Remembering My Father

My father, Mohammad Masihuzzaman, died on the blessed day of the 10th of Muharram, two years ago.  He had his own theories of parenting, and the training that he gave me and my brothers has shaped all aspects of our lives. One of the greatest treasures of my life is the extra-ordinary, deep, absolute, love that he gave us. He once told me a story about his youth — apparently he had been involved with a group which was taking some violent actions against the British Raj. When the police came to investigate, my grandfather offered his own life to protect his son. It was completely clear to me that if it was ever called for, my father would also be ready to die for me.  It was much later that I learnt that what I took for granted as normal parental love, was a unique and exceptional quality.  Never, not even once in his life, did he raise his voice or his arms against me — even though I gave him many occasions to do so. I especially remember one incident when, at the age of fifteen, I took our car out without permission, and drove it too fast, lost control, and crashed it into our gate, causing a major repair bill. I was trembling with fear and anxiety, but, much to my surprise and relief, my father smiled and embraced me, and never said anything about the accident.

In this day and age, it seems essential to clarify that deep love and absolute commitment does not mean permissive parenting. Abba watched carefully over character development of his children, and took steps to correct what he saw as problems. Once he thought that I was being too selfish, and to rectify this, he asked me to give away as a gift to my cousin, a toy that I valued and cherished very much. He persuaded me by telling me of the virtues of generosity, and assured me that if I gave away what I loved so dearly, I would be rewarded by even greater gifts by Allah. With extreme reluctance, and against my desire, I did give the toy to my cousin, who was overjoyed to receive it. I remember that I went to my room and cried for a while at the shock of the loss, and consoled myself by thinking about the rewards for generosity that Abba had promised would result. The gift that I received from God was much greater than any material replacement for the toy would have been. Allah T’aala rewarded me with a feeling of contentment and satisfaction at the tremendous blessings that I had already been given.

The greatest gift that my father gave me was the introduction to the movement of Tableegh. After a lifetime of searching for the truth, engaging in very heated debates with many people of different persuasions, as well as participating in many different movements, he finally settled on the movement of Tableegh and Dawa, and committed his entire life to this movement. At one point he gathered all five brothers and made a very emotional speech to us. He told us that he had devoted all his resources to giving us all the best possible education and training — while his colleagues had big houses and multiple plots, and cars, he had highly educated children. He said that he had never asked for us anything before, and would not ever ask anything again, but he wanted us all to promise to do just one thing: spend four months (or forty days) in Tableegh. Of course, all of us promised to do so, and eventually, all of us did spend forty days in Tableegh — much against our own inclinations and desires.  But this time spent in the path of Allah changed the lives of all of us.

After experiencing the teachings and simple lifestyle of Tableegh, I came to the realization that everything that I had learned about Islam until then was just “cultural” Islam, and had almost nothing to with the reality of the revolutionary Message of Allah to humanity brought to us by the most excellent of prophets Mohammad, may Allah T’aala shower his finest blessing and mercy upon him. It was like the lifting of the darkness and the coming of light — I understood that I had been sent here to this planet for a very short time, on mission of vital importance — there was no time to waste in idle pursuits, as minutes were slipping away while a task of burning importance remained undone. Success or failure in this task could mean the difference between eternal happiness and eternal loss. All of the worldly materials and gains — ranks, degrees, wealth, luxury, pleasures, sports, and intellectual and philosophical pursuits — these were trivialities and toys meant to tempt and distract us away from realizing and fulfilling the real purpose of our life, which is to create and build a strong connection with Allah T’aala, the Creator and Sustainer of all Dominions.

