Hiba was honoured to interview Dr. Samia Raheel Qazi, daughter of late Qazi Hussain Ahmad of Jamat-e-Islami. She is the Chairperson, Council of Trustees, International Muslim Women Union IMWU, an NGO with ECOSOC status in United Nations; Member, Dawah Advisory Council, International Islamic University Islamabad and International Ambassador of Al-Khidmat Foundation Pakistan). She is also the author of 12 published books and has served as a Member of National Assembly (MNA) in Pakistan.
In this exclusive interview, she shares her vision and her views about her life and work:
Hiba: What was your childhood like?
Dr. S.R.Q: I grew up in a home, where learning and the pursuit of knowledge were greatly valued. My grandparents were Islamic scholars from Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband. My paternal uncle was the first judge of the Federal Shariah Court. All the other family elders from both the paternal and maternal side were also qualified scholars of Islam, along with being highly educated – holding PhDs in various disciplines from international universities.
My father Qazi Hussain Ahmad is known to all. My family elders were associated with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Tablighi Jamat and Jamat-e-Islami in varying degrees, which enabled me to develop an understanding and appreciation of the diversity within Islam from an early age. I remember meetings of the Ulema held at our place, as well as hosting representatives from Afghanistan and Kashmir. I witnessed my family elders striving for the revival of the glory of Islam by way of Jihad and Dawah. These people set a wonderful example for me to look up to. I also had the unique privilege of having lived in so many diverse regions of Pakistan: growing up in Nowshera, studying in Lahore and moving to Quetta after marriage. I graduated from the Lahore College University, did my Master’s degree from Baluchistan University and then completed my PhD several years later in 2009.
My Agha Jan (father) had subscribed us to as many as seven children’s magazines in Urdu. Reading these helped me develop literary interest as well as a flair for writing. During my student years, I was active in extra-curricular activities as well as student politics. I was elected as the Secretary General of the last Students’ Union at Lahore College.
I always found my Agha Jan very close to the Quran. When I entered teenage years, he arranged for me to be instructed in the Tafsir of the first Juz of the Quran from different Islamic scholars from as many as five different schools of thought. I now realize how this enabled me to develop my visionary appreciation for the diversity of interpretations of the Quran.
Hiba: How did you enter politics?
Dr. S.R.Q: The Prophet (sa) lived a full life, in which he performed so many roles as a political leader, statesman, jurist, soldier and military strategist. This understanding enabled me to appreciate the mission of Jamat-e-Islami for the political ascendancy of Islam and I ended up joining it. During my time in Quetta, I did not find many opportunities for women around. However, we made our own little community by holding a Quranic Dars at our place for women, in which educated and religiously inclined women would be frequent attendees.
In 1995, I attended the Beijing Conference for women. This motivated me to present an alternate Islamic perspective on women’s rights globally. This led to the formation of the International Muslim Women’s Union in 1996. Through this platform, I got in touch with several other women’s NGOs, and we also managed to form the Women in Development (WinD) Network in Quetta. I was elected its first Secretary General. We worked hard to enable women to be grounded in religious values and yet be capable of dealing with the challenges of the modern world. A number of conferences were organized for this purpose under my leadership. I was also chosen to be the Founder Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Jamat-e-Islami. In 2002, when in the Musharraf Era women were included in the Assemblies as a cosmetic measure to push forward the agenda of ‘Enlightened Moderation’, I was nominated by the Jamat-e-Islami as a parliament member. This was not unusual as I had a political background as well. I was made the in-charge of the Jamat-e-Islami’s parliamentary cell under the leadership of Ayesha Munawwar, who headed the women’s wing of JI.
Hiba: How do you balance your household responsibilities with your work?
Dr. S.R.Q: From the very beginning, my husband was very cooperative. I believe a woman can only contribute to the wider world, if she has the support of the men in her life. My father used to explain that the fact that the woman has been made from the rib bone, which lies close to the heart and under the arm, implies that she should be loved and protected by the men in her life. My in-laws also supported me in my work. In this regard I have always considered myself to be privileged.
