FAMILY OF THE HEART - its FOUNDER AND
A REVIEW BY DR SEHBA ALI
I grew up in Lucknow, India, where people of all
faiths and cultures lived together in friendship,
peace and harmony. We looked forward to each other's
festivals and celebrated them together with equal
enthusiasm. Even in 1947 when our country was torn
apart, no animosity or violence was experienced in
After marriage, I moved to the Western world where
my husband worked for the United Nations, we mixed
with international community and shared each other's
cultural programs and National Days.
After retirement, we wanted to live in a place where
we could continue the life style we were used to. We
decided to divide our time between Lucknow, India,
and Toronto and Ottawa, Canada. In four decades of
our moving around, we found Canada to be the most
civilized country in the Western world and Toronto
was twice judged to be the best metropolis to live
in by the United Nations . An added attraction in
Toronto was my youngest sister
Reshma who is very
helpful to us in our "Senior Moments". We did find
Toronto a safe, peaceful and comfortable place to
live in but we were disappointed to find that there
was very little interaction in the international
communities although the government provides
facilities and encourages mixing of diverse groups
through their Departments of Immigration and
Multiculturalism. Coming from Lucknow, the most
unexpected experience was to find that there was
hardly any interaction between Hindus and Muslims
and the Muslim community itself was badly divided.
We also encountered a new breed of Muslims who have
added a "Sixth Rukn " to their version of Islam and
which is: "Intolerance of everybody different" which
is actually un-Islamic. Unfortunately, this new
breed of Muslims is multiplying and spreading
everywhere now. In this climate of irrationality and
animosity, we started missing the composite culture
of Lucknow and our cosmopolitan life-style of
London, Geneva and Washington D.C., our previous
As we expressed our disappointments aloud,
we were consoled by the information that there
existed an organization called
"Family of the Heart"
(FOTH) where we may find congenial company. The
words "Family"and "Heart", both felt comforting. The
word family is associated with unconditional love,
abiding care, mutual understanding and emotional
security and the word heart is a metaphor for so
many beautiful emotions such as : love, kindness,
sincerity, generosity and compassion. The discovery
of this group felt like finding an oasis in the
We learned that the founder of this group was
Khalid Sohail – a multi-faceted personality. He is a
psychotherapist by profession and also a poet,
writer, social worker and organizer of cultural,
literary and other programs of common interest. He
has two dozen books to his credit in English and
Urdu and a Master's thesis on him written by an
Indian student in Delhi. He calls himself a "Secular
Humanist" and a " Dervesh" . In a nutshell, he is "
L'enfent Terrible" of Pakistani community in Toronto
- Much admired, much criticized.
Family of the Heart (FOTH) is a group of creative
people like poets, writers, journalists, scientists,
educationists, doctors, artists, musicians, and free
thinkers from all walks of life . They regularly
meet to share their creations as well as their
knowledge in various disciplines and freely express
their opinions , sometime contradictory, on a host
of contemporary issues such as world peace,
international politics, religion, environment,
health, sexual orientation, education etc. "
endeavors to foster a climate in which a healthy
exchange of ideas can flourish to enhance our
understanding of the world around us through an open
forum and a genuine spirit of inquiry, dialogue and
debate." In today's climate of fanaticism,
intolerance and war-mongering, peace -loving,
rational and thinking people need to express
themselves freely and find congenial company to keep
Family of the Heart provides them
with this platform.
FOTH organizes monthly meetings to hold: Seminars
and lecture series on contemporary issues Literary
events on poetry, fiction and essays Music evenings
and: There is an annual picnic on a farm owned by a
gracious member of FOTH,
Mr. Zahid Lodi.
Last month, on September 8, FOTH organized a
delightful literary evening to celebrate the 80th
birthday of the renowned poet,
Hamayat Ali "Shaer".
On the same occasion, his talented son, a FOTH
Dr. Baland Iqbal's latest book :"
Ikyavan Kahaniyan" was also released. Dr. Baland
Iqbal is a Physician, writer, social worker and
media journalist - another multi-faceted
The coordinator of
FOTH activities is
Salahuddin, an energetic and efficient man who is a
computer wizard. He is also a voluntary photographer
for the group who works all night after the programs
to have the photographs ready for the members'
viewing the very next morning.
