It was the most humbling thing I had ever seen. Haji Ali had just handed over half the wealth of the village to that crook [as a bribe to allow the construction of a school for both boys and girls], but he was smiling like he'd just won the lottery.
Haji Ali paused before the building everyone in the village had worked so hard to raise. It held its ground firmly before Korphe K2, with snugly built stone walls, plastered and painted yellow, and thick wooden doors to beat back the weather. Never again would Korphe's children kneel over their lessons on frozen ground.
"Don't be sad," he told the shattered crowd. "Long after all those rams are dead and eaten this school will stand. Haji Mehdi [the corrupt politician who had extorted the bribe from them] has food today. Now our children have education forever."
After dark, by the light of the fire that smouldered in his balti [hut], Haji Ali beckoned Mortenson to sit beside him. He picked up his dog-eared, grease-spotted Koran and held it before the flames. "Do you see how beautiful this Koran is?" Haji Ali asked.
"I can't read it," he said. "I can't read anything. This is the greatest sadness in my life. I'll do anything so the children of my village never have to know this feeling. I'll pay any price so they have the education they deserve."
"Sitting there beside him," Mortensen says, "I realised that everything, all the difficulties I'd gone through, from the time I'd promised to build the school, through the long struggle to complete it, was nothing compared to the sacrifices he was prepared to make for his people. Here was an illiterate man, who'd hardly even left his little village in the Karakoram," Mortenson says. "Yet he was the wisest man I've ever met."
Education and learning. Muslims always proclaim that our Master the Prophet of God, may God bless him and give Him peace, stated that the pursuit of knowledge is a duty for every Muslim, male and female, from cradle to grave.
Yet, all the greatest centres of learning are not in Muslim lands. None of the universities in the Muslim world make it to the list of the top 100 in the world. Virtually none of the thousands of technological inventions patented each day today come from Muslim minds. A recent report by the UN showed that the Muslim world has the largest proportion of illiteracy compared to anywhere else, and it is growing. It also has the greatest extreme of wealth in the world.
It is said that we must seek knowledge even if it be in China. In China, the old man knowledge has turned to stone waiting for us.
The irony is that we are Muslims in an affluent country who are blessed with the opportunity and responsibility of learning which we do not pursue, whilst there are millions of Muslims yearning to learn, but do not have a glimmer of opportunity.
May You Be
5 years ago