Feeding and Helping the Poor: Hotel Ghareeb Nawaz

The Hotel Ghareeb Nawaz

The Hotel Ghareeb Nawaz feeds the homeless and disabled.

I came across this inspiring story of a hotel/restaurant in Pakistan that feeds the poor and homeless for free. It touched me, so I am sharing it here. – Wael

By Sarfaraz Memon
Reprinted from Pakistan’s Express Tribune

SUKKUR, PAKISTAN: For Mai Jindo, the Gharib Nawaz Hotel is nothing less than a blessing as the hotel has been providing free meals to her family for more than 35 years now.

“Like a majority of the girls of my community, marriage proved a gamble for me, as my husband turned out to be a drug addict and, instead of providing livelihood to the family, has always remained dependent upon me”, Mai Jindo told The Express Tribune. “It was very hard for me to earn enough to feed so many mouths but I kept on trying.”

Her initial struggles were soon eased. “One day a woman in my neighbourhood told me about the Gharib Nawaz Hotel, near the Sukkur Clock Tower, which provides free meals to the poor and needy,” she said. “In the evening, I went to the hotel along with my four children and to my surprise, the hotel owner gave me so much food that it was enough for my family for dinner and even breakfast the next day. Since then, I come to this hotel every evening to get food for my family and now I don’t have to worry about feeding my family at least.”

Poor families eating for free at the Hotel Gharib Nawaz

Poor families eating for free at the Hotel Gharib Nawaz.

Kamalan is also one of the regular visitors of the hotel. “Considering the high prices, poor people like us cannot afford to feed our children regularly but thanks to the Gharib Nawaz Hotel, we do not have to face hunger,” she said. “Hundreds of men, women and children visit this hotel in the evening to get free food for their families.” Kamalan is a widow and has seven children to take care of and though she works as a maid in two houses, she doesn’t earn enough to make ends meet.

Mashooq Ali used to earn a livelihood for his family through a donkey cart and while he was unable to afford the extravagant, he was doing sufficiently well enough for himself. But everything changed when Ali lost his left arm in an accident five years ago. He has been unable to work since then.

“I don’t have a son, otherwise I wouldn’t have come to this hotel,” he said, his pride hurt at being forced to accept charity. “I cannot let my five daughters die of hunger, therefore, I come to this hotel and get food for them.”

The owner of the hotel, Haji Shabbir Ahmed, told The Express Tribune that the hotel was established before the partition and was named the Gharib Nawaz [the carer of the poor] by his forefathers. “Since its establishment, it has been our practice to provide free food to the poor,” he said. “And with the passage of time, people have started giving money to us as charity to provide free food to more people. Now we can provide for hundreds”

The Gharib Nawaz Hotel is not the only hotel that provides free food to the poor but it is famous for its cheap rates even for those who can afford to pay. Most of the labourers working in the nearby markets come to the hotel to eat meals at the comparatively low rates and Ahmed said that due to the low rates, profits are a bare minimum. However, the owner is more than happy with the business model, saying that their main priority is to help the poor and not to make large profits.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2014.

Your time of ease will come

Allah does not burden any soul beyond what it can bear.

Allah does not burden any soul beyond what it can bear.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Allah does not burden any soul greater than it can bear. If you are experiencing hardship, be patient. If you feel lost, turn to Allah. If you feel worthless, know that Allah values you and cares. All the good that you do is seen and measured by Allah the Almighty. Be patient and your time of ease will come, Insha’Allah.

And if you are already in a time of ease, remember that you need Allah now as much as ever.

How Satan tricked a pious man

Tall tree, huge tree, beautiful tree

There was a pious man among the Banu Israel who always remained busy in the worship of Allah. A group of people came and told him that a tribe living nearby worshiped a tree. The news upset him, so with an axe on his shoulder he went to cut down that tree.

On the way, Satan met him in the form of an old man and asked him where he was going. He said he was going to cut a particular tree. Satan said, “You have nothing to be concerned with this tree, you better mind your worship and do not give it up for the sake of something that does not concern you.”

“This is also worship,” retorted the worshiper.

