Sardar Mamoo – Reliance and Tawakal on Allah- Life is to give and not to take

“Shah M Mubeen ur Rehman known in the family as Sardar was my ماموں  and veteran of wars of 1965 and 1971 (Baluch Regiment) and passed away with metastatic cancer in 1992. He along with his brother Shah M Ismail, served as رضا کار during Hyderabad Indian army action in 1948 and narrowly escaped death at the hands of Indian military. His older brother Shah M Farid ur Rehman was also a volunteer and was martyred during the migration following the partition of India, when the train he was travelling in was cut and the passengers were lynched by the mobs. His body was never found. An acquaintance who was sent to search for Farid Mamoo reported that he saw a body matching the description of the jacket that he was wearing.

The two brothers migrated to Pakistan without anything, empty handed.  He was the main supporter of three sisters, a brother and mother when they got together to stay in Hyderabad. My mother used to tell me about those trying times when they would have nothing to eat. Sardar Mamoo, Nani Jan, Rauf Mamoo would routinely go for fishing to bring some food on the table. Family and friends such as Dr MB Mirza were a great help when they would pitch in with oil and spices to make the fish eatable. Sardar Mamoo took some tuitions and Rauf Mamoo worked in the vegetable market as a laborer hauling sacks of vegetables on his back. Often he would return with his back badly bruised requiring application of homemade herbal paste of haldi (turmeric) and some other herbs. Eventually, Sardar Mamoo and Rauf Mamoo would get the short commission into army. This became a stumbling block for them later as the short commission people do not go beyond the level of Major. What a caste system.

He was a lifelong nature lover and fishing was his hobby. My brother Noman Haider was saving money to buy an air gun. Once when Sardar Mamoo was in Karachi he went with my brother to buy for him his first air gun from Lucky Star in Saddar Karachi which is the hub of arms dealers. The air gun bought had a very hard spring and my brother did not find enough strength to load it. As he used to say “I didn’t have much strength to pull it and use it. I could not ever shoot a good size bird with it.”

What a lively person was Sardar Mamoo and how strong and brave, yet how humble and spiritual was his presence. Deeply in love with gardening, he grew all kinds of fruits and vegetables in his backyard in his house in Hyderabad. His children re mashallah doing very well. All five of his daughters went on to become doctors through their hard work and all his sons are doing great. They have always been respectful to their elders and are humble, sweet and of helpful nature. ” (The above is an adapted and enhanced version of a post of my brother Noman Haider on a social forum).

Sardar Mamoo, Maj (r) Shah Muhammad Mubeen ur Rehman

My earliest memory is that of 1971 when he was in posted in Kakul, Abottabad, and I went there to stay for a few days. I went on this trip with Mr Khushnood, who was a family friend, and was going on some errand to Abottabad on his brown/red car. A week or so later Bari Bi would come to take me back to Islamabad by bus. Sardar Mamoo’s drawing room had two distinctions. One, it had a number of musical instruments harmonium, sarangi/sitar, flutes, tablas,…Two, it was a living room of dogs. The latter effectively kept us away from exploring the instruments. I was told about the night long qawwali mehfils where these instruments were played. There was at least one during my stay, but because it was a late night event and I used to go to sleep early after maghrib, it was not for me! Later I would find that these instruments would go into disuse and would gradually disappear.

Sardar Mamoo at that time was serving as Major in Kakul cantonment. During those times the life of a Major was very hard with very meager salary which was barely enough to make the two ends meet,  especially for those with large families. And of course, Sardar Mamoo belonged to the Shah family and did not know how to refuse; If anyone would ask for any thing, the Shah in Sardar Mamoo would awaken and he will present whatever was available without concern of affordability or its value. A characteristic that I saw shared by all the brothers and sisters who had big hearts. I also saw this attribute at a very high level in Khala Jan (Mrs Shah M Daud), and of course Rauf Mamoo, and was also visible in other siblings and family members. It would be quite later that I would become aware of the pressure that their children and spouses went through on account of this magnanimity. They had to put up with such benevolent giving away of things as presents; things that were acquired with great difficulty and hard work. But I guess, that’s what “Shah-tradition” is all about!

I always found Sardar Mamoo’s house and those of all his siblings as a welcoming place open for everyone and anyone. A living example of famous “fayyazi” (magnanimity) of Shahs. Often times there were no pretensions or special arrangements for guests. Everyone was welcome to come, eat and stay, on as-is-where-is basis, and share in what the others were having. This was true both during good times of abundance as well as during hard times of financial constriction. The door would be open for anyone at any time and for any length of time.