To change the purpose of life is to change life itself. As the Quran says, “Man can only have that which he strives for”.  I realized that so far I had pursued worldly goals and ambitions, and so, because of my lowly goals, my life had been worth less than the wing of a mosquito.  Tableegh asks for a unique merger between worldly struggle and the struggle to become friends with Allah. During the day, we must work as hard as we can on the Creation, while the nights must be devoted to the Creator. Both efforts supplement each other, and neither is fruitful in isolation. The path to progress in Deen is the one chosen by the Prophet himself — say, this is my way, and the way of all those who follow me — I invite towards Allah — There is a deep paradox in the work of Dawah, and balance between two polar opposites is hard to achieve. On the one hand, following the path of the Mercy towards the Nations requires us to be deeply concerned about the fate of the entire humanity, and to fulfill the mission of the Ummah by calling all towards the good, while forbidding the evil. After all, our Prophet was chided many times not to kill himself with sorrow over the fate of those who would not listen to him. At the same time, we are also supremely selfish — ultimately the world consists of me and Allah alone — all other creations are a source of distraction. The verses of Surah Muzammil (73:7,8) are amazing in this connection — the Prophet is busy during the day (with what? with the work of the Deen!!) so he should devote his nights EXCLUSIVELY to Allah. Many things which made no sense before — like being in this world, but not being part of it — like acting like a traveller, spending a few brief moments on this planet — like finishing the planting of the seed, even though Qiyama is upon you — now started to make a lot of sense. It is not the effect of the action within this world which matters, it is whether or not you are fulfilling the commandments of Allah which matters.

Coming back to my father, there is no doubt that the work of Tableegh took him away from us, and that this was a great loss to the family, which we all felt deeply. From roughly 1984 onwards, he became full time resident in Raiwind. He was then fully occupied with managing the worldwide movement, and had little time for us. However, his love for us was so strong that it is reported that the leader of the movement in Pakistan, Abdul Wahhab Saheb used to joke that if Masihuzzaman loved Allah T’aala as much as he loves his sons, he would have become a Wali-ullah long ago. However, as we all realized much later, the time with him that we lost, was given to hundreds of thousands of seekers of God from all over the planet, and changed their lives. I  have met so many people, from all over the world, who told of meaningful encounters with Abba, and words that he had said to them.

There is so much more that I wanted to write, but this post has already become too long, and words are not enough for all that needs to be said. So I will leave it here, and hope to have another chance to write more later. The recording of my memorial speech is linked below. For more information about me, see the about me page of my main website: asadzaman.net.

 

Related: Farewell Talk to IIIE Students, Reaching beyond the Stars, Ways of the Eagles, and Talk/Discussion with PIDE Students.     Previous post : Memorial: Mohammad Masihuzzaman (only contains the video + few remarks)

 

 

 

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About Asad Zaman

BS Math MIT (1974), Ph.D. Econ Stanford (1978)] has taught at leading universities like Columbia, U. Penn., Johns Hopkins and Cal. Tech. Currently he is Vice Chancellor of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. His textbook Statistical Foundations of Econometric Techniques (Academic Press, NY, 1996) is widely used in advanced graduate courses. His research on Islamic economics is widely cited, and has been highly influential in shaping the field. His publications in top ranked journals like Annals of Statistics, Journal of Econometrics, Econometric Theory, Journal of Labor Economics, etc. have more than a thousand citations as per Google Scholar.

8 thoughts on “Remembering My Father

  1. We are for Allah and for Allah we shall return. May Allah bless his soul in the highest rank and we rejoin our blessed ones in Heaven InshaAllah.

  2. Sir Not everyone have a father like that. May he rest in peace. Ameen. No doubt he truely love his kids. I think the best thing that a father would like for his sons would be to reach pinnacle of success and thats quite evident here. Being a daughter of a proud father, i wouldnt have asked for more myself that my father gave me the best education possible. Parents can just show us the path, its on us to take that journey and find truth ourselves. MashAllah, it seems u have found both deen and dunya and have have maintained a balance between them, a thing u thought was missing in ur father’s life. May ur kids also see the same ideal father-figure in u that u looked in ur father. Ameen

  3. To me a successful person means – he has inspiring parents. So I am really impressed by Masihuzzaman sb. I remember opening opening sentence of one of his bayan – aaj amal sey zindagi banney ka yaqeen dilon sey nikal geya hey.
    One day I met him in Raiwind before Isha, he was sitting in first row near imam, I introduced myself as LUMS graduate and during discussion he asked me if I am married, I replied yes, he said ‘take care of your wife’. I told this to my wife, she said keep on meeting with him, he is the real buzurg.
    Fakhir
    MS CS 99, LUMS.
    You taught us probability.

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