A Chapter of My Life with My Brother


Casually climbing upstairs to my bedroom after Iftar and Salah, I read frantic messages from my niece to call her. I was informed the doctor had said Sabir’s scans were not good – the cancer had spread. I mumbled, heart sinking: “Inna illahi wa inna illahi rajioon” in a state of disbelief.

Only a few days ago, after his daughter’s Valima, he had flown to the USA for his periodic treatment. He was extremely hopeful of a new immunotherapy treatment which his doctor had scheduled for him.

I felt dizzy and weak. Memories of his last visit and my ailing mother started to flood me … Beckoning me, he had held me against him. Little was I to know this was my last hug from my brother who was my only sibling and also a father figure, as I had lost my papa many years ago.

It was almost three years ago when Sabir was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Friends and family members reassured me that if anyone had cancer, this is the one they should want as it had an excellent prognosis.

After a long flight to the USA, my brother felt jetlagged and exhausted; however, he was positive and went for his doctor’s appointment with lots of hope. His latest scans had already been sent to him. “So how are you feeling?” he asked. Sabir paused: “Not too good.” The doctor replied: “Your scans too are not that good.” He went to explain that the cancer had spread to his liver and lungs, and no further treatment was possible. Sabir closed his eyes and asked to lie down. The doctor explained how he would be given medical attention at a hospice until…

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My Faith Rescued Me…

faithI grew up in a Muslim family but I hated Islam and the Muslims. I was not happy to be called a Muslim. I was looked at with terror and called a troublemaker. I did not like to pray and hated to wear Niqab. I wanted to fly free like a bird, intermingling with the opposite sex and staying overnight at parties. However, my mom never listened to me. Moreover, she would force me to pray and compel me to cover. She would make me say all my Duas and made me learn the Quran as well. She would make me recite Surah Al-Falaq and An-Nas for my protection.

Once she was invited to her cousin’s wedding, held in a village that was a day distance by train. I refused to accompany her. Until the last moment, she warned me and requested me earnestly to read the Duas, recite Quran, offer Salah and wear my Niqab when I go to college. She said:

أَسْتَوْدِعُ اللَّهَ دِينَكَ وَأَمَانَتَكَ وَخَوَاتِيمَ عَمَلِكَ

“(I make) Allah (swt) responsible for your Deen, your trustworthiness and for the results of your actions.” (Tirmidhi)

After bestowing me with the Dua, she left. Her departure meant an arrival of entertainment in my life. I had all the fun pre-planned days ago. My friends had invited me for a sleepover at their place. There would be party, music, and fun!

I was ecstatic. In the evening, my friends picked me up in their car. As soon as I entered my friend’s home that was candle lit, I found something fishy. My heartbeat sped up.

There were not only girls as promised by my friends. There were boys too who were smoking!
Ya Allah (swt)! In what a mess had I stepped in! I was glad I had obeyed my mother by reading the Duas and wearing my Niqab and I was still in it. I had offered Maghrib too. My friend and host Nadia, who was busy talking to a boy, turned to me and said, “C’mon now!” and stretched her hand to my Niqab saying, “Remove this disgusting thing and learn to enjoy!” I defended my Niqab. I saw her dressed in a low cut T-shirt and a very short skirt. Her long legs stood bare and I told her curtly: “I am very comfortable like this Nadia.”

Her parents had a bungalow in a posh area of the city. But she had left them and rented a flat in an apartment.

Music was blaring loudly. Soon, all were couple-dancing. Ryan had no one to dance with and so he was approaching me! He offered his hand to me but I kept mine locked behind. I knew it was Allah (swt) who was helping me to stay away from the evil temptations (for which I had craved earlier). Then he sat next to me with a huge thud! Now! What was I going to do? Should I run away from the house?

I stood up with a firm resolution to leave. He tried to hold me back by my shoulder, but I pushed him down. To my amazement, a gentle push made him fall on the ground and he fainted. Nadia was furious at me. The lights were switched on. They tried to revive him by pouring water on him. But he was gone! There were no pulse beats!

