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An Orphan Leads An Army

“Pakistan Ka Matlab Kiya?” Omar hollered at the top of his lungs, while waving Pakistan’s flag. 

“La Ilaha Illa Allah!” shouted Ali.

“Why are you both yelling?” Samrah Apa was annoyed as she needed peace and quiet for her Zoom class. Omar and Ali were too excited to listen. They both kept waving their flags and chanting slogans, running all around the house.

Samrah Apa furiously marched into the kitchen to complain to Mom: “Mom, I have to complete an assignment and we are having an important Zoom meeting. Can you, please, tell the two of them to keep it down?”

“What is the topic of your assignment?” Mom asked, casually.

“Muhammad bin Qasim! We are researching how Islam came to the subcontinent.”

“What a motivating hero,” replied Dadi, who had actually witnessed the migration at the time of Pakistan’s independence. “Call the boys and I will tell them an interesting story.

“Story time, story time!” Hannah ran after the boys. Soon, all the kids, including Samrah Apa, had gathered in a circle around Dadi. Dadi smiled at the children and asked them: “Do you know why the answer to ‘Pakistan Ka Matlab Kiya?’ was ‘La Ilaha Illa Allah?’”

“Islam was the reason why Pakistan was created,” Samrah Apa said wisely.

“Yes, well done, and do you know who brought the light of Islam to Hindus in the subcontinent? Quaid-e-Azam said: ‘The Pakistan Movement started when the first Muslim put his foot on the soil of Sindh, the Gateway of Islam in India.’” 

“The first brick in the foundation of Pakistan was laid in 712 AD, when Muhammad bin Qasim anchored at Debal Port (now known as Karachi), freed the Muslim women and children from the prisons of Raja Dahir and constructed the first mosque at the town,” Samrah Apa read out proudly from the notes she had been preparing. 

“Dadi, what about the story?” Ali asked impatiently. 

“Well, this is a story of how a brave young orphan boy became the commanding general of Muslim army and conquered the forts of unpopular tyrant Hindu rajas.”

“Yay, yippie!” Hannah jumped up and down. She loved action movies.

Dadi began: “Twelve hundred years ago in the eighth century, Arabs traded with India and Eastern Asia. The trade was carried through sea route, but the route was unsafe due to the plunder of pirates from Sindh. The Arab rebels also took refuge in Sindh. Thus, the Muslim rulers wanted to secure the trade route.”

“During Hajjaj’s governorship, the Mids of Debal (some pirates) plundered the gifts of Ceylon’s ruler to Hajjaj and attacked Arab ships that were carrying the orphans and widows of Muslim soldiers which had died in Sri Lanka. This gave the Umayyad caliphate a genuine reason to attack the Makran and Sindh regions.” 

Mom also joined the circle of listeners.

“For attacking Sindh, the Umayyad caliphate chose seventeen-year-old Muhammad bin Qasim to lead an army of six thousand Arab soldiers: an advance guard, six thousand camel riders and five catapults (Manjaniks). Muhammad bin Qasim first captured Debal. Then his army marched along River Indus and was met by the tyrant Hindu Raja Dahir’s forces at Rohri. Dahir died in the battle, his forces were defeated, and Muhammad bin Qasim took control of Sindh,” Dadi beamed proudly. 

 “Did Muhammad bin Qasim conquer Sindh only? How long did he stay here? Why did he leave?” Samrah Apa had so many questions popping in her head.

Muhammad bin Qasim entered Debal in 712 AD. After he succeeded in capturing Debal, he continued his progress towards Nirun fortress (called Sikka), Brahmanabad, Alor, Multan and Gujarat. After the conquest of Multan, he carried his army to the borders of Kingdom of Kashmir, but his dismissal stopped the further advance. Now Muslims were the masters of whole Sindh and a part of Punjab up to the borders of Kashmir in the north.

“Did they conquer Kashmir too?” Omar imagined the whole scene in his mind.

“No! But after the conquest, he adopted a conciliatory policy, asking for acceptance of Muslim rule by the natives in return for non-interference in their religious and cultural practices. He also established peace with a strong taxation system. In return, he guaranteed security of life and property for the natives. His forgiveness and merciful character impressed many natives and they accepted Islam.”