Afsar Mamoo

During my Kakul stay in that trip of 1971, our elder maternal uncle, Afsar Mamoo (Shah Mohammad Mujeeb ur Rehman) was living with Sardar Mamoo. I had been told that he had a breakdown and had psychologically lost it. May be it was some massacre that he had witnessed while he was in Signals of army, and deputed in East Pakistan after the partition, or may be it was some other pressure [need to find more details about this].

I am mentioning this interaction to emphasize the role of family members in taking responsibility of physically and mentally challenged relatives. The relatives provided a natural family environment which gave a better quality of life to these people than what specially designed institutions can ever offer. Of course this was hard work for the families, each had their own unique social and financial constraints. Such support often stretched to the limit resources available to the families, especially those of middle class and lower middle class. But nevertheless, such challenges were taken as duty and family members volunteered to share the responsibility.

We kids were too afraid of Afsar Mamoo at that time and age. We had been pre-warned that he had a tendency of becoming very angry with kids, and if we tease him or come to close to him he can beat with abandon using his stout staff that he always carried as a walking stick. I was also told that my cousin had recently gotten a severe beating. Terrified of him, I would simply run away whenever I would see him approaching.  One morning of that trip of Kakul, I had just finished breakfast in the patio and was reading Urdu Digest and was fully engrossed in it, and I did not notice Afsar Mamoo till he was standing and watching me read over my shoulders. I got startled and started thinking about running away or crying for help, but he gently tapped on my shoulder and asked me what was I reading. In a shock, and not knowing how to answer, I just handed him the Urdu Digest. Afsar Mamoo took the digest from me. Flipped the pages and came to a full page ad that I still remember had the following caption at the top. “Chiragh lai k kehan samnay hawa k chalay”. He read it loudly and then started a monologue of about 15 minutes of highly educated speech that was as scholarly and philosophical discourse that I had ever heard. May be it was too difficult for me to understand at that early age of around 8-9 years, or may be I was too terrified to concentrate on what he was saying, or may be I was trying to reconcile the paradigm shift of discovering scholarly discourse coming out from a person whom I had earlier considered as mentally challenged and violent. He, then flipped a few pages and came across another ad with the caption “Tuti kahan kamand”. And this triggered another 10-15 minutes of a discourse connecting religion, with history and with literature. This too I could not understand and contextualize. But, this recognition of a person as just a fellow human being, though a bit different and idiosyncratic, was quite revealing. I now think that may be kids were told to keep away from him, because they may instigate the anger in him. I had been told about his episodes when he used to become uncontrollable and had to be restrained. But, this interaction with Afsar Mamoo made me aware of the particular world in which such people live and plausibly may be having a distinctive experience. Although, I would remain to be careful in the sense of not getting into his way, but I did not feel the same level of fear as before.  I would later to connect this experience with a similar fear of Scout about Boo Radley as described vividly in “To Kill a Mocking Bird” in the book by Harper E Lee.

Afsar mamoo would come later in 1973 and stay at our place in F-6/4 for a month or so during Salma Apa’s marriage where the entire family had gotten together. He was given my room (well, a room of about 10’x10′) adjoining the kitchen. He would always keep the door closed and closely guarded not allowing anyone to come in for even cleaning. When he left we found that there the entire wall was filled with miniature scribbling of strange writings or marks in an unknown language and undecipherable. They were definitely some symbols that would often repeat. These marks were made meticulously using the soot from diya (an oil lamp used in India and Nepal, usually made from clay, with a cotton wick dipped in ghee or vegetable oils). What did they signify and denote I know not. I asked my mother, who did manage to go in there for cleaning the room, but was not very forthcoming. Later, during late 1970s till his death Afsar Mamoo would be staying at Rauf Mamoo’s place in Jamshoro. It would then be the turn of Rauf Mamoo to take care of him. During my visit to Jamshoro in the 1980s I often saw him, but he was a recluse during those times and some times restrained.

