Text read by Mary Peters

Saif, in Pakistan, recounts an experience and asks some questions.

One day, in mid-December, Abdul Rehman’s friend, Habeeb, was talking about assets and earning money. He showed him a video of his brother-in-law’s luxurious house. It was as well-furnished and beautified as one can imagine. Abdul Rehman thought it was an ideal house, similar to a mansion of an aristocrat shown in modern movies.

Whilst they were talking, Habeeb’s phone rang. It was his brother-in-law. After the call, Habeeb told Abdul, a nephew of his brother-in-law was studying in a madrassa*; and that they would go to meet the boy in one or two days.

Two days later, travelling on a motorcycle, Rehman went with Habeeb and his 10-year-old son to the see the boy, in a madrassa thirty miles away from their residence. On the way, they bought some fruit for the boy.

It was a big madrassa with an adjacent mosque. Half of the madrassa’s open area was covered by the lawn of the mosque. Many boys of different ages had just offered their midday prayer and were getting ready to go to their rooms.

Abdul Rehman was lost in thought as he saw the appearance of the boys. They were wearing almost dirty clothes. Their faces had become like the leaves fallen off the green branch of the tree and like a piece of flesh hanging on the hook in a butcher’s shop. Some looked like pygmies.

The boys stared back at the two adults as if some strange thing had appeared before them. They were anxious to learn who it was they had come to see. Deep down, it seemed, as if they, too, were waiting for someone.

The son of Habeeb’s brother-in-law came. He was wearing a dirty, printed overall. He had thrust his hands into the pockets in order to defeat the cold. Two of his front teeth were broken. His face was completely expressionless. His old shirt had holes, as if the innocent body had been struggling to free itself from confinement.

Then, a tight little smile ran over his blighted face as he saw Habeeb’s boy. Abdul Rehman’s heart was aching to see the plight. They wanted to take the boy out of the madrassa for a while to entertain him, but, because the head of the madrassa was not there, they were not allowed.

Then, the immediate Qari Shabi, the boy’s teacher and whose own getup was not much different to that of the boys came and showed them in a small room where three cots were lying with mattresses and soft blankets on them. They sat on a cot and Habeeb phoned his brother-in-law. He told him that they had come to see the boy, and they were sitting with the boy in the madrassa. He also asked the boy to talk to his mother on the mobile phone. During the call, they told Habeeb and the boy that they were going on a picnic in their Honda car. Soon tea was offered and served, though Habeeb tried to stop them from serving.

While taking the tea Abdul Rehman began to talk to Qari Sahib who revealed that he was twenty- four years old and that he too had passed primary five from a village school; and after learning to read the phonics of the Quran for two years, he had come to teach in the madrassa three hundred miles away from his village, for ten thousand a month. On hearing this, Abdul Rehman was much grieved at heart.

He thought if such people teach, how would the education of such deserted children be? What will they make of such innocent souls?

The thought, why even rich parents sent their only child, at such a playful age of ten, to a far-off madrassa, hundreds of miles away, pinched his heart. Just after taking tea, they left back for home.

On the way home, Abdul Rehman thought deeply about the boy and his parents. There was something punching his heart. He could not believe the contrast he had observed.

In the late evening, they reached home. The whole night, Abdul Rehman had been thinking of the misery of the boys in the madrassa, especially the boy they had gone to see. He grew more uncertain and could not understand what was happening. A child of ten years had been sent to a madrassa, hundreds of miles away from their home as if he were not their own son!

Later in the next morning when Abdul Rehman and Habeeb came from a mosque after offering their Fajar prayer, he began to talk about the boy with Habeeb again. During their talk, Habeeb disclosed that it was not the real son of his brother-in-law. Actually, his brother-in-law’s sister had adopted a 6-month-old baby because she could not bear her own child. He also revealed that the boy at the age of ten began to disinterest them, so they decided to send him to such madrassa where religious education is nearly free. He would learn to recite the whole Quran there. Maybe he would learn something more like his Qari Sahib. Now Abdul Rehman understood what was hurting him.

The conversation with Habeeb created turbulence in Abdul Rehman’s heart again. Many painful questions began to prod his mind and soul. Why does the Government not force the parents to care for the adopted children like their own? Why are there no well-defined laws for adopting any child? Why do such people take an innocent child, a toy, for granted to play with until they have no longer heart in? Who knows how many such children fall prey to such stone-hearted and so-called foster parents! Why do these selfish people not think whether they would do the same if it were their own real son there instead? What will be the future end of such used-for-play children? If such things continue happening, what will these children give to society? If their beginning is so bad when will be the end well?

*Arabic word used for a school, also a school for religious education.

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