Mom served some warm milk to Dadi. Dadi seemed a bit tired now, so Mom continued with the story: “Did you know that this young lion of Islam was the fruit of our beloved Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) Dua and optimistic vision? When the hooligans hatefully hurled rocks and furiously chased Prophet Muhammad (sa) out of Taif, he remained optimistic, and when Allah (swt) sent angels to destroy the people of Taif, he said mercifully: ‘No, I hope that God will bring out from their offspring people, who worship Him alone and associate no partners with Him.’”

“Muhammad bin Qasim was born in Taif who, within 80 years, brought Islam to the South Asia, which is now home to almost one-third of all Muslims in the world. The seventeen-year-old Muhammad bin Qasim was the son of the Thaqafi tribe of Taif, the same city where the Prophet (sa) could not find a single believer, but was hopeful that one day, their children would find their way to Allah (swt). It was the kind and merciful character of Muhammad bin Qasim, which helped open the doors of Islam to the people of Sindh.”

“Why did he go back so soon?” Samrah Apa asked Mom.

“Muhammad bin Qasim’s uncle and mentor Hajjaj bin Yusuf died in 714,” Mom explained. “Later, when Caliph Walid bin Abdul Malik died, his younger brother Suleiman succeeded him. He was a bitter enemy of Hajjaj’s family. He recalled Muhammad bin Qasim from Sindh, who obeyed the orders as the duty of a general. When he came back, he was put to death on July 18, 715 AD, at the age of twenty.”

Mom and Dadi could not keep their tears of sadness hidden from the kids.

“It was this short rule that brought Islam to Sindh! This brave man’s small step was a giant leap for the Muslim Ummah,”

Samrah Apa wrote the conclusion of her assignment and read it out loud for everyone.

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The Richest Man

“What do you want to be, when you grow up?” Dadi Jan asked me, tapping away at her keyboard. (She loves to read, research and write stuff).

“Uh! … rich!” I answered casually focusing on my video game.

“Oh! Just like that politician, who looted all the country’s wealth and invested in Europe? Or like that movie star, who has millions of fans but doesn’t care too much about what Allah (swt) thinks of him?” 

“Dadi! Now you are going to extremes! Of course, not! I don’t want to be like either of them.”

Dadi dramatically heaved a sigh of relief and closed her laptop turning to me. That meant trouble. I tried to look more occupied with my game.

“You know, we do have to pay a price for becoming rich.” Dadi sat down next to me trying to follow my game.

“Uhuh!” I just nodded.

“Did you know that Abdul Sattar Edhi travelled through Iran, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and many other countries of Europe to become rich? Dadi suddenly asked.

“Really?” I stopped gaming and turned to Dadi.

“Yes. In 1956, he collected a few clothes, a blanket, some food, some cash and his passport in a bag and boarded a bus for his journey. People saw him as a poor traveler and handed him small change. Edhi Sahib saved it all and returned to Pakistan to form his first dispensary (a small clinic).”

“I guess they had no visa issues back then. I only think of travelling the world to see Disneyland or buying stuff.” I admitted feeling a bit uneasy.

“I know, I guess we all do, except for the ones, who have a smart heart. Rich at heart! Abdul Sattar Edhi was like that since birth.” Dadi commented.

“Tell me more!” I was intrigued.

“Well, Edhi Sahib was born in 1928 in a Memon family of traders in Gujrat (India). His family led a very simple life. They slept on cotton filled mattresses laid on the floor. Early in the morning, being the eldest, Edhi would help his mother by taking down the pots and pans from the top of a cupboard and in the evening, once they were washed, he stacked them away. Among the pots, there was one that was never needed. Secretly, Abdul Sattar began to put his savings into it as a child.”

“What did he do with the money?” I was curious.

“Edhi’s parents taught him well. Their first lesson was generosity and sharing. As a child, when his mother gave Edhi Sahib 2 paisas, she would ask him to spend one paisa on himself and give the other to a needy.

