By: Noor Aslam Khan
I met him at a juncture of life where I had yet to discover the signs of future discourse. Being raised as a single child in absence of love and affection of mother, surrounded by vast lush green fields, trees and birds knowing less about the hustle and bustle of life, love and affection. Though it was quite hard to be all alone during the early age of childhood, not having siblings or friends to talk or play with, nevertheless, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me. Instead of using this as an excuse to give up, I turned towards books and found a new world, yet not known to most of my fellows. Other than reading all the collections of Nasim Hijajzi, the well-known writer and master of historic fiction during 70s and 80s, I had also read Imran Series, the well-known series of spy novels written by Mazhar kaleem. These books not only developed my sense of imagination but added to my curiosity to search such heroes in the real life.
Parallel to my progress in schooling, the passion to find my heroes in real was also growing up. I never gave up my search for people, who could match the characteristics of my childhood heroes like Muhammad Bin Qasim, Tariq Bin Ziyad, Salahidin Ayubi, Tipu Sultan etc, I had fallen in love with while reading the novels of Nasim Hijjazi during 80s. Other than some of my teachers, may Allah bless them all, I could not find anyone who could exhibit the least of those traits like bravery , courage , honesty, straightforwardness , purity of character, piousness, fear of Allah , love for His prophet and all messengers , spirit of sacrifice , selflessness , contentedness, integrity , humbleness , empathy , etc
Despite of some of the disappointments with people in early age, I did not give up the search to find someone in real life looking, walking, talking and behaving like those ideals, I had met in the pages of books, who used to sacrifice their comforts and luxuries of life for the uplift of oppressed, who had the will and valor to stand and speak the truth at the face of tyrants; those who were hard like steel while confronting the devils and their allies but were soft like velvets; while among friends and brothers ; those who were a constant source of fear for oppressors and thugs but a symbol of hope and solace for oppressed and weaker.
It was 1993 and I was a student of F.Sc in post graduate college Bannu. I had developed a sense of national politics and was building some likes and dislikes for contemporary political figures based on their projection in national print media. Qazi Hussain Ahmed was known to me as an islamist politician, who had developed a unique reputation other than the reputation of traditional clergy represented by the leadership of JUI (F) and JUI (S) in our part of the country i.e. NWFP ( now KPK). If I can recall, the reputation I had developed of Qazi Hussain Ahmed, was of a person who was a moderate islamist, rescuer of oppressed, a flamboyant speaker, and hardly agreeable to the tones of sitting rulers.
One day we were told that Qazi Hussain Ahmed is coming to Bannu. As stated before, I had heard about his clarity of thoughts and his daring stands about certain issues, hence I was anxious as other young students were, to see and meet him sometime. The news of his arrival to Bannu on a two days visit was an opportunity which I decided to avail. I planned to reach the hockey stadium (venue of the conference) little earlier but I was surprised to see that the venue was half filled before time. I could find a place somewhere in the middle of the ground, far away from the stage and could only recognize him with the help of Jinnah cap, black wasket, his white shining face and quite open waiving hands. I don’t remember his speech exactly but what I remember was the pin drop silence partially broken by the chanting of Allah is Great and “Hum Betay Kis Kay Qazi kay”. I could feel that people were not only listening to his words attentively but were encaptivated by his words and presence. When his finished his speech, people did not wait to listen to the anchor person who was trying to make some announcements, but thronged the stage to catch a glimpse of Qazi Sb. I was almost hopeless to see or meet him in such a crowd, hence decided to stand on one side waiting for my luck to work. Despite of being waiting there for almost 40 minutes or so, I could not see him from a close angle and he was escorted by the charged crowd out of the stadium.
In the evening, he was invited for a dinner by one of the elder of the city, a medical doctor by profession, and luckily one of my class fellow, who had an idea about my wish to meet Qazi sb, asked me to accompany him to that place. I was little hesitant to go there as an uninvited guest but he told me that we are not going to eat anything there rather intending to see Qazi sb, hence I was convinced and agreed to go with him.
