Guardian Angels in Shahida’s World
By C. Naseer Ahmad
Washington, DC

Shahida and her guardian angels

Countless times during the day believers recite: “All Praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Worlds - (The Opening 1:2)” Shahida’s world was a wonderful world that existed not long ago.
This story is not just about the person of Shahida Aziz but all those people who have proved to be living and breathing angels existing in human form on this planet we call the Earth. Shahida Aziz was a name given to herself by a girl born 51 years ago as Amtul Basir Aziz. She existed in a body deformed by polio very early in her childhood that left her paralyzed. She learned how to walk again and was then stricken by scoliosis. One of these diseases also took away her lung and a better half of the other lung. As she got better and learned how to drive and traveled overseas, an operation to correct the spinal curvature left her paralyzed again and confined to a wheel chair for twenty years. Ironically, she died on Veterans (or Armistice) Day November 11, 2005 on a Friday just as the Jumma prayers were to start.
“If I had been paralyzed for so long, I would have committed suicide,” said Col Mohammad Miskeen, one of her guardian angels – who visited her every Friday to ensure that no one bothered her. But even if Col Miskeen would not appear on the scene Shahida could hold her own with a commanding demeanor and artful use of the telephone. Though her body finally succumbed to the constant battles with disease, nothing could quench her feisty spirit.
In his condolence message to Shahida’s family, Mr. Mowahid Hussain Shah, advisor to Punjab Chief minister noted her “remarkable courage in the face of adversity.”

Shahida Aziz saving her meal for the birds

Some would see her physically challenged and agonized life as retribution from God for her sins or those of her parents or ancestors. But, those would be the unfortunate ones paralyzed by their own human shortcomings such as ignorance, hate and prejudice. Or it could be they worship an angry and a petulant God.
In “As you Like It”, William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances”. Nobody could have scripted Shahida’s final acts and exit better that the Maker who created Shakespeare himself.
A few days before her exit, Shahida gave away most of her medical supplies to Dr. Mohammad Nazir, Assistant Professor King Edward Medical College, Lahore, to be donated to indigent patients. Dr. Nazir, like many other doctors, made house calls for Shahida and was reluctant to accept these supplies. Some time in the recent past, she also gave away all the cash she had to her friend Dr. Kauser – to feed the needy, after her departure.
Her phonebook showed a busy life with a lot of names and numbers. Pages 17 and 19, like other pages had names of friends and relatives but on Page 18 of her phonebook there was only the following unusual entry: “My sweet Lord, I want to be withu. Please let it b.” It appeared to be written by a soul at peace for there was neither a complaint nor a note of despair. And, for such souls it has been said: “O, thou Soul at peace! Return to thy Lord, thou well pleased with Him and He well pleased with thee. So enter thou among My chosen servants. And enter thee my Garden - (The Dawn: 27-30). ”
Here on earth her garden was full of beautiful flowers and about 35 species of birds – which she recently recorded in one of her emails. She saved a part of her every meal to feed the birds.
“Now who will tell me about that flower? Maybe that flower is also sad today, as there is no one to praise it. But I am sure, you will let all those beautiful flowers in her garden to express how much they loved her, how they cherished her, how they represented her colors of life,” wrote Najam Sehar – one of Shahida’s email pals and guardian angels from Australia.
The emails and Internet chats with her friends and relatives spread in many continents across the globe were about love and best wishes for each person that communicated with this woman, with barely 4th grade education. Her economy and abbreviations of words enabled her to communicate effectively with people of diverse backgrounds and ages. Her zest for life enabled her to get several heads of states to sign her book at the Organization of Islamic States Conference in 1974 in Lahore. It was also evident from her artwork, her interest in music, drama and lively conversations.
How could a woman with so many physical problems survive for so long in Pakistan, where her parents and her - pillar of support – sister died and none of her siblings lived? It was the guardian angels in human form that made Shahida’s world go around. It was her uncle Haleem-ud-din, who left everything and attended her needs day and night. It was her father’s cousin Group Captain Rashid Chaudhry, a widower, who altered his daily routine by first checking on how Shahida was doing. It was her neighbor Mrs. Baig, who would bring her something from the kitchen almost every day. It was her friend Shireen, who would keep her secrets and vice versa. It was Dr. Saadia, Abida - her nurse and Shazia – her companion and family friend from Sindh. It was Chacha Aslam – her driving instructor and Walter Nathaniel – her father’s colleague. And, so on.
It is human to ask, why do tragedies happen to good people? But, if one dwells on that thought too long, one can easily get lost. But, when you witness all the care for a disabled person, you are witnessing the best of humanity. To see Dr. Sajjad Husain, Principal of the Post Medical Graduate Institute, along with his wife, make a house call and visit a disabled person, reflect the angels in the couple. To hear from Dr. Kaukab, a mother of two children and a wife of a busy executive engineer, “I wish we could have been better neighbors”, who once made two house calls in one night is very humbling and awesome.
As it has been said in Ecclesiastes: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die.” So Shahida’s passing away should not be a reason for mourning but to thank the Lord for the time shared in her extraordinary world.
Believers know that “He is Allah, the Creator. The Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names (Exile: 59:24). Among those names is “Basir - the One who sees well everything revealed or concealed.” He alone could have created Amtul Basir – otherwise known as Shahida – and all the good angels in her wonderful world. And, as believers, to Him we belong and to Him we shall return – “Inna lillahe wa inna elahey rajeoon!”



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.