Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Power of Education

                      The Power of Education
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

Shama woke up early in the morning to give grass to the buffaloes. “After the cattle have eaten, they don’t make a mess while I milk them.” Her father, Abdul Shakoor used to say this to her. Shama was responsible for providing food to the cattle before her father woke up and milked them.

While Shama fed the cattle, her mother, Rashida, made tea. “If I drink tea before I milk the buffaloes, I can milk them better.” He always said this to his wife. Like her daughter, the mother was given the responsibility of making tea early in the morning. The man had limited both women to only chores.

Shama did these chores all day. She had been admitted into school, but her father would not allow her to attend the classes. Her friend, Neelam, used to tell her every day what went on there. “Shama, yesterday the principal announced the date of exams. Are you going to take them or not?” asked Neelam.

“I must appear for the exams at least. I must complete my matriculation. I know my father won’t allow me to study further in college. What about the stipend? When will they give it? My father asks me about it every day. You know I have made him greedy with the stipend, that’s why he allowed me to enroll.”

“Yes, poor sister. I know your story. Well, there is no talk of the stipend in the school so far.” While they both were talking, there was a rattle at the door.

“Open the door, sister. The cattle have returned,” said Kalam, her younger brother.

“Give buckets of water to the buffaloes; they are thirsty,” shouted Abdul Shakoor as he came in from letting the cattle graze.

“Asalam-o-Alaikum, uncle,” Neelam greeted him.

“When will the government give you money? I think they tricked the villagers into getting girls enrolled in the schools,” said Shakoor without replying to Neelam’s greeting.
“No, uncle. They will give the stipend soon.”

“If they don’t give it this month, my girl won’t study anymore.”

“Uncle, she doesn’t study. You just make her do the chores.”

“That’s our wish. You’d better go away before I call your father.”

The month passed, but the girls did not receive the stipend. Shama’s father didn’t allow her to take the exams. She and her mother continued to do the chores and live under orders. On the other side, Neelam continued her education with the support of her parents.

“Father, I feel bad for Shama. She couldn’t sit the exams,” Neelam said to her father, Fatah.

“Why?”

“Because of her father, you know.”

“Oh, poor Shama! In our Sindh, the government does take measures for girls’ education. However, there is a need for awareness as well. For centuries there have been barriers for girls in our society. Neelam, I couldn’t get a degree, but I know the importance of education. I want you to work hard, study properly, reach a good position one day. And be an example for people like Abdul Shakoor.”

“Yes, father. I will make your and my dreams come true. I want to help Shama, but I know if we intervened, her father would fight us. And he would say as always: “I will decide my daughter’s future for myself. It is none of your business.”

“Yes, Neelam. That’s why I am silent. Otherwise, I would have talked with him.”

Days kept going by, Neelam had finished her intermediate education and had gone to study at a university in Islamabad.  As soon as she completed her education, she was offered a job in the government sector. She returned to her native city Larkana after nine years.

“Neelam has changed everything for her family. They are richer and powerful than before. I wish we had sent our girl to school too,” Rashida said to Abdul Shakoor.

“Fatah had fewer buffaloes than me. Even then he could afford the expenses of his daughter’s education. I would never have guessed the power of education. Now that I have seen Fatah driving his big car, I do understand that knowledge is powerful,” Abdul Shakoor repented.

Neelam came to see her old, childhood friend Shama. Abdul Shakoor was amazed to see Neelam beautifully dressed. He looked at Neelam and Shama. Tears fell from his eyes, and he fell on the ground. As Shama saw her father falling, she ran to him. “Father, father, are you alright?” she asked.

“Yes, I am. Forgive me, my obedient daughter. I have destroyed your future. In fact, I have destroyed the future of our whole family.”

“No, father. It wasn’t my fate. You have done nothing wrong.” Daughters like Shama, always respect and value their fathers; no matter whether they are right or wrong. The girls of Sindh, the poet Latif’s land, are always simple and humble.

“I can make your future bright, uncle,” said Neelam.

“It is too late,” commented Rashida.

“It is never too late. If you will allow Shama to live with me in Islamabad, after some years she will be like me. Shama means a beacon. If you ignite the beacon, it will light up the whole room. And if you extinguish it, it will only cause darkness.”

