How to find "Buzurg" and "Wali" of AllahDuring the late 1970s I started reading extensively and would read whatever came my way. This decade was probably the peak of monthly magazines or "digests" publications. Taking cue from the Reader's Digest and success of Urdu magazines such as Urdu Digest and Sayyara Digest, several "digests" became popular such as Subrung Digest, Jasoosi Digest, and Suspense Digest. Most of them relied upon crime, fiction and suspense short stories translated in Urdu from the West. However, some like Subrung Digest acquired a distinctive position due to the original fiction produced in Urdu, of which some of the long running series are now considered epic.
Each monthly edition of Subrung Digest would contain an inspirational story about some sufi saint or waliullah. The stories were seeped with sufistic terminology, and would invariably contain riveting anecdotes about the karamaat, kashf, jazb, haal, and other spiritual and super natural experiences of a famous waliullah who had lived some centuries ago. The stories were very impressionable and very moving and would make me reflect on them for days and weeks. I started wondering if I can see or meet some such sahib e kashf o karamaat waliullah.
One day I asked my mother, whether there existed in today's world such a waliullah or not. My mother was a voracious reader of Urdu and English literature and fiction and Islamic texts. One of my standing assignments was to visit at least once a month to British Council Library and/or National Council Library and bring at least eight to ten books of fiction for her. These she would devour in a couple of weeks creating a pressure on me to go and revisit and bring some more. In addition to these we had a regular subscription of Urdu Digest, Al-Ibqa and many of the magazines mentioned above would find their way in to our house from one source or the other. I remember, her morning after fajr would always start (barring serious illness), with a reading of Quran and hadith with tafseer and commentary followed by duas. She had by the late 1970s gone through Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi's Bayan ul Quran, Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi's Tafseer e Majdi, Maulana Maudoodi's Tafheem ul Quran, and Maulana Shabbir A Usmani's Tafseer e Usmani. Later she would go through other tafaseers such as Mufti Mohammad Shafi's Maariful Quran. The reply that she gave to my question about whether waliullah exist today, opened my eyes and makes me reflect to this day on what she said then:
She said that in today's world of corruption and materialism, a person who is careful enough to earn his living only through halaal means is a "waliullah". On my question where to find such people, she said that you do not have to look far. See around you. Often these people may be around you and you would not notice them. And, then she pointed out to me some people in my family who worked in positions where there often is a great temptation but made sure that they only adopt the halaal means. She pointed out that my uncle Osman Hyder (taya) was in an influential position in engineering department, Rasheeduddin Hyder (phuppa) was in Customs, and Ahsan Hyder (my father) was in finance and budget. She said that their earnings are only halaal and these are the real walis because in today's day and age it takes a great amount of courage, yaqeen, qanaat and taaluq billah to resist the temptations for self aggrandizement. They try their best to help others and not be a source of inconvenience or harm to those with whom they come in contact.
Reflecting on the lives of these people, I now see the significance of this verse from Iqbal and relate it at the end to a teaching of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi.
Khuda Ke Ashiq To Hain Hazaron, Bannu Mein Phirte Hain Mare Mare
Mein Uss Ka Banda Bano Ga Jis Ko Khuda Ke Bandon Se Pyar Ho Ga
[There are thousands of God’s Lovers, who are roaming in the wilderness
I shall adore the one who will be the lover of God’s people]
I reflect upon the following commonalities that I observed in the lives of people pointed out by my mother:
With partition and migration whatever their family had in India was gone. They started in Pakistan from scratch and built what they have now from scratch; with hard work, toil and tremendous thrift while keeping all their social and religious responsibilities.