Mr. and Mrs. Rafiq Sultan is also very dedicated hard
working members of FOTH.
At the last picnic, on
September 14, FOTH released
an anthology of the writings of some of its members
which was published on the tenth anniversary of FOTH
by GREENZONE PUBLISHING in Canada. It consists of
217 pages , has a good get up and costs CDN $20.00.
The deep red colour and the design of the cover page
which has the name of the book In a heart-shaped
frame, are very appropriate and meaningful:
Everybody has a heart and the colour of everybody's
blood is red! Mr. Shahid Shafiq is credited for this
innovative creation. The binding of the book could be
Page 1 of the book has a message from
Chand Narang, the recipient of Padam Shri and Padam
Bhushan awards from the government of India and "
Sitara - e - Imtiaz "from the government of
Pakistan, for his scholarship and outstanding
service to Urdu language and literature. In his
message, he said : "
Family of the Heart is a
unique organization devoted to values of human
brotherhood, secularism and social justice. Life is
more adventurous than any adventure on earth one can
imagine. It is the most beautiful gift of God, but
there are people who are bent upon ruining this adventure. The present volume presents selected
writings of some sane writers, artists and poets in
this insane world. They are committed to the cause
of freedom, love, tolerance and spirit of enquiry.
The ideals of FOTH deserve to be commended by all."
The contents of the book are divided into three
Part One. - Poems
Part Two - Essays.
Part Three - Stories.
Altogether, there are 39 pieces of writing which
cover a broad spectrum of topics such as : Language,
literature, art, science, philosophy, religion,
politics, social injustice, immigrant-experience and
Here is a small at random sample of some of the
writings: Ms. Fakiha Baig in her essay : " Women and
Education ", emphasizing the importance of education
for women says : " As a woman brought up in a
Western culture I've got power that only education
Power to speak ...hear...see...believe in...become
...what I wanted to. However this freedom would not
have happened if I hadn't been brought up in this
Western culture." I fully agree with Ms. Fakiha
Baig on the importance of education for women,
however, I do not agree that only Western culture
gives women the education and the powers she has
talked about. She is talking from her personal
experience and my personal experience is very
different from her. I grew up in a liberal Sufi
family of freedom fighters in India where Western
culture was despised until we attained freedom from
the colonizers. But education for women was always
valued and women, never exposed to western culture,
achieved high levels of education and became
university professors, doctors, lawyers and writers.
They enjoyed all the freedoms which Ms Baig
associates with the Western culture only.
The same is true of many other families I personally
know. Whereas in the Western world not every woman
has higher education and all the freedoms. It is not
too long ago that Western women were granted equal
rights and freedoms. So it is a matter of time
rather than culture.Let's take the right to vote,
French women got it in 1944, Italians in 1945, Swiss
in 1971, Pakistanis in 1947 and Indian women in
1950.There is no denying that, on the whole, Eastern
women are less educated and free to choose but it is
a complex issue. Centuries old colonization has
caused so much damage that it will take long to
"The Next Stage of Human Evolution" by
Khalid Sohail is an extract from his book with the same name. Dr.
Sohail, a supporter of the theory of Evolution,
points to some differences between the humans and
the less evolved species, animals and then suggests
that among humans also, there are individuals,
communities, cultures and countries which are less
evolved than others. He professes that more evolved
humans have three characteristics (the 3Cs) :
1. Critical Thinking,
2. Creative Imagination and
3. Compassionate Heart.
Thus, suggesting that humans continue to go through
stages of evolution.
Mr. Munir Pervez Sami's
philosophical essay: "Verum, Ipsum, Factum"(
Truth itself is constructed - a principle first
presented by an Italian philosopher, Giambatista
Vico) is a review of Dr. Khalid Sohail's book: "The
Next Stage of Human Evolution". The title of Mr.
Sami's essay refers to the recurring principle in
Dr. Sohail's writings - the discovery of "Truth"
behind the evolution of the human mind. Mr. Saami's
essay alludes to the theory of Creation thus
reviving the age-old controversy "Creation" or "
"Language" is a very thought provoking article by
Sain Sucha whose real name is Mushtaq Ahmad and
whose curriculum vita is as unusual as his pen name.
