

Read: The need to acknowledge climate change

The sole help Imran and his family have received has been from a group of Karachiites who mobilised volunteers and raised funds to help the heatwave victims, both in terms of relief during those sweltering days and sustained efforts to help the families of the deceased later.

Team Karachi, as it is called, was formed at the time of the earthquake in 2005. We rush to help whenever there is a disaster,” says Muhammad Zahid, head of the Shariah compliance department of Pak-Qatar Family Takaful Limited, and one of the most active members of the group.

Read: Karachi heatwave: NEPRA faults K-Electric for deaths

In the absence of any support from the government, 35 families of heatwave victims have so far been given grants of Rs30,000 to Rs50,000 with the help of donations from concerned Karachiites, Zahid discloses.

“The government and some philanthropists announced compensation but the questions of how much, when and how remain unanswered,” Team Karachi’s Saqib Zeeshan, the head of marketing at the Indus Hospital, says wryly. “It is always the people who step forward to help. I don’t have the words to describe how many people volunteered, donated and raised funds.”

However, while the support from Team Karachi has given temporary relief to the families of the heatwave victims, the future looks less promising for them.

“My father-in-law had just gone out to sell balloons as usual. He came back home, complaining about feeling hot, and later developed fever. We rushed him to the hospital, but he passed away,” weeps Farida, who lives in Yusuf Goth. Although she is grateful for the grant from Team Karachi, she says that a large chunk of that money was spent on his funeral rites. The rest was spent in paying off loans the family took at the time. “My children have no new clothes for Eid. We don’t even have enough money for a Fateha for the departed soul.”

Read: Lessons from the heat wave

Similarly, 54-years-old Suleman, a peon at a government office, left behind a widow and three children when he succumbed to the heat. “His eldest son is just 15. His widow should get compensation and his pension as a government employee,” reasons Sajid, his nephew. “But everyone says this will not be possible without a bribe of at least Rs100,000. Where will a 15-year-old boy get that sort of money?”

Zeeshan narrates that the OPDs at Indus Hospital were converted into emergency camps for the heatwave victims, with all of the hospital’s doctors deployed there on an ad hoc basis. “In four days, we treated around 2,200 patients. Handling them and keeping them hydrated was a tough task, and volunteer organisations helped us immensely,” he says, adding that people were so eager to help that the hospital decided to let them distribute supplies themselves.

Efforts have been made so that lives can be saved if a similar catastrophe hits the city in the future, with attention directed to smaller health facilities and hospitals that are usually neglected. At Landhi General Hospital, for example, Team Karachi has helped install industrial exhaust fans to cool down the emergency wards. The water and sewage lines that were mixed near the hospital have also been separated and water filters installed to provide cold water.

Read: Heat is on: Similar heatwave may scorch Pakistan in 2016

Such efforts need to continue. After all, as Zeeshan points out, “It is always only the people who step up and offer help.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2015.

A pure word is charity….a smile is charity…

We cannot get unless we learn to give… Give love, care, service….give a part of ourselves to get. This is the teaching of our beloved Prophet (saw). This nasheed is special for me as in the month of Ramadan this is a beautiful reminder. Here, as a fan of Sami Yusuf’s work, I share one of his most beautiful Nasheeds, called “Healing” that talks about how only in giving can we get….and only by healing others can we heal ourselves. Sami Yusuf’s nasheeds touch the hurt. He has given the Islamic ideals of love of the Prophet (saw), humanity, service to Allah’s creation and appreciating relationships a new surge with his tender beautiful vocals and touching lyrics. He is a British Nasheed artist, songwriter, composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist musician of Azerbaijani descent. SamiYusuf-webopener02 I personally love the Arabic version. Here is the English version with a bit of Arabic.

The most beautiful part of this rendition is the end….for those who know, the joy is even more, listening to the hadith of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) that explains how every good word is charity (Sadaqa); a smile is charity; every good good deed is charity. Happy listening and understanding. And thank you Sami Yusuf. I pray more people understand this.