The first thing one would notice is their simplicity and regularity. Between the first time I saw them in the sixties and the time when they died around thirty to forty years later, I didn't see much of a change in their life style. Their dressing was simple, clean, elegant and functional. Dressing was not done to impress the others with brands and fashion statements. I don't think they would replace their clothes unless they were worn out or torn or unwearable. They would wear white Aligarh cut pyjama and kurta and would don sherwani on formal occasions. They would always make sure that their shoes would be shining and also of those around them. My father would not let me walk out of the house without proper shine on the shoes. He would even make me sit down with the shoes of the visiting relative (who happens to be wearing a shoe that had not seen polish for some time) and shine the shoes for him. The same care I saw Rasheeduddin Hyder and Osman Hyder with their shoes and those around them. The lesson that they gave us with their clothing and shoes was that the cost and style of the shoe is not as important as how you keep it and take care of it.
They had a distinctive habit of thrift and conservation. They would not like to throw away the wrappers, shopping bags, boxes if they can find some use for it. They would always be thinking of reuse. Ahsan Hyder could be seen often cutting long strips from card boxes that could be used to light one oven burner from the other thereby saving a matchstick. If you wanted a shopping bag, you were bound to find one just the right size tucked under his bed. Osman Hyder would often give me small pen holders and writing pad holder made of used card boxes. There would always be a regular supply of note pads available for use near the telephone for noting down numbers and addresses; note pads not bought from the store, but carefully cut from plain paper or hand bills that were about to be thrown away. Compare this with our present throwaway mentality and the waste with which we are polluting the environment.
Come rain, hail or shine, you would see them praying in the mosque (barring serious health reasons). It appeared that all the daily chores, and the programs of life were scheduled in a way to enable the prayers with jamaah. Once when I was staying at Phuppa Rasheed's place, I noticed a very interesting phenomenon. Around his house near Nazimabad Club, Block 4, there were four/five mosques that he used to pray in some kind of a rotation. The zuhr would often be at Masjid Tauheed, Maghrib often at Hadi Market Mosque and Darusalaam Mosque would be fajr and the others at Masjid Khairul Amal. The routine changed during the last years of his life when it became difficult for him to walk. Taya Osman Hyder would pray in Masjid Ahbab regularly. One day, when he was quite old and frail, someone in his house who had offered him to drive him to the mosque got a bit late in coming out, he became agitated and irritated and started walking himself. I saw the person catching him on the way, cruising along in the car requesting him to come inside and take a ride but he kept on refusing. I was on my motorcycle, I requested him that he can come with me, and then he relented and went to the mosque on a motorcycle and not on car. Giving a message that prayers can not wait. When Ahsan Hyder left for the hereafter in 2003, imam of Masjid Ghausia where he used to pray announced after asar prayers that a regular namazi who would be present at the time of takbeere-oola had left for the hereafter.
These were the people whose eating habits were regular with strict times for breakfast, lunch and dinner connected with the regularity of prayers. It appeared that their life events were organized to occur around the set time for the prayers. They made sure that breakfast, lunch and dinner would be at proper times, properly served with all those in the house eating together. It was inconceivable that someone visiting them around meal time would go back without eating from ma-haazir (what's there). Today the tradition of regular meal times in many homes has vanished. I know of so many children who come to school without a proper breakfast, and hence cranky and irritable. Parents do not have time to prepare and have breakfast. On the way to school, they buy and stick some junk food in the kids' bags hoping that this would substitute for a healthy meal.
Silah e rehami and care for the relatives was a consistent theme in their lives. They had a programming of some sort that told them when to meet a relative depending upon his relationship and when a visit is due. The demand to take them or to ask their children to make that visit when it became due would start getting persistence. I think this kind of mutual protocol was understood all around. Hence, when the bell ring and a relative would walk in they would welcome him with open arms as if they had been looking forward to this visit. I know this welcome and this open embrace was not superficial, I can still feel the warmth and pleasure oozing out from their welcome. The feeling was mutual. I still recall this wonderful warm feeling of welcome being exchanged in some of my visits with my father to his cousins places, even second or third cousins. When they could, they would not avoid attending a funeral or a marriage. In fact, they would make sure that someone from the family is there to attend on their behalf if they can't. This could still be seen in some from the next generation who are trying to keep up with this tradition. I think we are now making excuses for not attending and sharing during the times of sorrow and happiness using the excuse of lack of time and professional commitment, although most people have cars in their homes.