In his essay, he points to a serious flaw in the
Language Policy of Pakistan. He says : " Pakistan
has one national, one official and one religious
language: Urdu, English and Arabic. None of the
three has anything to do with the indigenous people.
For the 98% of the inhabitants' mother tongue is
Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Kashmiri, Gujrati
or one of the other tongues but not Urdu, English or
Arabic." He argues that: " the enforcement of these
non-indigenous languages has created the greatest
hindrance in the mental development of the nation."
This allegation may sound too harsh and be
unacceptable to many laymen so a psycholinguist's
expertise has been sought to explain that a child
should be given the basic education in his/her
mother-tongue-a language he/she hears and imitates
from the infancy. If the language in school is
different from the language spoken at home, it can
cause confusion in the young minds, thus, affecting
a child's mental growth as well as learning ability.
in such cases, the proficiency in one of the two
languages and sometime in both languages suffers.
The solution to this problem could be that the other
language, the national language should be introduced
after a child has mastered his mother tongue and
his/her mind has developed enough to keep the two
languages apart without confusion. Mr. sain Sucha's
essay is fascinating and educating.
Ms. Farzana Hassan in her bold Essay: "Muslims,
Quran and the 21st Century", points to
certain teachings of the Qoran she does not find
relevant to the modern world whereas,
Karamali, in his essay: " Relevance of the Quran in
the 21st Century" finds the Quran to be extremely
relevant in the modern world.
Mr. Shahid Akhtar, an expert on conflict resolution,
in his essay: " impact of conflict on our lives"
presents a NEW approach to resolving conflicts and
gives some tips to make the conflict resolution
process a positive and productive experience which
adds value to life rather than diminish it.
Sheikh in "Being blessed by Being Broken" talks of
stages of spiritual development. He supports his
thesis by giving the example of Maulana Rumi who
attained spiritual growth following with each
heartbreak.He wrote his monumental " Masnavi" after
the deaths of two of his best friends: Shams and
"Mohammad Iqbal and his Women" is
translation of Dr. Sohail's Urdu essay: " " Allama
Iqbal Ek Mehbooba,teen Beewian, Chaar Shadian."
Which is a psychoanalysis of the great poet's
Shiraz Noor's provocative title: "Philosophy and
Divine Law: Unhappy Marriage or Illicit Affair" is a
hard reading discussing the twelfth-century Muslim
philosopher Averroes'" Book of the Decisive
Treatise, Determining the Relationship between the
Law and Wisdom".
Abu al-Walid Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Rushd, commonly
known as Ibn Rushd 's Latinized name was Averroes .
He was a Moroccan Muslim born in Spain in 1126 and
died in 1198. Ibn Rushd contended that the claims of
many Muslim theologians that philosophers were
outside the field of Islam had no base in the
Scripture. His novel exegesis of seminal Quranic
verses made the case for three "Valid paths" of
arriving at religious truths and that' philosophy
was one. Therefore, it's study should not be
In his "Decisive Treatise", he examined the alleged
tension between philosophy and religion and
challenged the anti-philosophical sentiments within
the Sunni tradition sparked by al Ghazali. This
critique ignited a similar re-examination within the
Christian tradition influencing a line of scholars
who would come to be identified as the "Averroes's".
He also came to be known as the founding father of
secular thought in Western Europe.
There are other essays, each exploring a different
field. Some stories in the end of the book have a
close look and expose some ignored aspects of our
Now a glimpse of some poems in the book:
Mr. Abrar Hassan, in his beautiful poem: "
Nameless", asks a question: "Why must I be
Zohra Zuberi in her poem: "
Hyphenated Canadians" asks: "Am I a
Canadian-Pakistani or a Pakistani-Canadian?" And
Mr. Satyapal Anand (of Washington D.C.), in his poem:
"Limits of Acceptance" presents a dialogue between
Buddha and his disciple, Bhiksu Anand, on the limits
of acceptance in alms. "Accept whatever is given to
you in alms" says Buddha. " And if a woman is
offered in alms?" asks Anand.Find the answers to all
the above questions in the book yourself. It would
be more fun.