Dr. Ruth Pfau

January 18, 2013

Image     This is Sahar’s speech for her religion culmination exam


           Good Afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Today we are here to learn about the candidates for the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith Award. Today I would like to introduce you to someone who I feel is exactly the type of person who deserves this honour. She is known as “the angel of Karachi”, “mother of persons affected by leprosy”, and even as “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa”. This heroic person is someone who has never sought out the spotlight for herself but spends every waking hour defending those who are ignored and forgotten. Ladies and gentlemen I would like to introduce you to Dr. Ruth Pfau.

                Dr. Pfau was never a stranger to struggles and atrocity. She was born in Leipzig, Germany   on September 9th, 1929. Being a German during World War 2 gave her a front row seat to the horrors committed by the Nazi’s. The genocide and massacre she witnessed inspired her to become a doctor in the hopes of helping others. After the end of the War she made the dangerous trek from communist East Germany to Democratic West Germany in order to pursue a medical education. During her time in medical school she became exposed to the various groups within Christianity. She was inspired by, the words of St. Thomas Aquinas and John of Damascus; Dr. Pfau decided to convert to Catholicism. She believed that the Pope was required in order to find theological truth and as an authority figure in the Church. Her devotion to God was so strong and unshakable that she eventually became a nun and joined the Daughters of the Heart of Mary order.

                Dr. Pfau’s skills as a doctor made her an asset to the Order’s various charity missions. In 1960 she was given an assignment to help with the healthcare of the poor in Bombay, India.  However, due to visa problems she was stopped over in Pakistan in the urban city of Karachi. It was there that her life changed forever. While in Karachi, Dr. Pfau and her companion nun visited a leper beggar colony in the less desirable part of the city. It was an experience that she will never forget. She later recalls the event in The Express Tribune, “I felt saddened when I saw people living in caves, crawling like animals. They had compromised with their faith but it was not their fate, they deserved a much better and happier life.” Seeing the slum-like conditions of the colony, Dr. Pfau realized that God had stopped her over in Karachi  for a reason and that her real missions was to help those unfortunate and vulnerable souls whose eyes she had looked into only to find God looking back at her.

                Dr. Pfau has now spent over half a century in Pakistan. She has trained many doctors and volunteers in leprosy care and has even helped create the Mary Adelaide Leprosy Centre which works all over the country to provide care for leprosy patients. Now, although the story of how she became a nun and help the lepers in Pakistan was not as exciting as the typical call stories of the prophets it was all Dr. Pfau needed to realize her mission in life. Although, God did not speak directly to her the way he had to Abraham and Moses, Dr. Pfau still knew that God was calling to her through the suffering she had witnessed throughout her life and in the beggar colony. She might not have had a direct conversation with God, but she also never had that moment of doubt that the other prophets did. She never hesitated to help the lepers after she met them. She mentions this in an article in loonwatch.com, “Well if it doesn’t hit you the first time, I don’t think it will ever hit you.”

                Dr. Pfau is someone who always knows what she needs to do. In Karachi, she witnessed an injustice she knew, in her conscience, was wrong, she found a solution to it and then worked hard to make her idea a reality. She was never someone who was dishonest; every penny raised for the leprosy fund has been used for the purpose it was donated for. Despite the heavy corruption in Pakistan, Dr Pfau has never used a dishonest means to get money for her cause and has always acted for those whose cries go unheard of within the traffic and rush of Karachi.

                One other quality of Dr. Pfau’s is something that further reinforces the fact that she deserves this award.  Dr. Pfau has never let her hard work keep her away from her faith. Every morning she wakes and prays at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi. She does not make a big show of her praying but does it quietly and in private where it is just her and God. She always treats her fellow human beings with dignity and respect regardless of their situation in life. She is someone who mourns for others when they are in need.  She feels the pain of people when they are treated like second-class citizens because of their leprosy. Dr. Pfau is also someone who is poor in spirit. She is always donating her time and effort to help those in need at the leprosy colony. She also does not use her fame to increase her own standard of living but to help those who really need it. For example, when she had an interview with a prominent Pakistani new channel Geo, she spent the bulk of the time promoting care for leprosy instead of talking about herself. Every time she receives an award, she always mentions her patients first. She uses her spotlight to increase the attention on the leprosy patients so that they can also have a voice. She is someone who treats her patients with gentleness and compassion and works hard to support the lives of others by offering medical care, food and funds. Dr. Pfau has always promoted the life of her patients and refuses to allow them to suffer. She does not crave material possessions, for she knows that God is the greatest treasure. Dr. Pfau does not always travel the easier path; in fact, she usually chooses the road less travelled because she knows that while it is not easy being Catholic, in the end it will pay off. For example, she knew beforehand that the life of a nun meant certain sacrifices and hardships but she knew that the light at the end of the tunnel was God and to reach that light she was going to have to crawl through the narrow tunnel. She did not use her medical training to live the comfortable life most doctors do. Instead she used it to help enhance the lives of those that had next to nothing.

                Not only is Dr. Pfau an admirable Catholic but she is also an exemplary human being. She knew that God had placed inside of her a natural inclination to do good and a skill in medicine so that she could heal people. She used this skill to help the lepers, and later, the flood victims in northern Pakistan because she knew that this was her teleology. She used fortitude and prudence to help out an entire community. She also thinks every person is unique and deserves respect because they are created in God’s image and that just because you are a leper or a poor farmer does not mean that you are below everyone.  

                Although Dr. Pfau was never someone who went out and actively sought out the spotlight her courageous work could not go unaccredited. She has been given various awards throughout her life to commend her for her excellent work. A few awards she won are-Order of the Cross in 1968 from Germany, and honorary Doctor of Science degree in 2004 from Aga Khan University (Pakistan’s leading medical school), and the prestigious “Nishan-i-quaid-i-Azam Award” presented to her by the president of Pakistan in 2011.

                Through her hard work, Dr. Pfau made Pakistan, a nation considered sub-standard when compared to other great nations in Asia, the first country in the continent to have leprosy controlled. She is someone who has always stayed faithful to God and her devotion to Catholicism is something to be admired.  She is a light of hope in a dark world for many and I personally consider her a living legend. I hope that you all now also see her as the person who should receive this honour and as someone everyone should aspire to be like. Thank you for your attention.



Nihari…Passions and Traditions

May 28, 2011

It was a very captivating scene. My friend Andrew, a born Britisher who as a kid moved to Canada, eating Nihari with full zeal and devotion…..and this was his first time. I never thought that anybody from this part of the world can not only taste Nihari but also enjoy it. This dish whose story goes back about 200 years has now conquered the world rising from the city of Dilli. (the name old Dilli walla use for Dehli)

My mind went back to its origins. Ashraf Saboohi, in his very interesting book Dilli ki chand ajeeb hastiyan wrote:

I have heard from our elders that when Saadat Khan cleaned the Shah Jehani Nehar (Canal) and it started flowing again in the middle of Dehli, Alvi Khan Hakeen wore the funeral dress and entered the Court. When king Mohammad Shah asked the reason he said, I am crying over the lost health of the city. Disease will now become rampant. When asked about the cure, he advised increasing the use of Red Chillies and Khataai (I do not know its English translation). In order to reduce the effects of these heavy duty spices, it was recommended to add pure ghee.”

So the king ordered the cook to design a dish as per the Hakeem’s specifications. It is actually a type of Qorma where only beef shank meet is used. Fried onions, hot ghee, lemon, slices of garlic and coriander leaves are used as dressing and it is served with hot naan bread. Bone marrow and goat brain are added delicacy. (I have seen people adding makhan ka baghar (fried butter) also). After the dish it was customary to eat Gajar ka halwa (Carrot pudding) to reduce the effects of spices. At Burns road in Karachi, all the good halwa and rabri shops were next to Nihari shops. I don’t know whether they now exist or not. After reading the above paras, you would have guessed correctly that coronary disease was not discovered or was not given much thought during those days.

The Nihari wala that has been mentioned by every Dilliwala was Ganja Nihari wala who took the preparation of this dish to an art. During those times, Nihari was more of a winter dish. It was not available throughout the year as it is now. It used to be eaten early in the morning. It was especially liked by the poor as this food is enough for them till dinner. It was cheap during those days and skipping lunch would save money for them. Rest of the year, these Nihari walas used to sell other dishes but not Nihari.