From Fariha Ahmereen Shah, neice of Afsar Mamoo about her interactions of 1970s: “Taya Abba had a beautiful and inspiring way. What a great person he was, kind and loving. I think I was the favourite one of Afser Taya Abba. I used to read for him, sit and listen to his stories. I don’t remember them as I was too young during that time when he was staying with us in Jamshoro. He left to me his “pandan”, a small round one, which I used to like very much. He used to take medication from me and I used to serve him his lunch and dinners. I do remember and I am proud of this. I never saw him violent or angry at me. All my memories of Afser Taya Abba are good. I remember giving him massage on his head when he used to have headache. He used to call me his “gurrya”. “
During this visit to Abbotabad, I also had my first meeting with Shakil Bhai, who was nephew of Daud Khaloo and was living with him after the death of both father and mother in 1965. Later after the posting of Daud Khaloo to Kabul, Sardar Mamoo brought Shakil Bhai to his home for raising. Shakil Bhai’s younger brother Sohail was adopted by Rauf Mamoo, and their third brother Fuzail was taken up by his maternal grandmother in Landhi. When Sardar Mamoo was in Hyderabad in 1970s, Shakil Bhai eventually joined HBL. I distinctly remember in 1976 getting the thrill of his famous roller coaster ride on his cycle to Garikhata and then to his branch down the winding streets at breakneck speed while swerving and cutting across traffic of all sorts; tongas, gadha garis, buses, cars, motorcyles, cycles, jaywalking pedestrians, etc. Shakeel Bhai would eventually settle down in his own cozy house in North Karachi and would enable his two other brothers to settle down in their own respective houses in the vicinity. During late 1970s and early 1980s Shakeel Bhai would afflict me with his passion for cricket:

Important thing to note in pointing out this care of Afsar Mamoo and Shakeel Bhai by Sardar Mamoo is how relatives would come forward and volunteer to take responsibility for their family members during their times of difficulty. It is often hard and making two ends meet with meager resources puts other social pressures in such families. However, it was how this was done, in our families. The whole discourse of institutionalizing such children and then trying to bear the social costs and the financial costs of such institutions with their myriads of issues are the problems that have emanated when families have tried to shift this responsibility to philanthropic institutions.

Joharabad Plan

I was going over the old papers and came across a plan for the joint living project for the sisters and brothers of Sardar Mamoo in Joharabad in the land that got allotted to Sardar mamoo and Rauf Mamoo. I distinctly remember that time in the mid 1970s (19775-76?) when Sardar Mamoo, Rauf Mamoo, Khaloo Jan, Khala Jan, and my mother would sit together in our F6/4 residence preparing the plans for settling in the farmland of Joharabad. There were at least two or three long meetings. I had discovered a typewritten plan which is difficult to read because it is fourth or fifth carbon copy, but I would try to get this plan transcribed and put here. The time spent planning for that ideal place in the large farmland where all sisters and brothers would be living in a village like community that has their houses spread around in a circle around a huge tree in the center serving as a place to meet together and spend the leisure time. I recall the visualization of their life there and their imagination as they imagined and discussed various challenges and their solutions. The brothers and sisters in a huddle letting their imagination freely flow and developing a wonderful world of imagination and serenity. They had put down those plans on the paper. During those trying times for each of the brothers and sisters, this imaginary world of Joharabad farm acted as an energy that provided them support and strength to overcome their respective challenges. There were health issues, financial issues, resource issues, family issues for which this discussion would provide them an idealistic aspiration to aim for and not give up.

As I recall that time around 1975 when Sardar Mamoo had come to stay with us for a few days and was having this discussion about Joharabad plans with his brother and sisters. At that time Sardar Mamoo had retired and settled in Hyderabad in his house that was under construction at that time and remained in that state for more than a decade later. He was losing his eye sight and had most probably come to Islamabad for getting his eye checked [at Christian Hospital in Taxila? Need to verify this].

See also: Imagination during Hard Times

This was also the time when he and Rauf Mamoo both were chain smokers.Their brand of cigarette was of the hard kind popular on the front to kill the stress and remain up; King Stork. Sardar Mamoo would light the next cigarette from the previous one.  Sardar Mamoo would typically have two cigarettes in his hands; as he smoked one, the second would be in waiting to be lighted by the first one. When the first ended and was thrown away the second would become the lighted one, and another would be in his fingers in the waiting.  My duty in Islamabad was to keep their stock of cigarettes replenished by running to the nearby markets, and if the particular brand was not available then to cycle to Aabpara to replenish the stock.

Spinning Reels for Fishing 

Sardar Mamoo said that he had been told that there are some good spinning reels for fishing available in Saddar. As he needed assistance because of his eyesight, I accompanied him. It was a great day that I spent with him and with some great learning. He bought four fishing spinning reels from a sports shop across the road behind Ceros Cinema in Saddar, Rawalpindi. I still remember their huge cost. I could not appreciate the luxury of buying the four reels each costing Rs 400 apiece. Please note that this was the time, when the pension of my father was around 1200 rupees.

