Bashka Voda – Part 2

Bashka Voda 2

“Where should we start from?” I asked. This raised a few eyebrows, as according to the picture Aida had painted, they were not expecting much interaction. I was supposed to have lectured like the Khutbah of the Friday prayer and leave; they were to listen respectfully and quietly.

I encouraged them by asking questions like how they were instructed in schools about Islam and so on. Finally, a 14-year-old sister said shyly: “Can you, please, start from zero? We were told in schools that there is no God.”

I was dumbfounded. This was the least of what I expected. I glanced at the rest of the class and found people nodding their heads. She was not alone.

I took a deep breath and started slowly and deliberately, as it would have been a disaster, if Aida misunderstood this delicate topic.

To read the rest of this article, and more, subscribe to Hiba Magazine.

About Suleman Ahmer

Suleman Ahmer is CEO and lead facilitator of “Timelenders”, a management consulting and training firm.

A Meaningful Life

Meaningful Life

“If what we do today doesn’t impact this world a hundred years down the road, then it is simply a waste of time!” Suleman Ahmer, CEO “Timelenders”.

This rings true for parents, especially when we consider our parenting priorities and what we envision for our children. Are we simply feeding and schooling a child to become another ordinary but self-centered individual, who would depart from this world having contributed nothing to it? Or, are we moulding our kids into extraordinary individuals, who will impact the Ummah with such dynamism that its echo will sound hundred years from now?

How many of us even know what we want out of our own lives? Planning is a Sunnah of the Prophet (sa). Allah (swt) put in six days to meticulously create the heavens and the earth. What should be a meaningful life for us? Suleman Ahmer offers four key elements.

Strategic vision

There is no wrong or right definition of the word ‘vision’, as every person perceives it differently. However, it means ‘the picture of the future we want to see’. A long-term sound vision is a life which has clarity and correctness.

A parent might wish for his/her child to grow up to be a good Muslim. However, although correct, this vision is unclear. Do they want him/her to serve the Ummah, while pursuing religious education? The child may become a Khateeb (speaker), an Imam, a Mufakkir (thinker or scholar), or a Mufti (religious law expert), etc. Likewise, do the parents wish for him to become a doctor, a lawyer, an economist and serve Islam and Muslims in these spheres of life? We should try to balance out what we want for the lives of our children with what they want to become. If we want him to become an engineer, while he would prefer to be a writer, there would be a clash of visions the parents have and the child has. Parents should be facilitators, helping their children to move towards their own goals. It is also the responsibility of parents to train their children such that it makes them wish for worthy goals.

Kamila: She Dared Where Many Men Hesitated (Part 3)

Kamila

“Assalam Alaikum, brother Yusuf,” I notice the British accent. “The refugees had told me about you and brother Abbas.”

She was around twenty years of age, with south Indian features and not more than five feet tall; her slight built would not let her look short. She looked simple in a Hijab, someone you would hardly notice on an average day in a Muslim country. In Orebic’, that December afternoon, she was nothing less than a mystery. I was seized by curiosity: “Who is she? What made her come? How did she make it?”

I returned her Salam and sipped on the dark bitter coffee – the only expression of hospitality that life in exile allowed the Bosnians. “I have gathered that you will be visiting the other rest house,” she started out, “I would like to come along, as I have to visit a seriously ill girl there.”

To read the rest of this article, purchase this issue of Hiba Magazine from our online store.

About Suleman Ahmer

Suleman Ahmer is CEO and lead facilitator of “Timelenders”, a management consulting and training firm.

Basheer: A Friend’s Farewell

basheer

March, 1999

The assassin didn’t have to wait for long in the cold, winter morning: Basheer was seldom late.

I was in Florida, raising funds, when the news came. It was a shock: I was with him just a couple of months ago. The sequence of events, as they had probably occurred, flashed into my mind.

Basheer has to be in office in Dushanbe – the capital of Tajikistan – by 8:00 a.m. to let the other officers in. Dawlat Baig picked him up at 7:40 a.m. I had accompanied Dawlat Baig a number of times. As we would pull up the car, Basheer would appear out of the sea of people, walking briskly with long, purposeful strides with an air of confidence and mission. To be at the intersection on time, he would have left at least five minutes earlier, putting him in the line of fire precisely at 7:35 a.m. on Monday, January 11, 1999.

The first time I met him was at the Tajik refugee camps in Afghanistan in 1997. He was tall, slim and strongly built. He had become fluent in Persian and wore traditional Afghan dresses. What gave him away were his strong Arab-Berber features. A smile was never far from his stern face, which spoke of years of struggle and hardship.

The eldest son of a government officer, he came from a village 200 miles from the capital of Algeria. He gave up his studies in Engineering to help out in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. He later joined BIF (Benevolence International Foundation) to provide relief assistance to the Tajik refugees in Afghanistan.

