“Sister Humaira has a question now…”
Raees Ahmed, the bushy moustached bespectacled host, had the camera on him as he read out a message from a card infront of him.
“She says Asalamualikum Aalim Sahib..”
“Walakumasalam “ muttered a voice in the background. The camera was still on Raees.
“My daughter recently completely her Intermediate with flying colors, and had applied for admission to a University in America for her Bachelors degree. She recently received a confirmation that she has been accepted. She is only 17 however, and I am worried about sending her to a western country on her own. How should I convince her to stay?”
The camera had now shifted to Qasim Mustafa. Or Aalim Sahib, as he was usually known in social setting, both off and on camera. He was a short pudgy man, with a long and well kept salt n pepper beard. His moustache was shaved, and he had the customary white cap on his head, as was commonly seen on many Aalims, or religious scholars, in Pakistan.
He waited a few seconds, consolidating his thoughts, and then looked into camera to answer.
“MashaAllah it is very good to hear that your daughter got such good marks in her intermediate. It must a source of great pride for you..” he started, politely.
“I can understand your concern about sending her abroad, alone. We all know how those societies work. There is no respect for women, and it is not safe for them to even walk out of the house without fearing for their safety..it is all over the news, CNN, BBC..you name it..” his voice was a little stern now.
“..Plus, on top of this. The lack of shame in those society, with their clothes barely covering their bodies, the prevalence of drugs and alcohol, and sexual relationships before and outside of marriage…these are all signs of a society in moral rot”
Raees Ahmed wasn’t saying anything, but he was nodding obediently to every word coming out of Qasim Mustafa’s mouth.
“ Also…” Qasim Mustafa continued. “ These societies don’t treat human beings like humans anymore. They treat and think like animals. Homosexuality is common. You must have ofcourse, heard about the story of Qaum-e-Lut..”
“Very well said…” Raees Ahmed added.
“And then child abuse, in every corner. Even by their religious gentry. So my sister, tell your daughter about the risks of moving there. Especially as a young 16 year old girl. There are many universities in Pakistan as well that she can attend and our standard of education is very good too. Lums, IBA..all these are among the best in the world. Ask her to apply here, and InshAllah she will soon forget about these western dreams”
“You are absolutely right Aalim Sahib “ the camera was back on Raees ahmed now. “ I hope this answers your question and may Allah make your daughter’s future bright and prosperous. InshAllah. And with that, we have come to an end of today’s episode of Aalim Today. Please join us again tomorrow, and we will cover a new part of the Quran-e-Shareef, and also take your questions, as always..Allah Hafiz”
The cameras had now been switched off, and some members of the crew and come up on stage to help Qasim Mustafa and Raees Ahmed out of their microphones.
“Heading home Aalim Sahib?” Raees enquired, as he stood and adjusted his jacket.
“No no..need to visit the Madrassah..it’s been a few days..” Qasim Mustafa was looking down on his phone, going through some text message. “Ok then….see you tomorrow? “
Raees Ahmed nodded and waved goodbye to Qasim Mustafa, as he stepped off stage to have a word with his producers.
Qasim Mustafa too, walked away from the stage and down the hallway.
He was a regular guest on this show for the last one year. The format wasn’t complicated – The show ran 4 days a week, Monday to Thursday, and each day they would discuss a different Aayat of the Quran, summarizing its message for the viewers. Towards the end they would take live questions, sent in by people online on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
As Qasim Mustafa walked into the parking lot, he saw his driver standing outside the car, waiting for him.
“Slamailkum Aalim Sahib..”
“Walaikumasalam…Let’s go to the Madrassah..” directed Qasim Mustafa.
As they exit the parking lot, Lahore’s traffic was its usual evening self. Loud, unorganized, and suffocating. After finding their way through what seemed like a plethora of traffic horns, they finally reached the Madrassah. It was located in the heart of Gulberg, among the most expensive neighbourhoods in the city, and home to one of its busiest commercial centres.
As always, there was someone there to open Qasim Mustafa’s car door for him as they entered the driveway.
Upon exiting the car, he stood there, scanning the Madrassah for a few moments. He could hear the kids inside, reciting their lesson. He didn’t visit as often as he liked and left the day to day running of everything to other, trusted people. But when he did come over, he was always filled with a sense of pride of what this Madrassah had accomplished. It had been over the last one decade, attracting students all over the country. Some were boarded here, while others who came from families nearby, attending the day school and then went back home.
Qasim Mustafa soon entered the building, smiling pleasantly at the staff and kids he ran into, and then made his way into his office. He had barely sat down on his desk, when there was a knock on the door.
“Asalaimilaikum Aalim Sahib..” one of his teachers, Arshad Qazi, was standing there, speaking impatiently “ There is kid, Shoaib..he’s being very difficult today…Had fights with a few kids and isn’t listening to anyone..I felt like slapping him Sir, but had to contain myself. If you could please have a word with him, please? He might respond to you better..”
Qasim Mustafa let out a frustrated groan. He had come in for a short visit to see how things are going. Not deal with a student issue, which frankly, the teachers should deal with themselves.
“Ok fine…send him in quick” He answered impatiently.
Let’s get done with this quick, he thought. There are more important things to do.
Arshad Qazi dragged a kid by his arm into the office.
“This is him sir…Isn’t listening to anyone”.
“Ok you can leave. Close the door behind you” Qasim Mustafa asked.
As the office door closed, he started to take a thorough look at the kid. He was probably 9 or 10 years old. Silky black hair, and glowing cheeks. He stood there politely, looking at the floor, hands held together in front of his waist. Was it a sign of respect or a sign of fear? Qasim Mustafa wasn’t sure.
“What trouble have you been causing?” he asked the kid. He had not raised his voice, but he didn’t need to in any event. There was a vibe of authority that he gave out by his mere presence, rendering the pitch of his voice less important.
The kid didn’t answer.
Qasim Mustafa looked at him more intensely. He could notice a hint of sweat on the kid’s forehead.
“Come here..” he ordered.
The kid began to move forward, slowly. He still didn’t dare to look at Qasim Mustafa directly, his eyes only fixed on the floor. He was shaking, slightly.
There was silence for a few seconds.
“This is place of religious knowledge, and discipline. Not to create a ruckus or misbehave with your teachers”
The kid stood there, absorbing each and every word.
“I do not want to hear you getting involved in such nonsense again. Is that clear?”
The kid nodded.
“Come closer, give me your hand” Asked Qasim Mustafa.
The kid did as he was asked, prepared for what came next. He had stories about wodden sticks and bruised hands. This was not coming as a surprise.
As he held out his hand, Qasim Mustafa pulled him forward, stared into his eyes, and slid his hand between his juvenile thighs.
“MashAllah” whispered the omnipotent Aalim Sahib.