When we reached that location, a number of vehicles were parked outside with presence of police and hundreds of passionate workers, I felt that the same is going to happen again. After the dinner was taken, Qazi sb came out and was ready to leave, I managed to move near him despite of presence of hundreds of charged workers between me and Qazi sb, all of them rushing and pushing each other to reach him and shake his hand. Qazi sb, under the dim light and humid weather, been busy the whole day traveling and talking, was still looking fresh, constantly smiling and not only shaking the hand of each worker but holding it for some time and asking them some questions about their welfare as well as their parents and friends. He was even addressing some ordinary workers with their names which later on revealed to be his ability to remember names of ordinary workers , somehow met him once …a very unique and special phenomenon!
While approaching Qazi Sb inch by inch, I noticed a well-built, good looking young man, standing quite attentively, behind Qazi sb, observing carefully every person shaking the hand of Qazi Sahib and was complementing every one with a smile. I made my way to that gentleman, who introduced himself as Arifeen Khan Jadoon, as an assistant of Qazi Sb and I told him briefly about my desire to meet Qazi Sb. To my surprise this young man not only agreed but offered if I would like to get into Qazi Sb vehicle along with him! A quite unexpected offer for a stranger like me!
I remember at that time I was feeling the luckiest person on earth and I am still owing allot to brother Arifeen Khan Jadoon for that courtesy, which later changed my life. The moment Qazi Sb vehicle was due to leave, brother Arfeen took me to the vehicle, opened the door and got me in into the vehicle on the back side….. wow … that beautiful man was just few feet away from me and I could feel the fragrance and aroma of my hero I was in search of since my childhood. In the meanwhile Arifeen Bhai introduced me to Qazi sb very briefly and he shook my hand quite enthusiastically with a huge smile and welcomed me without any reservation or interrogation. In the meanwhile, one or two designated local elders, also boarded Qazi sb vehicle and my unexpected presence inside the vehicle surprised them but before they could say anything, Qazi Sb intervened and introduced me to them as a very special fan. While we were still away from the city, Qazi sb asked me how many brothers and sisters I had, I told him that I am alone and lost my mother while I was a child … he turned his face toward me, held my hand , gave me a smile and said …. dont worry I am also your father and my wife is your mother… something he said once but kept it for ever…… then he turned to Arfeen and asked him to not get me off …..how true his love was, I could never get off away from him or his memories.
I was mesmerized being having him around, so close where I could see his white teeth while he was smiling, his red cheeks and bright shining eyes, open forehead, white clean clothes, soft hands and sweet words….. .those moments had changed my world…. And those words of love, affection and courtesy had changed my life. I still remember his smile, which was so real and intoxicated in affect, which enchained many like me for the rest of their lives…. I had found my hero….
When we reached Bannu city and we got off the vehicle I was hesitant to follow him to the room where he was staying for a night stay but he looked back and asked me where I would stay? I told him that I am staying in a hostel. He told me not to go to the hostel so late night and stay in the same place. He also asked me that if I am free, I can accompany him to D.I.Khan and Tank the next morning. I did not take a second and responded with loud yes, may be several times…
Next morning when the trip organizers came to know about my inclusion into the list of those few who were accompanying Qazi sb in his vehicle, they advised me to assume the role of his escort team and I volunteered myself for that due to my passion for such jobs since childhood: It was the time to prove myself as soldier of my hero! I was briefed about responsibility during the trip and was strictly told that Qazi sb does not like possession or display of weapons (licensed) as he believed that he has no enemies so why someone would try on his life…..within no time I and Arifeen Khan Jadoon were on board as his fellows on the trip…I remember Qazi sb shared many real jokes with us to enlighten us. It was such pleasant journey I shall always remember.
When we reached D.I.Khan , he was welcomed by a huge crowd, chanting various slogans. Qazi sb was reminding them not to say “ Hum saat Maraynge Qazi ke” as he used to lightly reminding them , I am old man and you all are still young…I wish you long lives. We went to the stadium where huge number of audience were anxiously waiting to listen to Qazi sb. After he addressed the rally, we went back to his designated location of stay, out of deep love and respect, I tried to pick his shoes, but he stopped me and said don’t do this. I do not like to be treated as a saint by my children.