The making of Nihari was an art. As per Ujjra Dayar By Shahid Ahmed Dehlvi (grandson of Deputy Nazir Ahmed:

Usually a hole was dug near the shop where the pot was put into with a window below to put the coal in. After putting all the spices and meat, it used to be cooked for the whole night. The tradition was to eat Nihari at the shop. There is only one daig or pot. So whoever comes early, rich or poor will get the order. Once it is finished, you have to wait till the next day.

This reminds me of my childhood. Our Nihari wala was Sagheer from Dehli Muslim hotel (not the Kalia) at Burns Road. Sagheer and our family go a long way. His grandfather used to be our family bawarchi (cook for special occasions) and served my great great grandfather. We were totally prohibited from buying Nihari from any other place. Nihari was only ordered in winter and also only for breakfast. Usually on a Wednesday, Sagheer was called and was told that we will be having Nihari for the weekend. On Saturday evening, my uncles would leave our pateelas (pots) at his shop. Sunday morning, one of them usually wakes up quite early to make the trip to the shop. We try to wake up too to join him. There Sagheer would use to fill our order himself rather than the servant as taking out the Nihari was regarded as an art. He knows who in our family like adla and who wanted reshay wali boti. Nalis and bhejas was wrapped separately along with the Naans. On our return home, the big dastar khawan (eating mat) was spread in our big room. Special newly polished copper plates (Qalai wali rakabi) were used to eat Nihari. My grandmother and mother would have already made the baghar (hot oil) that used to be put on the Nihari. It used to be warmed again. Our old servant Bahadur Ali used to warm the naans on our angheeti (coal fired stove). We used to sweat during those early winter mornings due to the warmth and spices of that Nihari. There was no lunch and a very light dinner (usually Kichri) was served in the evening.

Now when I look back all those characters are gone. Sagheer died quite early and his hotel is gone. I think he had a kidney transplant operation in India and became quite famous as he was one of the earlier Pakistanis who had this kind of a procedure over there. His interview was even published in Akhbar-e-Jahan, if my memory serves me right. We started buying Nihari from Waheed hotel and also tried from Malik’s. They were good but not like Sagheer. We used to laugh at Sabris. We used to call it the spice less or sick man’s Nihari. Then came the big revolution where Nihari Inns were opened at every corner and it became a dish of all seasons. I remember when we first looked at Nihari at a wedding reception, we were quite shocked. That was the age of innocence.

So Nihari has moved from the Bhatyaras of Dilli to the Sabri hotel at Chicago. It has lost a bit of spice in the transformation but it has still regained the numero uno position (at least in my heart) of the dishes from our part of the world. It still dazzles the palate, and sometimes the digestive systems, from people of all color and nations.


May 28, 2011

Behind the Dubai palace in Karachi, near the seashore, there lives a merry old man. He holds a treasure which is unparallel in this world. A treasure which is most likely to be destroyede……… The reason being, most of us still questions the validity of the argument that it is indeed a treasure.

In his house under specially built cabinets are rows and rows of audio tapes. When played they tell you the history of Indo Pakistan music, literature and poetry. You can find Ustad Bundo Khan playing his Sarangi, Pathanay Khan singing his tunes, Chotay and Baray Bokhari reciting their essays in the earlier days of Radio Pakistan, Maulana Thanvi and Rasheed Turrabi reciting Quran or giving sermons or Faiz Ahmed recording his entire Nushka Hai Wafa in a span of 20 years in his studio. All this is not disorderly, you will find neatly bound 42 volumes of just his music catalogue showing which tapes contains which masterpiece, from which counter number to what counter number, sung or played by whom, what raag and what instruments. If this is not enough at the ripe old age of 93, this man, alone is trying to convert this universe of sound to digital media from tape. Did I forget to mention, he is an avid collector, traveller, photographer and author. His biography “Hijraton Kay Silsalay” won the Prime Minister award in 1998 right before the Prime Minister was send packing. The name of this mad man is Lutfullah Khan. But before delving deeper into his collection let’s dig deeper into who he is.

Born on November 25, 1916 in Madras, his father was in South Indian Railway. His childhood was spent on transfer from one city to another. Although he tried his hands at different hobbies, however music, writing and art were things that became part of his soul. He describes his interest as more of a “junoon” as far as music is concerned. To have a better understanding of this “junoon” and his mastery of music itself, his book “Sur Ki Talaash” is a must read. He had extra-ordinary fascination for music and singing from his childhood. He participated as an amateur singer at the Madras Boys and Girls Exhibition in the year 1931 and received the merit award for Hindustani Music. He signed an agreement in 1933 for classical singing with the Indian State Broadcasting Service, later re-named as All India Radio. He performed publicly at the age of 19, during a radio concert in 1935. Known as Madras Radio Artist, he sang Ghazals at a function of Muslim Students Association of St. Xaviers College in January 1939 and rendered classical singing at Bombay in December the same year. During quarter century of daily practice (1963-1988), he practiced singing with Maulana Abdul Shakoor (nephew of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan) and explored the intricacies of only one raag, the Darbari. His “junoon” of collection also started from those days. His collection of stamps, coins and film pamphlets of his teen years can still be seen in the neatly organized show cases in his house. His museum gallery displays rare photographs, photography equipment, International and Pakistani coins, and a set of 12 inch 78 rpm discs of Late “Barey Ghulam Ali Khan Sahib”, sound recording equipment and accessories, drawing instrument and stationary items used in documenting the collections and personal items of nostalgic importance as well as a wonderful matchbox collection. But the pick of this array is an album containing posters of old Hindi and American movies, some of them dating back to twenties. All are arranged in properly illuminated showcases and display boards. Electronic devices installed include “Revox” tape recorders. Such a broad based collection requires periodic maintenance for which he has established in a separate room a small workshop with inventory of spares and tools.

His archive contains a large number of rare books on a variety of subjects, including religion. In his personal files, papers are arranged in chronological order in a healthy state. Indexing has been done in simple manner to facilitate easy location of the desired document.

In 1938, he moved to Bombay. He was employed in the government’s rationings department. One of the responsibilities was to transport various stuff to different cities of India. He had the good chance to see almost all of India (except for Calcutta and Kashmir which he still regrets).
He landed in Karachi on October 17, 1947. This trip was more of an exploratory nature. But who has escaped the magic of this medusa? However the start of his love affair is unique. He mentions that he was stung by the beauty and cleanliness of this city. However he was stunned to look at Karachi’s double roties (sandwich bread). They were fresh and pure white. Unlike the stale yellow rationed breads of Bombay. “To yeh madrasi naujawan, Karachi ki double rotiyon ko dil day bheta”. He telegrammed his family to move over here and this love affair is still strong after 62 years. If you want to know more about Karachi and its inhabitants of yesteryears, his biography is an eye opener. He mentions a host of Sindhi Hindus and Christian which helped him establish himself and how they were all Karachities first and foremost, a thing which sounds like a Cinderella story today. He mentioned only one Muslim to compare with this group. That gentleman was Abdul Salam, my nana (maternal grandfather) and that is how I came to know Lutfullah Sahib so intimately.
Photography was his passion for a long time. In Bombay the famous actor De Billemoria was his friend. He had a chance to borrowing his 16mm Kodak movie camera and made movies of different occasions. However his real passion blossomed in Karachi. His friend bought the Thackersons photography shop. He lent his Roliflex camera to him to take picture. He took picture of the old buildings and the new offices and homes that are taking shape to absorb the new country and its administration. He made an album about Business on footpath which consists of all the things that are done on Karachi’s footpaths, right from small businesses to snake charmers, palmists, lizard show (saanday ka teel), ear cleaner etc. There was another album called business on wheels which shows fruit, vegetable, cloth, shoe etc vendors of Karachi on four wheel carts. He created his own dark room at his home and used to do his own developing and processing. In 1951, he bought a Swiss made Boulex Pylord 16mm camera and started making documentaries. One of the most memorable one was a cricket match between the Prime minister, his cabinet and the parliament members at the Karachi Gymkhana. One side was lead by Mohammad Ali Bogra and the other by the famous Maulvi Tameez Uddin Khan. The minster Mr. Chittophadia was bowling in his dhoti and Maulvi sahib was batting in his sheerwani. The organizer was Ahmed E.H. Jaafer. He bought several cameras and took thousands of pictures during his travels throughout the globe. The cameras and pictures album forms a part of this treasure.
Then started the story of his real “junoon”. He started his own advertising agency. One of his clients imported an audio recording machine in 1951. The objective was to see whether there is any demand of such product over here. Lutfullhah Khan Sahib bought the machine and 22 tapes for Rs1, 146 and 10 annas (needless to say, the machine and the receipt forms a part of his collection). He first started by doing audio recordings of his family members especially his mother. Those days, tapes were made of a sort of paper and were not so durable. But how much family talk can you record. He had a small mountain of 22 tapes. Once day just for experiment he recorded a Shahnai program from Radio Pakistan. The result was excellent. Next was a mushaira from All India Radio and then the speech of Liaquat Ali Khan where he said his famous sentence “Sheikh Abdullah, Kashimir tumharay baap ki jaagir nahin hain.”
I am not going into details about the recorders, microphone and the tapes that he mentioned he used in his quest. He is a master of what to use at what occasion. But the actual accomplishments is not recording this huge collection encompassing music, drama, poetry, prose, fine arts, religion and education but the minutely detailed catalogues he created to find a tape on any subject. As mentioned before the catalogue and the tape hold all details. Let’s take the example of the music section. It is divided into 7 sub sections:

 The first section is instrumental music. It contains items on almost all music instruments of the sub continent by masters of that era. Some of the examples are in Surood, Hafiz Ali Khan and Ali Akbar Khan, in Sitar Inayat Khan, Vilayat Khan, Ravi Shankar and Ustaad Sharif Khan poonch walay. In Shehnai Bismillah Khan, in flute Panna Lah Ghosh, in table Ahmed Jaan, Allah Rakkha etc, in Sarangi Bundo Khan. He includes about 46 items of Bundo khan in his collection. He tells an interesting story about Ustaad Umrao Bundo khan, the son of Ustaad Bundu khan. At 10:30 pm in 1978, somebody rang the bell. When he opened the door, it was Umrao Bundu with his Shahnai. “Lutfullah sahib, I want to play Peelu for you today.” That 14 minute 12 second rendition of Peelu was one of the best he had in that section.
 The second section consists of Classical singers such as Fayaz Hussain Khan, Moizuddin Khan, Chand Khan Zakir brothers and so many more.
 Semi classical music occupies the third section. This is more of Thumri, Pahari, Dadra, Kaafi, Bhajan etc. Fourth consis of Ghazals (including 318 of Mehdi Hasan) including Begum Akhtar, Sehgal, Shamshad, Rauf Dakkani, Mukhtar Begum, Mushtri Bai etc.
 Fifth is songs,
 Sixth is Folk Music
 Finally his seventh sub-section is Qawwali.
As mentioned above this is catalogued in 42 volumes and this is a smaller section as compared to the Literature section.
The Urdu literature section is divided into poetry and prose. Poetry contains the work of 800 poets. Faiz and Akhtar ul Imaan recorded their entire work for his library. Some of the other names are Jagan Nath Azaad, Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum, Parveen Shakir, Josh, Jigar, Khatir Ghaznavi Ali Sardar Jaafri, Kaifi Aazmi, Faraz and ect. Prose contains such items as Aal Ahmed Suroor, Ibrahim Jalees, Bokhari, Taaj, Hayat ullah Ansari, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Joginder Paal, Chiragh Hasan Hasrat, Anwar Sadid, Khadija Mastoor, Rashid Ahmed Siddiqui, Dr. Zakir Hussain and hundreds more. The scholars and speeches sections include names like A.K. Barohi, Sir Zafar Ullah Khan, Rashidi brothers, Dr. Saleemuzaman Siddiqui, Karrah Hussain, Bahadur Yaar Jang, Abdul Hameed Bhashani, Bhutto, Rajindir Parshad, Suharwardy, Ghandhi and Jinnah. Similarly the religion section includes Thanvi, Syed Mohammad Razi, Zaheen Shah Taji, Mufti Mohammad Shafi etc One of the smaller but a unique section is interviews of artists like Jimmy Engineer, Iqbal Jeoffrey, Iqbal Mehdi, Bashir Mirza, Sadequin, Shakir Mirza etc.
The story of this journey is extremely interesting. His book, “Tamashaye Ahal-e-Zauq” provides profiles some of the personalities above and efforts that were put to record them. Especially the struggle to record Faiz Sahib in a span of 20 years is worth a read.
Now let’s venture into the darker part of our story. I mentioned at the start that this treasure will soon be no more. There is a reason behind it. Tapes have a life of their own. They can only be saved if they are converted to digital media. Khan Sahib is doing this job himself but you can very well imagine what to expect from a 93 year old. He has been approached by some organizations but he flatly refused. The reason; they want to have the treasure for free. He has been offered an outstanding price of this collection from India but he refused too as he want to keep this collection in Pakistan. His argument is that if nobody in Pakistan thinks that my lifetime work which is in part a unique history of Indo-Pakistan on sound is worth nothing and it would not benefit me and my family in anyway than this should be destroyed. The whole effort of recording and organizing this collection is my “junoon”. Letting it rot is another dimension of my “junoon”. He worked tirelessly for this collection and if this mighty nation of 170 million who spent billions on things from arms to tea and cars cannot spend a few millions for acquiring and safeguarding their own audio heritage than perhaps his logic is make sense.
So next time when you are in the Shanakht festival in Karachi and you see this old frail white haired young man showing the history of this great city, try to see as much as possible, perhaps next year they will be no more.

The Modern (Pakistani) Queen of Ancient Egypt

May 28, 2011

In the land of the great Pharaohs’, under the shadow of the mighty pyramids, there lives a woman who seems to know every intricate details of every conspiracy that went on in the ruins of the magnificent palaces. You will see her on your TV screen, if you are a history buff, detailing the customs and routines of Ancient Egypt’s daily life…and death. Right from their traditions and scandals, she will explain the fine details of mummy making. She’s always intrigued me. Her accent was non Arabic. So I googled her and Lo and Behold, she is a Pakistani and from Lahore. Dr. Salima Ikram is an expert of mummification or Egyptian
funerary archaeology; she can speak on hours about the ancient Egyptian techniques of mummifying animals and humans. In her own words “It fascinates me as one learns not only of how they died and were buried, but also of how they lived and what they valued in their life”

Her command over her subject is fascinating. It is safe to say that if we have to somehow recreate this ancient civilization today, she would be one of the major architects.

I emailed her on behalf of ATP and she very graciously agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to talk to us. And when I am saying busy schedule, in her own words I am working on 12 excavations with other scholars and my own project that I direct in the North Kharga Oasis, as well as on 2 books. My most recent book, Ancient Egypt: An Introduction just came out today In addition she also teaches Egyptology and archaeology at the American University in Cairo. She is the correspondent for KMT, a popular Egyptological journal, a frequent contributor to Egypt Today, and the co-director of the North Kharga Oasis Survey. At the American University of Cairo, Ikram also teaches courses on ancient Egyptian history, culture and society, food and drink, and art and architecture, as well as archaeological methods and theories. “Ancient Egypt is part of our common heritage,” she says. “We need to present Egyptian history and culture in a way that is easily understandable to everyone, focusing on their humanity.”

I asked her about her childhood and how she became interested in this subject.  “I was born in Lahore, in the shadow of the Badshahi Mosque. I became interested in ancient Egypt when my parents gave the Time-Life book of Ancient Egypt as an 8th Birthday present. When I was 9 I visited Egypt. I fell in love with the place and the subject after I saw the twin statues of Rahotep
and Nofret, and Tutankhamun’s treasures. As my father was working on the
Egyptian economy we visited Egypt frequently and I got to see more and more of
the country and its treasures. When I chose to follow the path of Egyptology, my parents were very concerned as they feared that I would not be employed ever. However, they were delighted when I found a job. It is worth mentioning over here that her father Khalid Ikram was a renowned Pakistani Economist who advised the Egyptian government on economic issues.