All the girls and boys were shocked! I saw the bottles of the deadly drink laid on the table that was placed in the terrace. This overnight party and sleep over was not something simple. It was like a bar – a Zina centre.

All were Muslims! They had tried to shake my faith. They had already lost theirs. The point to ponder is that how Ryan’s life ended in just trying to touch a woman! I was feeling happy and grateful to Allah (swt) for I had a lovely mother who protected me with the armour of Islam and moulded me into a modest woman. It was a changing moment in my life.

Ryan’s death was a warning bell for all of us. We never know when would be our turn.

(Based on a true story with names changed to protect identity)

My Mother Was An Inspiration



I hear a loud and vibrant chant from the dining table where a group of 15 or more mid-teenagers congregate four times a week for their ‘Islamiat’ classes.

These kinds of students have been flocking for almost a decade at the residence where I stay in order to prepare for their final O-Level Examination. They are tutored, examined, and made to revise and practice every minute detail of the syllabus. They have to attempt questions from previous examinations as well as anticipated questions in the forthcoming test. The teaching goes beyond books, notes and lectures where the practicality and application of the beliefs are applied and proven. In some cases, individual counselling is provided for students and their parents who are seeking guidance.

This started off as a feeble attempt to better understand the religion. With time, patience, hard work and dedication, the tutor was able to capture and captivate the hearts, minds and souls of several hundred young adults, their parents and even their grandparents! And from the results that pour in, it shows.

Born into a minority sect of Islam, she struggled in accepting the beliefs and practices of those following it. She questioned, cross-questioned and cross-examined every ritual and ceremony that took place in their places of worship. She would spend endless hours in gaining answers from her father and then turning to Allah over and over again. She would pray and fast as the way of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) and his Companions and would make special efforts in gaining more knowledge of the Deen from practicing friends and their families.

The year she turned 18, her father gifted her a three-volume set of A. Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Holy Quran. She would reading this guidance for many years on, passing the inspiration to the generations following her.

I had always admired my mother from a young age. Being the eldest and only daughter for the first seven years, I would be the dog’s tail attached around my mother, especially when she would be working in the kitchen or managing and organizing the home for guests. I was there at her beck and call and learnt how she would be cleaning the meats before cooking, chopping vegetables and preparing the meal in the pot. Then there were the finer etiquettes that a young lady was required to have – laying the table, handling cutlery and crockery and serving the guests. After numerous rounds of serving friends and well-wishers through umpteen rounds of breaking and damaging fine china, my mother had declared me fit enough to handle the guests and kitchen on my own.

It was during those years and subsequently after that I learnt of a secret she had well-kept from me. In the hours that I was in the school, on the days my timetable did not have an ‘Islamic Studies’ class scheduled, my mother would slide my textbook off the shelf to read and gain knowledge from those enlightened pages. When my siblings and I would return from school, she would be eager to sit with us and learn what we had learnt that day by asking a million questions as a five-year old does! When we would have to learn some Ayats (Verses) from the Quran or a Dua (Prayer), she would make sure she kept herself free and would memorise them along with us.

Year upon year, she would be reading those ‘Islamic Studies’ textbooks and had almost a photographic memory by the end of the eighth level! I only got wind of this when I would question her on some issue and her response would be that I read it from a certain textbook. Many a times we would playfully argue regarding a matter and she would say: “Have you already forgotten? It is in YOUR textbook!”

It was a day in 1997 when my sister came complaining to my mother about the teacher discussing a certain topic in her ‘Islamiat’ class that was totally uncalled for. This angered my mother greatly and she had decided to visit the principal as soon as she could. The principal, of British origin, was a level-headed lady and was kind enough to listen to my mother’s point of view and thereby learn of the correct way of the religion. She immediately offered my mother to teach the same from the next academic year as she did receive a few other complaints regarding the current teacher and found my mother’s knowledge to be stronger and more practical.

My mother refused immediately and suggested that she should find someone who is more well-versed in the religion and more importantly, with the method of teaching and syllabus as she had no experience. The principal was firm in her belief and assured my mother that she would be willing to help her at any point in time and so would the other teachers, so she should go home, consult the family and return for the following academic year shortly.