Life was hard in the camps in Kunduz and Takhar – the northern Afghan provinces bordering Tajikistan – with no electricity, running water or communication. Food and medicines were always limited. Malaria, Typhoid and TB were close to assuming epidemic proportions. Basheer was going down with Typhoid every year, spending weeks in bed.

I once asked him how he managed to stay there for five years. “I can’t see myself deserting these people,” he had said. “I see myself as holding a post. If we leave, the vultures will come in.” He was referring to some of the secular organizations. Alarmed by the return of the Tajik refugees to Islam, they were trying to compel the Muslim relief organizations to leave. These organizations had one camp in their control where they distributed music and movies, while the children in the Muslim-run camps learned the Quran.

He had kept in touch with his family through letters, which would take up to six months to reach Algeria. We decided to arrange for a phone call. Using a wireless set, we connected via radio to Peshawar and then through telephone to Algeria. It was a joyous occasion, as the family hadn’t heard his voice in five years. They initially failed to recognize him, as out of emotion, he could only speak in his adopted Persian. He had broken down during the call and wept.

Basheer managed a staff of twenty-four Tajik Muslims in the refugee camps, and I could see the love and respect that flowed towards him. I didn’t have a shred of doubt that these Tajiks could have easily stood in the line of fire for him.

He was like a father to the orphans, who loved him dearly. Some didn’t know their fathers but they knew Basheer. I asked some of the young orphans – I didn’t ask the older kids, as they understood – where the money for their sponsorship came from. They pointed to Basheer. I explained that Basheer was just an officer, and the money came from the Muslims in the US. They weren’t convinced: it was Basheer who cared for them. To those little, simple minds, that was what really mattered. I gave up. I wish could tell them now that Basheer gave much more than care: he ultimately gave his life.

This dedication and compassion endeared Basheer to the Tajik Muslims. He loved them, and, yes, they loved him. He gradually became an inalienable part of the Tajik cause, a hero who had come from a faraway land. As the Tajik Muslims struggled in their war against the Communists, Basheer stood by them, supporting their orphans, running clinics, sharing their joy, and wiping their tears. His presence whispered to the Tajiks: “I believe in you and your struggle. Don’t give up.”

In the summer of 1997, the refugees started moving back into Tajikistan, bringing an end to the five years of exile. Deciding to start work in Tajikistan, we established an office for BIF in Dushanbe in November 1997, and later arranged for Basheer and the staff to move from Afghanistan.

A few months after moving to Dushanbe, Basheer married a Tajik sister by the name of Sadbarg. The mother requested Basheer to move in their apartment. She was widowed in this apartment, when Sadbarg was very young. Basheer agreed.

The Muslims signed a peace agreement with the Russian-backed government and the overall situation started to improve.

We took Dr. Nazr-ul-Islam – a surgeon from England – to Dushanbe and established a TB hospital for children. Furthermore, we continued the sponsorship for the orphans; we also started supporting families of men disabled in the war, and commenced the rebuilding of homes of orphan families destroyed during the war.

A group of young sisters, who had set up an Islamic study group in Dushanbe, approached us for help. Concluding that the sisters were high on enthusiasm but low on knowledge, we decided to teach them the fundamentals of Islam and prepare them to reach out to more women in Dushanbe. We gave Nurudin – a graduate of the Islamic University in Madinah – the charge of the programme.

Nurudin had come to Afghanistan in 1993, and had set up an Islamic school for Tajik students in the refugee camps. This is when Basheer and Nurudin had become friends. After the ceasefire, Nurudin had moved independently to Tajikistan, where he had also married a Tajik sister. He had started some Dawah programmes in the mosques in and around Dushanbe.

When we decided to sponsor the sisters’ Dawah programme, Nurudin was like a gift from Allah (swt): he was there; he was married to a local sister, spoke fluent Persian and above all, was a gifted scholar.

The classes started in March, 1998 with a group of 32 sisters and 20 brothers.

Unfortunately, the political situation started deteriorating. Soon, it became apparent that a cold war was taking shape, fuelled by the secular and communist elements to undermine the Islamic movement in Tajikistan.

On June 15, 1998, only three months since the start of classes, Nurudin was shot and martyred outside his apartment. Only 36, he left behind a pregnant wife and a four-month-old daughter, Asma.

No one claimed responsibility, and the Tajik government denied any involvement. “Could it have been the Russian intelligence?” we were left wondering. “Or could it be the breakaway communist fraction which had split from the government and violently opposed the peace agreement?”

We immediately froze all Dawah activities. Our staff of nine people in Dushanbe included two foreigners, so we had reasons to be worried.