She pursued Egyptology and Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, USA, where she earned an A.B. in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology and History. She went on to earn her M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Cambridge University in Egyptology and Museum Studies. During the course of her Ph.D. she also trained in faunal analysis.
A woman working in a traditional Arab society in a field
dominated by male must have been a big challenge. On this she says “As a Pakistani woman it is in some ways easier to work in Egypt than if I were otherwise. There is some challenge being a woman in what was a male dominated field, but on the whole it is not too difficult. In Egypt many women work in Egyptology and are not stopped in this path.

She is also the founder and co-director of the Animal Mummyproject at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo; she has emerged as one of the leading scholars in Egyptian funerary archaeology.
Combining an interest in and understanding of the past with a passion of preserving it for the future, she has brought the little known world of animal mummies to light. Her series of books include a line of children’s books and three authoritative works – “Divine Creatures,” “The Mummy in Ancient Egypt,” and “Death and Burial in Ancient Egypt.” Her TV credits include “Da Vinci Code: Decoded” (Channel 4 UK), “Tomb Raiders: Robbing the Dead” (History Channel) and “The Real Scorpion King” (History Channel). However her animal mummy project is worth a special mention. She raised funds for safeguarding and analysing these animal
mummies by encouraging Egyptians to a mummy. She has been delighted by the response “I raised a good amount of money from the adopt-a-mummy project for the animal mummies. It helped fund the project which has now reached completion

In all, says Dr. Ikram, there were four kinds of animal mummies: “sacred animals, which were
worshiped; votive animals, given as offerings to the gods, sort of like votive candles; pets; and food offerings to provide food for eternity.” Common household pets included cats, dogs, monkeys, gazelles and birds. X rays will help determine whether most pets were killed when their owners died or placed in their owners’ tombs after a natural death.

X rays will also help determine the religious beliefs of ancient Egyptians. For example, there is
considerable debate about the god Anubis, and whether ancient Egyptians most closely identified him with a dog, wolf, jackal or fox; X-raying Anubis’s votive mummies will reveal which animal the ancient Egyptians offered to him most often. Ikram also hopes that the Animal Mummy Project will shed light on the veterinary practices and mummification techniques of ancient Egyptians.

Ikram says controlled tourism and the education of tourists are key to “preserving the heritage of ancient Egypt for posterity, as the increase in tourism, together with the rising population and its associated pollutants, are very destructive to antiquities all over the world.”

So what to expect next, what are the secrets they are trying to uncover now. “We are working on a variety of projects that will help us learn about the Egyptian royal family and its interrelations, how technology was used in mummification where the Egyptians traded to obtain the materials for mummifying the dead, trying to find out routes that were being explored by the Egyptians as they plotted the continent of Africa, even details of daily life of the ancient Egyptians”.

On the state of archaeology in Pakistan, her opinion wasArchaeology in Pakistan is varied. Unfortunately there is less emphasis on excavations of the pre-Islamic period right now. Pakistan has an extremely rich cultural heritage from the Prehistoric (Neolithic and earlier)
period onward. We need to work in a clear and scientific way to document all parts of our past so that we can trace our history to the present day. Unfortunately the temper of the times means that it is difficult to work in certain places and also that we cannot use our history not only to inform our citizens of our rich and varied past, but also cannot exploit it for tourism.
In the future it would be wonderful if we could do both

She is among a few Pakistani women who has gone far and beyond our traditional definitions and has made the country proud. She provides the following words to her fellow country women. “If a Pakistani woman wants to do something, then she should. There is really nothing to stop her. From the time of my grandmother onward, women in my family have been following their very independent paths. One needs to be sure of what one wants and the way of pursuing that goal with the highest degree of professionalism.”

The Scientist Who Painted: Dr. Salimuzzaman Siddiqui

December 29, 2010

It was in the wee hours of morning that the telephone rang….I am talking about the late 50s when having the landline telephone was a sign of luxury……My grandfather picked up the phone waking up from deep sleep and with a fear in his heart that something has gone wrong somewhere. The other voice pleaded to him, “Salam, for God’s sake bring him back from the lab. He is there for the past four days.” Within 5 minutes, my grandfather was in his Morris Minor driving down to Karachi University. The person on the other line was the German wife of Dr. Salimuzzaman Siddiqui. When all things fail, she used to call my grandfather to practice his fine arts of persuasion to bring Dr. Siddiqui out of his lab where he was totally immersed in his work and losing all context of time. This story has been narrated to me by my late grandmother. I was just a twinkle in my father’s eyes.  On a different note, I was reading an interview of Dr. Siddiqui after many a years. He mentioned the importance of hard work and research and narrated an event when one of the scientist was disheartened as he/she was doing research for the past one year on  a certain assignment which was not going anywhere. Dr. Siddiqui explained his own experience when he worked for years and finally found out his original premises was not correct. The job of the scientist is to dedicate himself to pure research and hard work. Nobody can control the results. His life was a true embodiment of this principle.

Born in a well known family of Subeha (Barabanki District) near Lucknow on 19 October 1897, he received his early education in Urdu and Persian. He also developed interest in literature, poetry and calligraphy from his father Sheikh Mohammad Zaman. His elder brother Choudhry Khaliq-uz-Zaman was a famous leader of the Pakistan Movement. The young Salim uz Zaman and his family has been mentioned affectionately by QuratulAin Hider in her autobiography “Kar-e-jahan Daraaz Hai” as they were quite known in Lucknow society. After getting his graduation in Persian and Philosophy (a very interesting choice for one of the brightest minds of chemistry), he proceeded to England to persue medicine. However upon the advice of his elder brother to study Chemistry in Germany as they were the best in Chemistry, he later decided to go to Germany to study Chemistry and completed his PhD in 1927. In 1924, he married his German classmate, Ethel Wilhelmina Schneeman (who changed her name to Talat and was nicknamed Tilly) . One of the interesting fact of that stay is that Ch. Khaliquzzaman provided him Rs10,000 for his expenses and when they were eaten up by inflation, the great Hakim Ajmal Khan arranged Rs400 per month for him to complete his studies.

Upon his return to India, he established and became the first director of Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbi Research Institute at the Tibbia College Delhi, under the guidance of Hakim Ajmal Khan. (This very fact shows the emphasis over research being shown by the Hakims of Dehli. The same tradition was followed by Hakim Saeed in Pakistan and his brother Hakim Hameed in Dehli through Hamdard Foundation.) Over there, he was able to observe the various plants and herbs being used by the great Hakim as medicine for various ailments. He observed that Hakim Ajmal Khan used snakeroot for ailment of mental disorders. He started his research and his first breakthrough came when he successfully isolated an antiarrhythmic agent in 1931 from the roots of Rauwolfia serpentina. He named the newly discovered chemical compound as Ajmaline, after his mentor Hakim Ajmal Khan. Later on, Siddiqui also extracted other alkaloids from Rauwolfia. Many of these are still used worldwide for treatment of mental disorders and cardiovascular ailments, especially as antiarrhythmic agents in Brugada syndrome. After the death of Hakim Ajmal, he joined Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and later migrated to Pakistan in 1951 upon the request of Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan.

His later shifted his focus to Neem. Siddiqui was the first scientist to bring the anthelmintic, antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral constituents of the Neem tree to the attention of natural products chemists. In 1942, he extracted three bitter compounds from neem oil, which he named as nimbin, nimbinin, and nimbidin respectively From 1942 to the end of his career, he was able to identify and isolate 50 chemical compounds (patented in his name) from Neem just as a result of his own research in addition to those discovered as a result of his joint research with other colleagues and students. Most of these discoveries still remain vital natural ingredients of various medicines as well as biopesticides. In acknowledgement of these revolutionary discoveries, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1946.

Dr. Salimuzzaman was given the task of scientific research activities in Pakistan. In 1953, he founded the Pakistan Academy of Sciences as a non-political think tank of distinguished scientists in the country. He also served as one of the founding member of Pakistan Atomic Research Commission in 1956 and established Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) in Karachi.