Once a boy’s mother fell ill and he could not bring lunch from home to school. Edhi gave half of his guava to his classmate and also bought some gram (Chana) with the other paisa. So he spent more on others than on himself.  

At another time, Edhi was passing by some place. A few unkind boys were teasing a poor ailing man. Edhi told them to stop. The boys left the old man and instead started beating Edhi. Wounded Edhi escaped home and narrated the story to his mother. She was proud of her son’s bravery and bandaged his wounds. Next, she gave Edhi some food to serve the old man in the street. When the old man finished the food, he prayed to Allah (swt): ‘Insha’Allah, your name will be known far and wide one day.’”

“Wow! That’s how he became so famous! And brought honour to Pakistan, too.”

“Yes. And he was just like any other child. Edhi was also mischievous and played pranks on others but never hurt anyone. He loved to imitate animal sounds and even showed others circus tricks. And most of all, he had a great sense of humour. 

His father travelled a lot. Whenever he would return home, he shaved Edhi’s head and everyone called him ‘roti’ because of his bald head.”

“That’s funny! I would never want to be called that!”

“At school, he was a class monitor. He learnt English and passed his exams with good marks. Edhi read about other famous personalities such as Marx, Lenin, Abu Dhar Ghaffari (rta), Islamic history, even Russian literature.”

“Who could tell that a simple man like him knew so much?” I wondered, remembering Abdul Sattar Edhi in his usual grey Kurta Shalwar and cap.

Dadi continued dazzled: “And that’s not all! He asked himself a question at the age of 14 years: ‘Why am I here in this world? What is the purpose of my existence? Why is there so much pain in this world? Our kings build beautiful buildings for themselves but what about the poor? I will sell matches by the roadside and earn money to build a hospital for the poor and disabled.’”

“Did he share his thoughts with others?” I asked hesitantly.

“Yes he did. And most kids and people made fun of him. But that did not stop him, did it? Once he heard Quaid-e-Azam speak in India: ‘Come to Pakistan. Bring your businesses there. You will prosper and Pakistan will prosper, too.’ Edhi and his family arrived in Pakistan, and their first home was a room they rented in Jodia Bazaar. Edhi’s father advised him that if you want to learn a trade, start from the bottom. Edhi obeyed his dad and bought pencils, match boxes and small towels to sell by the wayside. Whatever he earned, he saved part of it for his dispensary that he wanted to set up.”  

“Another piece of advice that he took from his father was to never have a partner in business, especially if you are an honest man. If your partner doesn’t have the same Imaan and values, he could bring dishonour to you.”

Dadi got up and left. I thought of all that this old man left behind. Edhi centres in different cities of Pakistan for poor and homeless children and old folks, animal centres for stray and wounded animals, Edhi ambulance service (largest in the world) including ambulances, helicopters and planes, a cancer research centre, adoption facility to place orphans in respectable families, etc.   

Abdul Sattar Edhi lived his dream! “My work is for all of Allah’s (swt) creatures, people as well as animals. I treat everyone equally – Muslim or non-Muslim, rich or poor, Pakistani or non-Pakistani. Follow these principles in life and, Insha’Allah, you will be successful: simplicity, honesty, hard work and punctuality.” Golden advice from the richest man with a smart heart.   

  

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The Tiger of Mysore

“You won’t believe this! One of my friends got a tiger cub for a pet!” Samra Apa shrieked, as she came through the door. 

“Assalamu Alaikum to you, too!” Dad reminded the bedazzled Samra Apa.

“Oops… sorry! Wa Alaikum Assalam. But, Dad, can you imagine playing with a tiger cub?” Samra Apa sank into a sofa close by, all wide eyed.

“Yes, I can,” Dad turned to face Samrah Apa calmly. “I have read about someone who not only played with tigers, but also once killed one who tried to attack him. He was so fascinated with the stripes that he had them painted over his weapons, too.”

Ali joined in the talk, as Samra Apa looked blankly at Dad. 

“That’s right! I remember now! We read about him in our history class, Dad. He was a very brave ruler and general of the subcontinent, right? Can’t recall his name…”

“Yes. That’s how he earned his title of ‘The Tiger of Mysore’,” Dad piped in.