Our CEO travelled to the area and told both Basheer and Dr. Islam that they could leave, if they wanted to. Both refused, saying that we need not worry since we were no longer involved with Dawah, and the relief services being offered to Dushanbe were badly needed. Soon a contract was signed between the BIF and the Ministry of Health, finalizing the administration of the TB hospital. With all Dawah activities frozen and only relief projects remaining, we reasoned that the anti-Islamic elements – if indeed they were behind Nurudin’s death – would surely back off.

Our office in Dushanbe faces the parliament building in the Independence Square. A statue of Firdousi, a famous Persian poet, stares down at the beautiful gardens lining the main street. In these gardens are small cafes, where one can dine on a lunch of rice and Kabab on tables scattered under the tall trees. Basheer and I would walk down, have lunch and talk – we would spend hours talking, with the snow-capped Pamir Mountains in the background. These meeting are now memories to be cherished for the rest of my life. We talked about a lot of things: our time spent together in Afghanistan, our families, the BIF, the political situation and our plans for the future.

In one such meeting, I asked him why he didn’t leave Tajikistan after the death of Nurudin. “My mother-in-law would be left alone,” he said. I smiled. We both knew that there was more to it. I was also his manager, and he was aware that I could have asked him to leave. He was careful in wording his answer. “Look, Suleman,” he was very serious and thoughtful, “you know that I have given myself to this cause. I know that I am in Tajikistan for no other reason but for Allah (swt).” Then he paused: “And if I were to die, I have the confidence of knowing that I shall be a Shaheed.”

At the age of 34, Basheer was shot at point blank range. I can conjure an image of his assassin, most likely a local Tajik clad in a black suit – so common in Dushanbe – walking up to him, as he stepped out of his home. Alone and unarmed, Basheer stood no chance and was hit a total of seven times in the chest and the head. The $600 in his pocket – a lot of money in poverty stricken Tajikistan – were not touched.

For us, he was and will remain an inspiration, a statement that this world is worthless in front of the hereafter, and if it takes our lives to establish Islam, then so be it. While we talk, write and lecture about sacrificing for Allah (swt) and Islam, Basheer lived it and etched it in history with his blood. He was a true embodiment of the statement that “a faith not worth dying for is not worth living for.”

He leaves behind in his legacy one more reason for us to struggle for the dream both he and Nurudin gave their lives for – to return Muslims to the arms of Islam from the torturous clutches of colonialism and communism.

Basheer, may Allah (swt) accept your Shahadah. (Ameen)

Adapted (with permission) from “The Embattled Innocence.” Compiled for Hiba by Laila Brence.

About Suleman Ahmer

Suleman Ahmer is CEO and lead facilitator of “Timelenders”, a management consulting and training firm.

Book Reviews

2945810-M

“The Embattled Innocence: Reflections of a Muslim Relief Worker”

Author: Suleman Ahmer

Publisher: Presslenders, 2009

Available at: Timelenders (http://www.timelenders.com)

“The Embattled Innocence” covers the time period when Suleman Ahmer was involved in Muslim relief work. The book consists of three parts – the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Central Asia – and each contains stories from the areas he visited.

The Balkans section begins with a story about a nine-year-old Bosnian girl Aida, whom the relief workers saw each time they visited Mostar. The story of Aida was the first one Suleman Ahmer wrote. Since the story drew responses from people he had never met, he decided to start a series of stories. Later, these stories were combined into a single book. The subsequent stories are as full of sincere emotions and vivid experiences as the one about Aida. We meet Kamila, a passionate young Muslimah from England, who, moved by the sufferings of Bosnians, had resigned her secretarial job to come to the war afflicted areas to help her Muslim brothers and sisters. We also meet Basheer, who gave up his engineering studies in Algeria to help out in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and then joined the struggle of the Tajiks. At the age of 34, Basheer embraced martyrdom after he was shot seven times in the chest and the head.

These first-hand experiences of war sufferings draw tears to eyes and bring into heart gratitude that Allah (swt) has blessed us with peace and freedom to practice our religion, which many of our Muslims brothers and sisters died for.

- By Laila Brence

“Guess the Prophets”

“Animal Kingdom in the Quran”

“Excellent Examples”

Publisher: Flowers of Islam

Availability: Dawah Books

“Flowers of Islam” have successfully accomplished the three Es in the stunning flashcards they have created. These flashcards promise to entice, educate and enchant your young ones with their unique approach. If your children are between the ages of seven and eleven, then these flashcards are truly meant for them.

The main objective of “Guess the Prophets” flash cards is to teach about the Prophets in a fun and interactive way. These stories can help young minds get an insight into the lives of the blessed Prophets of Allah (swt) and inspire them to assimilate their teachings in their daily lives.

“Animal Kingdom in the Quran” uses riddles to teach children about the various animal stories mentioned in the Quran. In this manner, the young believers can learn about the diverse animal facts and incidents.