The first year was the most difficult for her, I remember. She had about three to four grades to teach with a couple of sections that totalled to almost one hundred students. They were groups of girls and boys, anywhere from between 13 years of age to 17 with raging hormones and innumerable questions at the drop of a hat. The principal’s reassurances and the help from her colleagues is what kept her going. Late night assignment and homework checking was another factor that brought up her confidence and love for the subject. Her passion and drive to improve herself for her students grew further through the months and years she taught at the school.

Her health and the never-ending workload five years later, made her decide to tutor from home where she could manage fewer students whom she could pick and choose herself. The group was small initially – four to six in the first year to a double group of the same in the following year. Word got out amongst the students with whom she had coached and started spreading in the schools they studied and amongst their siblings. Mothers would be discussing when they would meet and would pass on her contact information. They too, felt comfortable enough to talk to her and would either call or visit her after her classes for their own counselling. In this way, their respective children had become more focused and better able to comprehend the lessons thereafter.

Sadly, in May 2011, she decided to close her tuitions with the batch that had just completed their term with her. She said she was “tired” and that she “had completed my (her) work”. She had asked her students to distribute the notes they had, as opposed to her recollecting them at the end of the year as was her practice. She wished for the other students to gain knowledge about Islam as much as all her other batches had, in years gone by.

It was two days after her birthday in August 2011 that she slept a peaceful sleep, only to never wake up.

As I sit in that same dining room receiving her former students and their parents who come to offer their condolences, I still feel her presence and can remember those lessons she would be preparing with me before teaching them.

That lady was my mother, Niamet Hashambhoy Khalid, more popularly known as Mrs. Niamet.

From Cradle to Grave

Cradle to GraveAyesha Khawaja interviews Ammatul-Mohsi, mother of Rohma (Dr. Israr Ahmed’s grandchild) who passed away after a brief battle with cancer.

As a child, Rohma was a sweet girl by nature, who never gave a hard time to her mother. Her mother, being a righteous person herself, was very conscious about the proper upbringing of her children. She always recited all of the Quranic and Masnoon Duas for them. At every important juncture, she did Istikhara, and for any problems, she got up for Tahajjud. For the girls, she switched schools from regular to Islamic, where they would not feel stigmatized for covering themselves.

From the age of ten, there was no question of ever leaving a prayer. The older siblings were also very vigilant about it. On and off, they would attend Islamic lectures with the family; in the car, they listened to Nasheeds and inspirational songs (without music).

Right after puberty, around the age of 12-and-a-half, Rohma began observing full Purdah with the Niqab. It came naturally to her; her mother, Khalas and her immediate cousins were all observing it. They did not watch movies at any point in their lives. Music was out of the question. Some Nasheeds, however, did have some sort of musical background, but even that was eliminated from their lives, as they gained greater understanding of the Deen.

Rohma’s father was extremely particular about Rizq-e-Halal. Even though he owns a huge business, he never took any bank loans. He was meticulous about the rights of others. Although he was a very busy man, Rohma’s mother made sure the family had meals together. He led by example rather than by preaching. The kids could see that their father was an upright man, truthful in his dealings, generous to the core, unpretentious and ever upholding the ties of kinship.

Ammatul Mohsi (Rohma’s mother) has a lot of Haya (modesty). She could not bring herself to utter a word like ‘Jhoot’ (falsehood). According to her, if ever a child did say anything that was incorrect, she would say it was ‘wrong’ and not ‘Jhoot’, because she really disliked the word. In her daily utterances, she would avoid words that had any connotation of immodesty or immorality in it, to the extent that she would not even mention words like ‘potty’.

Rohma’s mother also made sure that the children shared their life experiences with her and did not keep any secrets. In this way, she gently and skillfully guided them, as tests came along.

In Rohma’s own words, her life changed and her heart melted completely, when she did the one year Quran and Hadeeth course from Dr. Israr Ahmed’s Quran Academy after her higher secondary education. She said what she gained from there was far superior to what she had acquired from home.