He was awarded various medals by the Government and the Frankfurt University for organizing scientific activity in Pakistan. Another interesting fact is that both Dr. Salimuzzaman and Ch. Khaiquzzaman are the only brothers in the history of Pakistan to received Hilal-e-Pakistan medal.

In 1967, Siddiqui was invited by University of Karachi to set up a Postgraduate Institute of Chemistry in affiliation with the Department of Chemistry. He was designated as the institute’s Founder Director, whereas the additional research staff was provided by PCSIR. In 1976, the institute was offered a generous donation from Hussain Jamal Foundation, as a result of which it was renamed as Hussain Ebrahim Jamal Research Institute of Chemistry. In due time, Siddiqui transformed the institute into a distinguished centre of international excellence in the field of chemistry and natural products. In March 1975, he headed the National Commission for Indigenous Medicine His tireless efforts for the promotion of science and technology earned him Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan in 1980. In 1983, he played a major role in the establishment of the Third World Academy of Sciences and became its Founding Fellow. He remained the director of the Hussain Ebrahim Jamal Research Institute of Chemistry until 1990 when he turned the reins to another great scientist, teacher and administrator Dr. Ata Ur Rehman. However, he continued research in his personal laboratory. Pakistan produces about 35 Ph.D’s in the sciences annually from its 24 universities and 130 research centers, of which, about half are now produced by H.E.J. Research Institute of Chemistry alone. Having the single largest doctoral program in the country, the institute provides a place of work to more than one hundred young scientists who are enrolled for Ph.D. Ievel studies on various aspects of organic chemistry, biochemistry and pharmacology. The amount of quality research and scientist churned out by this institute is perhaps the topic of another detailed article.

Usually when we read about the great Muslim scientists of the yester years, we observe that they were not just scientist, but had great interest in arts. Dr. Siddiqui was a follower of the same tradition. He was a refined poet, musician, and a painter. In August 1924, he held his first international exhibition of paintings in Frankfurt. Later in 1927, his works of art were exhibited at the Uzielli Gallery, Frankfurt. During his stay in Germany, he also translated Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry into Urdu, which was published in the journal of Jamia Millia Islamia. Though, his passion for arts was superseded by the enthusiasm in scientific research, he continued to patronize arts and culture. In 1966, he was at the forefront for setting up the Central Institute of Arts and Crafts in Karachi. He also compiled a selection of poetry of Mir Taqi Mir into Intekhab-e-Meer. In 1983, he published a portfolio collection of charcoal drawings from 1920 to 1950s.

I still remember when he attended a literary program of PTV where he spent about half an hour just explaining the meaning of the first line of Ghalib’s Divan

Naqsh Faryadi hai kis ki shauqi-e-tehreer ka

About whose mischievousness of writing is the image a plaintiff

He traced the origin of this line to the first couplet of Misnavi Maulana Raum

Listen to the reed of the flute, how it a long complaint makes:
it, explanation of the tale of separation, loud and faint makes…

“Ever since the time that I was torn away from the reed’s bed
my cries have caused men and women… many a sigh to shed.

He also related this to the Sufi philosophy of Wahdatul Wajood, that we are all part of the same light and we all feel unhappy as in our physical form we are being separated from the great light or noor. His method of explanation was so simple that it is still fresh in my memory after quarter of a century.

Dr. Siddiqui breathed his last on April 14, 1994 at the age of 97. His continuing legacy, perhaps are his great students who are continuing the fine traditions of research and service to humanity taught to them by this great scientist and human being. Perhaps Sadequein’s rubayi hold true in Dr. Salimuzzaman case too.

Chalo es baar Saahiri kar kay dekhoon

Kia farq hai shyari kar kay dekhon

Tasweeron mein ashaar kahen hein mein nay

Shayari mein mussawari kar kay dekhon.

  1. 1.       Special Thanks to Dr. Ghulam Nabi Kazi and Obaid-ur-Rehman Advocate for providing and clarifying facts

For some rare photos of Dr. Saleemuzzaman please visit Dr. Ghulam Nabi Kazi’s photo stream

What is wrong with this picture?

September 23, 2010

This picture was posted on Daily Jang”s website on September 22, 2010. I was quite intrigued by it. This is a scene of a makeshift school in one of the relief camps of Sehwan. The scenario is quite commendable. Most of the kids (I think all of them) are girls. This is probably the first time they are sitting in a class room. So what does it say about us. We are using the mayhem of floods as an opportunity. We are educating the next generation, better still mostly girls. We are introducing them to education. They were not given this opportunity in their villages so we have used the makeshift arrangement of the relief camp to break the traditions…All good and sweet.

But something is not right. Look at their faces. They have no idea what is happening. They seem to belong to the most backward/poorest part of the society. The only language they know (I assume) is Sindhi. Now look at the blackboard. C for Cat and D for dog…Does this make sense?. Look at the perfect drawings at the blackboard.

So we have a picture of makeshift classroom of girls belonging to the poorest areas being taught English? When perhaps this is the first time they are being introduced to a classroom.

So what is this? A bold attempt to educate the future mothers or a Kodak picture perfect moment by the NGOs for the Western audience/donors. You decide.

Meeting Karachi at strange places

September 14, 2010

I have always come across Karachi in places I can never expect. While walking in Columbo, Sri Lanka, I came across Karachi Restaurant which was offering Nihari for breakfast. I was checking on Google maps, where I found out the following places.

  1. Karachi Street, Midway Point, Tasmania, Australia
  2. Karachi Street, Crestmead, Queensland, Australia
  3. Karachi Way, Socorro, TX, United States
  4. Karachi Street, West Bloomfield Township, MI,
  5. Karachi Close, Tidworth, United Kingdom
  6. Karachi Crescent, Wellington, New Zealand
  7. Karachi Street, Lenasia, Gauteng, South Africa

But the funniest way that I came across Karachi was in professional wrestling. I was reading Wrestling blog (yes i am a big fan of wrestling and I know that it is fake) where I noticed a wrestling stable or gang know as Karachi Vice. I thought for a moment that it is a name of a new political party and wondered if our politicians have finally seen the light but this feeling was short lived. They were pretty active in the 70s and 80s and infact their kids have started their own group called The New Karachi Vice. This group was active in Stampede Wrestling which is a famous name in


Canadian Wrestling. As per Gama Singh, the leader of the gang…. Everybody still talks about the Karachi Vice,” explained Gama Singh. “It was an accidental thing, how it came about. There was myself and Mike Shaw, who I had changed his name to Makhan Singh, and we had Steve DiSalvo and Kerry Brown. I think we were all doing an interview together, we did a few interviews for a few weeks in a row, and then it just sort of came out. ‘This is the Karachi Vice’, because Miami Vice, the TV show, was quite hot at the time. And then the people just picked up from that. The following week, we saw all kinds of signs coming out — Karachi Ice, Karachi Mice and that sort of thing [laughing]. We just kind of followed through and kept it going from there. It became quite a hot thing for a couple of years at least.”

The New Karachi Vice


Have you come across Karachi in strange places?

Dog days of IBA

September 2, 2010

It was a hot, sunny and sticky day (as if there is any other kind in Karachi) when I got my notice of admission to the IBA. Getting admission  to the IBA is no mean achievement! More than a thousand gave the aptitude test and only 30 survive the grilling to join the coveted first semester.

I survived, not just the initial written test but also the dreaded group interview. If you have ever seen a trembling rabbit in the sights of a hunter’s gun, you may understand the feeling. Surrounded by professors, all peppering you with questions at the same time, an applicant must have the presence of mind to answer each one of them, simultaneously. I am reminded of an interesting incident with one of my friends who was interviewed by Mr. Iqbal Ismail (a renowned finance professional and a stock market broker now) He simply asked him, “ Do you know anything?”. My friend replied, “No”. He was admitted. This was only question asked and answered in that interview.

I had first got into Ford, Rhodes, but than I got into Fergusons, but within the month I was thoroughly bored with the esoteric numbers. I could not see myself pouring over lifeless journals and ledgers at 9 p.m. every night. Therefore, I applied to the IBA.

