A Report on Al-Huda & Dr.Farhat Hashmi on NPR Radio

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5th April 2010

Also on Muslim Matters


In Pakistan, wealthy women have been returning to Islam and finding comfort in Al Huda, a new network of religious schools. The students insist the faith they are studying is peaceful and tolerant. But critics hear echoes of Taliban ideology in what the schools preach.


Far from the headlines about its war on extremists, Pakistan is undergoing a more subtle debate over religion. It’s been sparked by a popular female evangelist. She’s created a massive network of Islamic schools that cater to elite, educated women. The classes preach tolerance and mercy, though some Pakistanis fear they’re breeding intolerance. NPR’s Asma Khalid reports.

ASMA KHALID: Huria Yawar(ph) glances at the Cartier watch on her wrist. Then she climbs the stairs to this Islamic school in Central Lahore.

Unidentified Group: (Foreign language spoken)

KHALID: Yawar has five kids and a master’s in psychology. But she says she had no direction in life until she came here.

Ms. HURIA YAWAR (Student, Al Huda): When we come here, each and every letter of that holy book is really seeping in our heart, and which we didn’t know before. And we regret that at the age of 45, 48, so it’s a shame for us.

(Soundbite of laughter and crowd chatter)

KHALID: Here at the Islamic school, Yawar is joined by other upper-crust housewives, some with Blackberries in hand, others with luxury cars parked outside. For years, most wealthy women in Pakistan scoffed at overt piety. But now many women who once sported sleeveless shirts are covering their faces. It’s a trend across the Muslim world. These women in Pakistan found their faith with Farhat Hashmi.

Ms. FARHAT HASHMI (Scholar; Founder, Al Huda): (Foreign language spoken)

KHALID: She’s a household name in Pakistan. Radio stations in nearly every major city broadcast her sermons. Her public lectures draw crowds in the thousands. But more important than all of that is the school system she’s created. It’s called Al Huda. The first branch opened in the mid-1990s. And since then, it’s grown exponentially.

Ms. FAIZA MUSHTAQ (Ph.D. Student, Northwestern University): To simplify it a little bit, it’s run like a franchise.

KHALID: That’s Faiza Mushtaq. She’s at Northwestern University, writing her Ph.D. on the Al Huda phenomenon.

Ms. MUSHTAQ: These women come to Al Huda, spend a year or two years getting a diploma. And then these women go back to their hometowns or to their own neighborhoods, use the same sort of education materials, the course plans, Farhat Hashmi’s lecture tapes, and start offering a diploma course of their own.

KHALID: Today, Al Huda has more than 200 branches.

Unidentified Woman #1: (Chanting in foreign language)

KHALID: One of them is the school Huria Yawar studies. Here, like all of the Al Huda branches, the focus is the Quran. Students learn line-by-line translations and analysis. They learn about the importance of mercy and forgiveness -nothing political and nothing violent. It’s a stark contrast from the extremist rhetoric taught in some schools.

Today’s sermon deals with the vices of materialism.

Unidentified Woman #2: No, it is just (unintelligible). Don’t get impressed by these things. They’re superficial.

KHALID: The teacher is one of Farhat Hashmi’s direct disciples. She speaks Urdu with a flare and has a soft, inviting tone.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

KHALID: A conversation soon erupts about family life.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

KHALID: One student complains that it’s impossible for her to suggest her husband pray. They just end up in a fight. Another woman laments that she can’t cover her head because her kids make fun of her. Lumara Suehail(ph) says her husband mocks her religious studies.

Ms. LUMARA SUEHAIL (Student, Al Huda): When I come here, my husband says you’ve become a Taliban. And I’ve been…

KHALID: Suehail slips into class more than two hours late this morning.

Ms. SUEHAIL: The reason that I come late is also because he doesn’t like it if he’s home and I leave for my class. He doesn’t. So I wait for him, till he goes to the office, whether it’s 9:00 or it’s 10:00 or if it’s 11:00, I cannot leave the house without unless he goes because he doesn’t like that.

KHALID: Suehail regularly goes to coed parties and she doesn’t wear a headscarf, but she’s committed to Al Huda. She says it’s changed her life.

Ms. SUEHAIL: After coming here, I realize that God is so soft. It attracts you to – in a loving manner. I think it’s a very peaceful religion. We have to understand it, and we are not understanding – I mean, most of the people don’t actually understand the religion and they’re just going away from it. They’re being shunned away, basically, because, you know, the way it’s been portrayed, you don’t want to come near it. You don’t want to find out what’s happening.

KHALID: In the past, Islamic education in Pakistan was limited to poor, uneducated men. Al Huda is changing that. It’s bringing religious literacy to an influential demographic.

Saj Tahashmi(ph) was a student in 1997. She’s since opened up her own branch in a military housing section of Lahore. She says Al Huda made Islam easy.

Ms. SAJ TAHASMI: (Through translator) Al Huda dealt with people very leniently. Some women wore a headscarf, and some didn’t. But they were all allowed to attend classes. Before Al Huda, there was no concept in our Islamic educational system that someone could go and sit in a Quran class not wearing a headscarf.

