Recounted by Yasmin Khakwani, Islamabad, Pakistan
It was in the year 2001 when the Al Huda building in F8/4 Islamabad was partially constructed and classes were being held at other premises. Very few staff members were present in this partially constructed building and I was one of them. One day the phone rang and the young receptionist, Farzana was sensible enough to realize that the message conveyed was of special importance and needed to be dealt with by some experienced staff member.
She approached me and said that a lady, Talat was calling from Rawalpindi saying that she was a listener at the weekly dars by Dr Farhat Hashmi at Inter Continental Hotel, Pindi. Her sister, Mubeen Qureshi, a retired Judge in Mississauga, Toronto, Canada had listened to Dr Farhat’s cassettes and liked her style and teachings immensely. She wanted to invite Dr Farhat to Canada for the summers. I spoke to Talat and she convinced me that I must talk to her sister Mubeen. Soon Mubeen spoke to me and it took me quite some time just to get used to the word Mississauga as it was unfamiliar and hard to pronounce!
The invitation was a joint venture of the Shalimar and ISNA to conduct lectures for ladies in Canada. I had my reservations at first because she was totally unknown to us and we had no previous experience of organizing summer programs in a distant land in another continent! But Mubeen has a wonderful, persuasive way and she finally convinced me of the dire need of Urdu-speaking female scholars in Canada as so far only Arabic speakers came to deliver talks in Arabic. The Urdu-speaking Muslims attended the talks only for barakah without understanding a single word. She sounded very sensible, mature and the offer appeared genuine. Finally after a lot of questioning and repeated assurances from her, I informed Dr Farhat who was conducting a course in Karachi at that time. She agreed to visit Canada in her summer break.
The same year, she was also visiting Australia for delivering talks in Melbourne and Sydney. Commuting to two continents in one visit seemed a daunting and tiring task. But for individuals with a great vision and high aims, such things become trivial matters.
In August 2001, Dr Farhat, her husband, Dr Idrees left for Canada and for the first time in the history of Canada, the doors of masajid were opened to a female scholar. Her lectures and public addresses were immensely liked by the Urdu-speaking community and the response was overwhelming. When they returned to Pakistan, messages were delivered again and again from the overseas community asking her to come back and teach more. Mubeen would call very frequently and with great enthusiasm, she would convey the sentiments of the people who wanted to acquire knowledge of the Quran from Dr Farhat.
In late 2003, Mubeen met Dr Farhat during Hajj and convinced her that the Muslim community wanted to invite her to Canada and that she must consider it seriously. She explained her plans for organizing lectures by Dr Farhat and Dr Idrees, in different masajid in Missisauga, Torronto, Montreal, Edmonton and so on.
In the meanwhile, Dr Farhat had visited Lahore and held two big sessions for ladies. Some ladies met and persuaded her to come to Lahore for Daur-e-Quran in the following Ramadan. Some ladies even offered that all the arrangements and expenses would be borne by them. Dr Farhat asked me to meet them, note down all the details, discuss their planning and inform her later in Islamabad. These ladies took me to some hotels to show me their halls where Daur-e-Quran could be held and the crowds could be accommodated. They also showed me a brand new guest house with numerous bedrooms as accommodation for Dr Farhat, the staff and other guests for Ramadan.
We returned to Islamabad and on Friday, Dr Farhat asked the Mashaawarati Committee to have a meeting after Friday prayers to discuss the Ramadan Program. Considering the need for a quiet, undisturbed place for the meeting, Dr Farhat decided to have it at my house. We all assembled and I was asked to relate what the ladies at Lahore had discussed with me. The moment I opened my notebook, Dr Farhat asked us all to offer two units of voluntary salah together and make the supplication for Istikhara before discussing anything.
It was a memorable afternoon, after salah we all sat quietly praying to Allah and seeking His guidance. Before anybody could speak Dr Farhat’s cell phone rang. She received the call while she was still sitting on the prayer mat. It was a call from Mississauga, Canada requesting her to come to Canada for Daur-e-Quran. I saw her take a deep breath, her eyes bewildered and she dropped her head in her hands at this most unexpected reply of dua-e-Istikhara. She was still for some time and all of us were a bit worried at her long quietness. We all knew something important had been said on the phone but could neither guess nor ask till she recovered. She quietly said that it was a call from Canada asking her to come for Ramadan program.
That was a turning point in the history of Al Huda! The decision had already been made and though we were planning for Lahore, Allah had planned it for the other end of the world. With heavy feet, we all accepted the decision of Allah.
So in 2004, before Ramadan, Dr Farhat left with her children and husband for Canada. Mubeen was very happy and said that she would try her best that Dr Farhat would stay back for a regular course. At that time this seemed absolutely impossible but it all became a reality as ISNA was sponsoring the programs.
Ladies flocked to know the Book of Allah in a language they understood during Daur-e-Quran at the ISNA Mosque in Mississauga, Canada. The response was much more than expected. After going through the brief study of Quran, ladies felt an even greater need to know the teachings of the Quran and Islam in detail.
Dr Farhat returned back to Pakistan and offered a two-month Tarbiyyati Course in Lahore in 2005. People from all over Pakistan were welcomed and thus many students and ex-students attended this special Course. Flatties Hotel in Lahore was fully booked for accommodating Al Huda staff and students with the courtesy of its owners, Mr and Mrs Munir. The Lahore team did an amazing job by happily accommodating and providing for almost five hundred students and staff. Daily meals were served to six, seven hundred people morning and evening.
In the meantime, Mubeen never let go of the connection. She kept calling and saying that they were making all the arrangements for a regular course to be conducted by Dr Farhat in Mississauga. Dr Farhat had no intention of going back and I salute Mubeen for her perseverance as she went on calling and insisting until Dr Farhat left us all in tears and flew off to Canada in 2005. She started work in Canada as Field Worker of ISNA and would conduct public lectures at different places. On the demand of the Muslim Community and the consent of ISNA, Taleem al Quran Course was announced.