Ali proudly looked at Samra Apa, who was clearly bored by this conversation.

“Okay, okay, who was he?”

“His original name was Sultan Fateh Ali Sahab Tipu, popularly known as Tipu Sultan.”

“Oh, we have a road in Karachi named after him!”Samra Apa screeched. At least she had some information.

“He was born in 1750 in Southern India and was the eldest son of Sultan Hyder Ali, a military general and ruler of Mysore (India),” Dad added. 

“Dad, did you know that Hyder Ali was an illiterate; hence, he made sure that Tipu Sultan receives a prince’s education. Tipu Sultan was taught Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Kannada, Quran, Islamic laws, etc. Other than that, he was trained to shoot, ride and fence. Isn’t that cool?” Ali was impressed with all he could remember.

Dad continued: “India was a sitting golden duck that the British wanted to capture. Hence, they formed a company called East India Company that helped them trade and bring back wealth to Britain. 

At the age of 15 years, Tipu Sultan fought his first war alongside his father against the British army in 1767-69. It was called the First Anglo-Mysore War, in which the British forces were defeated.”

Ali asked: “Dad, isn’t it true that Tipu Sultan used rockets for the first time in history as the main weapon of war?”

“Yes. His specialized dual bladed rockets became the main cause of victory for his army. The British later captured some to improve their own rockets. As a military general, he had speed. His enemies thought that Tipu was fighting at many fronts.” Dad added.

“He introduced new coins. During his rule, Mysore’s silk industry boomed. The living standard rose so high that it was better than most of the European countries. 

He had great ties with the French as well as other Muslim countries, such as the Turkish Ottoman Empire, Afghanistan, Muscat and Iran. He also sent delegations to the USA President Thomas Jefferson.”

“Quite an ambitious man,” Samra Apa mumbled, thoughtfully.

Dad explained: “Arthur Wesley, the Duke of Wellington, finally defeated Tipu Sultan in a decisive battle. He was the same man, who also defeated the French army in the Battle of Waterloo. But it took the British army 30 years to dispose of Tipu Sultan. 

Tipu Sultan was offered to save his life and escape, but he refused and died fighting on the battlefield in 1799. Each soldier of the British Army was awarded a coin by their government after this victory, as Tipu Sultan was the last hurdle in their way of taking over the sub-continent.”

“We really did have enormously brave ancestors. I pray that Allah (swt) makes us as brave as Tipu Sultan.” Samra Apa said.

“For starters, you can arrange a play date with your friend and her tiger cub,” Ali winked at Dad.

“Not a bad idea – just make sure you meet the cub, after he has had his lunch,” Dad smiled. 

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The Three Tricksters

Ah! The irresistible, mouth-watering smell of cake baking!

“Mom! Are you baking a chocolate cake? Can I, please, have just a little piece?” Ali peeked in through the kitchen window.

“Sure, call in your sisters. You can all sit at the table and enjoy your cake, so I don’t have to clean up the crumbs from everywhere,” Ali got an automatic response from his Mom.

Hannah came running downstairs, as soon as she heard Ali shout: “Come and get your chocolate cake!” But Samrah Apa was nowhere to be found. “Where is Samrah?” inquired Mom.

“She is reading her book of 1001 inventions as usual,” Hannah replied. She could not wait to get her hands on Apa’s share of cake as well.

After a few calls from Mom, Samrah came down with her nose still in the book. “If you are going to eat the book, then can I have your cake slice?’ asked Ali expectantly.

“Mom, look!” Samrah showed her mother a picture of a haunted bottle – a uniquely designed bottle with two heads. If water is poured in one and juice in the other, the two liquids don’t mix.

When the liquids are poured out from the bottle, the water comes out of the head in which the juice was poured and the opposite for the juice – it comes out of the head in which water was poured.”

“Wow!” Ali forgot all about the cake and peeked in the book curiously.

“How does this work, Mom?” Samrah wanted to know more.

Mom took the book from Samrah and sat down at the table. All three kids sat around her in a circle. She looked at the picture, smiled and explained the mechanism to the children.

“What a genius device!”

