Most frequently dressed in his off-white ‘bosky’ Shalwar Kameez, having grayish-silver hair marking his experience; a broad forehead, indicative of his intelligence and his ever-loving, kind heart; my father, whom my siblings and I addressed as “Abba,” was the man I loved the most. To date, no-one has been able to replace him in my life! He was dignity personified. A rare combination of knowledge, creativity, humility and generosity; Abba was an epitome of fatherhood. I am fortunate to be his daughter, Alhamdulillah!
Even though my elder brother was born following the birth of three sisters, Abba revealed to my mother only at his birth, that he had thought of his son’s name, since the time my mother was expecting their first child. He never disclosed this earlier, in order not to make my mother feel inferior in any way that she had given birth to three daughters in a row!
My father was a walking-talking encyclopedia, Masha’Allah. He could speak well on politics, business, current affairs, homeopathy, literature and medicine with equivalent ease and fluency. He knew several languages including Persian and Arabic. He was an outstanding orator and a very good writer. He wrote several columns for newspapers and also poetry in his spare time. He was very sociable and was known for his amiable demeanor and respectable manners in his wide circle of friends. He was on the managing committee panel in some of the most respectable clubs of Karachi. His friends were intellectual people: poets, columnists and journalists. He was an intuitive and diligent person – completely self-made!
Abba saw several peaks and dips in his professional career as a businessman. Nevertheless, he stood consistent and persevered with faith in Allah (swt) and hope in his hard work. He was an extremely respected individual among friends and relatives alike. He had an amazing sense of humour and he thought of everyone else around him first, before himself.
Abba was a mentor to all of us. He would guide us with our studies, career choices and even tell us which books to read. I owe my hobbies of reading and writing to him. I became a successful debater in my college life, owing to his guidance. He would listen to my debates and add his insightful thoughts to those. I became the editor of the annual college magazine, only because of the love of literature that he had instilled in me. I read Iqbal, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Faiz, Ghalib, Faraz, Shakespeare, Sidney Sheldon and the like at a young age, because of the precious books in our library at home.
Abba was a kind-hearted individual. He taught us by example to be kind towards animals, not just human beings. To-date I remember his routine of going out in the balcony, every morning and calling for the birds to eat, while he would throw seeds for them and say “Chalaa” (come here). Within minutes there would be hundreds of birds surrounding him. I owe my love for animals to him. My youngest son has adopted the same from me, Alhamdulillah.
Abba never differentiated between his sons and daughters. He taught all his daughters self-reliance and independence. He taught us how to drive as soon as we reached our legal age, and emphasized on the completion of our graduation before marriage. He wanted us to be equipped with the right tools of education, so that we become a helping hand to our husbands in times of financial need (god forbid). He made sure that we learned cooking so that we could always be in a position to serve our husbands and families well. He kept an eye on all of us and never allowed any of my siblings, to be outside the house after Maghrib.
Abba’s intellect was evident from everything related to him. His graceful walk, his dignified personality, his kind speech, his out-of-the-box thinking, his untiring hard work, his dedicated contributions to Urdu literature and its promotion in clubs through different programs that he would organize, his loving nature, his caring attitude towards his family and his protective suggestions for all his children.
Abba was a true friend of our entire family. When he was advised a heart bypass surgery by his cardiologist years before he died, he chose his family over his treatment. He didn’t want to go for the operation, despite the severe blockade that was diagnosed. He did not want to spend his hard earned savings on his treatment. I was very young then, but my older siblings along with my mother forced him to go for the surgery. However, he kept procrastinating. Clearly, it was a sacrifice on his part, to secure our financial future.
There are so many moments that I can recall which make me yearn for my father. There were days, when I had severe ear ache and my father would make me sleep with him. While I lay on his wide chest, right next to my mom and him; failing to tolerate the unbearable pain, tears would flow down my cheeks. He would be up the whole night, caressing my ears and forehead, just so I could sleep for a while.
My father had a strange way of making each one of us feel special. He would call all six of us siblings separately and try to convince us that the one he was talking to was his favorite child. I don’t have a daughter, but, Alhamdulillah, I am a mother to three wonderful sons. I often wonder, if I had a daughter, would my husband have the same loving relation with her? I doubt it though. Not that my husband is not caring enough; of course, he has his ways of showing the kids how much he loves them, but it’s just that possibly no daughter in the world sees a better father than her own in anyone.
As I read the stories of Fatima (ra) taking care of her father, in times when her father Prophet Muhammad (sa) faced the worst calamities of his life, such as Khadija (ra) death; the death of his uncle Abu Talib, the humiliation at the hands of disbelievers in the form of extreme enmity, and other instances, where she tended to his wounds devotedly, at a young age; it all makes me realize that I wasn’t able to do anything tangible for my father really. If only I could have him back, I would serve him, and take care of him and just take his Duas to earn some good deeds for my Akhirah. No doubt, there’s absolutely no comparison of my relationship with that of Fatima’s (ra) with her father; however, every daughter wants to be the apple of her father’s eye and more, when she is a mother herself.
Whenever I read this Hadeeth, “The best of you is the best to his family, and I am the best of you to my family” (Tirmidhi), I say a Dua for my father, for being the best parent in the world, Alhamdulillah.
Abba stood by all of us, as a shelter from this cruel world. He visited his mother every week and sometimes, when our grandmother would come and stay with us, he would spend a lot of time with her and teach us to be kind to her, too. We had to bear many losses after my father’s sad demise. We experienced great financial losses in Abba’s business, and soon after my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sometimes I wonder, Allah (swt) was really kind that even though Abba left us suddenly, all my sisters were married to wonderful people, who became our mentors (may Allah (swt) bless them all). My older brother, who was only 22 years old at that time, became my guardian and took the responsibility of my marriage and my younger brother’s education. Alhamdulillah, we all managed to go through tough times, because of the close bonding of the family, which no one else, but Abba instilled in all of us.
Since I was young, I wanted a husband as caring and loving as my father was. It is but natural to fall in love with the first man of your life and to want a husband, who is as compassionate and caring as your father. It is a woman’s psychology to keep searching in her husband, what she has seen in her father. After all, he is the ultimate and exclusive source of pure love and sincere understanding in this world; whom Allah (swt) has made a guardian upon us.
There have been times when I have felt lonely, misunderstood or under-estimated. In those moments, I have yenned to be a child again. I have imagined Abba giving me a pat on my shoulder, a warm hug, a sincere advice, a friendly talk, a consoling response! However, I know that now it is my turn to become a consolation for my parents and to prove my sincere love for them. I try to make lots of Duas for both of them, and I request my dear readers to join me in saying Ameen to all these Duas for our parents, living or dead. May Allah (swt) enable us to do good deeds, be the coolness of the eyes and a means of Sadaqah-e-Jariah for our parents. May He give our parents, who are alive, a long, happy and healthy life full of Iman and those, who have departed, may they attain the highest ranks in Jannnat ul Firdaus.
“Rabbir ham humakamarabbayanisagheera.” (My Lord! Bestow on them (both my parents) your mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.) (Al-Isra 17:24)