“Healing”

VERSE 1:

It’s so hard to explain
قد يصعب عليّ أن أعبر

What I’m feeling
عمّا يختلج في قلبي

But I guess it’s ok
لكن اعتقادي

Cause I’ll keep believing
ينبع من إيماني

There’s something deep inside
هناك شيء في الأعماق

Something that’s calling
ينادي

It’s calling you and I
يناديني ويناديك

It’s taking us up high
يرتقي بنا إلى الأعلى

CHORUS:

Healing, a simple act of kindness brings such meaning
الشفاء … قد يتجسّد في عمل بسيط لطيف

A smile can change a life let’s start believing
بسمة قد تغير حياة الإنسان

And feeling, let’s start healing
فلنبدأ بعمل يكون فيه شفاء

VERSE 2:

Heal and you will be healed
شفاء بشفاء .. ومع كل شفاء شفاء

Break every border
اكسر القيود والحدود

Give and you will receive
اعط تُعطى .. فالعطاء يوجب عطاء

It’s Nature’s order
نظام كوني رباني

There is a hidden force
هناك قوى خفية

Pulling us closer
تجذب بعضنا لبعض

It’s pulling you and I
تجذبني أنا وأنت

It’s pulling us up high
تجذبنا للأعلى

CHORUS:

Healing, a simple act of kindness brings such meaning
الشفاء … قد يتجسّد في عمل بسيط لطيف

A Smile can change a life let’s start believing
بسمة قد تغير حياة الإنسان

And feeling, let’s start healing
فلنبدأ بعمل يكون فيه شفاء

MIDDLE 8:

Hearts in the hand of another heart and in God’s hand are all hearts
قلب بين يدي قلب و بيد الله كل قلب

An eye takes care of another eye and from God’s eye nothing hides
عين ترعى عينا .. وعين الله ترعى، و لا شيء عنه يخفى

Seek only to give and you’ll receive
إسع نحوالعطاء… و ستلقى و تعطى

So, heal and you will be healed
إشف.. و سوف تشفى

OUTRO (x2):

قلب بين يدي قلب و بيد الله كل قلب

عين ترعى عينا، وعين الله ترعى

كلمة طيبة صدقة

A pure word is charity (Hadith)

تبسمك لأخيك صدقه

To smile at your brother is charity (Hadith – Tirmidhi)

كل معروف صدقة

Every good deed is charity (Hadith)

اللهم اشف شفاءً لا يغادر سقماً

“O Allah,

Heal….

A healing that leaves no sickness.”

[Part of a Hadith: Bukhari, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, and others]

This Eid, give back!

Published: July 28, 2014

Food distribution at Rafah Camp in Gaza. PHOTO: PCRF.NET

As the official number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) post operation Zarb-e Azb crosses a jarring one million mark and the death toll in Gaza looks ready to touch a thousand, Eid celebrations are laced by an underlying guilt and helplessness. Fortunately, people from across the world are coming up with ways to make it more meaningful for those in the straits of war.

While the world looks on in horror at the genocide in Palestine, each one of us is processing it in our own way. We, in Pakistan, protest on streets in small numbers and purge on social media in large numbers but only a committed few attempt to boycott products that directly benefit the perpetrators. Some creative youngsters like Saad Shahid and Hassan Iqbal are doing their part by selling T-shirts.There’s is a charity with a refreshing twist. Saad, founder of 9Lines, is the entrepreneur while Hassan is the creative genius. The two partners could not sit and watch what was happening and  came up with a collection of six T-shirts with catchy phrases, highlighting the Gaza cause. “The project has done extremely well. We get orders in large numbers, never single orders. People buy them to gift to others,” Saad says. They have sold more than 850 shirts already.  “All the proceeds go to our brothers and sisters in Palestine who deserve monetary and emotional help. This is our small contribution towards people who should be remembered, loved and cared for.”

Relief bags for IDPs prepared by Owais Sheikh and his team.

PHOTO: 9LINES.SHOP.WEB.PK

While 9Lines is a commercial set-up, focused primarily on selling fashion and lifestyle products, the dynamic duo have gravitated towards including charitable causes apart from helping Palestine as well. For instance, they have recently conducted a similar venture for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust wherein they had a stall and sold notebooks of Imran Khan for Rs600. The proceedings went back to the hospital. “Our future plan also includes a school to educate and place eunuchs at respectable jobs. They shouldn’t be mocked; instead they should be acknowledged as a respectable minority of Pakistan,” Saad says.

