An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

In Loving Memory by Saqib Safdar

In Education on October 30, 2012 at 10:27 am

Among the many beloved souls that have passed on to the Unseen, the dearest of them to me is my grandfather. Although I remember meeting him only twice in my life, he had such a deep impact on me, to this day I am grateful for having met him.

My grandfather was from Jalandar, Punjab. His name was Malik Abdul Ghani and he looked like a Pataan in appearance, most likely having ancestors from Afghanistan or Iran. He had wide shoulders and stood upright. He was of medium height with a commanding presence. He had small eyes and his face conveyed a sense of deep wisdom. He had a great sense of humour and enjoyed deep, life-long friendships with many people. He was from a well-off family and didn’t have to concern himself over earning livelihood, while in India. He must have learned Arabic and Persian along with Punjabi and Urdu because he would later write in all four of the languages, and poetry in three of them. He was also a champion wrestler. In India, at the time, wrestling was a popular sport in which wrestlers would train extremely hard in the heat and for long hours of the day, almost like a spiritual discipline. During a tournament, he was spotted by a man who was so impressed by him he gave him his daughter in marriage — on the condition he didn’t continue with a dangerous sport like wrestling. My gandfather agreed. It is said he also had a Sufi sheikh, but little is known about him. In 1947 my grandfather left India with his wife and two children for newly created Pakistan. This was the biggest migration of a people in the history of humanity, costing thousands of lives. The stories they told us were horrific.  On one occasion, he and his family were surrounded by several men who were out to kill them. At that moment he said to my grandmother, ‘This may be the time of parting.’ However, he single-handedly managed to fight them all off. This may have been the time he sustained a knife/sword wound on his leg. He also had a bullet wound on his ear. With courage, determination, and trust in God, they finally arrived and settled in Pakistan.

One of the things my grandfather gave me was an appreciation of poetry. He would recite poems that conveyed deep levels of meaning and mystical insight. My uncle would tell me how at times he would enter inspired states and pour out poetry, as though receiving it in the spur of the moment (ilham). I remember seeing him listening to the Qur’an recited at a wedding, with his eyes closed, moving his head as though in a state of ecstasy.  Although I was not his first grandchild, on hearing news of my birth, he had a poem inscribed on a tile with my name under it, and placed it at the front of his house — signifying the house belonged to me.  It seemed we had some sort of connection through the Unseen even before we had met.

My grandfather also wanted to convey to me the difference between the religion of the orthodox mullah and the Sufi; in which the inner experience and meanings are known and lived. I must have been around twelve at the time. How would you do that with a 12 year old? He did it through sohbet (dialogue). I remember him asking me to recite the Fatiha. After I had finished he told me to now tell him the meaning. When I was silent he gave a discourse on the Fatiha. We later discussed the significance of alif laam meem. I guess, maybe unknown to him, he conveyed Sufism to me by living it. He didn’t wear it on his sleeve and may well have gone unnoticed to many. However, his inner states and writings would reveal the man he was. His trust in God (tawakul) was unshakeable. He would often bring the Divine into daily conversations and write letters advising my father with wisdom from the Prophet’s life (pbuh). Although my grandfather wasn’t an academic, his writings convey a wisdom and depth of meaning which would be beyond many educated minds, as I later learned from studying his notebook.

Finally, I feel he conveyed to me the mature masculine. Maybe he belonged to a generation in which men never asked what it means to be a man (as per Robert Bly men’s movement) because there were many models of the mature masculine present. He was practical in every sense of the word yet also a contemplative person who enjoyed periods of solitude. He was very respected by those who knew him and was often called to situations where there was conflict that needed reconciliation. He enjoyed deep levels of friendship with people of all classes of society. His best friends consisted of a butcher and a person who held a very senior post in the army. Among the qualities he conveyed were generosity, compassion, creativity, wisdom and insight. Along with this, it was clear from his commanding presence that he was a warrior on many levels. I remember one evening he decided to give me a few lessons on physical training and wrestling. He had me sleep on the floor (he lived into his eighties and always maintained an upright posture). He also asked me to get up very early in the morning, presumably for a round of exercise. I woke much later of course,  and when he asked where I was that morning I replied, ‘Waiting for you — where were you?’ He laughed. Later he showed me how to work out.

I am grateful to my father for having taken me to Pakistan every few years throughout my childhood. Maybe, on some level, my father knew this was important for my tarbeyah. While I enjoyed loving relationships with many of my relatives, it somehow didn’t compare to what I received from my grandfather. Had I not met him, I may never have known what it means to be held in someone’s heart and to hold that person in yours, unconditionally and with complete certainty that that’s the way it will always be.

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