Shama’s father thought he had already made a big mistake, so this time, he should be open-minded. He thanked Neelam for the offer and happily allowed Shama to go to Islamabad and study from scratch.


Monday, April 25, 2016

What is the secret of your simple and captivating writing?

Readers and students ask me: what is the secret of your simple and captivating writing? I tell them that I spend a lot of time proofreading. I breathe into the words, kill them, hit them, even squeeze them!

My every story goes through different processes. Here are some of the pictures that show some glims of my editing process.

I wrote the story about a hostel room on Wednesday, August 28, 2013, 6:52:18 AM. And the story about new born baby on Sunday, September 1, 2013, 12:33:54 PM
With the advent of new tools and technology, I rely more on the computer these days. However, sometimes I print the stories and proofread with a pencil.




Thursday, April 21, 2016

Breaking the Law of Nature

Breaking the Law of Nature
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

We adopt many habits and hobbies during our adolescence. Some happen to be constructive, whereas others destructive. Any propensity or side interest that we once turn out to be so used to is exceptionally hard to dispose of. Even some habits make us feel guilty. Waseem had fallen prey to two such habits. Although not all people agree that watching porn and masturbating are bad habits, Waseem always considered them to be quite filthy because Islam forbids from every deed of vulgarity. Despite his negative view of his tendencies, he struggled to get rid of them.

Waseem was a Muslim, and he strongly believed in the God, the Hereafter, and the Resurrection Day. He knew that he would have to account for his deeds eventually, so he was always filled with the fear of God, grave, and hell if he committed any wrongdoings. “O God, you know I don’t actually want to do all this, but Satan beguiles me. I want to thwart Satan’s all conspires against me, so please help me. Take me under your mercy. Help me get control over myself,” he said in the Eisha prayer (the nighttime prayer.)

Waseem attempted to bring an end to his inclination for watching porn for countless times, yet he fizzled. He even wrote the dates on the windows of his room that from those specific dates he would never practice those things again. Lamentably, he could scarcely avoid his unethical practices for a week or two. Waseem felt that he had spoiled his consecrated soul and violated the law of nature, so for that God would not be content with him. “O Lord, I have polluted my pure soul that you had given me. I couldn’t keep it untainted and clean. I have overstepped your law. I am your creature; I am prone to sin. Forgive my all errors that I have committed knowingly or unknowingly,” he said while looking at the sky.

It is difficult to break such habit when you are surrounded by the things which can influence you into doing it. Waseem was also besieged by such things like a laptop, a smartphone, and the Internet. “Staying away from a laptop or a smartphone is not possible when you live in the 21st century. Now who can help me make myself free of these dirty activities?” he asked himself after he finished watching an immoral movie and masturbating. “Why can’t I leave this? I am always regretful and unhappy after doing these things. Even then why can’t I stop this? These acts make me hate myself,” he thought regretfully.

One day, he went out in the evening to stop himself from his nasty habits. He came to a road and sat on a footpath near an old man who had a beadle in his hands. The old man kept saying Astaghfirullah, which means I seek forgiveness from Allah, as he moved beads with his fingers on a tesbih. (A tesbih is a string of beads which is often used by Muslims to keep track of counting of dhikr. Dhikr involves the repetitive utterances of short sentences in the praise and glorification of  Allah.)

“Are you homeless, uncle?” Waseem asked the man.

“No, I am not. I live in God’s house.”

“So you reside in a mosque.”

“Yes.”

“What have you done that you are asking pardon from God?”

“I have done a great deal of sins in my life. Especially, when I was young I committed lots of sins. I had no self-control.”

“I also have no control over myself. What should I do?”

“Go to God’s house, offer prayer five times a day, and purify your soul with God’s remembrance and his forgiveness. God listens to the prayer of young people. Your one prostration is equal to my hundred bowings because you are young and I am old. Refraining from sins in adulthood is more difficult than in old age. That’s why the prayer of youth is more rewarding. You are young; don’t waste yourself like me.”

“How did you waste yourself?”

“It is a long story. It is something that I shouldn’t ever mention.”

“Please tell me. It might help me.”