These people made sure that they go and meet the relatives and be there in janaza and shaadis even in public transport. It was sweltering hot day of May of 1990. Taya Osman Hyder who would be 80+ had come to our place. When he was leaving, at around 2pm, in the middle of the day in the scorching sun, I asked how he had come and I was surprised to learn that he had come by public transport and would now be walking about half a kilometer to the house of another relative. (I had assumed that someone was with him and has dropped him off). I offered him a ride in the only transport that I had, a motor cycle and he took it. The lack of availability of private car was not a deterrent even at this advance age to them. I am relating these examples because I think that we are forgetting the traditions. Even I do not find in myself this energy and this drive at an age which is about thirty years less than theirs at which they were using the public transport to go and meet a relative in the sweltering heat of summer. I may even be making excuses with my air conditioned cars!
Above all, comes the duty to the parents and the elders. Phuppa Rasheeduddin Hyder cared and looked after his mother (Mrs Waheeduddin Hyder) for the last four years of her life in the early 70s when she was bedridden, sick, irritable with weakness and old age. After her death, followed another four years of care and nursing for his mother in law (Mrs Abdul Ghani) who had started forgetting. Both ladies must have been in their ninetees or late eightees, both became bedridden at the end and all the care of cleaning the bed and clothes was done by Phuppa Jan and Phuppi Jan. This was the time when they discontinued all their social visits and other commitments. I can't forget the time and effort spent by him in trying to feed her mother in law. This is morning time around 1975-76. Daadi Jan is sitting on the table with him. There is this half a cup of porridge and he is trying to spoon feed her. He would hold the spoon in front of her mouth, waiting patiently for her to take it __ so patiently that each spoonful could take several minutes and what would appear to others as ages. But, more agonizing was her loss of memory and context: In between the spoons of porridge that she was taking, she would suddenly become attentive and would ask his daughter or son-in-law as to who they were and why are they in her house! From where have you come? These are the times when no old home and no nursing can be of any help beyond giving a regular doze of sedative and feeding through tubes. I don't remember at that time that there was any nursing/caring support except Phuppa Jan and Phuppi Jan and other household members taking turns in trying to provide the care. Taya Osman Hyder who used to live about a kilometer from their house made a routine to visit every night and stay with his mother also. Ahsan Hyder was then in Islamabad, but later I saw him taking care of his mother-in-law (Mrs Shah M Ibrahim) during the last few years of her life when she was well in her ninetees; disoriented, weak and forgetful, requiring constant attention, supervision and care at all times of the day and even night. Waking up at night and making sure that my grandmother is comfortable.
I saw how they cared for their parents in their old age without a wrinkle on the face, setting such a high example that I shudder with the responsibility that comes with having lived and seen people who tried their best to live their lives according to the teachings of Islam.
The other day I just chanced upon a page from the Maasir-e-Hakeem ul Ummat by Dr Abdul Hayee which contains the teachings of Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi. I was struck and dumbfounded with what I saw written there especially today when there seems to be a mad rush for the mass production of "Aalims" and "Aalimas". The page mentions Hakeem ul Ummat Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi sb as saying that he always emphasized that becoming a good human (ach-ha insaan) is more important than becoming a buzurg because a good human would be a source of benefit to the fellow people, whereas a buzurg would only be a source of benefit to himself!!!! With a heavy heart, I am afraid to relate that I have come across several certified "Aalims" and "Aalimas" coming out from such factories of mass production that need to exhibit the requisite discipline, self control, and respect and love for the fellow human beings as practiced and preached by the Hakeem ul Ummat.
[This post is also bringing to my mind reference of so many others in my family but I would probably write a separate post about them too]
[Many thanks to iqbalurdu.blogspot.com for the image of Iqbal's poetry included here and the effort made in providing this wonderful and beautiful collection of Iqbal's poetry.]
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