Amazing People of an Amazing Land
In the Presence of a Believer
Only a few days ago I was in India. There I met a lot of wonderful people and I had a lot of wonderful things happen to me. I was also tested sorely on a number of fronts. Conclusion: this is Allah’s world. He runs it how he wants and pleases.
My response to the way Allah runs his world is simple: Alhamdulillah! Praise him, for, it is his world and he is the boss. I have nothing else to say.
Among the men I was fortunate to meet in this amazing land called India was this Muslim. Or maybe I should call him a Mu’min. For, that is what he was – to the extent we mortals could tell. I don’t know his name. I never asked.
But he knew my father. And that was good enough for me. Practically everyone knew my father, Allah bless him. He was that kind of a man.
At first, this gentleman greeted me with a certain reserve. There were all sorts of things happening to me and around me. So, I don’t blame him for being cautious, if that is what it was on his part: caution.
We would meet in the mosque Fajr time (pre-dawn morning prayers) and then walk out together to a local coffee shop where we would consume that indescribably lush Tamil Brahmin coffee served by a rustic, down-to-earth Muslim, who had brought up multiple daughters and put them all through medical school.
Paradise assured, would you say?
So, this Muslim gentleman from the mosque – his children are doing well overseas and he lives rather comfortably in India – said often how blessed he felt I was. How so, I asked. Just look how briskly you walk, he said. Men half your age can’t even bend their knees or stand up straight or do Sajdah properly.
I saw his point. And I was grateful. To God Almighty for making it so and to this gentleman for saying it.
Every now and then he would ask how I was doing. He knew I was dealing with all sorts of things that were being thrown at me from different directions. The town was abuzz with what was going on.
I will say: Alhamdulillah. Allah runs his world the way he wants, and I have no objection to the way he does it, I would say. His face will light up. That is right, he would say, this is his world and everything he does is just right and it is great.
We would go through this exercise over and over again – day after day. I knew I was in the presence of a believer: a Mu’min. Here was man whose heart had been lit up with Iman. May Allah bless him.
Also on more than one occasion, he was part of a live audience for Pasha Hour International – Live from America! that was beamed out from the land of temples and Durgahs that Chidambaram was to the Caribbean and streamed throughout the world on the Internet.
Educating Muslim Females
My heart fills with joy when I think of how education seems to be advancing among Muslims in the land of Tamil in South India. Girls in particular seem to be doing quite well, often better than boys, which made me put on my thinking cap and raise my usual alarm bells.
All my life I had been an inveterate advocate of education – Muslim and non-Muslim, male and female. Now that my wishes were coming true, I was doing what I have become pretty good at doing: look a gift-horse in the mouth.
What will happen to these girls in the next 5-10 years, I asked myself. And I asked the parents. And I asked the bystanders. No one had an answer.
What kind of husbands will they get, I asked. For, the boys were not keeping up with the girls. Everyone knew what I was saying but none had an answer.
We need to get ready, I declared. We need to start planning from now and get organized, I said. Everyone agreed. But will anyone do anything about it? I don’t know. I doubt it.
Muslims rarely do anything in time. They wait forever for others to solve their problems. And then they hold meetings. Just like all the rest of human beings everywhere. The better educated among them form committees where issues simmer forever.
All about America
Then I met this businessman. Everyone told me, as he watched and listened with palpable joy and pride, how this true son of the south spent his wealth on Muslim causes and how he distributed Laddoos – Indian sweets – the size of coconuts in the mosque at Lailatul Qadr during Ramadan.
We would meet up at the coffee shop where he would show up on his scooter in his resplendent white South Indian clothes. We would talk. There were others and we would all talk the usual Muslim chatter.
But he was different: he asked questions. One, two, three, any number of questions.
And those questions all centered on America. What was America like? What was the weather like? How was the politics? How were the people? Did the American people hate or like Islam and Muslims?
What about racism? How were the black people treated in America? Were there poor people in America? And, interestingly, was there any bribery in American life?
And then the inevitable what was Obama like?
I answered these questions as best as I could. But there were others who never set foot on the American soil and who most likely never read a book on the subject, nor seriously followed the topic in the media, who were only too willing and eager to jump into the conversation and answer these questions before I could say anything.
That is how village life often is, even though Chidambaram, with a population close to 100,000 is hardly a village. Those who know least are also at times those who are the quickest with answers. The fact that they seem to barely know what they are talking about doesn’t seem to bother or stop them.
But I was impressed. Here was this highly successful businessman, with vast wealth and a generous heart, who was so full of curiosity about things in general and about America in particular. His graciousness made a deep impression on me.
I extended to him a personal invitation to come to America as my guest. Come visit me in America, I said. Just take care of one thing, I said. Get yourself the best health insurance you possibly can, all the rest is on me, I said.
Allah bless him and all the wonderful people who hung out with him.