Rohma’s Khala chose her to be the pious bride for her Hafiz son. Rohma’s deep blush was the only indication of her acceptance. Her bashfulness was such that she used to go deep red, if someone mentioned her fiancé’s name.

After the course, she graduated from Tooba College (the Islamic college opened by Dr. Israr Ahmed) and was married in a simple Nikah ceremony at the Quran Academy’s Masjid. There was no Mehndi, no Barat and no reception afterwards – just the beautiful Khutbah of Nikah at the Masjid, followed by Rukhsati. The Valima was the only dinner that graced this marriage.

It is worth mentioning here that there was a huge chasm between the worldly standards of the two households. Rohma belonged to a very well-off family and lived in a grand place with all the comforts of modern living. The bridegroom’s house, however, was no comparison and far removed from what she was used to. Years later, she had confided in her mother that initially, she had felt this sharp difference. However, her husband Mohsin’s piety and Taqwa had more than made up for lack of material comforts.

When the news of Rohma’s death was conveyed to her mother, the first word that escaped her lips was ‘Alhumdulillah’ and then “Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Elaihi Rajeeoon”. She told me that she had asked so much for Sabr from Allah (swt) that the only time tears poured down her cheeks were during Salah in Fajr or some other Salah.

Just the night before I interviewed her, she invoked Allah (swt) long and hard, beseeching Him to show her how to be steadfast in patience. In an instantaneous response to her Dua, Allah (swt) the Most High, showed her Rohma in her dream, looking breathtakingly pretty in a beautiful party dress that her mother had made for her, when she was a little girl. In the dream, she hugged her tight and kissed her and when she woke, an indescribable peace enveloped her.

When Rohma was ill, she had spoken to her sister about a dream, in which she said she was choosing a bride for her husband from a choice of three. It so happened that there were actually three girls that they considered one after the other for Mohsin and then settled for one, who seemed most suitable. Her daughters are, by the grace of God, being taken care of physically, emotionally and spiritually. After all, is Allah (swt) not the Best to help? And how Excellent a Patron and how Incomparable the Provider!

Readers are encouraged to read more about Rohma in Hiba’s January, 2013, issue (“Legacy of a Mominah”).

Interview with Mrs. Azmat Irfan (Mother of Three Sons)

What are some tips for positive parenting?

  1. Set your priorities. Your kids matter more than career, parties and social gatherings.
  2. Be patient and polite with your kids. At the age they are in, learning is a gradual process.
  3. Don’t punish them before giving them a warning. Punishments hurt both parties.
  4. Don’t punish when you are angry. You run the risk of overdoing it.
  5. No physical punishment before 10 years of age, if it is resorted to at all in the first place.
  6. Whenever you call them, do so with love and affection. Use words like “Mera Beta (my son) or Meri Shehzadi (my princess).” No matter how old your child is, he/she will always like it.
  7. Express your love, embrace them frequently. A bond between a child and a parent is the strongest in the world, but even that needs reinforcement.
  8. When they disobey their parents, they may be ignored if the offense is not severe. However, if they disobey Allah (swt), they should be reprimanded.

A Woman of Substance (A True Story)


“Confront the dark parts of yourself and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” (August Wilson)

She might not be the wealthiest, the most famous or the most influential woman. However, she is an inspiration to all the women out there. In these times, when the ‘weaker’ gender in our country is forced to sell her body to earn a living, Nazeeran Begum refused to give in. To the eyes of a casual observer, she might appear as another housemaid, dusting off dirt and cleaning up the mess created by other people. But in her own life, she cleaned up the mess that her family had created and dusted off the dirt of despair from her shoulder to move on in life. She mustered all her leftover courage and decided to nurture it even in the darkest of times to help her gain a new life.