Then Satan tried to prevent him from cutting the tree, and there followed a fight between the two, in which the worshiper overpowered Satan. Finding himself completely helpless, Satan begged to be excused, and when the worshiper released him, he again said, “Allah has not made the cutting of this tree obligatory on you. You do not lose anything if you do not cut it. If its cutting were necessary, Allah could have got it done through one of his many Prophets.”

The worshiper insisted on cutting the tree. There was again a fight between the two and again the worshiper overpowered Satan.

“Well listen,” said Satan, “I propose a settlement that will be to your advantage.”

The worshiper agreed, and Satan said, “You are a poor man, a mere burden on this earth. If you stay away from this act, I will pay you three gold coins everyday. You will daily find them lying under your pillow. By this money you can fulfill your own needs, can assist your relatives, help the poor, and do so many other virtuous things. Cutting the tree will be only one virtue, which will ultimately be of no use because the people will grow another tree.”

This proposal appealed to the worshiper, and he accepted it. He found the money on two successive days, but on the third day there was nothing. Enraged, he picked up his axe and went to cut the tree. Satan as an old man again met him on the way and asked him where he was going.

“To cut the tree,” shouted the worshiper.

“I will not let you do it,” said Satan.

Again a fight took place between the two, but this time Satan had the upper hand and overpowered the worshiper. The latter was surprised at his own defeat, and asked the former the cause of his success. Satan replied, “At first, your anger was purely for earning the pleasure of Allah, and therefore Almighty Allah helped you to overpower me, but now it has been partly for the sake of the gold coins and therefore you lost.”

***

Dear readers, what do you feel is the lesson of this story?

Poem: Build a Dream

Tree of dreams

Build a Dream

I have trudged through sands.
I have come with injured hands
to build a dream.

I’ve given it all to you
and worn ragged shoes.
I’ve grown lean.

I’m walking this path
out of the dark past
carrying child and faith.

The world is new as a green shoot
and the rain
leaves everything clean.

I’m late on the scene –
but I am not done trying
to build a dream.


Wael Abdelgawad
January 26, 2015
Fresno, California

Poem: A Prayer for Today

Shaykh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Shaykh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Today I say no prayers for myself.
As for my enemies, I wish them well
in the truest sense – well hearts
and minds, and a well of light.
Today, on this day of spring sunshine
and headlines full of death
– ISIS leaving heads on the roadside
and young Muslim leaders
gunned down in the USA –
it’s for the Ummah that I pray.
I pray for the Muslim people
to rediscover the merciful heart
of their deen; and to find their power,
science, architecture, art,
and the quiet joy of ‘ibadah
and Allah’s love.
Let them step into the century
free from tyranny, standing tall
with Islam as hope and call.
Let them drink from the bubbling spring
of the Quran.
Let them breathe.
Let them free themselves
and transform the world.

God is My Ally

Green leaves and sunlight

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Being a single parent is rewarding and exhausting at the same time. On the good days I think, “I’ve got this.” My daughter plays, laughs, and tell she loves me. She completes her homework cheerfully and eats what I serve. On days like that I say, “Alhamdulillah!” (All praise is due to God).

Other days I feel inadequate. I feel that I’m not doing enough to teach my daughter Arabic and Islam. I let her consume too much junk food and TV. I haven’t tried hard enough to help her cultivate friendships with kids her age.

On the worst days Salma is depressed and focused on what she doesn’t have. Or she’s down on herself, crying and saying, “I’m no good…” It’s as if she’s determined to see life in the saddest possible light. I don’t know where she’s getting these negative self-images. Certainly not from me. From her schoolmates perhaps? I wish I could shut out the outside world and raise my family in some pristine environment, like an idyllic island, or a small village where the adhaan rings out at dawn every morning.

Sometimes I feel desperate for an ally. Someone to talk to, someone to help, someone who cares. I look around and there is no one. Just me and my child. Other people seem to pass like travelers, not wanting to get involved, not staying, or not caring. (I’m sure every single parent experiences these feelings of isolation sometimes).

Then I remember that Allah (God) is all of those things: Ally, Helper, and Provider. He is the One Who Stays; The First and The Last. And I wonder if that very feeling of desperation that I experience is designed to bring me closer to Allah, and to make me reliant on Him. As we say, Hasbun Allahu wa n’em al-Wakeel. Allah is sufficient for us and the best One in Whom to trust.