“It is a really obscene tale about me. Nobody knows it except Allah.”

“What is it?”

“In my teenage, a man tried to seduce me. I never had sex with anybody. I was afraid of that man. I was shivering and ran away from him. After that day, he constantly tried to draw my attention to him. He wanted me to do lewd work to him… For some days, I somehow stayed away from him. Yet, he never quit trying to persuade me. I was brimming with hormones, so I couldn’t keep for long. I was attracted to him. We began to kiss and touch.”

“He was a gay?”

“I don’t know. But after that, I had a tendency toward males. Our affair continued for four years. I always kept it to kissing and touching nothing more. He needed me to exceed all the limits, but I was a boy, with no experience. I was fearful. Above all, I never really wanted to do all that, but I was derived by my lust. As I grew up, that man felt ashamed of himself and stopped it. I wish that lustful man hadn’t come into my life. Because of him, I misused my entire youth in watching gay pornography. I never tried it with anybody else, though. I just kept watching gay porn and playing with myself for years. When I got married, I didn’t even enjoy my married life. That man had ruined my life.”

“Now you are old. Are you still derived by your desire?”

“No, young man, not at all. Now I have no desire.”

“Uncle, to tell you the truth. I also have a habit of watching porn and masturbating. I have endeavored to abstain from them, but I have failed.”

“Look, son. I know how hard it is. However, it is not impossible. I sometimes think that whatever I did after that man, was my own fault. If I truly had wished to give up those practices, I could have. God has sent us in this world for praying for him. We have to go back to him and answer him for every single deed. See, forget whatever happened in your past. Still, you have time, God will excuse you if you regret and stay away from that unhealthy stuff. You should get married. It will help you.”

“I cannot get married at this age; I am only 18. In my family, it is a rule to get an education and a job first. My parents won’t permit me. These days, people wed after 30.”

“I know. And that is the reason, we become infected with all these terrible things. I have now realized that if you get hitched as soon as you become mature, you will have a better married life and you will save yourself from many evils too.”

“Is that the only option?”

“No, there can be other alternatives as well. The best way is to follow the God’s commands and His Prophet’s teachings. Our religion, Islam, is a complete code of life. The worldly pleasure can misguide you. Satan is all the time trying to trap us as he did to Adam and Eve. You have to control yourself always. Make some other good habits instead of pursuing bad ones. Try to socialize with good people who have the fear of God. Now that I am aged, I have turned to God. I hope He will forgive me whatsoever I did in my adulthood. You better not waste your youth. Turn to God before it is too late, and stop breaking His law.” The two were still talking when the voice of Adhan (a call for prayer) came from the speakers of a nearby mosque. “Come with me. Let’s go for the prayer,” the man suggested.

Waseem felt incredibly relaxed that day when he offered the prayer. He felt peace in his mind and heart, so he decided to offer the prayer regularly from that day. He made friends with that old man. Waseem read the Holy Quran in translation every day. His belief in God had become stronger than before.  The old man gave him two other books for reading: Fazail-e-Amaal (The Importance of Deeds) and Seerat-u-Nabi (The Character of the Prophet). 

“Asalam-o-Alaikum (may God’s peace be upon you),” Waseem said to the old man as he reached the mosque. 

“Walaikum Salam (may God’s peace be upon you too.)”

After they offered prayer, Waseem said to the elderly man, “Uncle, it has been many days since we have met in the mosque, but we haven’t introduced each other.”

“Yes, my son. Well, my name is Zahid.”

“And I am Waseem. I am thankful to Allah that I met you.”

“It is all His mercy and blessing that sooner or later He protected us from vices.”

“Uncle, I would like to assist other people who are in these harmful habits. Will you help me?”

“Sure, I will. It is a good work to spare humans from such filthy activities.”

“All right. We will raise awareness in the light of the Quran and Hadiths. I have already talked to the Imam of the mosque; he will join us since he is an Aalim. (Aalim is someone who has more knowledge about religion.)

“What can be better than raising awareness? If we saved others from these sins, Allah might forgive us as well.” They went to different mosques, streets, and other places and preached the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet. 