Nazeeran Begum’s humility can make anyone mindful of one’s own attitude. She has a very strong Punjabi accent but replies ‘Walaikum Assalam’ as properly as any Arab would. She does not sit on the couch. Instead, she chooses to settle down on the floor cushion. “These couches and chairs make people lazy, and I need my strength – can’t afford old age, you know,” she remarks at the shiny, wooden furniture. She is always clad in her white Chaddar (a traditional long piece of cloth) with silver embroidery, unravelling from many corners now, and a clean lawn suit. Along with her little black pouch for keeping her bus fare, she carries a bag of clothes wherever she goes.

Her problems in life started quite early – she was only nine years old, when her mother died. “I belonged to a rich family back in Rajanpur, my village in Dera Ghazi Khan. My father was a Zameendar (landlord) and remarried after my mother’s death. The stepmother was not a surprise at all. She kept my father drunk and her sons, my half brothers, took over the property. The beginning of my sorrows were triggered when my father died. I was twenty years old then,” she tells. She wipes off her tears and bravely tells how she denied all the urges to cut her wrists or to drink poison. Nazeeran Begum has always been a devout Muslim and believes that it is a sin to commit suicide. She was then forced to marry a farmer who used to work in her father’s fields. He was a compulsive gambler and married Nazeeran for money. When her step brothers took everything, her husband beat her and locked her in a room. “Things got worse when I got pregnant; I had twins – a girl and a boy,” she adds somberly.

Her baby girl was taken away by her husband, who sold her for a mere amount of five thousand. According to Nazeeran Begum, that was the worst day of her life. But even that incident didn’t break her spirits; she worked untiringly in the fields, carried manure, reared cattle and raised a son on her own. Although she was illiterate, she managed to get her son admitted in a school. Her husband mostly came home drunk and hit her with anything he found. After twenty years of her marriage, her husband came home one night and divorced her. “He was drunk and had lost all of his senses. He threw me out and locked the door behind me. I stayed up all night for him to come out the next day, but there was nothing left for me. I was divorced. My son refused to leave with me,” she laments.

At that point, when Nazeeran had nowhere to go, no place to hide and her clothes were tattered and torn, her old neighbour, who knew Nazeeran before marriage, took her into her own house. Both of them left Rajanpur and came to Karachi. They resided there in the little huts underneath the pulls with snake charmers. Nazeeran puts her hands over her ears to express her utmost disgust regarding those initial days. She started working as a housemaid, commonly known as a Masi in Karachi. “I was determined to earn Rizq-e-Halal. I never went for any illegitimate means of earning money. Many women, who lived in the huts near mine, were involved in prostitution and smuggling, but I never supported the idea of selling my flesh to anyone,” she states boldly. “The primary reason was my faith in Allah (swt). I had enough stamina to cling onto my religion even during those times.”

When Nazeeran Begum earned enough money, she moved out of that hut to a decent, rented quarter in Shah Faisal Colony. She started selling undergarments, socks and handkerchiefs, too, for extra money. “Working in different households meant interaction with all sorts of people. I started socializing. I met many poor women like me. Since I had to look after myself only, I began saving a lot. I progressed onto selling fabric, but at the same time, I did not stop my cleaning business either,” she says.

“I met several women in my new neighborhood, who were living hand-to-mouth and worked extra hours like me to earn a living. That was the time when I started collecting Zakat, in order to buy sewing machines for those women, so that they could start a new business for earning more,” tells Nazeeran. Her fabrics business was doing well – she earned enough to buy a small quarter of her own in Bakhtawar Goth.

“I have started looking after girls, who are either turned out of their houses or divorced, just like me. I teach them sewing and cleaning, so that they do not go for illicit means to earn bread and butter. It’s for my daughter I lost once,” she pauses and starts weeping for the first time during the conversation.

Beaten, torn down, driven out of house, once stranded on the streets, harassed by snake charmers and bereaved of her own children and father’s property, Nazeeran now lives in a house of her own and has a stall at Erum Centre, where she sells fabrics. She not only brought herself out of darkness but also illuminated the lives of many women like her. She is the living example of courage, hope and faith. However, most importantly, she is a perfect example of a woman, who never compromised her self-respect, honour and dignity for the sake of money. Nazeeran dedicates her life to her lost daughter, whom she hopes to meet in Jannah.