“You have disappointed me today, Saleem,” said Saleem’s father, turning his face away from Saleem.
It was Saleem who showed me true kindness. He is a philanthropist, always helping people, thinking about others, and putting the needs of others before his. Never had I ever seen him frown over any issue. He always seemed happy and content with his life.
But today, he called at my door, quite unexpectedly, with sadness on his face. He was upset. Melancholy had cloaked him completely. The sadness of a person who has always looked so happy makes everything seem dismal. Roses seem to wither; the air becomes mournful, and it pinches the heart really hard.
I invited him inside; made tea; and sat down next to the lost Saleem. I inquired why he was so upset. But, he wasn’t really there with me. He was lost, really lost. His eyes piercing through the floor, drilling into the earth, did not move or blink while he finally uttered a few unfathomable words, “The idol inside me has finally shattered into pieces.”
What? What do you mean? What has happened? I asked as many questions as I could in a single breath. He looked at me, blank, and said, “Today, my father has shattered the idol inside me. He has forced me to contemplate and realize that all of my virtues are futile. All the good that I have done in life seems worthless now. My soul stinks. I cannot face God out of remorse.”
He was tearful. I was alarmed. Impatiently, I asked, “Saleem, tell me clearly, what is wrong?” Saleem confided that someone in his neighborhood had died of Corona last week. Death of the sole breadwinner does weaken the foundations of a house, but Saleem felt that the burden of those coming to offer condolences would shake the walls of the mourner’s house, as well. Saleem quietly handed over his savings of a few months without thinking of his own household; he gave them to the new and accidental caretaker of the house. He even went so far as to offer more if needed.
Saleem told me, in his heart, there were more satisfaction and peace of mind in helping than worrying about his own family. Subsequently, in the evening, when his dad suddenly asked for some money, he had nothing to give. And when he told his Dad of what he had done with the savings, his dad said, “You have disappointed me today, Saleem.” Dad’s words went down his chest like a needle. Saleem took a sip of tea and said, “I asked Abba, why are you disappointed? I have helped someone in need; I didn’t lose it in a bet or gambled on it.”
His dad’s objection seemed meaningless. He should have been proud of his son. Saleem said, “Saleem,” his father frowned, “did you not know of their financial condition beforehand? Did we not spend days with food on the table and they faced hunger and starvation? You did not have a single penny for the living, but you have money to embellish the grave of the dead now. And what in the hell is making you feel so happy about? It wasn’t yours to give away in the first place. Allah gave you wealth and you just spent it on one of His servants. You should be ashamed of yourself for not doing it when my friend was alive, rather than feeling good about it now. Giving alms to the dead and not sparing a penny for the living, doesn’t this embarrass you?”
Tears started rolling down Saleem’s wrinkled face. He put down the cup, wiped away his tears, and said, “Today, I finally understand what it means to give away with one hand and not letting the other know about it. It is not as difficult to break the three hundred and sixty idols in the Kaaba as it is to break this one idol inside, which makes you feel happy, contented, and proud of every good deed that you do.”
There was truth in Saleem’s words. Our respected teacher, Prof. Tariq Mahmood Malik Sahib passed away recently. I had never seen such a smart man at the university. He always had a smile on his face. He was a TV reporter. What a brilliant voice and script-on-toes ability he had! No one would ever find even a hint of anxiety on his beautiful face. When the news of his passing away came, we found out that this simple looking man was a giant in journalism. The traditional giants of journalism flooded Twitter, their TV programs, and their columns with eulogies for Sir Tariq.
At the same time, they showed worry about who would take care of the family of this Abba je type Tariq Mehmood Malik. Some embarrassed the government, some of the institutions where Sir Tariq had invested his youth. Alas, everyone was reminded of the sufferings of Tariq Mahmood Malik only after he left this mortal world. Instead of highlighting Sir Tariq’s qualities, everyone focused on his or her personal connection and loss. Everyone had to prove that Tariq Sahib’s departure had hurt him the most.
Alas, everyone was reminded of the sufferings of Tariq Mahmood Malik only after he left this mortal world.
Sir Tariq’s departure has really left a void, which will never be filled. It is clear that this man, who was always smiled in spite of his sufferings, was no less than an angel for many. And angels do not seek charity. In any case, Tariq Sahib was a human being, who may have had flaws, but seeing his kids made me realize, Tariq Sahib was not afraid of sufferings. Instead, he befriended them as they kept his feet on the ground. He continued to support and provide help to countless students, not only in education but also in employment and professional services. But he never reached out to anyone, and never asked for any remuneration.
Sustenance and honor are bound to the will of Allah. The government or the private organizations where Sir Tariq worked have nothing to give to Sir Tariq or any other journalist. We do not ask anyone to pay a stipend for Tariq Sahib’s family. He was an honorable man. So, if he has never sought alms in his life, there is no need to put the burden of alms on his grave.
Those who did not think of Tariq Sahib during his life should still keep their feelings to themselves. Let us not shame and disappoint humanity as Saleem’s father portrayed.
A teacher’s departure rejuvenates orphan-like feelings. May Allah grant our esteemed teacher high ranks. And keep the torch that he lit in our hearts lit till the Day of Resurrection, student to student and heart to heart. Ameen.