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.

Advice from a Cloud (If a Cloud Could Speak)

Cloud and birds

Advice from a cloud

By Wael Abdelgawad, with contributions by Arif Kabir | IslamicSunrays.com

Everyone deserves water to drink, so shower your kindness on sinners and saints alike.

People will see different things in you:  relief, comfort, or a fearsome sign of a storm. Pay no mind, and go about your life peacefully.

It’s a beautiful thing to provide shade on a hot day (to comfort those in distress).

You sometimes drift aimlessly, but by the will of God, and following your heart, you eventually find the clear current and resume your journey.

Oppose evil with thunder and lightning, but with others be soft as cotton.

Not everything is as it seems:  the darker the cloud, and the heavier the storm, the more water it brings to cleanse the earth and support new life.

Never forget, you are mainly made of water. Make sure to always replenish yourself with pure sustenance.

There’s a rainbow right behind the storm.

Can you think of any other advice a cloud might give? Please share.

Your “Stuff” is Not a Part of You

Mountains above a beautiful valley with flowers

By Wael Abdelgawad | IslamicSunrays.com

You are not defined by the stuff you own. Your “stuff” is not a part of you. Your “stuff” will break, disappear, or be left behind one day.

In fact what truly defines our character is how we react to loss. If we were stripped of all the possessions we love, who would we be in that moment? Would we still be grateful to Allah, patient, trusting?

Hopefully it never comes to that.  But seriously, those times of greatest sadness and joy are when our thoughts must turn to Allah, The Eternal, The Merciful, The Wise.

Allah says, “Never will you attain the good until you spend from that which you love. And whatever you spend – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.” [Quran 3: 92]

Think about that. Allah is telling us to give away the things that we love the most! SubhanAllah! Why does Allah ask this of us?  Is it to liberate us from slavery to material possessions? To f0cus our minds on Allah and the aakhirah (hereafter)? To prevent the evil that results from the love of money? To benefit the poor?

Yes, for all of those reasons. Excessive attachment to any material thing is misguidance. The love of possessions is a spiritual trap.

I have at times given away things that were precious to me, thinking they would mean as much to the other person as they do to me. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t, and yes it hurts my feelings when the other person doesn’t value my gift; but eventually I get over it, because the point is the act of giving. And maybe – Insha-Allah – I’ll have something to show Allah on Yawm Al-Qiyamah (the Day of Resurrection), maybe I’ll be able to say, “O Allah, I gave away these things that I loved,” and maybe that will earn me some forgiveness, Allah knows.

There is a powerful spiritual lesson in taking an object that you love, and giving it away. I remember a middle-aged brother named AbdulKareem (Damis-Salaam, for those of you who know him). He worked hard, supported a family, and got by on a tight budget. One time he got a nice brown leather coat, the long kind that comes down to the knees. It looked good on him. Then a younger brother, a teenager with poor manners, said, “Man, that’s a cool coat. Can I have it?” Without a word, AbdulKareem took off the coat and gave it to the teenager. There’s such a strength of character, such freedom from attachment, in being able to do that. That was 27 years ago and I imagine that AbdulKareem (who is an old man now) has forgotten all about it. But Allah sees and remembers.

The Simplicity of the Prophet’s Life (sws)

This deep generosity was one of the qualities of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It’s said that he never refused anyone who asked him for anything, if it was his to give.

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was the most generous of all the people, and he used to reach the peak in generosity in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel met him. Gabriel used to meet him every night of Ramadan to teach him the Qur’an. Allah’s Messenger was the most generous person, even more generous than the strong uncontrollable wind.” [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 1, Number 5]

Aside from being generous, the Messenger of Allah (sws) had no attachment to “stuff”. The extreme simplicity of his lifestyle was astounding. He never ate lavish food (not even soft bread), never ate on a dining cloth, and never filled his belly even with barley bread. His household often went many days with no cooking fire in the oven, living on dates and water, and occasionally a glass of milk donated by the neighbors. His mattress was a piece of tanned skin filled with rough palm fibers.

Once Umar Ibn al-Khattab (radhi allahu anhu) entered upon the Messenger of Allah (sws) when he was lying on a mat of palm fibers that had left marks on his side. Umar (ra) said: “O Messenger of Allah, why do you not get something more comfortable than this?” He (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “What do I have to do with this world? My relationship with this world is like that of a traveler on a hot summer’s day, who seeks shade under a tree for an hour, then moves on.” [Musnad Ahmad and al-Hakim. Saheeh al-Jamee (5545)]

So you see, he lived like this not out of necessity, but out of choice. Money often came into his household (especially later in his life when Islam spread to all of Arabia) but he would give it all to the poor, retaining nothing.

Excessive possessions are anchors that drag us down. The hunger for material goods is a kind of sickness. It causes us more stress than happiness, and in the end we gain nothing genuine.

A Moment I Regret, and a Non-Materialistic Friend

I once got angry with my daughter when she was no more than four years old, because she pulled the soft cover off my headphones and tore it. I chastised her roughly (verbally only) and she cried. I immediately felt deeply guilty and I hugged her and told her it was okay. I still regret that moment and I wish I could take it back. It would have been enough for me to tell her once, kindly, that she should not do that again. Instead I made my beautiful child cry because of a meaningless possession. I don’t ever want to do that again. One moment of happiness with my child is  more precious to me than a thousand stupid headphones.

I want to divorce myself as much as possible from the desire for needless possessions.

When I was a bicycle messenger in San Francisco many years ago, I had a colleague, Jennie, who could pack all her possessions in a pair of bicycle saddlebags. Anything that wouldn’t fit in the bags, she’d give away. She had a small flat in the Mission district, and when later she was moving to a little place up on 2nd Avenue, she called me and a few friends over to help. It turned out she called us not to help her pack, but so she could give away to us whatever possessions she had accumulated that wouldn’t fit in her saddlebags. I had another messenger friend, Ben, who lived in a small travel van. He was a kayaker and sailor. When not working, Ben spent much of his time on the sea or the bay. Interestingly, Jennie and Ben were both non-Muslims, yet they lived more simply than any Muslim I have known.

I can’t live that simply, or maybe I’m not willing to, but I do envy those who can. They have discovered something deep and true about the nature of the world. Life is not about stuff that costs too much, takes up space, wears out, breaks, and contributes nothing to the world. Rather, life is about experiences, family, learning, worshiping, and leaving a legacy of compassion and love. All those things last beyond our lifetimes, and beyond the veil of this life.

May Allah help us to live simply, and to be generous, and to value ‘ibadah, family and love more than “stuff”.

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Pieces of a Dream