November 3, 2005

From: Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia
To: My Fellow Muslims

My Dear Fellow Muslims,

As-Salaam Alay-Kum

Reading about death, destruction, and misery of our Muslim brethren under the rubbles of a powerful earthquake in Pakistan; one subject title struck the cord of my heart. The title was: Wanted Donkeys and Nurses.

Donkeys as always are carrying the burden of humankind, whereas, helicopters offered by the neighboring country of India were rejected on account of sheer arrogance; expressing security concerns. One only needs to take a quick glance at Surah Al-Jumu’ah or The Day of Congregation (Chapter: 62 – Verse: 5,) wherein, there is a parable on “A Donkey Carrying Books” translated in a concise manner by Dr. Thomas B. Irving also known as (Al-Hajj Ta’lim ‘Ali) as follows:

“Those who are laden with the Old Testament, yet do not carry it out may be
compared to a donkey who is carrying scriptures. It is such a dreadful way to
have to compare people who reject God’s signs! God does not guide such
wrongdoing folk.”

The very meaning exemplifies those who do not practice what they preach, nor profit from what they can learn. Just as donkeys cannot become scholarly and wise by carrying loads of books on their back, likewise, a Muslim nation cannot mature if we recite our Holy Quran and fail to understand the universal laws as ordained by Almighty Allah. We must learn from this parable and try not to be insensitive and unintelligent like the donkeys.

Talking about nurses, allow me to draw your kind attention to one Rufaidah bint Sa’ad recognized as the first Muslim nurse. She used to set up a tent outside our beloved Prophet Mohammad’s (Peace Be Upon Him) mosque in Madina where she nursed the sick. Long after this pioneering Muslim nurse, came Florence Nightingale best remembered for nursing wounded soldiers at Scutari Hospital in Turkey during the Crimean War. She became famous by her night-time rounds by candlelight at Scutari. Writing by candlelight on November 24, 1849 she wrote as follows:

“The Mahometan religion takes man on the side of his passion, it gratifies
all these: it offers him enjoyment as his reward. The Christian religion takes
him on the side of penitence and self-denial. This seems the fundamental
difference: otherwise there is much good in the Mahometan religion. Charity
is unbounded; and it is not the charity of patronage, but the charity of fellowship.
If any man says to another ‘Insha-Allah,’ In the name of God, he may sit down
at his table and partake of anything that he has, and no man will refuse. The
beggar will do this with greatest dignity. There is no greediness, no rapacity.
Nothing of any value is ever stolen from you; there is no need to shut the
door: they will take a trifle, but nothing else.”

For sure, there is much good in Islam, but sadly, it has been hijacked by a handful of thugs who have relied on the teachings of misguided Islamic scholars who were merely acting like donkeys carrying huge books consisting only of dogmas and with their own twisted interpretation of the verses of our Holy Quran and with no worldly wisdom to offer to their followers. The spirit of Islam expressed by the world renowned nurse is no longer visible in modern times.

The wisdom of our Holy Quran calls for truth in thought and piety in action. Prayers with sincerity, humility and compassion are the only prerequisites that are needed in these times. Yes, for now we are all wrapped up in sorrow and grief following the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. However. times like these should make us heed to Almighty Allah’s warning, “O enemies of truth, this is the result of your misdeeds which your hands had stored up; for Allah is never unjust to His servants.”


Close to seventeen thousand school children have died and countless have become orphans. The need of the hour is to think and ponder over six verses of Surah Al-Balad or The City (Chapter: 90 – Verse: 12 – 17) as follows:

And what will explain
To thee the path that is steep?

(It is:) freeing the bondman,

Or the giving of food
In a day of privation

To the orphan
With claims of relationship,

Or to the indigent
(Down) in the dust.

Then will he be
Of those who believe,
And enjoin patience, (constancy,
And self-restraint), and enjoin
Deeds of kindness and compassion.

Earthquakes could well be triggered by misfortune, injustice or the will of Almighty Allah, nonetheless, the ultimate remedy lies in collectively sharing our human responsibilities by speaking out and protesting against those who are hell-bent on committing evil deeds in the name of our great religion of Islam. A well known journalist, Ardeshir Cowasjee of Pakistan once commenting on the future of his country summed up his verdict in two words, Good Governance. Incidentally, a recent heading in The Wall Street Journal, “An Aceh Surprise: Good Government” will enlighten you of a remark made by William M. Frej, director for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Jakarta, “One of the positives coming out of this tragedy is that this government is doing things right.” Let’s hope and pray that President Pervez Musharraf, his dedicated team and all Pakistani men and women will get set things right by punishing evil-doers and staying sharply focused on transparency and accountability during the process of reconstruction.