Coming back, we traveled together from DI Khan and tank to Bannu together. I was anxious to observe his every move and listen to his every word. I never felt he was a celebrity or a saint. He was a simple person, who was reachable. He was speaking to everyone with utmost respect and the same he earned from friends and foes. I remember, he was very curious to share my tragic early childhood life story and I could see tears in his eyes. With every passing hour, I could not judge if my love was exceeding for him or it was his love for me which was boiling off its limits.
Down the road while I was in Peshawar University and had passed my master with colors in 2000, I decided to sit for a competitive examination and join police but Agha Jan, who had then almost taken a place of my parents, advised me to desert this idea and commit my future for some work which will benefit marginalized communities. I asked my father , who without a second thought agreed with Qazi sb and asked me to leave for Lahore. After returning from university , I only stayed for one week in home and on 25 May 2000 went to Lahore. Qazi sb was returning from his last US trip the next day and he met me in the afternoon in his office. He shared his vision of turning Mosques into learning centers where both the children and adults / their parents can be educated about Islamic ideology, rights and responsibilities and social activism. Based on that sketch and idea he had in his mind, we initiated a project with the name of Masjid Maktab Scheme, setting up more than 140 schools with thousands of marginalized children enrolled without any fee in various far flung parts of the country. He was always a staunch supporter of this project and wanted to convert Mosques into full fledge community centers where mosques could be used for the growth and development of communities through education and learning in addition to its traditional usage for five times prayers. After Qazi Sb, the Masjid Maktab idea was abolished gradually.
Qazi Sb was having unique personality traits. He was non-controversial and earned a huge respect of all, both friends and foes, despite of being critical of his contemporary politicians and religious leaders for their drawbacks. He was not only an orator who could deliver well composed speeches but had a great sense of maintaining social networking. He was valuing his workers and knew their social and human needs. He was believing that our workers are human beings and we need to address their day to day issues with priority pertinent to their social lives. He was a strong champion of revolution which can ensure the safety of lives and restoration of human dignity. He was against any idea which could lead to shed blood and spoil lives. He was an advocate of restoring the self-respect of an ordinary person at the face of feudal system.
He was having a mastery of various languages like English, Persian, and Arabic along with Punjabi, Pashto and Urdu. This ability always stood him unique and quite acceptable among the learned circles of these countries like Middle East, Iran and Turky. He was equally famous in these countries and people used to have great regard for him, sometimes elevating him to Ustad Qazi. His historic welcome in Istanbul by the Turkish citizens is still mind-blowing.
His love for Quran was unprecedented. There had never been a morning in his life , where he missed reading and understanding or explaining verses from Quran. He used to link the poetry of Iqbal with Quran and his fluency in the poetry of Iqbal made him famous among Persian speakers, who pinned their hopes on him to bridge the gap created in the wake of sectarianism. He was having a gifted ability of finding the common ground and common word in the time of divide and rift among people, parties and states. People, despite of having differences of opinions with him on various issues, still used to believe in his sincerity and wisdom. He was quite successful to bring all right wing parties and its leadership to a single platform and turn their voice into a meaningful movement, but unfortunately some of the opportunists used it into their favors but this did not disappoint Qazi sb and was still optimistic saying that we being believers work for Allah, hence losses and gains are not the factors which shall decide the course and pace of our efforts. We all badly miss him in the context of ongoing rift between Iran, its proxies and sunni block at the global level.
That wonderful and proud relation which we built in 1993 during those three days journey was preserved and maintained with same passion, dignity and enthusiasm till his last day and I am so proud to say that even Agha Jan (I used to call him with this name) is no more among us but each and every member of his family, either immediate or extended, stood witness to that love and affection we have had for each other. I am so proud of every minute I spent being having him around and am so proud still possessing his beautiful memories as treasure of my life I shall always cherish.
May Allah shower his soul with eternal blessings, may grant him the best place in Jannah and may unit us with him in jannah. Ameen
Story first published: 6th January 2017