Understanding life

Samina Saad, October 1961 – February 2021

My cousin Asif Saad wrote this moving and insightful piece about our dearest Mina Baji who left us recently, posted to his website Open Minds Consulting. Shared here with permission.

Some treasures from my sister’s brave soul

Self-help literature places a lot of emphasis on ‘finding your purpose’. The coronavirus pandemic recently snatched away my elder sister who was very dear and close to me. The tragedy leaves me looking at life through a very different lens.

As I re-visit what Samina Saad stood for, I realise that ‘finding your purpose’ is not about finding some great ultimate purpose but making the best of what life throws at you – the lemons and lemonade stuff. Baji, as we fondly called her, taught me about being bold and brave and living life as you yourself imagine it.

It’s not that a sense of purpose is not important. The point is that arriving at your purpose is about starting somewhere and following the process. Whatever feels meaningful to you can be your purpose and it may be different at different times.

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Farewell Saleem Asmi: A quiet warrior slips into the night

Saleem Asmi, Nov. 29, 1934 – Oct. 30, 2020

First published in The News on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. Reposted here with more photos.

Saleem Asmi: Portrait by Sharjil Baloch, 2014-2015.

By Beena Sarwar

His old friend S. M. Shahid termed Saleem Asmi a ‘Marxist Sufi’ in his compilation of biographical essays, ‘Living Souls: Memories’. Asmi Sahib would typically brush aside the accolades that came his way, not because he didn’t appreciate himself but because he had no false pride, false humility, or a shred of hypocrisy.

I can imagine his chuckle at the couplet by his favourite poet initially chosen by family and friends to inscribe on his gravestone:

Ye masaail-e-tassawuf, ye tera byan Ghalib
Tujhey hum vali samajhtalay jo na baada khwar hota

The way you talk of philosophy Ghalib, the mystical way you explain it
You would have been considered a saint yourself, had your drinking been less.

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Farewell Dr Mubashir Hasan: A Nobel Peace Laureate Remembers His Old Friend

In the midst of coronavirus madness, March 14 brought the sad news of Dr Mubashir Hasan’s passing. Wrote this piece published in The Wire a few days back. Reproduced here with additional pix and links.

Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, a legacy of Dr Mubashir Hasan, continues to speak out for Kashmir.
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PERSONAL POLITICAL: Rest in peace, comrade Kutty. The struggle continues

I wrote this piece a few days back – the second of my occasional syndicated columns. Published in The Wire, Naya Daur, Mainstream, The Citizen among others.

kutty-smiling.jpg

Early Sunday morning in Karachi, a little over a month after his 89th birthday on 18 July 2019, B. M. Kutty slipped into the ever after. Lifelong activist, trade unionist, political worker, peacemonger, humanist. I like to remember him as I last saw him in Karachi – his big smile, deep voice with its powerful timbre, intense gaze behind the glasses, dapper as usual in bush-shirt and trousers.

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Asma’s tribe: a remembrance at Harvard

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Iranian anthropologist Shahla Haeri pays tribute to her Pakistani behen Asma. Photo: Ibrahim Rashid.

After Asma Jahangir passed away in Lahore, some of us, members of what I think of as Asma’s tribe, got together at Harvard, 17 Feb, to commemorate her life, impact and achievements. We had lots of flowers, and music, and chai and samosas – she loved these things and loved hosting people. The languages spoken — English, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali and Farsi — are a testament to Asma’s reach. Below, two reports about the event by students at Emerson College and Wellesley College, with video clips of some speakers’ comments. All video clips online on Vimeo, courtesy Rick Brotman. Cambridge Community Television will run a full video of the event next Saturday. Here’s the slideshow we displayed at the event :

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Salute to Asma Jahangir: some upcoming memorial meetings

Asma banner hugThousands attended her funeral in Lahore on Feb 13 – women, men, rich, poor, workers, lawyers, journalists, farmers, ambassadors, ministers. Those who couldn’t attend in person held prayers and vigils in different cities – Karachi, Hyderabad, Peshawar. More are planned in cities around Pakistan and the world. Below, a list of some memorial events planned that I know of, to give a flavor of what she means to us – us being Asma’s tribe, peacemongers who love and fight for peace, democracy, equal rights, human rights and freedom. Continue reading

Remembering Shahab Ahmed

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The Orkestra Marhabba: haunting Turkish sama’a music. 

Colleagues, students, family and friends of the late Shahab Ahmed gathered on Nov 15  evening at an elegant and dignified memorial where speakers remembered him as a friend, a brother, a scholar, a poet, a translator and a seeker of Truth (his first book, What is Islam? has just been published).  Continue reading

Pakistani scholar Nasser Hussain laid to rest

Nasser HussainSo sorry to have to share this news, about the younger brother of a childhood friend. Obituary below. Also see this article by one of his former students that so elegantly sums up his passions in life.

BOSTON: Karachi-born Nasser Hussain, professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought at Amherst College, USA, passed away in the early hours of Nov 9 after an extended illness, at the residence of his brother Omar Hussain in the Boston area. He was 50.

Scholars, friends and family from around the world including his elderly mother Sultana Hussain from Karachi, gathered for his funeral on Friday. His father Captain (Retd.) Tajammul Hussain, Pakistan Navy, passed away in January 2014. Continue reading

Haider, jigar, are you at peace now?

Haider in Gilgit-fb pageMy article on a journalist, activist, humanist, friend, eternal optimist and conflicted human being who left us forever recently. Illustrations by Feica. Scroll.in published a slightly abbreviated version titled ‘Journalist, optimistic rebel who stood up to General Zia’s excesses’, breaking the text up with sub-heads that I’ve used in the full text below. Their intro: “Haider Rizvi was a Pakistani journalist and activist who passed away in Lahore on October 29. His three-decade-long journalistic career began in Pakistan. He moved to the US in the mid-1990s and covered the United Nations, before returning to Pakistan in 2013 and taking up a job as a lecturer. He was 52.”
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Rest in peace, Shahab Ahmed, prominent Islamic scholar from Pakistan

A beautiful sunny day…  and Shahab Ahmed’s funeral. His friends, including prominent scholars some of whom had known him for decades and traveled long distances to be there, like Kamran Ali Asdar and Shahnaz Rouse; many from Harvard like Homi Bhabha, Parimal Patil, Asad Ali Ahmed, Martha Minnow, Asim Khwaja; students and former students now themselves teachers; family members; all devastated and in shock. We were together in this panel at Harvard on the ‘blasphemy’ issue a few years back. I had last heard from him in July when his then fiancé Nora replied on his behalf to an email I’d sent. That’s when I learnt he was ill in hospital. My report today, basically just getting the facts out for now. Thanks to Nora for sharing his biographical details and photo at her time of grief. (NOTE: Updated below with comments from Michael Cook, his dissertation advisor, and others):

Prominent Islamic scholar Shahab Ahmed laid to rest

Shahab Ahmed-Photo by Rehan Lashari

Shahab Ahmed in Pakistan. Photo by Rehan Lashari, courtesy Nora Lessersohn

Prominent Islamic scholar Shahab Ahmed, originally from Pakistan, was laid to rest on Saturday morning at the historic Mt. Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his adopted home. Born in Singapore on Dec 11, 1966, he passed away on Sept 17, 2015 in Boston.
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