After the much-dreaded group interview over there, the newcomer has to pass another hurdle, that of the group discussion. This too inspires much fear. There is a topic on which you have to speak for a few minutes and then the group discussion starts. I collected the points in my mind but something else happened. The girl before me somehow spoke all the points that I had thought of. I had to come with something different in a very short time. Fortunately, I actively participated in the group discussion and I think that may have saved my skin.

So began my journey to the fabled IBA at the Karachi University campus. Settling in was not easy. On the first day, we were thrown into the pool as per the old tradition. In a vain attempt to save myself, I tried to put all my weight on the remaining leg that was still on the ground but to no avail. My hands and other leg were already grabbed by other senior students. Being of abundant corpus, three people tried to lift that leg but were unable to. I finally surrendered, as I was scared that this may result in repeated involuntary trips to the pool in the coming days. I heard a comment while I was flying into the pool that made my day, “Yaar, ayenda wazan kar kay admission hoga”.

IBA was ruled by Dr. Wahab during those days with an iron fist. A stern administrator, a sharp marketer, and an amazing politician. He planted self-serving stories that he is the one who established the discipline, which is the stuff of many fables. We were told one simple principle; the IBA cannot afford to be closed. So do not ever think about fighting at the main University. Should you slap somebody at the University (before they kill you) you will be out of the IBA. If somebody slaps you and you reply, you will be out. We were literally implementing Jesus’ principle of turning the other cheek over there. You may think that this is a joke. Let me give you a few examples. The IBA teams were playing a cricket match at one of the University stadia. We got it reserved for us. In the middle of the match, two Jamatis stomped in, threw out our stumps, and told us to get out, as their friends are planning to play a match within half an hour. There were three dozen of us versus two matchstick-size guys. Can you guess what we did? Yes, very abjectly came back to our campus. This is not just limited to outside the campus. Two of my friends were having some fun. One of them shook a Pepsi bottle really hard to spray his friend. Suddenly they were surrounded by Jamatis again who were yelling and asking if he thinks that this is champagne. We are talking about a small, frail, and petrified young man who cannot even withstand one slap. His friend, who is a solid Pathan, stood in front of him with his hands open and saying, “Yaar choor do, mazak kar raha tha”. That Pathan guy almost received about a dozen slaps on his face. He could have killed a few of them with his bare hands. However, he remembered the two golden principles. Always stand up for your friend and never fight back. And yes, the Jamatis loved us poor disciples of Gandhi and Mandela, more afraid of Dr. Wahab.

The first 2 weeks were eventful. On one occasion when our bus entered the University, (the Rangers had not yet conquered us), the bus was invaded by PSF activists at the cafeteria. For the first time, I saw what a TT looked like, with its barrel on my head. They asked us to come out. On the day previous, a student was killed by the rival faction and they were searching for the other members of the faction in our bus. But before we come out of the bus, somebody yelled, “Abay yeh zanany IBA kay hein”, and we were allowed to go in peace. I never loved my masculinity (or lack of it) more than on that day.

After a couple of months, a teacher of the main University died. We were in class and saw Dr. Wahab, surrounded by some yahoo-looking University students, approaching the classrooms. Our teacher simply said, “Dr. Wahab will now announce that IBA is closed due to mourning of the said teacher. You can go home. You guys will go to the City Campus (behind Nishat Cinema) and this class will resume at the same point after one and a half hour from now”. Can you believe that after one and a half hours, we resumed our class and the rest of the periods as if nothing had happened? However, we were not able to go back to the University Campus for another 6 months.

Let me illustrate this with one more interesting incident. The IBA closed down for one day! This was an anomaly. In the best of times, in the worst of times, in the age of wisdom, in the age of foolishness (with apologies to Dickens), the IBA was never closed. The entire student body came to the City campus where they were told that IBA is closed. We were astonished. A tradition was being broken. You know why? Zia ul Haq died a day before in the plane accident and the government announced a day of mourning and a holiday, and yet the whole of the IBA was there, as we refused to believe that death of a President could force closure of the IBA.

In the second semester, (apart from us throwing the juniors in the pool now) a few things changed. There were now Rangers staffing the door. No buses could go in the University. We were dropped at the University road, allowed in only after the Rangers checked our ID, and then walked to the IBA with the load of books, assignments, and reading material. The Rangers never mistreated us, as the IBA ID card was poof that we are only there to study. Some days, when there was some tension and nobody else was allowed to get in, we were swooshed in without a problem by the Rangers. The other students hated us for that. We had to walk a furlong where either we take the University buses to the IBA or the IBA bus which would have come back to pick us up. During that furlong walk, we were surrounded by the other University students because of two reasons. Firstly, we had the best chicks in town, and secondly they were yelling slogans like “Jamia mein puppo aaye”. We never minded that slogan as we very well knew where we would be after two years.

Some more memories. The IBA’s University Campus has beautifully maintained lawns and they won various awards. In fact, Altaf Hussain of MQM      fame used to sing praises of these lawns in his earlier speeches as he and his colleagues use to take panah in the IBA when they were followed by rival factions during their student days. The IBA had a very simple rule: ‘You can be absent from a class n number of times. We will not ask you the reason. But the moment you cross this limit, no matter how serious or genuine the reason is, even if one of your parent actually died, you will fail the course’. Another part of this rule says that you can be called for an exam any day, no matter what day it is. I remember that we gave our Micro Economics Final exam at the University campus in the morning of Jumatul Widah (Friday being the weekly holiday).  

The Annual IBA picnic is the source of much fun. Our picnic was at the beach. Again some of my friends tried to throw me into the sea. I was quite far away from the water, sitting in the sand, quite aware of their intentions, as I had thrown a few of them in the sea in the earlier part of the day. When they came to grab me, I started throwing sand at them. They grabbed me and tried to take me to the sea and but after a few yards they were panting. I walked to the sea on my own accord on my own two feet, and finally somebody pushed me in the water….But they really had to clean the sand from their hair, nose and ears on that day….yessssssssssss.

We were arranging seminars from the 3rd semester. Dr. Wahab was extremely punctual. If the chief guest or any guest speaker were late, the seminar would start on time. Usually, like all good Pakistanis, the chief guest or the other speaker would enter the hall with a sheepish smile to take his place. On sheepish smiles, I remember another story. Dr. Wahab had a very strange accent. He was a good teacher but to understand his accent was difficult even for us desis. So once he asked this question to a student “Johnny, if a country has many sheep what would it have? Johnny replied that perhaps the country has a lot of wool. Dr. Wahab was very upset, and replied…”Don’t joke Johnny, if a country has many sheeps it will have a strong navy”. (He, of course, meant to say ships, not sheeps).

IBA had some great teachers. Some of their stores have become legends. The late Mr. A.L Spencer, once replying to a question about how many dams were made in Pakistan said, “Son, we haven’t made any dams, but we produced a lot of damns” How true he was! And then there is the legend of Johnny…..no, not the one mentioned above but Dr. Junaid who used to teach Managerial Policy. From the first semester, we used to have nightmares about Managerial Policy in the final semester. He used to yell and throw abuses at boys and girls alike. He had the audacity of making girls stand on their chairs. Students had to work their asses off to collect original research for his course; otherwise he would fail them no matter what happens. His famous statement that “Managerial Policy is not made in class room atmosphere, it is made in an atmosphere of hate, tension and ulcers. I will create the same atmosphere in this class.” Don’t get me wrong; after all that, he was simply worshipped by his students. He had a passion and honesty for the material he taught. Another person worth mentioning was the late Mr. Fazle Hasan. He was introduced by a graduating student in the Convocation in the following words, “Anybody can teach Finance. Fazle Hasan taught us life”…and by God, he did. Fazle was a character. He hated Martial law and was a staunch PPP supporter. So if the class was for 50 minutes, he would make fun of the generals and call them retarded instead of retired. He will tell you stories about his life and his MBA days in Pakistan and USA. In the last 10 minutes, he had the uncanny ability of explaining the most difficult finance concepts in such easy terms that you would not forget for the rest of your life. He had a golden heart. Many IBA students, especially coming from a low-income group, owe their MBAs to Fazle. He would not only arrange the semester fees for them through his contacts in IBA alumni, and business and industrial circles but also sometimes even put his own salary towards it. I am speaking of the times when the fee of this great educational institution was the princely sum of Rs. 3,500 per semester.

