Earth is their bed

Created: Tuesday, 08 February 2011 Written by Lubna Saira

On January 13th 2011, a program was being shown on TV in Pakistan with a journalist interviewing brothers who take refuge in the 'markaz' (shopping district) of F-8 one of the most affluent areas in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital city. They are day laborers who have come from Northern parts of Pakistan like Swabi, to find work in Islamabad. None of them can afford any kind of housing so they have the earth as their bed and the sky as their roof. Only when it rains are they allowed to take shelter in the open corridors of the shopping areas.


It is perplexing and shameful that in Islamabad, with temperatures as low as 28º F (-2ºC), hub for most of the non profit organizations' headquarters, the hub for all embassies, diplomats, and governing elite, there is no compassion towards ones in dire need of the basics residing amongst such affluence.

Shahina, my mother who wanted to give the donations Lahaute had received from the sisters in Orange County, California to the most needy, realized that this is no ordinary coincidence and that she was meant to see this and these were the most in need and this imanah is meant to reach them. She talked to me in the US our night very excited that she had found the rightful owners of the donated funds.

She left for Islamabad, a 4 hour drive, the following morning, visited the area to see with her own eyes if it was true what the TV program shared. However she had expected that most probably lots of help must have already arrived since it was telecast on national television with welfare and government organizations under scrutiny. To her amazement, no one else had stepped up to help. Other volunteers in Lahaute's team, in order to ensure their plight was as accurately represented, went at night to see if these brothers really spent the nights out in the cold.

They were sleeping when they went. Some had an opened carton, others had jute sac used for storing wheat to lie on, while still others had spread their chaddar (wrap/shawl) to use for a bed. One of the volunteers considered himself poor and looking at them made him realize what real poverty is.

The next day tokens were given to each of the deserving. This was to get a count of how many were in need so an order could be placed for the bedding. Approximately a hundred stood in line in the cold for more than an hour to get a token for free bedding. "They showed such respect, none of them broke the line or got agitated.....(an uncommon experience in Pakistan when even the affluent show little civil ethics) of the elderly even offered to bring tea for me", says Shahina..

The next morning an order was placed for 100 sets of bedding. Each set included a quilted mat to lie on, a comforter, and a pillow, costing Pakistani Rupees 700 each (approx US $8.50). Since they were day laborers with all returning late in the evening, they had requested the distribution at night time. The security guards at the markaz warned Aurangzeb (Lahaute volunteer organizing this program) that distributing free bedding to them late at night may jeopardize security and cause a disturbance since there are so many in need. Aurangzeb went to apologize to them who were waiting to be handed what was promised. It took some courage on his part as standing in such temperatures at 9.00 pm in a long queue is not easy especially after a hard day of work, very little food and no place to sleep. But to Aurangzeb's surprise his apology was accepted so graciously with a warm hug from each of the approx 100 brothers in line. They were requested to come at noon the next day to which they obliged to happily. I wanted to share the details like these because to me, they tell you a lot about the Adab (manners) and Sabr (patience) such beautiful people show even in extreme adversity. If this does not represent control over Nafs (self) what does?

At noon the next day, the truck came with the bedding promptly, there was no chaos, no disruption but sabr, shukr (thankfulness) and adab. The ones handing out the goods, were finding it hard to articulate what joy they felt doing what they were doing. What beautiful people, what is this bond we have with each other.....that unsaid bond of 'Yaqeen'(belief) in Allah, His subservience, and the Ikhlaas (sincerity of intent) of one giving and the other accepting.

It seemed they did not have enough for all.
Approximately another 100 brothers in need of bedding had gathered around waiting to be helped as well. With no more to distribute they were bidden farewell with the promise that we will return with your bedding soon. Some gave their names, a few had a contact address, others shared their plight, the number of dependents they have, one requested to be relieved of a debt, yet another needed treatment for two handicapped daughters and the third with tuberculosis. One had come from Muzzarfarhgarh, one of the badly affected areas in the recent floods. Most of them are from Northern parts of Pakistan where the devastating earthquake hit in 2005 with still no evidence of recovery.

That day did not end there. There were more wonderful surprises to come. Aurangzeb of Lahaute, ready to head back home at night after exchanging his phone numbers to any brother who asked for it, was stopped by police and taken to the police station for investigation (law and order situation has prompted such checks) suddenly his phone rang and a brother from these refugees called to thank him. Aurangzeb shared that he is at the police station in response the brother simply hung up. In a matter of a few minutes, a large crowd gathered outside the police station, chanting 'Hamarai aadmi ko raiha karoo' 'Free our brother! Free our brother' The brother who had called, had woken up brothers sleeping outside, walked in the cold for 15-20 minutes to rally to the police station in order to get Aurangzeb released. You can imagine, what Aurangzeb must have felt for them, when he could see how they felt for him.

These brothers who are refugees in this city cannot see their families for 6-12 months due to lack of funds to buy a bus ticket back home. They are not old, but the circumstances have aged them. Their households consist of 6-9 dependents each. Look what they have and yet how each of this soul sleeping under the sky is also a caring son, looking after parents along with wife and several children whereas the ones who have more, abandon their parents.

I am using this blog to provide feedback to those who entrusted us with their Zakat and Sadaqaat. Initially I thought, these should be kept short for the convenience of the readers but I see that the little details carry a lot of weight, a lot of feeling, and a lot to think about so I must share this part with you as well.

Are you willing to give them a warm bed to sleep in or they are to accept Earth as their bed? If we do provide for one, know that Allah subhaanu taala is the One who gave us Shelter and I pray that He rewards you for every moment of the sleep and comfort a brother gets every night. But if we decide not to hand them a blanket, know that they will be the ones insha Allah whose accounts will not be opened on the day of judgment and they shall be asked to enter Jannah without questioning, and on that day I would wish I had done a good deed towards them so they would give shahada in my favor and lighten the weight of my sins. So this is how I see this. They have a lot more to offer us than we have to offer them. I assure you it is the best $10 you will ever spend. Are you willing to give them a warm bed to sleep in or are they to accept earth as their bed?