When it comes to charity, there is hardly a dearth of outlets one can take if they wish to give back. There is a general perception that the IDPs of North Waziristan have not been able to garner the kind of wave of charity that we saw after the earthquake of 2005 or floods of 2010. But the ‘Directory of Organizations Providing Relief to IDPs of North Waziristan’, complied by the Pakistan Centre for Development Communication (PCDC), sets the record straight by enlisting more than 60 NGOs, UN agencies and volunteers. The directory also identifies where exactly the donations will be going and provides information about donors, NGOs, social groups and volunteers that are providing relief to the affected families.

Owais Sheikh’s name may not be listed in the directory but this banker-cum-businessman has used each moment of the holy month of Ramazan wisely. Thanks to him and the many volunteers that helped, some 500 families in Bannu will not go hungry on Eid. Shaikh is hardly a novice at giving back to society. He spearheaded a similar drive in the wake of the disastrous floods as well.

“We don’t wake up till something becomes real,” Sheikh says about the lack of help from Pakistanis this time. He believes that people are now coming around and want to help but don’t know how to go about it. Not to mention, if the organisation leading the drive is deemed trustworthy, people would not hesitate to give back as much. “We have to understand the seriousness of the IDP issue. There are no camps as such. The displaced people are all staying at homes of their relatives,” he says, confirming that while the open-hearted hosts have welcomed the displaced, most of them lack adequate resources for themselves. And if the host has no food to offer, both families go hungry. “The tribals are a prouder race so they don’t want to beg. We have to help them out without their asking,” says Shaikh. The bags made by Shaikh and his team cost Rs 1,833 each, and are to last a family of five a week, with 12 items in each bag. Hailing from a military background, Shaikh is taking the help of rangers and using it to his advantage. “If we do not look after the IDPs, the vicious cycle will continue and more extremists will be created. This is our final run as a country. If we don’t help them out, tomorrow they will be against us.” Unlike many who feel charity begins at home and should stay at home, Shaikh emphasises that the two concerns, that is the one for IDPs and the one for Gaza, are not mutually exclusive.

A design by 9Lines. PHOTO: 9LINES.SHOP.WEB.PK

Disconnecting ourselves from what is going on around us is not an option this Eid. While our efforts maybe tiny drops in the ocean, taking a single step and being generous will help make Eid better for everyone around the world.

How You Can Help

The number of registered families of IDPs is currently 49,857. This is expected to rise to 60,000.

IDPs of North Waziristan:

•  Check out this directory at https://sites.google.com/site/thecivilsocietyforumofpakistan/list-of-donors-ngos-providing-relief-to-idps-of-waziristan

•  Look out for individual drives and volunteers leading donation drives.

•  Get in touch with people of the area and once you have found credible contacts, start a donation drive yourself with your friends. The IDPs will need our help for a long time to come.

Gaza:

•  Buy T-shirts for the Gaza cause from 9Lines at http://9lines.shop.web.pk/

•  Get money across to the Palestine RED CRESCENT. One way of sending funds to them or other credible organisations is to get in touch with the Embassy of the state of Palestine in Pakistan at palestine.pk65@hotmail.com or palestineembassy.com.pk

•  Donations can be made online to The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) at http://www.pcrf.net/

•  Be on the lookout for individuals and groups collecting funds for Gaza but make sure you have checked out credibility.

Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, July 27th, 2014.

 

http://tribune.com.pk/story/740601/this-eid-give-back/

Can I Give Charity to a Thief, a Prostitute or a Non-deserving Person During Ramadan?

