The countless blessings that the Creator bestows

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In this blessed month, I get overwhelmed when pondering the blessings Allah has bestowed on me though I did not deserve them.

So I was not upset when diagnosed with incurable, slowly developing blood cancer. I have already crossed a Canadian male’s life expectancy – 81. Who can expect to emulate the Prophet Noah (peace be on him), who lived to be 900? Who would even want to, given that old age brings helplessness, pain and dependence on others?

We are fortunate that my mother and mother-in-law lived with us till they passed away. My wife Nishat and mother-in-law watched TV in the evening, with Nishat doing the translation. My mother’s passion was to learn English and I spent the evenings teaching her. She could understand when someone talked to her slowly in English, but she could not respond. She doggedly pursued her studies.

I was able to bring to Canada Nishat’s closest relatives – with the exception of one sister whose daughter did not favor coming at this time.

I brought my closest relative, including my son from Spain, and all are prospering in this great country, though my son and a couple of other relatives have settled in the US.

I worked with the Ottawa Citizen for 25 years rising from reporter to editorial writer and op-ed editor. They liked my work and when they had a vacancy for a copy editor they hired someone I suggested without even interviewing him because he was in Pakistan.

Then I got other jobs. For example, I was appointed a refugee judge for two years but served for ten. I have received the highest awards of Canada and of Ontario.

I also established the Ali Khan Foundation that has invested over $300,000. The dividends are used to help orphans, widows and the needy around the world – irrespective of race, religion or nationality. The Canadian government recognizes it as legitimate charity and has given it tax-free status.

My late father used to tell me that what pleases the Creator the most is when you help those in need. Allah created all living beings and He loves those He created. It is Allah who decided that I should be born in a Muslim home in India. If He had so willed I could have been born as an animal, fish or plant, an Aboriginal, Roma, Hindu or some other being. All of us are created by Allah and so if I mistreat a human, animal or a plant I am harming something that Allah created and loves.

My father treated others with respect. Our friends, tutors and servants included Hindus, who were no different from Muslims. I attended an English and later a public school. I learned English literature as keenly as I learned Urdu poetry and prose. So all my life I got along well with people of different races and religions. Christians have been among my closest friends and teachers and have helped me the most throughout my life. My Christian and Jewish neighbors could not have been kinder if they had been Muslim.

My wife is highly educated (a Ph.D), hard working, bright and a great mother and wife. My children are well settled and are my pride and joy.

I formed the Muslim Coordinating Council of the National Capital region to assist the neediest and to develop stronger ties with our fellow Canadians of other faiths. It has brought together Sunni and Shia organizations and its activities include joint iftars and an annual dinner of all Muslim organizations in or near the Parliament buildings in the nation’s capital.

MCC is still lagging in helping the neediest in Canada. But the very fact that Sunni and Shia organizations are working together with patience and perseverance suggests that it will bring all Muslims together, help the neediest and serve Canada effectively with time.

It is my hope that similar organizations will be established in other cities and that Muslims throughout the country will work together to help the Muslim community and all other Canadians, and also help the people overseas who desperately need assistance or are victims of persecution such as the Rohingyas, Palestinians and Chinese Muslims.

We are fortunate to be enjoying the privileges of living in Canada. But we have the duty to help the needy throughout the world, be they human or animals. We are on this planet together and have to tend to the environment that enables us to survive and enjoy its bounties.

The holy month of Ramadan will end soon. But I hope we practice its teachings of helping others and living by its high principles throughout our lives.

- Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired journalist, public servant and community worker in Ottawa.


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