My hero, the person I have admired and wanted to emulate the last eighteen years, indeed since the inception of Comfort Aid International, Abdul Sattar Edhi has died, aged 88. This holy man, may Allah bless his soul and grant him a very lofty place in Jannah, was a prime example of someone who followed the seerat of our Aimaas (A). He helped everyone in need, no questions asked. He did not ask for an ijaza, did not favor the sadaats, did not care about the discoloration between Sunni or Shia, Christian or Hindu. He helped, bas. Only because he was a real Humanist, in line with our Prophet (S). I will miss him, certainly, so will the orphans, the widows, the poor, the destitute, the sick, the abandoned dead…
Abul Sattar Edhi did not care about politics, about the injustices of world powers, about far-fetched conspiracy theories. He rolled up his sleeves and went to work, aiding and giving. True, he did not give from his pocket, but the abundant recourses he did have in his heart, of compassion and love, he gave with an uncompromising and unrelenting passion.
It is easy to sit in an air-conditioned or heated room, connect on to Facebook and lament about the world's ills. Post photos and or videos of global injustice and cry foul. As long as my ass is safe and secure. And then, when I feel a sense of guilt, marvel at the few and far between individuals who have the guts and conscience to go out and do something meaningful for a change. And sing their praises. Sure, that can be done, because talk and advice (unsolicited most times) are free. I might also take the trouble and attend a demonstration or two to make a stand. Or to see my photos on Facebook later perhaps? Khoob. It’s a beginning. Perhaps?
In India – Seven CAI Projects.
India is probably one of the most tolerant country in this crazy world of ours, in spite of many dark spots of religious violence that has marred the image in the last 67 years since independence. Considering there are more than 100 different religious sects and sub-sects practicing their beliefs in relative harmony, this is remarkable. One of the many reasons I like this country and consider it my second home. There is a sense of bindaas, a commoner, as soon as my flight touches down in Mumbai.
On this rare occasion, I am wrong, thank Allah. Mumbai and India, in general, are blessed with abundant monsoon rains this year, replenishing lakes and potable water reservoirs, giving farmers renewed hope and reasons to smile after a long time. The streets are cleansed of accumulated grime from the last nine months. Cleansed as well is the subpar tar that is supposed to hold most of Mumbai streets together, so the invisible potholes under the stagnant rainwater make the auto rickshaw shudder in alarm, its shocks protest rudely, loudly and my nerves rattle painfully. Alhamd’Allah all my teeth are still intact and healthy; else dentures would be flying about or worse, swallowed. The driver, his scalp shaved religiously clean except for a tail of coarse hair at the apex, curses the Mumbai Municipality employees, their parents and their entire progeny with choice explicit Marathi words. I understand Marathi very little, but still blush scarlet, even through my Allah blessed tan, at the selection of sleazy words he uses.
Flying in an aircraft during monsoons can be unnerving, for me, especially during landings. I want to be able to see the land below me when dropping, but that is impossible during Indian monsoons, until the last few seconds. So the final fifteen minutes or so, when the aircraft slices and rocks through thick pregnant rain-laden clouds will see my teeth clamp up, reciting multiple soora Ikhlaas. I know my fear is irrational, even after hundreds of landing under my belt already alhamd’Allah. Even though I am aware the pilots discern what they are up to with their computers and guiding equipment. Nevertheless, a computer is still a machine… So takeoffs and landings to seven CAI projects cities this India trip are not too comfortable.
CAI sponsored Sikanderpur school is up and running, with the first batch of 75 kindergarten kids in attendance. This school, in a remote UP village, offers poor students, especially girls, whose parents were reluctant or unwilling to send to far-flung facilities, an opportunity towards a quality education. Another CAI sponsored school in Hallour, again in remote UP, is well into its second academic year of excellence in education to poor students hoping for a better future insha’Allah. Our 1,400 student school in Sirsi and the 600 student school in Phandheri are robust, setting new records in excellent grades achievement. CAI built and maintained orphanages, both boys, and girls, in Sirsi and Kolkata, are prospering. Alhamd’Allah. My dream for a technical college for our children who are not academically savvy to progress into college or university settings remains a distant dream. So far. CAI is looking into a new school project in Halwana Sadaat, another deprived area of UP where the thirst for education is intense, that CAI is more than interested to quench if the project passes apt due diligence scrutiny.
At the Zahra Boys Home in Sirsi, the orphans join me in my daily exercise routine, breaking into a sweat after fajr salaat. We have done this bonding every time in my last five visits. This is an excellent opportunity to lose myself in innocent banter and laughter. High on surging hormones after the exercise, we sit and chat; I give them a pep talk about the importance of education and good moral character. Then I ask them what they aspire to be after graduation. To my shock and pleasure, a boy says he wants to be like me. As I gape at him in astonishment, others too, out of politeness perhaps, chime in with similar sentiments. Wow! Do I want to cry or do I want to weep! Even with all these seemingly progressive achievements, I remain, strangely, restless. It is because of this guy Abdul Sattar Edhi, I know. His demise has brought the transient nature of my life into focus again, even though the Quraan admonishes this reminder at me every morning. It has awakened a sense of urgency in me, to do more. I want us at CAI to do more, much more.
We face human tragedies daily; carnages of war, death, misery and unimaginable pain; the cruelty of human on fellow humans, as they shred and burn flesh with bombs, cut down lives with guns or mow them down with trucks. All in the name of a kind and merciful God.
I will try and follow Abdul Sattar Edhi’s model in dealing with this brutality and injustice insha’Allah. CAI will help and aid, with compassion and love, all who are entitled to this empathy and affection. I have resolved to let Allah handle and correct the bigger picture; to deal into why or how or who of these calamities. We at CAI, and I, will roll up our sleeves and offer whatever solace that Allah makes possible our way. It’s the least we can do, no?