Honoring and remembering Mahmudah Qureshi on her death anniversary April 5, 2005.
GUEST AUTHOR: Asma Q. Fischer M.D.
Every soul shall taste death……. says the Quran. What happens when you feel your soul is about to taste death and then you are returned to the living. Thus it happened to Mahmudah Qureshi twice that I know off and perhaps more……..
Here is one close call….
They are all waiting for their father to arrive for dinner from the Hospital in Amritsar where he works as a surgeon. The nights are dark as there is a blackout to deter the Hindu and Sikh looters. Thus dinner is being served early. The table is set on a hand embroidered Swiss cotton table cloth stiff with starch. Each place is set with fine bone china and silver that has a muted patina from many uses.
She stands at the table making sure that all the items are on the table ready for her father to come and commence dinner. Her youngest son is on her hip while the older two are busy with something in the other room. Her youngest is sensitive to the unspoken tension in the air. No one has mentioned to him that a new country is being born where Muslims will be free to practice their faith without punishment. Where women will not be burned and cremated with their husbands on their death where no one will be considered “untouchable” He is too young to know that the making of the new country out of British India has angered the volatile militant class of Hindus and Sikhs who are out brandishing their daggers and lighted torches. He feels the lights never coming on after sunset and hears the whispers in the large house. He cries in hunger with small low sobbing sighs instead of the lustful cries one would expect from a two year old.
She holds him protectively, pensive of what she too feels in the air.
The door opens and her father enters, she can tell by his face that something bad has happened. He gives brisk instructions to her mother in the other room and then approaches her. “We are leaving for Pakistan, take nothing except your jewelry, you may need to use it to barter for your life,” his voice breaks. “When?” she asks.
“Now” he responds.
He looks at her wise eyes and says gently “they are heading towards our community”. They being the Hindu and Sikh mobs ready to torch the houses plunder and pillage which they did.
What happened next are history and a miracle intertwined. The brush with death, fear, extreme terror and loss on the road to Pakistan and on reaching it…………instead of breaking her, it strengthened her with a new level of patience and integrity. She always looked at the most convoluted of issues and decided in the present moment what would be best for the future. Thus she carved out a life filled with mindfulness, compassion, sincerity and generosity.
She became a fountain of education for the poor girls of Karachi as well as the educated class of Karachi by establishing and administering 15 schools (13 through The All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA) and two privately through her own funds) for the new impoverished nation of Pakistan that was starting out with nothing.
Here is a glimpse of the organization of APWA that she served as Education Secretary bringing literacy to the poor girls of Karachi, Pakistan:
Today is the day she left this world for the Gardens of Paradise.
Every soul shall taste death and hers came swiftly on the appointed day and nothing could prevent it.
The moving finger writes and having writ moves on
Not all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back a line
Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.
It is from God we come and to Him we shall return….