KHALID: Faiza Mushtaq, the Ph.D. candidate from Northwestern University, says Al Huda is no longer just a network of religious schools. It’s become a social movement.

Ms. MUSHTAQ: What these women are being taught is that here, understand the Quran, now change yourself, and then go out and change other people one by one, so your family and your community and your schools and your workplaces and your offices rather than coming out onto the street or marching or holding placards or targeting the state. No. The targets and the goals of the movement are different, but it is still very much a movement in the sense that it goes beyond individual transformation, and ultimately has a vision of what it wants our Pakistani society to look like.

KHALID: That scares some people in Pakistan, like Nadeem Paracha. He’s a columnist for the popular English-language newspaper Dawn. He says Farhat Hashmi may use gentle words, but deep down, she’s an extremist. Her orthodoxy echoes the Taliban’s vision for Pakistan.

Mr. NADEEM PARACHA (Columnist, Dawn Newspaper): I don’t care about if they call themselves soft Muslims or whatever. They are playing an equally destructive role. If the Taliban are playing a destructive role in a political matter, then these preachers are playing a very destructive role in a culturally and social manner.

Ms. HASHMI: You cannot make people happy, and this is not my goal.

KHALID: That’s Farhat Hashmi herself. She rarely gives interviews, but after repeated attempts, she agreed to a short conversation on her cell phone.

Ms. HASHMI: They don’t really know what we are doing. Sometimes, it is misconception. Sometimes it is a different point of view.

KHALID: She insists that she preaches tolerance, not tyranny. But not everyone believes her. Hashmi’s classes exist in a climate of religious anxiety here in Pakistan. It’s a place where suicide bombers are ripping through markets in the name of Islam. And it’s a place where born-again, bourgeois Muslims are muddling the very idea of what it means to be a modern woman.

Asma Khalid, NPR News.

INSKEEP: And we’re following news that several explosions struck the Pakistani city of Peshawar today. We’re told that Islamist militants attacked the U.S. consulate. Police also report gunfire in that city. A total of three people are confirmed killed. The death toll was much higher, around 40, when a suicide bomber attacked a political rally elsewhere in northwestern Pakistan.

(Soundbite of music)



  1. Bismillah, Assam.o.alaikum wr wb,
    Dear Brothers Sisters, “ISLAM MEANSE PEACE” It is our BIGEST MISTAKE that we ( muslim ) could not deliver our message of PEACE ( Islam means PEACE ) to the WORLD…..Al Huda is spreading this PEACE message to the world. All human do not know this message of God (Allah swt The creator of The universe) , so it our mistake…….we must give ….To The World …This message ( to useing many ways of tecnology) of Peace…Quran and Sunnah…Inshallah we do.
    Wassalam.o.alaikum wr wb

  2. Bismillah Assalam o elikum ,
    I have been lucky to spend some time with my respected teacher Farhat Hashmi in Canada .Before joining Alhuda I had been working in many different fields & places e.g teaching in Pakistan & UK,Hotel Management in Bermuda & Dubai.
    But the truth I found in Alhuda was that whatever Ustazah farhat Hashmi is teaching she is encouraging people to practice .After i joined Alhuda, I started realizing my rights as a mother,as a wife, as a sister ,as a daughter,as a sister-in-law, daughter-in-law & as a mother-in-law.I am tought to be myself, devoted & loyal to Allah with my mind ,body & soul with my best Ikhlaq ,respect & honestly fulfill my duties with expectation of reward in Jannah.
    This righteous thinking & sincerity has made our lives peaceful.
    Thanks JKA

  3. Assalam o alekum Warahmatullahe wabarkatuhu Readers.
    Its almost one and a half year that I have been studying at Al-,Huda and to-date I have heard that our teacher, Farhat Hashmi (Founder of Al-huda) just wants to tell people what Allah (subhanatallah) is Saying in His Book, Quran. Her explanation is very logical, easy to understand and uses authetic Ahadees to explain the verses.
    She explains Islam as a very simple, beautiful, easy religion to follow and has never said anything related or promoting the message of extremisum, distruction, voilence etc.
    The best thing about her is that what she teaches, she practices. She has great love and respect in her heart for Allah (subhanatallah) and Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and wants everyone around her to love and respect them too. She is very focused about her aim in life and destiny (akharat). She is speading Islam, She is speading Peace, and her tools are Quran and Sunnah _ the source which guides all-manking to the right path. M

  4. aslamualikum warahmah,,
    urdu/ ye jo pakistan key andar socied bomber attacked hoo raha hain ,,Ya jo kar rahay hain..un logo ka islam se koe khass mahabat Nahain ye log sirf kisee esay logo key bhqaao mein akay ayr ye kaam kar rahay hain jin logo ka Mazahab sirf aapny Nafis key pavee hain aur apnay Mazhab ko hee chalanay keliy ye sub kar Rahay hain un logo ka islam se Khass taluq nahi hain.. sirf apnay he Mazhab ko bacha rahay..
    Allah aur us ke Rasool se bhut Door hain… Submitted By: Mansoor Ali Balooshi

  5. Assalam o alaikum,
    I simply want to say , due to the great efforts of respected ustaza, Dr Farhat Hashmi, there is no distance between me and Quran (Allah’s book). I am in Quran, Quran is in me. Whenever i listen or read Quran i can understand it I can feel it. My relation with Allah is getting stronger and stronger.
    Many many….thanks to Allah for this great blessing on me. All credit goes to respected ustaza, Dr Farhat Hashmi, and her student. Lots of prayers for my all teachers .