Health Care in America
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that without the best health insurance you were dead meat in America. But that is my personal fight in and with America. It has been for the better part of the last four decades.
There are nearly 90 million (almost one-third of the total population) “un”- and “under”-insured people in America. Don’t ask me who or what they are. They are basically people who lack healthcare or just don’t have enough of it.
When it comes to healthcare the rich have it and the poor and the not-so-rich don’t. I mean health insurance in America. The richest society on earth, populated by some of the most generous and kind-hearted people in the world, is caught in a trap that makes it a disaster for the poor and the un- and under-insured to get sick.
I have been saying forever: If you are smart, you don’t get sick in America. And you don’t grow old. Unless of course you are rolling in wealth.
That is my quick foray in the world of sarcasm.
I am not going to spend a great deal of time and space explaining what those words “un”-insured and “under”-insured mean. But suffice it to say that they both spell trouble for those who fall under either one of those categories.
Talking plainly, if you don’t have health insurance, or enough of it, you are in trouble every time you get sick and need to see a doctor or have to go to a hospital.
To me, however, healthcare is a fundamental human right. Health being a basic human condition, healthcare is a basic human need. That means society everywhere has an obligation to provide adequate healthcare to all human beings living under its aegis.
I have been fighting that fight all my life in America. American presidents have been fighting that fight for nearly 100 years. President Clinton threw himself in that fight – and lost. He and his wife came out bowed and bloodied from that fight – and learning all the wrong lessons.
I used to joke to my university classes on Public Relations, I still do, that Clinton took his ideas on healthcare from my lectures but he lacked a serious strategy. He forgot to ask me, I would say with a twisted smile on my lips, how to get it done.
And now President Obama has thrown himself in that fight. Again, in his speeches, you can hear the echo of the speeches I have been giving for the past 40 years on the subject of healthcare.
Will he succeed? Only time will tell. Also what will tell is if the ruling Democratic leadership and party have the political will and moral fiber to be true to what they believe deep down inside and profess outside.
If fear, greed and lack of moral will cause the Democrats to turn tail and run once again, the cause of healthcare in America would again be set back maybe by about 20-30 years.
He held himself erect. And he walked straight. He also talked straight talk. In general he radiated an air of efficiency and confidence. And yet when you really got close to him you saw that he carried the burden of the world on his shoulders.
He talked about how far the Muslims had deviated from Islam in almost all important aspects of their lives. He talked, almost in a monotone, how the general condition of the Muslims had degenerated over the years. And he talked, this time with greater visible emotion, how the human condition had gone from bad to worse in all of India.
And the rich, he said with great sadness in his voice, were becoming increasingly heartless and cruel and uncaring. They were amassing large fortunes and growing more indifferent by the day about the condition of the poor.
The condition of the poor in our society is worse than that of the animals, he said. You go anywhere and it is all the same. The rich seem to have everything and the poor seem to be wallowing in the most miserable conditions, lacking even the barest necessities of life.
I experienced a mix of emotions as I spoke with him. At times I felt he was all work and no feeling. And then I saw through his tough exterior and got a glimpse of the pain that seemed to gnaw at his heart. Not a personal pain at his own condition, but a most general and sublime pain born of a sweeping concern for his fellow human beings – both Muslim and non-Muslim.
That is how Muslims used to be, I told myself. They loved and they cared. And they served. And they were deeply hurt and troubled by the plight in which they found their fellow human beings.
They feared and loved Allah. And they were consumed by the desire to serve his creation. These were people who had dedicated themselves to love God in heaven and serve humanity on earth.
And that is how some of the best of them are even to this day.
These men and women are the salt of the earth I said to myself. They are the true saints of today. They are God’s Elect in modern times. May God Almighty bless them!
And the man I was talking about, the man with a straight walk and a straight talk to match, was none other than Mr. Ejaz Aslam, the Editor-in-Chief of Radiance Viewsweekly, the Muslim magazine that has been coming out of Delhi for the past nearly 50 years.
I wonder if, when and how Radiance will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
May God Almighty bless and guide and help the Radiance family to continue to carry out their most noble mission of loving God and serving humanity. They have been a beacon of light and hope in a night that has been so intensely dark for so long. They are truly a silver lining in a dark cloud.
And may God Almighty bless India, the land of my ancestors. And the land of great many noble saints who provided light and guidance to millions upon millions of people throughout the land. They cured the sick and freed human beings of all faiths from the clutches of all kinds of demons.
And may God Almighty bless America, the land I chose to raise my family in, like so many others both Muslim and non-Muslim. And may God Almighty bless all of his beautiful earth which he created for Adam and his progeny.
I say this because that is what Islam is: a blessing for everyone and everything everywhere in every possible way. And because that is who Muslims are: the unstoppable blessers of everyone and everything in the world.
Even though the world may not know it and even though often the Muslims themselves may not realize it.
© 2009 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.