So again I say, “Alhamdulillah!” I am grateful to Allah for guidance, for the roof over my head and the food on my table, and even for the difficulties with my daughter, because I have a daughter to have difficulties with, and that’s the greatest blessing.

Thus we say, Alhamdulillahi ‘ala kulli haal. Praise be to God in every condition. And we trust that Allah will bring us through, because having Him as an Ally is not an abstract concept.

Sarah Saghir has written:

“The ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I will find As-Salam (Allah: The Peace).’
And the spirit says, ‘Find As-Salam (The Peace) and everything will fall into place.'”

So this is what it is to have God as an Ally. It doesn’t mean that we give up on our worldly needs and satisfy ourselves with an ascetic, purely spiritual existence. Rather, when we find Him, when we trust Him and take Him as an Ally, those worldly needs fall into place, and we are able to meet the challenges of life by His grace.

In Solitary Confinement, a Young Man Prays to God

Guantanamo prison cell

An isolation cell at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

What would you do if you were locked away in a prison like this for years? Would you keep up your prayers, alone in the solitude of your cell? Many Muslims do. Remember them in your dua’.

Yesterday I was watching a National Geographic show called “Hard Time”, about the state prison system in Georgia, USA. This episode was filmed in the “Hi-Max”, the ultra-high-security institution where inmates are permanently locked in isolation.

These cells have molded concrete walls and thick steel doors with tiny plexiglass windows. Prisoners are fed through a slot in the cell door. The guards do not speak to them. It is a world of utter silence and loneliness. Men go mad. Many mutilate themselves or commit suicide.

There was a quick shot through the door window of a young man in his solitary cell. He was Muslim. He laid his only towel on the floor and began to pray.

I saw that and it moved me. SubhanAllah. We take so much for granted. Is there any reason why I have been so blessed and that young man has not? Am I a better man than him? There he is, all alone in a concrete box for years and years, praying to God with no one to see him, not giving up hope, not giving up his faith. While we, who have our freedom, fail to give God His due. And which of the favors of our Lord will we deny?

All Good Comes From Allah

Sunlight behind the clouds

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

Everything that Allah does for us is an expression of His mercy. This is true for the blessings we see and recognize, and the countless ones we don’t.

All good things come from Allah, while evil comes from our own hands. Theft, lying, abuse and murder – these things come from human hands.

“What comes to you of good is from Allah, but what comes to you of evil, [O man], is from yourself. And We have sent you, [O Muhammad], to the people as a messenger, and sufficient is Allah as Witness.”
– Quran 4:79

From Allah come the crops that grow, the fruiting trees, the sunshine and rain, and the earth beneath our feet. From Him come a thousand daily blessings, unnoticed by us in our busy lives and limited viewpoints. From Him come the Prophets and the Books, the angels and the fitrah (the natural inclination to do good) in our hearts. From Allah comes my sweet daughter Salma, my healthy body, and the jar of almonds on the table beside me as I write this. Look around yourself and catalog all the blessings you see, just in the space around you. Don’t forget to count the air you breathe.

As for the tests that befall us that are decreed by Allah – such as illness, natural disasters and death – they are not evil. They are trials that define the boundaries of our existence on this earth, which itself is a fleeting test and a proving ground. And even those trials having blessings hidden within them. I know that sounds trite, but it’s true.

Think well of Allah and be grateful, because all good things come from Him, and His mercy never stops.

Chase Your Dream – Poem by Mirza Yawar Baig

Beautiful road

My Thoughts

My deepest fear is that I will simply die one day
Crying for what might have been
The earth will be free of carrying my burden
And there will be no trace of my passing

What use such a life?
That one lives and one dies
Yet there is nothing to show that either happened!

Nothing was changed
No oppression relieved
No ideas ignited
No lives touched
Nothing!!

Just that I had lived
And now I am dead

Chase your dream and know
Dreams want to be caught
To live, the dream must come true
Until then it is only a dream

I walked alone through the desert
I walked alone by the ocean
I walked alone through the forest
I walked alone on the mountain

For I was born to die
But I was not born to die without meaning
I was given the chance to make what meaning I desired
For that is what would define me when I was gone

I ask myself, ‘What did I do?’
What more could I have done?
For in the end it was not about others
It was about me.