I wondered how did he fish if he could not see. He said that he would reach the fishing point  on the bank of Phuleli Canal assisted by some one and would get himself comfortable in that place. He had four fishing rods, each one distinguished from the other by a bell attached with a distinctive chime. Whenever, a fish will take the bait from one, he would know from the sound which of the rods is having the activity. He would pick up  that fishing rod and would then use his instincts and experience to bring in the fish. From this description, I could surmise that his fishing effort was more than just a hobby and contributed to meeting several objectives. One, it would provide an opportunity to meditate alone in the wilderness. This must have had something to do with his sufi ancestry from Fareedi/Hussami silsala. His grandfather (nan) Shah Abdul Shakoor’s tomb in Manikpur still has an annual anniversary (urs) today. Second, fishing provided some good nourishing food on the table during those hard times. And, third he wanted to take his minds off from the complex adjustment issues following his retirement, deteriorating eyesight, increasing responsibilities of children’s medical education, and increasing social pressures.

Qaza and Qaddar

I then got a great lesson in Qaza and Qadar from him. I don’t recall how the subject came up, but I remember asking how if everything is pre-determined and nothing moves without His command, then how does it make sense to hold accountable the man for his actions? He gave an explanation that I always recall, whenever I pass by that sports shop I have brooded over this explanation for decades and satisfied me enough during my younger days. He explained through an example. He said supposed it is predetermined that a man would have a life with all sorts of cars around him. He said that it is up to the man to realize this pre-determined destiny by becoming a policeman standing on the intersection while all types of cars pass by him, or he can become a big manufacturer of cars and all sorts of cars are rolling out of his assembly lines, or he can be a very rich person owning all sorts of cars or he can be a mechanic repairing all sorts of cars. The specific realization of the destiny is in the hands of the man himself.

Later when I would visit and stay at his place in Hirabad, Hyderabad, I would see his love for trees and plants blossoming in his garden that he tended with love and care. Another love that was common in the siblings especially Sardar Mamoo and the youngest Khala. Last time I met him was I think was during my trip of 1988 or 1990 (?). He had come from Hajj, and had left  his chain smoking abruptly and I think never went near the cigarettes again. It mid day and he was going to the mosque. I decided to go with him. When I reached the nearby mosque, I was surprised that we were early for prayers by about one and a half hours. He sat in the mosque doing azkar. I went for a stroll outside and to the nearby Kalhora tomb and came back well in time for prayers. He was spending a lot of time in the mosque and was going early and returning much later.

I was in USA when I got the news that he is suffering from cancer. Nani Jan and the family rented a coaster to visit him when he got critically ill.On May 17, 1992, he left for the hereafter. Inna Lillahe wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon.

From Munib (son) and Rabia Baji (daughter): 

Sharing about Shah Mubeen ur Rehman, their father and our Sardar Mamoo’s (maternal uncle) life. May Allah grant him and all the relatives who are not in this world with Jannah. Ameen

“During the little time I had with abba jan, what I noticed and now recall is that he had a very strong “tawakal alAllah”, a very strong trust in his kids, very strong patience, and no attraction towards worldly glitter and glamour. He could have opted for a very high profile life with high visibility and exuding power, specially during those days when he had all these things in his reach. But instead, he decided to lead a very simple, clean, and honest life. He never borrowed a penny from any one. A very strong believer in, and a practitioner of maxim to “live within your means”. He actually showed and taught this to his children. A very loving and caring husband, father, son, brother, senior, friend and what not. A lot can be said and written about him, but I am not sure if he would have liked it. He had that hidden spiritual personality that only his wife and kids have witnessed and can feel. May Allah give him the best of abodes in Jannah. All of us eight siblings, whatever we are today, it is because of him, his teachings, and his exemplary life. Our beloved ammi always standing besides him, and we have her continued duas today. Lucky for us to have such loving, caring, and exemplary parents. Shukr Alhamdolillah!” 

“Abba jan was a great man. He led a simple life, was very honest and loving. He believed in hard work and always advised us to work hard and leave the result to Allah. What we are is because of his vision and prayers. He used to advice us to offer tahajjud prayer and study early in the morning. Best father he was.” 

“May Allah bless him highest place in jannah. He was very brave, never complained of pain during his last days of illness. Night before he passed away he started reciting iman e muffasil and mujammil and told us to ask (late) Prof Ghulam Mustafa to offer his namaz e janaza, which prof sahab did. He was great. Masha Allah.”

From Shahnaz Bhabhi

Really he was so loving caring and humble person I have ever seen with such agreat sense of humour. once he said to ammi (your Good khala jaan) why are you walking like Taimur Lang (Lame)
خدا رحمت کرد ایں عاشقان پاک طینت را.

See Also: 

Family – Life 

Family – Parental Counseling 


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