Another interesting character was David. He was an old peon…an amazingly sweet and funny character, the only person who could sing, dance and joke with Dr. Wahab in front of others, and Dr. Wahab would just look the other way. Legend has it that when Dr. Wahab copied Zia ul Haq by coming to campus on a cycle, David took a lift from him. He was sitting on the back seat singing old Indian love songs. David does another service. After the IBA would close for the day, he would visit all the banks and multinationals and would collect bhaatta from the old students. Most of them have no problem. Some haughty ones hated to see his face. David didn’t give a damn. He would totally ignore them as he has a long list of his fans in high places. If you want a copy of a mark sheet or your degree from the University, David would arrange all that for you.

 In the final semester, we had to complete quite a few projects. So most of the time, we were on the streets of Korangi, SITE and our Wall Street, i.e. I.I. Chundrigar Road to meet with industry leaders and professionals to collect data for our projects. Crashing becomes more rampant. Crashing refers to real hard work in the last few days to complete our final reports and prepare for our final exam. Once to keep ourselves awake, we all took a quarter cup of boiling water, put three teaspoons of strong coffee, and gobbled it up. After that novel learning experience I never had a problem of just drinking either tea or coffee before going to sleep. Once I was studying at 4 am. I literally saw the book going three feet up in the air and started dancing. Instead of thinking anything else, I just grabbed it, put it down on the table, closed the light and went to sleep.

So our last day arrived. We planned a big party. Special shirts were made. We were the class of 1990. Color throwing, or holi, was a part of it. We arranged water-based colors, which could be easily cleaned, along with cans of shaving cream. We had a lot of fun. We paid extra to the janitorial staff so the premises should be thoroughly cleaned. We did not intend to damage our great institution. One of the traditions was to ask all our professors to donate towards our party fund and they did donate generously.

Before wrapping up, I have to tell you the story of our comprehensive exam. Simply known to us as the ‘compre’, this is a 6-hour final exam after you pass all the semesters. If you fail this exam three times, you do not qualify for the MBA degree. The day before the compre, the “pakka qila” incident happened. The whole city was closed down. Next day with shaky legs, we set off towards the IBA University campus in our cars, travelling in groups for security. Although IBA would never close down, but it would stop operating its bus – to prevent it being burnt down. The probable philosophy was you can always get students but getting the funds for bus is a mighty task. Maintaining this “no close” policy was also pretty safe for the professors as they all lived in the University staff town and it was us students who had to come from all over the city. The compre went off without any incident behind closed doors so not to give any indications that IBA is working.

After two years of very hard work, out of the original 30 students, only 20 survivors were sitting in our convocation. It was a proud moment for all of us. We had passed many a hurdle to reach our goal. I shall never forget the time we spent at this glorious institution.

Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah

August 23, 2010

An objection/argument often raised against Islam is that there is a dearth of good researchers and scholars (and too many mullahs). Another argument frequently bandied about Islam is that there is an absence of a personality that may be used as a model for the modern Islamic scholar. However, those who present this argument may not be aware of the name and the literary accomplishments of Dr. Hamidullah.

Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah was born in 1908 in Hyderabad Deccan, and descended from an illustrious literary family; his great grandfather, Muhammad Ghaws Sharfu’l-Mulk (d. 1822), has written more than 30 books, including a commentary on the Quran in seven volumes in Arabic, Persian and Urdu. His maternal grandfather too is the author of a large number of books, amongst them, a tafsir.

Dr. Hamidullah was the youngest amongst the three brothers and five sisters, who were all well versed in Arabic, Persian and Urdu as well as in Islamic learning. He received his early education at home, first from his sisters and then from his father. Later, he was admitted to the Madrasah Nizamiyyah or Jamia Nizammiya where he passed the examination for the degree of Mawlvi Kamil with honors, in 1924. At the same time, when he was only 16, he started his publishing career. Aware of his father’s antipathy towards English education, the young Hamidullah secretly sat for the matriculation examination and, when the results were declared, topped the list of successful candidates.
Hamidullah took admission in Osmania University in 1924 and passed the B.A., LL.B., and M.A. examinations in the First division. He was awarded a fellowship by Osmania University to pursue doctoral studies in Islamic International Law. He was regarded as a student who understood the importance of time and never missed a class. Only once did he come late to his class, by only half an hour — the day his mother died. He traveled to several Islamic as well as European countries in order to collect information for his research. He was awarded a D.Phil. by Bonn University in 1932. He was appointed an honorary lecturer in Arabic and Urdu at Bonn University. After spending some time in Germany, he went to Paris where he registered at the Sorbonne for another doctoral degree. In a short period of only eleven months, the Sorbonne conferred on him the degree of D. Lit.

The original purpose for his journey to Europe was to collect data for his doctoral thesis. However, he was offered various lucrative positions at Bonn and Sorbonne Universities after receiving their degrees. Since his journey to Europe was on Government funds, a precondition was to return to teach at Osmania University, and even though he was made attractive offers, he opted to fulfill his promise to return to Osmania. When he came back to Osmania, for a few months, there was no immediate position available, but later he was appointed as a Reader. When Hyderabad fell in 1948, he went to Paris and joined the Sorbonne where he worked until the end of his life.

Justice M.B. Ahmed, Secretary of the first Constitution Assembly of Pakistan, went to Paris to request his assistance to design the first constitution. Dr. Hamidullah was asked about his conditions and remuneration. He replied, “I have just one condition, do not stop me when I will decide to go back to Paris’. He refused to answer any other question regarding his remuneration. When he landed in Karachi, he was offered quarters at the Prime Minister’s House, but he decided to live at his cousin’s house at Khudadad Colony. He refused to receive a single penny from the Government of Pakistan for the services he provided. After designing the basic structure of the first Constitution and the Objectives Resolution, he decided to leave. When the Government requested him to stay he said, “Do not waste my time, I don’t see any intention and will to work’. How prescient he was!

Perhaps his most talked about work was ‘Khutbaat-e-Bahawalpur’ (The Bahawalpur Lectures). These are a series of lectures and subsequent question and answer sessions. This book not only provides the history of Quran and Hadith but the introduction of the stringent rules used to verify the validity of the Hadith. It introduces the basics of Islamic jurisprudence, Ijtehad and Islam’s view of International Law. It also provides details of the principles of governance, systems of defense, wars, education, foreign policy, history, courts and finance during the time of the Prophet. More importantly, it also explains the principle of preaching of Islam and the way it handled non-Muslims during those days. His works like ‘Neutrality in Muslim International Law and Muslim Conduct of State’ or simply ‘The Muslim Conduct of State’ were regarded as one of the first in any Western language. During those times, the authoritative book on the subject was L.F.L. Oppenheim’s ‘International Law’. Dr. Hamidullah used the book as a model. Based on its topic list, he researched Fiqah and, in fact, the whole Islamic knowledge base including history, seerat, Muslim weapon systems, memoirs of Muslim sailors, travelogues, etc. to present the same topics from an Islamic perspective. He did not stop his research at this point but there were eight more editions of his book from 1941 to his death, and with each came new additions and details. It will be worthwhile to mention that Dr. Hamidullah was fluent in 22 languages including Urdu, Arabic, Persian, French, English, etc., and learned Thai at the age of 84!

After this, he turned his interest towards the history of Hadith. The biggest objection raised by scholars about Hadith is that it is not historically proven, as most of the collections were first published in the third century. Prior to that, they were transmitted through memory and it is possible that they were corrupted. With his research, he proved that writing and compilation of Hadith was started at the time of the Prophet, and later transmitted to Tabieens (followers of Sahabas). In 1942, he started his research on the sources of Bukhari. One of his major sources was Imam Abdul Razzaq Sanaani. He found out that it was in written form as a manuscript and was published. Razzaq’s teacher was Moammer Bin Rashid whose written collection is now published too. There were two sources of Ibne Rashid; ‘Saheefa-e-Saadiq’ by Abdullah bin Umro bin Alaas who compiled a written collection of 500 hadith at the time of the Prophet. Another was ‘Sahifa Hamman bin Munibah’ who was a student of Hazrat Abu Hurrairah. Through this, he proved that Bukhari’s collection was not just hearsay but written collections from the earliest sources.