By Mirza Yawar Baig  of YawarBaig.org

We All Make Mistakes

Bird flying over the sea

Allah made us in a state He loves

By Amy Estrada for IslamicSunrays.com

Ibrahim has just graduated and started a good job, and is ready to marry. He and his family meet several prospective spouses, but more than one of them is a suitable match. Ibrahim is confused. He wants to make a wise choice, but the choice isn’t clear. Of the few that seem like good candidates, none rises above the others. Who should he choose?

He prays istikhara and consults family and friends. He makes dua’, but the uncertainty remains. The only thought going through his mind is which person is the “right” one. The idea that he may choose the “wrong” one, thereby making a mistake and perhaps creating a future of pain for himself, becomes crippling.

We all make mistakes. When I say mistakes, I don’t mean moral errors, or temptations to which we succumb. I mean honest mistakes in judgment and in choice.

It’s part of the human condition to hold ourselves to high standards. We want to never make a wrong choice, or create regrets. Regrets are painful, and we are programmed to get away from pain. In fact, most of us spend our lives trying to avoid pains of all kinds. Avoiding regrets is a logical part of that endeavor.

But is that really the type of life Allah expects or even wants us to live?

It’s clear Allah wants us to avoid sinful actions and habits. He clearly outlines the consequences of errors not only in the way we live our lives apart from His laws, but even errors in our belief and understanding. The Quran warns against waywardness over and over. Yet I think sometimes we take these admonitions and use them to create an expectation of perfection for ourselves.

Fatima has been offered a job ninety minutes from her home. She’s not excited about spending a total of three hours commuting each day, not to mention the cost of gas and bridge tolls, but the job is a good one in her field. A week before she is to begin the new job, she is offered another job only ten minutes from home. It’s not quite as good as the other, but she could do so much with those extra three hours. Pray, read, spend time with family and friends… What to do? The wrong choice could affect her entire career. For days she racks her brain trying to decide, until she becomes physically ill.

These scenario can also play out when someone is deciding which university to attend, thinking about moving, or even taking a vacation. We have programmed ourselves to think there is only one “right” way to do things, and every other way is wrong. We stress ourselves out trying to figure out what that one “right” way is when it’s not readily clear.

The Prophet SAWS said:

“The believer is not required to humiliate himself.” He was asked, “How does one humiliate himself, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “He takes on tests that he cannot bear.”

This hadith can be applied to many different situations, but the takeaway is that we shouldn’t put undue stress on ourselves. Essentially, we shouldn’t make life harder on ourselves than it already is. To do so is a form of self-humiliation.

When we try to be perfectionists, striving to make choices that are flawless and regretless, we put a standard on ourselves that we as humans were not meant to bear. In trying to get it “exactly right”, we create more pain – perhaps even greater pain than the one we’re running from.

In the Quran, Allah describes the people of Paradise as those “who avoid great sins and shameful deeds, only (falling into) lesser faults; truly your Lord is ample in forgiveness. He knows you well when He brings you out of the earth and when you are hidden in your mother’s wombs. Therefore do not ascribe (claim) purity to yourselves. He knows best who the God-conscious ones are.”

It seems here we are told to avoid sins and shameful deeds, but we are allowed to have ‘lesser faults’.  We are allowed to make mistakes and still have a fair chance of achieving Jannah. We aren’t supposed to live such a life that we could “ascribe purity to ourselves”. A life of perfection. It’s not meant for us.

Let’s give ourselves permission to be human. Allah made us in a state He loves and cherishes, so why try to make ourselves something we’re not? It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to make a choice and it not be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It’s just a choice, and in shaa Allah we will learn from it either way. It’s okay to start on a path, take a risk, or even make an investment, and fail. No one intends to fail, but failure is one of the best ways to gain wisdom and valuable experience.

There’s an uplifting movie I recommend to anyone struggling with this issue. It’s Disney’s Meet the Robinsons. As Aunt Billie said in that movie:  “From failing, you learn. From success, not so much.”

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