 

By Farahnaz Zahidi

Published in Huff Post Religion on July 9, 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/farahnaz-zahidi/can-i-give-charity-to-a-t_b_5553031.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Pakistan is internationally known for many things. For the surge of extremism. For the footballs we supplied to the World Cup. For an often exaggerated emphasis on the “miseries” of its people. But it is lesser known for being one of the most charitable nations in the world. It is amazing how much the people of this country give and share. The sense of giving back to one’s community is deeply ingrained in our system. We give whether we are rich or poor. We share whether we ourselves have enough or not. If you are in Pakistan in Ramadan especially, on every signal you will be handed over boxes of dates and bottles of water. Outside homes, on sidewalks or in mosques, makeshift feasts await you. At a recent journalism moot in Mexico, a friend from South Africa nailed it when she said “I think it has a lot to do with how much Islam stresses charity.”

PAKISTAN-RELIGION-ISLAM-RAMADAN

This is true. We take the idea very seriously that charity washes away sins, wards off bad luck, wins us the pleasure of Allah and lands us in Paradise. In Ramadan, the reward, as per our belief, is multiplied into 70. So Ramadan is when all good causes like education, public health and food insecurity make enough money to last the next 11 months.

Yet, in the same country, I have witnessed communities waiting for hand-me-downs and food, with not a rupee of charity flowing towards them. The reason has been nothing but misplaced judgment.
More than once, my research as a journalist led me to the most infamous red light district in Pakistan. Heera Mandi, in Lahore, has since the time of Mughals housed courtesans, dancers and commercial sex workers. But time has been unkind to the people here. Today, most of them have moved away to better, more lucrative localities as escorts. What remains is a ghetto of very poor women, runaway or orphaned children and some scattered members of the marginalized transgender community. And no one wants to give charity to the people of Heera Mandi.

“We are dirty. We are in the filthy business. So no one gives us anything,” said a disgruntled 20 something sex worker when I visited. It was a Friday, the holy day of the week for Muslims. Incense burnt in her shoddy apartment to create an ambiance of purity. The woman had bathed and prayed that day. Ramadan was a few days away. “I wish someone would give me enough food or money that I can at least not have to do this work in Ramadan. I need a break, too to pray to God.”
On my return, I asked around if anyone wanted to donate for them. No one opted.

This attitude is not reserved for sex workers only, and not specific to Pakistan. Neither is this brand of judgment or ostracization specific to Muslims. A friend from Manchester shared that a project trying to collect donations for inmates in jails got a similar response. “They would say, ‘will our charity go towards feeding a killer or a thief?'”

For years, as both a student and teacher of Islamic Studies, I have wondered why we pass judgments on the ones we give charity to. Is their “good character” a pre-requisite to give them charity?

Thus, in giving, we place ourselves on a pedestal of piety. And this idea is not in synch with what the Qur’an endorses or what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) practically did.

There is a prophetic tradition narrated in the Saheeh Bukhari that tells us that there was once a man who decided that that very night he would give charity. Accordingly, he set out with his charity and gave it to a thief. The next day people began to say, ‘Last night a thief was given charity!’ So the man supplicated, ‘O Allah, to You belongs all the praise. I shall give some more charity again.’

Once again he set off with his charity and gave it to a prostitute. The next day people began talking, ‘Last night charity was given to a prostitute.’ So the man supplicated again, ‘O Allah, I praise You for enabling me to give charity to even a prostitute; I will give some more charity yet again.’

He set out again with his charity and this time put it in the hands of a rich man. The next day the people talked again, ‘Last night charity was given to a rich man.’ The man supplicated, ‘O Allah, all praise is Yours, I thank you for enabling me to give charity to a thief, a prostitute and to a rich man.’
Then, in a vision he was told, ‘The charity you gave to the thief might persuade him to stop stealing; your charity to the prostitute might persuade her give up her way of life. As for the rich man, he might learn a lesson from your charitable giving and start to spend from the Bounty that Allah has given him in charity.’

In the Battle of Badr between Muslims and the pagans of Mecca, the Muslim camp won and ended up with 70 prisoners of the pagans. These were people thirsty for their blood. But the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) exhorted the Muslims to treat the prisoners well. So much stress was placed on showing compassion that the captors would give the captives their own bread, even at the risk of going hungry themselves.

What I have learnt from the life of the Prophet (pbuh) is simple. That when I give, I give, without judging whether that person is deserving and pious, or not. It is not my place to do that. It is only God’s right to judge. Because my Merciful Lord continues to give me, whether I am deserving or not.