Today, Pakistan needs more donkeys and nurses and THE CHARITY OF FELLOWSHIP as explained by Florence Nightingale. Swallowing false pride by making use of Indian helicopters could have saved some lives, nevertheless, owing to the lack of interest in reading the opinions of our fellow humans, the Muslim Ummah have yet to grasp the meaning of the two wordsCompetitive Compassionas coined by U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland during the Tsunami crisis. To sum up my thoughts, I would like to jot down few lines of Lee Kuan Yew, Minister Mentor of Singapore from his article, “Competition in Compassion, as follows:

“Competition in rendering humanitarian relief is immensely preferable to
an arms race. Muslims the world over saw several weeks of TV showing
Christians and Jews (Americans and Europeans), Buddhists (Chinese
and Japanese) and atheists ( Russians ) converging to help Muslims in
distress. This horrendous disaster gave all these different peoples a
unique opportunity to express their common humanity with the victims,
regardless of race or religion. The 4 million Muslim Acehnese will remember
that their lives became less precarious because so many non-Muslims
hurried to help them.”

Such is life, and as Muslims, we must always remember the wisdom of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), “Every good act is charity. Well then, let’s strive to overcome the state of moral and spiritual bankruptcy in which we are currently living, and at the same time, do our level best to compete in compassion. It is high time to learn how to respect and love our fellow humans and not get consumed by the hatred sermons of our Mullahs. It is also an appropriate time to end the sickening attitude of Hating America – Hating Humanitywhich has plagued our minds for more than twenty-five years.


All in all, this is a time for soul-searching, self-analysis and self-criticism by introspection and to prepare ourselves to be more humane. Let’s light up the kindred spirits by embracing humanity. Pakistanis from all walks of life have shown kindness and compassion to their fellow countrymen, and as such, let this act of care and love be extended to our fellow humans, internationally as well, regardless of race, creed or religion during our lifetime. Amen.

Eid-ul-Fitr Mubarak to you and to all your loving family members. May Almighty Allah bless our Muslim Ummah and bestow wisdom upon us to differentiate between good deeds and bad deeds.

Compassionately yours,

Mohammad Rafiq Lodhia


Competition in Compassion
By Lee Kuan Yew
April 18, 2005

On Dec. 26, 2004 a tsunami struck the coastal states of the Indian Ocean, killing more than 200,000 Asians and Africans and holidaying Europeans, Americans and Australians. The full horror of the disaster was known only a few days later, when television started showing video clips taken by those who survived the giant waves that swept up everything in their path and left behind dead people and animals and wrecked train carriages, cars, ships and buildings when the waters receded. The devastation generated a worldwide outpouring of compassion, grief and generosity.

Because it’s situated not far from Indonesia and Thailand, Singapore was able within two days to send aircraft carrying food, water and medical aid to the people in Aceh and Phuket. At Meulaboh, a town on the west Sumatran coast nearest the epicenter of the earthquake that spawned the tsunami, some 25,000 of the 50,000 inhabitants perished. The survivors were cut off and in desperate straits. But on Jan. 3 a Singaporean helicopter-landing ship was able to establish two critical landing sites on the radically altered shoreline.

As the relief operations of the world’s major governments kicked into gear, an undeclared contest in soft power took shape. Governments would up their pledges in aid money when they learned what another nation had pledged. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland called it “competitive compassion.” Germany pledged $727 million, Britain $120 million, France $443 million, the U.S. $950 million, Australia $830 million and Japan $500 million. China, which is new to the game, opened with a pledge of $3 million, upped it to $63 million and finally ended at $83 million. Many millions more poured in from individual donors, with Americans giving the most.

Speed is essential in saving lives. On Dec. 28, 1,000 Australians began arriving, followed by their 6 helicopters, 6 transport planes and a transport ship. They were well briefed and aware of Indonesian sensitivities and had officers who spoke Bahasa Indonesia. The German contingent brought a hospital ship, a field hospital and helicopters. Despite being brusque (probably because of language difficulties), the Germans impressed both Indonesians and foreign aid workers–especially with their handling of infrastructure and engineering problems. A French helicopter carrier, the Jeanne d’Arc, as well as the frigate Georges Leygues and various aircraft, arrived on Jan. 14. The French teams were professional, which is no surprise as the French founded Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). The Japanese delegation–composed of 960 men, 3 ships, helicopters and a field hospital–was highly trained and ready to deal with earthquakes and tsunamis, which strike Japan with regularity. The Russians arrived with transport aircraft and a field hospital. China sent medical teams, which put forth their best efforts despite inadequate logistics support. India declared that it didn’t need assistance and instead dispatched relief teams to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Soft Power/Hard Power Syndrome

The Americans, however, trumped everyone else. The carrier group the USS Abraham Lincoln arrived on Jan. 2; it was made up of 1,500 personnel, 23 ships and about 100 aircraft–helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. A fully equipped hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, arrived on Feb. 2. The Americans brought the most and did the most. U.S. hard power magnified its soft power.