My husband passed away barely a few years after marriage, but through his trust and support I gained a lot of confidence in myself. He encouraged me to continue my education. I did both my Master’s as well as PhD degrees after my marriage. After his passing, my father became my biggest support in life. I must clarify that while my children were young, I never left them to the care of the domestic staff. I made sure that they were always under my supervision or with my mother. My mother-in-law had unfortunately passed away, but my mother was always the one to tend to my children in my absence.
Hiba: What do you think is required for the moral, spiritual and intellectual revival of Muslim youth?
Dr. S.R.Q: Pakistan is blessed to have a very large proportion of youthful population, as opposed to other parts of the world, where the issue of aging populations is an emerging problem. That is because of the decline of marriage as well as of the birth rate. Pakistan with 67% of its population below thirty is a “Youthistan”. This means we have a lot of hope for the future. For the spiritual and intellectual regeneration of our youth, the most important need is to establish prayer with regularity, so as to communicate with Allah (swt) five times a day and hold on to the Quran and the Sunnah. This will protect them from all evils surrounding them.
Hiba: How do you see the evolution and development of the Jamat-e-Islami?
Dr. S.R.Q: I remember my first ever JI event, which I attended as a little girl in 1976. It was the very last event graced by Maulana Maudoodi himself, and I remember sitting in his feet noting down whatever he said. I still prize that writing. It has been almost 48 years since I came to be associated with this group. I hope Allah (swt) will bring all our efforts to fruition. Despite all the prevailing trends, I believe the Jamat-e-Islami is a very influential organization in South Asia with significant presence in several countries. The thought that inspires this movement is very powerful and appealing, and so many Muslims look up to the Jamat-e-Islami with hope for the revival of Islam as a way of life. It is true that the Jamat does not have as many trained religious scholars as it had earlier, and that its political involvement is criticized as a distraction from the actual purpose of Tarbiyah, but the fact remains that this is the only significant global Islamic organization with a holistic vision.
Hiba: Would you like to share some memories of your father with us?
Dr. S.R.K: There are far too many. My father was an extremely gentle person. In his treatment of women, he was guided by three fundamental values: love, respect, and protection. I do not remember observing him in an angry mood ever. For us, he was love personified. He also made us feel respected. After I became a widow and my children were orphaned, he took us under his wing in fulfillment of the Quranic order regarding the care of orphans. He never made us feel that there was something missing in our lives. He gave us tremendous honour and prioritized our wellbeing over everything else, which is extremely rare. Both my children say that they never felt that they were without a father, as long as Agha Jan was alive. It was only after him that the void was felt. He made sure that all our needs were met, and we never had to depend on anyone else for anything. He was a self-made entrepreneur, and with his hard work he ensured that he would leave behind enough for us to sustain ourselves even when he would be gone.
However, his greatest contribution was how he made us so mindful of our greater purpose in life. He was not just a father for me but also my leader, guide, and inspiration. He was an ideal to look up to as well as a shield to protect us from all harm. He was always there for us whenever we were in any difficulty.
Hiba: Any advice for hiba’s readers?
Dr. S.R.Q: I would like to refer to a famous Persian poem of Iqbal meant for the youth. It inspires the youth to spread its wings in the limitless blue skies and take flight towards the ultimate goal with a powerful sense of purpose, while firmly holding on to faith in Allah (swt) and love for the Prophet (sa).
There is another poem specific to women, which my father often used to recite to us. Iqbal addresses young girls saying: do not get entangled in endeavours for external beautification. Free yourself from the ways of the faithless. Instead, focus on winning hearts through the strength of your personality.
For the readers of Hiba, I would like to refer to another Persian work of Iqbal, which means that this dark night around us yields itself to a new daybreak. Hold on to the Quran as the fountainhead of hope for those blessed with insight. It was the effect of a woman’s recitation of the Quran that melted the heart of Umar (rtam) and changed his destiny. We can acquire this power to transform destinies by connecting to the Quran.
I am very thankful to Hiba for giving me this opportunity. I happen to be a great fan of this magazine, because it is a wonderful Islamic resource in the English language for women and families as well as the youth. I wish your entire team the very best of luck.