In one of the Friday Khutba (a speech during the Friday prayer,) the Imam quoted, “How good poet Rizwan has said that:

I have a sacred soul;
The devil conspires to make it foul.
Sins will give me regrets–
I won’t be a fool.

My sanctity, my purity can be retained
Only when I refrain from sin,
So I won’t be a fool 
And sell my sacred soul. 

So Muslim brothers let’s not be fooled and sell our sacred souls.”

The Imam further instructed the people saying, “When Allah showers his benevolence on his people, they become purified as Waseem and Zahid. Allah likes repentance, and He forgives those who repent and shun away from sins. Let’s bow our heads and request amnesty from Allah because we all have to return to Him. Let’s follow the Quran and Sunna (actions performed by the Prophet–peace be upon him) and make our both worlds–this world and the Hereafter–prosperous.” 

Monday, April 4, 2016

A SUDDEN SEPARATION

A Sudden Separation
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

It was March 25th, 2016. After a long time, Rashid approached his chair and table, where he used to write. For the past few months he hadn’t been able to touch the notebook on his writing table, owing to his involvement with the classes he used to teach. That day, he was particularly sad because his close friend, Waqar, had passed away just the day before. His beloved friend had drowned in the Indus River in his village, Akil. He was 23 and single. Waqar was swimming with his classmates, when one of them got into a whirlpool. Waqar managed to get him out of the whirlpool, but he got himself within it. He sacrificed his life for the friend.


Rashid took his notebook, and cleaned the dust on it with his hand. He grabbed a pen, held it in his mouth with his teeth and hand, and began to stare at the Neem tree outside the window. The leaves were inevitably being shed from it. He thought that these leaves didn’t know which of them would fall next. Like those leaves, we humans also have no idea as to who will perish next. Rashid opened the notebook and commenced writing.

“I had read novels and stories about separation before, but I had never felt it so deeply until I lost my friend. I feel there is a void that can never be filled. It is a lifelong sorrow that tends to persist. Every sorrow has its share of intensity. While this intensity does fade with the passage of time, it is never obliterated completely. Even after decades, whenever we happen to remember any moment spent with our past friends, we take a deep sigh without any intention. There is always the grief of separation from our loved ones that pricks our hearts.

It is painful to write about the friends and loved ones that we have lost. However, one way through which we can provide succor to our saddened hearts is by recalling the moments that we had spent together. No doubt, we all have to go back to our Creator, but the sudden separation of our loved ones really shakes the earth under our feet. I too lost my friend recently, a friend I had spent a lifetime with – a long period of time.

It was 2006 when Waqar met me for the first time. I was in grade 9, whereas he was in grade 8. He came to my class accompanied by his friend, Muhammad Bukhsh. “I have heard that you are good at English,” he said to me. I never knew that he would end up being my student as well as a very good friend with whom I would spend half of my life!

When I reached grade 10, I had started teaching English. Waqar came to learn English at my institute. I found him to be a very obedient, helpful, and intelligent student, who would always score high on the tests due to being regular and punctual. He had become my pet student. After about eight months, the course had come to an end, and new students arrived. Occasionally, Waqar used to come and see me. On one of my birthdays, he brought me a gift early in the morning. “This is a very old and torn book, but whatever it might be, if it is given as a gift, it has its own special value,” he said while offering me the book.”

Rashid went on writing and writing. As if he would write for centuries. It was as if all his pens would cease to write and yet, his memories would not end. Some of his final lines he wrote were: “Physically you are not with me, but you will always remain with me spiritually – in my heart and mind. No matter how long I write about you or talk about you, your virtue can’t be defined in words. Your premature death has not only made me lonely, but it has made me, in fact, a poor man.” Rashid had a history with his friend. Whenever he went out, his mind would remind him about the times that they sat and walked in the streets of their village. He couldn’t believe that his friend was no more. Whenever he entered his writing room, he thought of how his friend sat there and read his stories, helped him with his college work, and how he joked. Whenever Rashid did anything, the memories of his friend would start occupying his mind.

When our loved ones depart from this world, they take away nothing with them. They leave everything behind. Let’s pray that the soul of Rashid’s friend may rest in peace and that Rashid’s dejected heart may get the strength and patience to survive the sudden separation from his friend.