A natural by-product of researching Hadith is to have an interest in Seerat. His French book of Seerat is a unique book on this topic. Usually the pattern is to describe what happened where. Hamidullah went a step further. When a war happened at a certain place, he asked, why that location? Why with that tribe? Why were only certain tribes asked for help? This was only possible after understanding the whole chemistry of tribal society and their intertwined relationships. Some of the answers came after in-depth research of almost 35-40 years.
For example, the Prophet selected Umro bin Ummaya Al Dummri as his first ambassador to Nijashi. But why Umro? None of the seerat books provides the answer. For this, he researched the history of the Bano Dummra tribe. He discovered the relationship the tribe had with Nijashi’s family for the past 250 years. Nijashi had a dispute with a relative in his youth. He had to leave Habsha and had to take shelter at Bano Dummra with an elder of Umro. That shed a new light on the strategy of the Prophet on selecting of his first ambassador.

A publisher gave him an ancient book of Botany by Abu Hanifa Dinori called ‘Al Nibaat’ for editing. Only one volume was available and the other was lost. Although he edited the book but while writing his notes, he realized that when Muslims wrote about Medicine, they referred heavily to this book. Arabic Dictionaries also referred to this book. He started the ancient Arabic Dictionaries and then the book of medicines by Zakaria Razi and other authors, and finally was able to recreate the entire second volume. Nobody believed that a person could be able to do it in one lifetime.

Lastly, I want to give a very small example for his penchant for research. ‘Izhar ul Haque’ is a famous book by Maulana Rehmat ullah Keeranvi. The book is a critique of Christianity and the Bible. In his advertisement, the publisher mentioned that [the] London Times had written that had this book been translated and published in the West, it could have ended Christianity. Dr. Hamidullah wrote to him that he has gone through all the issues of the said newspaper from the 1800s and could not find this claim. He asked the publisher to please provide his source.

The questions and answers at the end of ‘Khutbaat-e-Bahawalpur’ provide an excellent source about his thought process. Somebody asked him about the right way of Salat. He explained one sect of Ahl-e-Sunnah prays with hands folded, and another one and Ahl-e-Tashih pray while hands unfolded. The Hambali sect of Ahl-e-Sunnah also prays with hands unfolded. He told a story of his school when his headmaster came and asked the students who is Sunni and who is Shia. Then he told the students never to fight about who you are and how you pray. There is a reason for the difference. The Prophet prayed both ways in different times. Allah loved him so much that he saved his every Sunnah until Qiyamat. This is the reason why Muslim prays in different ways. Another question was raised about the Imamat of Umm-e-Warqa leading the prayers. Men used to pray behind her. There were some doubts about whether it was early Islam. However, he researched and found out that she led the prayers until the times of Hazrat Omar Farooq. He then presented his opinion that this was an exception to the common rule due to necessities. He gave his personal experience about an Afghan student. Her fellow Dutch student fell in love with her. He converted to Islam and got married. He not just accepted Islam but was a follower in the true spirit. He wanted to learn Salat and asked his wife to be his Imam so he can learn properly. The girl asked Hamidullah whether it is allowed. Hamidullah laughed and said that if you have gone to a maulvi, he would have given a different answer, but the rule of exception applies over here, and yes, you could be his Imam too so he can learn Salat properly.

In the same series of lectures, he also proved that during the time of the Prophet, there was a system of insurance.

He lived his entire life in a one-room apartment full of books. After retirement, he continued his research. One day, he found out that somebody had stolen his cheque book and cleaned his bank account. He did not know what to do. Some days later, he was found him unconscious in his room. It was later discovered that he had not eaten for three days, as he had no money. When this news broke out his grandniece took him to Florida where he breathed his last in 2002.

The above lines cannot describe the amount of research he has done and the information available in his books. However, I truly believe that in order to understand Islam in its true spirit, it is necessary to read his books and follow his principles, not accepting anything as fact until it is properly researched using logic and common sense.


August 8, 2010

It is now almost 17 years to the day that I first stepped into Swat. Being a thorough Karachite, I was totally mesmerized by the snow capped mountains, lush green forest and pristine waters. We were just married and it was our first foray outside the concrete jungle into the real one. I never thought that to see such natural beauty, you just have to travel north. We took a tour organized by PTDC. That includes hotel bookings, a car and drive/guide.  On our first day, Toti khan (our driver and guide) took us to Malam Jabba. It is a trip that I can never forget. Driving an hour to the top of the mountain, we reached an empty hotel and ski resort. The view was simply breathtaking. Later we shopped at Madyan, stayed at Kaalam and also went into Ushu valley and saw the glacier over there. But it was our first night stay at Miandam that became the topic of this story. PTDC motel in Miandam is on a mountaintop. From there you look down to the valley and the nearby mountains. There is a small sitting place on top of the mountain where you can have breakfast or tea. Again it can be one of most picturesque tea that you can ever have. The motel has an amazing array of flowers and fruit trees.


When we reached there, the motel was full to capacity. Usually after 8pm, the generators stops working and the whole of Swat go into darkness. We took some candles with us from Islamabad. When we were about to sleep, the candle just went away. I thought that it has finished. When I went to light another one, the surprising thing was that there was not a drop of wax. The only thought that came to my mind was because of high altitude, this could be a common occurrence. This phenomenon repeated two or three times. Finally I got bored and light the biggest and the meanest candle I had. Nothing happened after that and we went to sleep.

We went to the same motel after about 5 years. This time I had my daughter, my in laws and my brother in law with me. We took them to the same motel, as we loved its view. This time the hotel was empty and we were the only occupants. At maghrib, my mother in law was coming for Maghrib prayers at the garden when she nearly fell down. She felt that somebody pushed her. When she looked back, she saw quite a huge dog at a distance staring at her. She thought that she has tripped and proceeded to offer her prayers. I asked my brother in law to go downhill the mountain and bring some chapli kababs for us. They are just amazing. When he was returning, the lights went off. As he was walking uphill, he swears that he heard someone walking right beside him. He stopped for a second and noise also stopped. He started walking again and the footsteps can be heard again. As he reached near the motel, lights came back and as he turned around to see who was there, he was alone on the street. He was a bit scared and came back. He didn’t mention any of this to us.

In the night, when he and his mother were sitting in the garden, they saw a small light (like the end of a cigarette) and some smoke. He thought somebody was smoking. He went over there out of curiosity and as he moved near this light, it moved away from him. He keeps following and suddenly he realized that he has reached the corner and the light is on the empty space beside the mountain. He turned right away. Again he didn’t mention any of this to us.

Finally in the night, as we were sleeping in one room, my father in law woke up. He saw a small light again very near to his face and he feet that there is a huge weight on his chest. As per him, the scene is quite scary as the only noise in the room was my loud snoring. (Oh yes I do that too…ghosts, gunfire, music.. nothing comes between my sleep and my snoring). He started reciting durood and aayas and slowly that light and that weight went away.

Next morning we proceeded to Kaalam and the rest of the trip went without further incident. It is only when we reached back to Islamabad that they narrated these stories to each other and us and I remembered our earlier incident. There were quite few trees planted in the motel’s garden in remembrance of Pakistanis and foreigners that drowned in the nearby River Swat.

So was it a ghost or a spirit? We don’t know and don’t want to know. When I reached back to Karachi and mentioned it my driver who himself is a Swati, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sahib, this is a mountainous and a barren area. We see things like that all the time, they never hurt anyone.”

So will I go back to Miandam ever with my family? In a heartbeat. Only if you throw out the Talibans from there. As I believe that they are more crazy and lunatic that the ghosts of Miandam. The ghosts just scare you. The Talibans can do things that even the ghosts are embarrassed to even think about.

I still remember Swat as the most beautiful place on earth that I ever saw. The scenery is pretty and the people were very hospitable. May Allah take care of that beautiful land and its inhabitants save them from men made and natural calamities.

Have you ever heard a similar incident in the same hotel?