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Random thoughts

March 26, 2018



Remembering a noble Pakistani

Qudratullah Shahab’s famous autobiography ‘Shahabnama’ is an important piece of literature about our golden Islamic traditions. The writer was a human being par excellence, a competent civil servant and an excellent writer and literary figure. I knew him personally.

In August 1961, I went to Germany to study at the prestigious and famous Technical University of Berlin. I had already worked for three years as inspector of weights and measures in Karachi after completing my B Sc from DJ Sindh Government Science College. I preferred to go to Germany despite invitations from the friends I had in London because of that country’s excellent reputation for engineering studies. The first six months were really tough due to language problems – hardly anyone spoke English and there were no English TV programmes or newspapers.

During that time I learnt German, did six months of mandatory practical work and made some long-lasting friends. In August 1964, I moved to Holland since my fiancée’s (now my wife of 54 years) family lived there and I joined the famous Technological University of Delft. My fiancée and I had fixed our wedding date for March 9, 1964, so I went to the Pakistan Embassy in the Hague to find out what the formalities were. At that time, Qudratullah Shahab was the ambassador and Jamiluddin Hassan was the first secretary.

Qudratullah Shahab

They knew both of us and were extremely friendly. They not only performed the nikkah ceremony but also hosted a small reception for us. It was a memorable day for us. After that we attended functions at the embassy regularly. After completing my Master’s degree and joining the university as research assistant to Prof Dr W G Burgers, I decided to make a one-month trip to Pakistan, where my family received my wife with open arms. My wife and I stayed in Karachi with my sister, Razia. It was a memorable trip and we travelled to Quetta, Peshawar, Landi Kotal, Swat, Abbottabad, Nathiagali, Murree and Rawalpindi. In a second trip we travelled to Delhi, Agra and Bhopal, the city of my birth. While visiting Rawalpindi, we went to see Qudratullah Shahab, the then federal secretary for education, and Jamiluddin Hassan, then at the Foreign Office, both thorough gentlemen, refined and competent.

Qudratullah Shahab, a former deputy commissioner of Jhang, writes in Shahabnama (free translation from Urdu). “One day a primary school teacher named Rehmat Elahi came to see me. He was to retire in four or five months’ time. He was extremely worried as he had three young daughters and no home of his own. He was extremely worried about his future, house, meagre pension, and marriage of his daughters etc. He said that a few days before, he saw our Holy Prophet (pbuh) in a dream, who advised him to visit the DC in Jhang, who would help him. He confided that, being in great distress, he was offering nightly prayers for Divine help.

“At first I thought I was being taken for a ride. When the man saw some doubts on my face, he got tears in his eyes and said: ‘Sir, I might have taken the liberty from the Almighty to lie, but I could never imagine of doing so in the name of our Holy Prophet (pbuh)’. After listening to this, I believed in his story and asked him to return after three weeks. During that time, I quietly investigated and was told that he was an honest, God-fearing and simple person but a poor one.

“At that time, the provincial government had empowered DCs to allot about eight acres of unused land on lease to people committed to using it for farming. Consequently, I asked my land officer, Ghulam Abbas, to find such a piece of land, suitable for quick crops and harvests. He thought I wanted that land for one of my relatives and came up in a jiffy with a piece located near the road. I allotted the land to Rehmat Elahi and asked the land officer to formalise everything and give the papers to him.

“After about nine years, when I was working with President Ayub Khan in Karachi, I received a registered letter from Rehmat Elahi in which he informed me that he had worked hard and, with the income he made, he had managed to get his three daughters married. He added that he and his wife had been able to perform Haj. He had also managed to buy a small piece of land on which he had built a house for them to live in, so now he was no longer in need of the lease on the government land and he was returning all the relevant documents so that it could be given to some other needy person.

“I was sitting deeply in thought when the president entered the room to discuss some work. Taking one look at my face, he enquired what was worrying me. I told him the whole story. He was quiet for some time and then said that I had done a noble deed and that he would call the governor and ask him to allot that land to me. I thanked him for his gesture, but assured him that I did not need this land and was not interested in agriculture. At the end of my life, I said, I would need no more than two yards long – and that much everybody manages to get.”

This story should be highly inspiring to everyone. Although none of those people are any longer alive today, the example of that simple school teacher from Jhang is a shining example for us all. May Almighty Allah shower His blessings on all those nice people.