“Which Muslim scientist invented this?” Ali felt proud of this Muslim mastermind, but he was even more surprised when he found out that it was not one but three inventions!

Meet Banu Musa

“The three brothers Mohammed, Ahmed, and Al-Hasan lived during the golden age of Muslim civilization. Each excelled at a field of science – astronomy, mechanics and mathematics – but together they formed one scientific team.” Mom read aloud from the book.

“If their work is thousands of years old, how do we know about it today?” asked Ali. 

“From their books, of course. Banu Musa wrote more than 20 works of science and used to sign their books with their collective name. Their most famous book is the Book of Tricks or the Book of Ingenious Devices,” replied Samrah, as she had already read the book.

“Did they learn this from their parents or school?” asked Hannah.

“Banu Musa were orphans who grew up in Baghdad. Caliph Al-Mamoon sent them to the House of Wisdom (Bayt Al-Hikmah), where the brightest minds of the time gave them the best possible knowledge.” Samrah replied again, as if she had memorized the book by heart.

“Why is their book called the science of tricks?” This time Ali popped the question directly at Samrah.

“The ‘science of tricks’ or ‘mechanica’ is the old name for mechanics. The most famous work of Banu Musa, the Book of Ingenious Devices, includes detailed description of 100 mechanical devices, showing how they work and what their functions are.” Samrah replied without reading from the book.

“The book is full of magic… temperamental moody jugs, bottles that take different liquids without mixing them, jars that dispense measured quantities of water automatically, oil lamps with non-diminishing oil, fountains that change their form automatically and many more…” continued Samrah, building Ali and Hannah’s curiosity.

Everyone had forgotten the cake by now, and Mom had also gone out smiling.

“But isn’t magic Haram?” one could always depend on Ali for the most unexpected questions.

“Mostly Banu Musa’s devices were used to help people in their daily lives. They also made some devices to impress the people who worked on key scientific principles in pneumatics and mechanics. People were tricked by the appearance of a simple device and were surprised by the unexpected outcomes.” 

“Like the Environmentally Friendly JarBanu Musa designed this jar so that a measured quantity of water was dispensed when the tap opened. The jar would then stop dispensing water for a period of time before the water started to flow again, until all the water in the jar was used up.” Samrah Apa explained the picture. 

“It’s the same as the sink in Dolmen Mall’s washrooms!” Hannah exclaimed.

Banu Musa were three remarkable ninth century scientists, who left a huge mark on the ‘science of tricks’. They devised machines that functioned automatically. They left a legacy and were among the masterminds of Muslim civilization’s Golden Age.

If we could imagine them appearing in the modern world, one would wonder what they may make of modern robots!

Samrah Apa was still in awe and all three kids were wondering if they could be the next wiz-kidz! What do you think?

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Who Will Be My Vice Captain?

“Please choose me as your vice captain,” pleaded Omar.

Ali was perplexed. He was the captain of the school cricket team and responsible for selecting the best team that could win them the approaching inter-school cricket tournament. Omar was his best friend, yet Ali knew that he was not a competent leader. Ali couldn’t pick him as the team’s vice captain. But how could he disclose this to Omar?

“Omar, I need to be fair. I have to select the right boy as my vice captain. Someone who I can rely on to lead the team in my absence. Someone I can consult for advice. You are my best friend, but I need someone who is a good leader too,” Ali tried to explain to Omar, hesitatingly. 

But Omar got really annoyed and disappointed. “Why don’t you just say that you want to boss around and not give me a chance?” He puffed up with an enraged face, ready to stomp off the field.

Coach Farhan was overhearing this uneasy conversation from afar. “Guys! What’s up? There seems to be some bad blood developing here, huh?”

Ali just shrugged his shoulders helplessly. Omar glared at Ali silently, still red in the face.

“Okay everyone, let’s take a break from the match. Huddle up and bring your refreshments.” Coach Farhan signaled to the rest of the team. The boys brought their cola and water bottles and sat squarely on the ground buzzing in a circle. There was still a queer silence between Ali and Omar.

“Who knows the governors of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (rtam)?” Coach Farhan suddenly asked.