  6. Assalam o Alaikum,
    After studying and learning for 2 years in alhuda institute directly from my Respected Ustaza Dr Farhat Hashmi I could say I got a real picture of Islam,its beauty,its truth.I’m Masters in Physics my 16 years of study had not given me peace of mind and love of mankind but within 2 years I had learnt from Quran and sunnah about inner and outer peace,I got connection with my Lord AllahSWT and learnt about Life of Prophet Muhammad SAW.
    I would like to suggest those who had different opinion about alhhuda ,to come and sit to learn and experience themself what is truth.

  7. BISMILLAH asalam o alikum

    I think its really unfortunate, if we dont realise and appreciate what DR.Farhat is doing, she is spreading message of islam and teachings of Quran in outstanding way there are too many branches of ALHUDA now Allhamdoulilah which is a proof of amazing sucess of this Institute,
    This Institute is teaching us Quran and sunnah by authentic sources and DR.Farhat encourages us to practice our faith in every aspect of life which is most important requirement of islam. So, rather than criticise or blamming its really worthwhile to learn and gain more knowldge of Quran and sunnah if we want higher grades in AKHARA.
    Iam really thankful to ALLAH(SWT) Who grant me an oppurtunity to learn Quran and teachers like DR Farhat. May ALLAH bless her with more health, istiqamat, Imman and give her best in this Duniya and Hereafter.”Ameen”.

    “DR.FARHAT” The most softening n cool minded Women i hv ever listen.She Is the one who makes Islam Easy For me to follow.Before than that i take Islam as a gr8 burden 4 me to live with.
    Now my feeling about Quran is that if this buk is not with me where do my life go.My message 4 Dr.Farhat n to his all Family members—— “U all r making Islaam easy rather than extremists.
    The evil (satan) is not finding the place to hide as u r opening eyes of people regarding Islaam, This ummah needs scholars like u who make islaam attached wd our breath.
    May ALLAH bless all of u n gives u the Ajr-e-Azeem 4 wt u hv done. P ray 4 me too that Allah give me the life partner who helps me in my religion(Islaam) n may i get swaleh aulaad who serve themselves for Islaam.

  10. In this existing world we are bound to obey the commands of one or the other,these commands may be of the creator of this world or our own self or may be the “new world’s order”.
    So why not we obey the commands of our creator rather than any others:) ALHUDA is not an issue, One can get the understanding for commands of the creator from where ever they want,everyone is having their own choice and free will. who ever will truly work for the creator,the creator will raise his name,no matter who the person or institute is.

  11. assalaualaikum wrb, after reading above report i found that some people are so ignorant about ISLAM that they not only want to understand Islam themselves but put hurdles in others way.
    people dont even understand what is the right teaching of Islam…when i came to know about Alhuda,,,i found it the best…the way ustaza taught Quran is so beautiful,,,,i understand the beauty of Islam through this institute Alhundulillah,,,lots of dua for ustaza and Alhuda…

  12. Assalam o Alikum!
    I often listen Doctor Farhat Hashmi’s lectures online.Her style of preaching is very logical and good.I find real spirit of Islam here.I want to join Alhuda regulary but their are some problems.Alhuda is doing good work to spread Islam , but still there are many areas in Pakistan where people need guidance , people don’t even know what the Islam actually is? In my village and in the areas closer to it people are mostly sunni and their believes are too much wrong.I request doctor Farhat Hashmi and Alhuda team to open their branch in our area( salhoki chatha , Teh. Wazirabad , district Gujranwala ).Thanks

  13. ASSALAM E ALIKUM dr farhat hashmi is one of great scholar of islam she has good knowledge i heared her lectures on tazkia my allah bless her

  14. I am so happy to come across this report by Inskeep. I wish I had found this out before I met him at npr last year. Proud to be a student of Dr. Farhat, a hijabi and equally sad to listen to Mr. Paracha’s views about Al-huda. I wish he wakes up from his ignorance soon.
    To share my experience, I am following her online lectures since early 2012. Being a socially active and travelling person, I have learnt through her lectures, how to communicate with people from different cultures and faiths, to be tolerant and kind. Qur’an has become so understandable. Alhamdulillah. I wonder how could a columnist make such remarks not knowing the institute and calling it a place like that of taliban and intolerance.

  15. Dr farhat Hashmi is a great scholar of Islam and she is doing great job which is responsibility for all Muslim.
    I have gone through her lecture on different topics and found her a bold and smart Mujahida of Islam who naver
    has fear of any non muslim country Head though they yasrani yahudi or eessai…..thats great…..allah bless her
    in every step of life…..ameen

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