The tsunami reminded Indonesians, Thais, Sri Lankans, Maldivians and other Asians that in a crunch America has the longest reach and the greatest wherewithal to help others. We can expect China to develop its soft-power competitiveness. Competition in rendering humanitarian relief is immensely preferable to an arms race. Muslims the world over saw several weeks of TV showing Christians and Jews (Americans and Europeans), Buddhists (Chinese and Japanese) and atheists (Russians) converging to help Muslims in distress. This horrendous disaster gave all these different peoples a unique opportunity to express their common humanity with the victims, regardless of race or religion. The 4 million Muslim Acehnese will remember that their lives became less precarious because so many non-Muslims hurried to help them.

A Softening of Muslim Animosity?

We should not expect Muslim fundamentalists and radicals in Indonesia to cease their rhetoric of hate or lose their desire to kill all who block their way to a worldwide caliphate. However, millions of ordinary Indonesians–and especially their political leaders–will remember that the Americans came swiftly to help when they were stricken. It will begin to undo the influence of Arab Islamic fundamentalists who have made tolerant Muslims in Southeast Asia view Muslim grievances, especially America’s unqualified support for Israel’s government, through Arab spectacles.

Muslim animosity toward the U.S., however, will diminish once an elected Iraqi government takes control of Iraq and puts down the insurgency that is now killing more Iraqis than Americans. It now seems possible that the Israelis and the Palestinians may come together on a two-state solution. That, along with the successful elections in Afghanistan and Iraq–and perhaps in Lebanon in May–will give President Bush the rare opportunity to change the politics of the Middle East and consequently how Muslims view the U.S.

Lee Kuan Yew , minister mentor of Singapore; Paul Johnson , eminent British historian and author; and Ernesto Zedillo , Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, former president of Mexico,and Forbes Chairman Caspar W. Weinberger , rotate in writing this column.



In the days following the calamity, Bahram Akkashe, a physics professor at Tehran University, explained Iran’s vulnerability to earthquakes and criticized public officials for their negligence in applying available knowledge to minimize the quake’s destructiveness. In an interview with Persian BBC, he complained that for four decades Iranian authorities have ignored his warnings about the necessity of city planning and building codes in the vulnerable regions of the country. Another Iranian observer, in a passionate article posted on a popular Web site, wrote that ” we can blame the weak structure of the two-thousand-year-old Bam citadel on absence of technical knowledge of sturdier materials at the time it was built, but what is out excuse for the poor structure of the houses built in recent times? We live in the age of technology and information but have failed to do better than our ancestors in strengthening in the resistance of our dwellings against natural disasters. Ali Esfahani, an Iranian poet residing in Canada, expressed the sentiments of many Iranians in verse:

Keep on Saying, “My God is Kind.”

As the ceilings tumbled and dust filled the eyes and mouths struts and beams
landed on heads and necks and hands and legs ready to stir stopped still under
heaps of soil, as moans and shrieks ascended the sky, we were not there to
see all this suffering and speak not a word of it, but God, after all, was there.

Did he not see babies sucking on their mothers’ breasts?

Did he not see shy new brides climbing into their nuptial beds?

Did he not see folks of faithful in nocturnal prayers?

Did he not see feverish bodies dreaming of good health?

Did he not see? Did he not? Did he?

Did he not know that no mother would be left to put balm on the wounds of
thousands of bleeding children?

Did he not know that surviving mothers and fathers having lost their children,
would have no desire for life?

Did he not know that those who were away from home would have no kinsmen
left to cry on their shoulder?

Did he not know? Did he not?

Would you keep on saying, ‘my God is kind’?

Would you, for the sake of your kind God, define kindness for me!

Mansour Farhang
Spring 2004


RUFAIDAH BINT SA’AD is recognized as the first Muslim nurse. Her full name was Rufaidah bint Sa’ad of the Bani Aslam tribe of the Kharaj tribal confederation in Madinah. She was born in Yathrib before the migration of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). She was among the first people in Madina to accept Islam and was one of the Ansar women who welcomed the Prophet on arrival in Madina.

Rufaidah contribution was not confined only to nursing the injured. She was involved in social work in the community. She came to the assistance of every Muslim in need: the poor, the orphans, or the handicapped. She looked after the orphans, nursed them, and taught them.

Dr. Omar Hasan Kasule, Sr.

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