Everyone looked blank and wondered what this was about. Wasn’t this sports time? Why was Coach Farhan talking about Islamiat?

“Alright, don’t wake up your brains, guys. Let it go back to sleep.” He joked. Everyone smiled and giggled.   

“The Prophet (sa) appointed his governors on the basis of their knowledge and practice of Islam and their skills for the job. This was much needed after Islam began to grow and spread out of Madinah into the world. Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (rtam) followed the same method after becoming the first Caliph after the Prophet’s (sa) death. He reappointed the same people as governors for that location as they were the best leaders.”

The boys nodded their head, still unsure why Coach Farhan was suddenly talking about this.

“Abu Bakr (rtam) appointed people of the region, which was also the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa), as the leader knew the customs and sensitive problems of the local people better than someone coming from outside. He took advise from senior companions of the Prophet (sa) for the best man for the job and next he talked to the person he wanted to select to find out how eager he was to take up that particular mission.” Coach Farhan sipped some water to take a break.

Now the team started looking at Ali and Omar.

The coach continued: “The main duties of the governors were to establish prayers, oversee the Muslim army, govern the newly-conquered lands, take the pledge of loyalty on behalf of the Caliph, manage treasury funds, maintain peace, and educate people about Quran and Islam.”

“Really? But our present-day governors do none of what you have mentioned.” Ali spoke out, surprised.

“Yeah! They are too busy tweeting on social media and attending talk shows like celebrities. They have little clue about what people’s real troubles are,” chipped in another player.

“Exactly! And do you know why?” The coach challenged.

“They are not loyal?” added Omar.

“No! They are not fit for the job,” stated Coach Farhan. 

“Leadership is not everyone’s cup of tea. It requires knowledge and ability. And it can only be developed by practice and hard work. But what happens when you give a car to a driver who has rarely driven before?”

“He crashes into others,” Ali reasoned.

“Exactly. And he puts his own and others’ lives in danger. Likewise, when we deliberately select the wrong people or incompetent people for a role that they are not ready for, the entire team suffers. So it’s not about being anyone’s favourite or best friend. It’s about choosing the best man for the best job. And you all have talents but different ones. That’s how Allah (swt) has created you.”

Omar looked away, and Ali felt a bit uneasy. It was difficult to say no to his best friend, but he was relieved that Coach Farhan had helped explain his point.

Slowly, Ali walked over to Omar and patted him strongly on his back. “Omar, there is one job you are fit for and no one can take your place. You are my best buddy!” 

Omar smiled weakly.

“And you are a promising wicket-keeper, so you are booked for that spot in my team! As for being vice captain, you can wait a bit and polish your skills more. You will get your chance when the time is right. You will have to become the best leader on the team to take care of other’s needs and nurture it!” winked the Coach.

Omar shook hands with Ali, “Alright… I get the point. I will be so good that you won’t be able to turn me down!” Omar nudged Ali in the stomach.

And finally the match resumed.

 

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“Bill Gates – This Close to Being a Muslim”

“I have decided the topic of our project, guys!” announced Ali from across the school canteen table.

“Thank God I don’t need to rack my brains anymore!” Omar heaved a sigh of relief.

“It’s about Bill Gates. We will write a letter to him to introduce Islam.” Ali said, smiling proudly.

Omar and Usman exchanged glances, and burst into fits of laughter that echoed in the entire hall.

“Alright, alright, now that you’ve had a good laugh at it, lend me your ears, goofies,” Ali smiled, pulling a chair to sit down.

 “And why do you think this is such a novel idea, Ali?” challenged Usman.

“Because he is a genius, and he has the right to know the One Who granted him such a mind,” reasoned Ali. “Besides, he has some excellent qualities. I read all about his life, his passions, and his untiring efforts.” 

Omar and Usman thought about it for a minute. They didn’t want to be made fun of in class. But then they had to agree it was an original idea.

“Okay, what do you know about one of the world’s billionaires? Shoot!” said Omar.

Ali bent forward excitedly: “He was a very active child. His father was a successful lawyer, and his mom was a school teacher and social worker. On school nights, Bill was not allowed any TV. Instead, the Gates family talked, played games, and read books.”