“Excellent Examples” uses a myriad of examples and interesting similitudes to help the young believers understand such concepts as Iman and Mumin. The goal is for the young minds to explore, question and attain a better understanding of the true meaning and purpose of a believer’s role in this world.

The cards can be used as a learning tool in schools or as an educational toy at home, since they simultaneously educate and entertain.

- By Uzma Javed

Dare to Think!

Jul 10 - Dare to thinkBy Suleman Ahmer

I was surprised by the knock. It was late at night and I was the only guest.

I opened the door. It was the manager along with the cook.

“Sir, we wanted to ask you something that has been troubling us for the past few days.”

“Sure,” I replied, while asking them in.

The guest house belonged to Dr. A. Q. Khan Research Labs (KRL), where I had come to conduct a workshop.

KRL is Pakistan’s nuclear research powerhouse with some of the finest scientists that you can

find under the sun.

After sitting down, the cook spoke: “Sir, our scientists have brains so big that it would take us a few lifetimes to have our brains grow to that size!”

I was amazed at the clarity of the expression, knowing that here was an unschooled young man with his whole world limited to his village and now Rawalpindi, a town next to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.

“You are right,” I said, knowing that I had in my workshop seasoned PhDs in subjects such as nuclear physics, power electronics, vibrations and vacuum systems. And these scientists know how to make things happen; just ask Dr. ElBaradei, the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“Sir,” the cook continued, “daily these scientists spend the whole day in your class. We don’t understand what is it that youare teaching them?”

I was stumped. What a wonderful observation!

And what a wonderful predicament!

How do I explain to these simple folks that I teach organizational restructuring based on strategic visions and then introduce the framework for converting these visions into short term actionable and quantifiable plans?

I was pushed into deep thought.

“I cannot teach anybody anything,” Socrates once said, “I can only make them think.”

Socrates believed that people can’t be taught; rather, people can be facilitated to discover what they already know. I disagree with him. It is only partly true. Through prophetic revelations, we learn many things that we didn’t know before.

Socrates was known to exaggerate. I believe that he was purposely exaggerating to provoke people, because provocation forces people to think; for this, I respect the guy for his noble agenda to force people to examine their beliefs, assumptions and paradigms. No wonder he made so many enemies.

I have come to believe that sincere people, who disbelieve us and challenge us, are among our greatest assets. Professors know it. Teachers know it. Trainers, like I, know it. We all know that one of the best rewards of teaching is to come across a sincere, naïve and aggressive man or woman, who doesn’t buy into what we hold to be correct or believe we know well. And if that person happens to be your spouse, then all the better!

On that cold winter night in Rawalpindi, I realized that I had come across such people.

In the few moments of silence that followed, by the grace of Allah (swt), a thought came to me, which has indebted me to those simple men forever.

“You know,” I carefully picked my words, “these scientists have knowledge much greater than mine. They are experts in their fields. I can’t teach anything that is related to their area of expertise.”

I could see that they felt relieved. How can someone much younger and an outsider teach their scientists? It just didn’t make sense to them. And now I had vindicated them. They were right after all.

I looked into their eyes and said: “You know what Iteach?” I held their attention: “I teach people that if what you do today – however big or small – doesn’t impact the world a hundred years later, then doing that is plain useless. It is just a waste of time.”

I sat back.

Amazingly, their eyes glistened with understanding and smiles erupted.

“You are right. This is absolutely true.” They were in complete agreement. I had told them something that they knew all along.

“We now understand what you teach. That is something good that you are teaching. Keep it up.” Saying this and with satisfaction written all over their faces, they left me to rest. Not realizing that they had left me exactly the opposite: restless!

I thought about it for many days. I pondered and reflected, and agonized. “In my urge to make things simple,” I questioned myself, “had I lied to them or misled them?”

Then it dawned upon me that just like them, I had also known this all along my life. I had never clearly articulated it to others and, most importantly, to myself. All I needed was an innocent question from those innocent men, who had no fear of being called naïve, with no reservations and no artificial persona of ‘look we know’!

And they taught me something that I had not been able to learn through books or by my travels across the globe.

Look deep inside your heart and you will realize that you know it too: if what we do today doesn’t impact this world a hundred years down the road, then it is simply a waste of time!

Dr. Yousuf Al Qardawi writes that there are people who die before their death, while being counted amongst the living. Others, however, continue to live after their death, because they leave behind good deeds, beneficial knowledge, pious children and able students, who keep increasing their life. In the words of William Wallace, the character in the movie “Braveheart”: “Every man dies, but not every man really lives!”

Please reflect on things that you know. Seek people who will challenge you. Hear them out patiently. Cherish them. You may have some valuable knowledge that is waiting to be discovered by none other than yourself.

Keep in mind the words of Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

And my advice to you today: please dare to think!

Suleman Ahmer is the Founder and CEO of “Timelenders.”