Free Aafia Siddiqui campaigns globally have lit flames of activism, outrage, and empathy. Amid all the despair there are also rays of hope and faith that have engulfed the world with many praying for the Daughter of Pakistan, the Grey Lady of Bagram.
Last night I was almost selfish. I did not think about her plight and torture, all my mind could dwell upon was the ambition of this woman. As I stared into the face her sister, Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui, she told me about Aafia’s academic achievements. This was not foreign to me as I have been doing my fair bit of research and I was familiar with her academic track record.
The Free Aafia website records that Dr. Aafia earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from MIT and earned her doctorate from Brandeis University. Her doctoral thesis was “Learning through Imitation” in which she included her research on improving learning techniques for children. Yes, this impressed me but not quite yet.
I was bewildered when I heard Dr Aafia was in fact a Haafidha, or one who memorised the Quraan and and Aalima (Islamic scholar) in addition to her secular qualifications. I recall admiring this woman and expressed heartfelt desire to emulate her.
When Aafia’s mother, Ma Ismet told the international audience of Cii that her daughter knew the text of the Quraan, the meaning, the interpretation and the circumstances of revelation of the verses, my mouth hung open in awe. ‘We now have counterfeit Aalimas’ I joked. Nonetheless, this reaffirmed my spirit to support Aafia and create awareness of her unfortunate situation.
Last night Dr. Fawzia enlightened me (I cannot recall whether she spoke to me exclusively but her words pierced my heart as if it were directed at me) about Aafia’s Islamic inclination. “She became a Haafidha on her own, she was very active with comparative religion and she did the 6 year Aalima course in 4 years concurrently to her studies at MIT,” Dr Fawzia said.
She told me that Aafia drafted an entire syllabus which incorporates in depth Islamic knowledge with academic knowledge with the aim that when learners graduate from high school they are equipped both on the Islamic as well as secular front. Aafia wanted the best of both worlds for humanity in terms of education. I was overwhelmed at this point.
I dare say I held similar sentiments yet I was too apprehensive to make a constructive step in that direction. In my view of the world, albeit somewhat naïve, I believe that Islam is not a mere religion, it is a way of life, and therefore understanding Deen is imperative for every individual. I was accused of being a ‘wishful thinker’ when I claimed that as a woman I would like to show the world true Islam.
Every time the topics of Islamaphobia and western propaganda come up I firmly believed that we as Muslims were partially at fault. There are not enough people qualified in both spheres i.e. Islam and secular to make a tangible difference, I maintain. Today I see that I pointed out the holes yet I was not inclined to mend it.
Now, cliché as it may be, I want to be the change I’d like to see; like Aafia was. She did not sit back, complacent expecting change. She dedicated her life to change. If she could do it, what is stopping me? Today I reaffirm my support for Aafia Siddqui by following in her footsteps. Today I have her dream, to succeed in the transitional world as well as the everlasting one.