“Oh Lord, that sounds like my house,” said Omar.

“Bill was an avid reader,” continued Ali. “At the age of seven, he decided to read the entire encyclopedia. For Bill, thinking was an activity just like drawing and reading. He always looked for ways to challenge himself. He was left-handed. If he was bored at school, he took notes with his right hand.”

“How cool!” said Usman with obvious admiration.

“When he was eleven, he entered a contest at his church. Bill learnt seventeen pages of one of the sermons by heart, and recited it to the minister, without making a single mistake,” explained Ali. ”Bill won a dinner invitation for his family to a restaurant at the top of the famous Space Needle in Seattle.”

“That’s no big deal. Muslim kids learn the entire Quran! That’s hundreds of pages, and that too in Arabic – a foreign language, which most non-Arabs like us don’t understand,” protested Omar.

“Yeah! Technically each and every Hafiz child is a genius,” agreed Usman.

“That’s why it is so important for Bill Gates to know what Islam is all about,” reasoned Ali.

“So Bill Gates is a nerd, eh?” inquired Omar.

“Not really,” said Ali. “Winning mattered a lot to Bill. He always said: ‘I can do anything I set my mind to.’ Just because he was smart didn’t mean he wasn’t good at sports. He especially loved fast-moving games. Though he was small in size, he loved water-skiing, ice-skating, swimming, and downhill-skiing.”

“How did he get into computers then?” asked Usman, genuinely curious now.

“In seventh grade, Bill was excelling in math and science. His first encounter was with a teletype machine. He was amazed at what a computer could do. He began to spend all his free time in the computer room. He read every computer manual he could find. At the age of thirteen, he wrote his first programme for playing tic-tac-toe. However, since computer time cost money, Bill had to get a job. Bill and his friends were hired to find bugs and flaws in a software, and in return, they could use a huge computer worth a million dollars. Out of passion, Bill worked at nights on schooldays and on weekends – until midnight. Then, he would walk three miles home, in case he missed his bus.” 

“Phew! That’s a lot of tough work for a young student!” Omar said.

“Well buddies, the world sees only a billionaire. It never knows the struggle, sacrifice, and back-breaking work this founder of Microsoft has done, starting as a child. He expected the same from his employees. He was so humble that he would sleep under his desk to get some sleep in between his all-night programming assignments. Today, he is retired. He has handed over the giant company to his employees, and has committed himself to philanthropy – to heal the ailing world,” said Ali.

“Well, I couldn’t agree more that a man like Bill Gates should learn about Islam, and make a wise choice for his eternal life,” Usman said.

“We are in, Ali. Let’s go for it.” Omar playfully punched Ali in the ribs. 

Only time will tell if Ali, Usman, and Omar are successful or not. In the meantime, you may write to him, too. 

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The Best Super Power

Bang! Boom! Crash! It sounded like thunder rolling. “What’s going on?” Grandpa came down the stairs, only to find Ali, Omar and Hassan parking their cycles in fury – or you could say crashing them against the wall. Before Grandpa could say anything, all three boys started to point each other out, complaining:

“Oh Grandpa! Ali broke the cycle pump!” This was Omar.

“No Grandpa! Omar was the one who punctured my cycle,” complained Hassan.

Grandpa kept his cool and asked all three angry young men to calm down: “Who wants a cold glass of smoothie?” 

The three kids still looked grumpy, but the thought of a smoothie made them trudge into the dining room and settle down. After they had relaxed and enjoyed their drink, Grandpa started a new conversation.

“What would you do to someone who had taken the life of your family members, tortured your friends, or made your life tremendously intolerable, if such a person was at your mercy?”

“We will take revenge, of course!” replied all three boys in unison.

Grandpa smiled and continued: “Yes. Most of us are not merciful when we are tested with power, but if we look back at our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sa) and his conquest of Makkah, we notice the surprising extent of his mercy and forgiveness. He was exiled from his homeland, his family members were killed, and his friends were tortured. When his enemies came before him in a completely vulnerable state and at his disposal, he had every right to avenge for what they had done to him for fourteen years – yet he forgave them!

“When did this inspiring event take place?” asked Ali, curious to know more.

“Prophet Muhammad (sa) and his companions conquered Makkah on the 21st of Ramadan in the eighth year of Hijrah (630 CE),” Dad also joined in the conversation from behind them

“Our beloved Prophet (sa) must have entered Makkah like a King after such a great victory,” Hassan suggested, wide-eyed.

Dad continued: “It is recorded by the Prophet’s biographers that when entering Makkah, Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) head was so low that his beard was touching the back of his mount in complete humility. He was reciting the following verse from the Qur’an:

 “Indeed, we have given you, (O Muhammad), a clear conquest that Allah may forgive for you what preceded of your sin and what will follow and complete His favor upon you and guide you to a straight path, and (that) Allah may aid you with a mighty victory.” (Surah Al-Fath 1-3)

Indeed, this victory was a turning point in history for the Muslims, yet he showed no pride or joy for his triumph. Rather he praised the Creator and thanked Him for this peaceful victory.”

Omar started jumping up and down in excitement: “I remember my teacher telling us in class about how our Prophet (sa) also forgave Wahshi ibn Harb who was responsible for killing Hamzah ibn Abdul-Muttalib (rtam), the beloved uncle of our Prophet (sa), during the Battle of Uhud.”

“Why did he kill the Prophet’s uncle?” wondered Hassan.

“Wahshi killed him on the order of Hind bint Utbah, wife of Abu Sufyan, who wanted to take revenge of her father’s death in the Battle of Badr. Wahshi was promised his freedom if he killed the Prophet’s (sa) beloved uncle and later the companions saw that Hamzah’s body had been mutilated,” Dad explained. “Prophet Muhammad (sa) forgave them both when they were brought to him at the conquest of Makkah and it was this power of forgiveness that both later became Muslims.” 

“Wahshi later killed Musaylimah Kazab (false prophet) as repentance for martyring Hamzah (rtam),” Dad continued as he wanted the children to understand that it is indeed mercy and forgiveness that makes ordinary people heroes and winners.

“Do you think wearing a cape or having the power to spring webs out of your hands transforms you into heroes? Or is forgiving your worst enemy when you have the power to take revenge is a greater achievement?” Grandpa asked the mesmerized kids.

“Forgiveness is the super power I want!” Ali said, raising his fists in the air, and everyone started to laugh.

“Let’s start by helping each other fix our bikes,” Ali sprang up from the sofa, followed by Omar and Hassan.

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Major Massey Meets a Fine Soldier

“Today Miss Elizabeth came wearing a scarf to school. She informed us that she converted to Islam!” Ali broke out the news flash of the day at the family dining table.

“Really? And what was she wearing?” Samra Apa inquired curiously.

“Uhhh…  I think some black gown,” Ali focused on his freshly sliced pizza oozing with cheese.

“Courageous woman! It is a huge change from skirts to gowns,” Samra Apa commented, raising her eyebrows and recalling the time when she had begun donning the Hijab.

“Did she share why she changed her faith?” Dad asked Ali, who was trying to dodge mom’s watchful eyes and pick out the mushrooms that he disliked.

“Yeah! She said that she was very surprised by the kind and just treatment of the school’s Muslim principal. Also, she was impressed to see how Muslims responded to the five daily prayers, despite being busy like the rest of the world.” Ali served himself a second slice, absolutely enjoying his dinner.

Mom commented: “It generally takes one person to change the way you look at things. As Muslims, we either bring the disbelievers closer to Allah (swt) or make them run away from Islam.”

“But how is that?” Samra Apa objected. “I mean if someone drives the Mercedes car and rams it into another car, you will blame the driver, not the Mercedes company. Likewise, if Muslims misbehave in any way, Islam should not be blamed for it.”

“It is the case, my dear,” Dad replied, “that reminds me of an interesting story I read about the Indian sub-continent, before Pakistan was made. It was about Major Massey, who was posted to Attock Fort in undivided India.”

“Tell us, please!” Samra Apa loved stories. Ali was busy with his third slice and tried to sound enthusiastic in between his bites. “Yes… Dad… go ahead.”

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