The Late Professor Mushtaq Hasan
By Dr Sulaiman B. Hasan
The Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) once said: If you guarantee me six things on your part, I will guarantee you Paradise: i) speak the truth when you talk, ii) keep a promise when you make it, iii) when you are trusted with something, fulfill your trust, iv) avoid sexual immorality, v) lower your gaze in modesty, and vi) restrain your hands from injustice.( Al Tirmidhi, Hadith 1260)
I am here to celebrate the life of a man who lived up to all of these expectations that the great prophet had of his followers. While I do not recall whether my father, the late Professor Mushtaq Hasan, ever mentioned these principles, I do know, however, that he was intensely aware of his obligations as a role model for his junior colleagues and the younger generation, for whom he reserved the greater part of his mentoring.
I had never known him to lie; he had usually ‘looked it up’. If he did not know the answer to a question, he would not give one until he had looked it up and confirmed its veracity or authenticity. He was also widely known for his intellectual integrity within his profession. He was visibly uneasy whenever he felt that he had not kept a promise which he had made and considering it like a hot ball in his hands, would make every effort to fulfill it. You could trust him completely.
More than anyone else, his patients were aware of this personality trait – almost his defining characteristic - the best. He would not order a test or write a prescription until he had given his patient a full hearing and a thorough physical examination. In case he referred a patient for surgery, he expected to receive a full account from the surgeon so that he knew the outcome and documented it in his own records. He maintained meticulous records, even in his private practice to ensure that he did not miss anything major in the patient’s history. He was obviously motivated and driven by the fact that the patient had entrusted him with his life.
My father was a very handsome man, always meticulously dressed, with his hands manicured to perfection at all times. I knew that women found him attractive and many I believe propositioned him as well. He, however, always restrained himself and never crossed the line of decency, propriety or professional ethics. He was known to look at the ground when he walked, and would look up only when directly addressed.
He was also an intensely fair person and would bend over backwards to prevent any injustice or harm accruing to anyone. Often while conducting professional examinations, if he found any examinee to be nervous, he would make a conscious effort to relax them by offering a drink or some other gesture to ease them. He practiced medicine for several decades. Apart from the innumerable people he examined regularly, many of Pakistan’s rich, powerful and famous had been his patients, with several of them being his friends as well.
He, however, enjoyed and sought most the company of educated and intellectually superior persons, and if anyone, particularly one of his students, wrote a book he fell in love with them instantaneously. As is now commonly known, many of his former students have made major contributions to the medical science around the world. Although he was proud of that fact, he never seemed to claim any part of the credit for himself. He consistently maintained a high regard for academicians and teachers belonging to all disciplines.
On a personal level, he loved music - but it had to be classical music alone. He owned a large collection of vinyl records all in superb condition. Very little of the popular varieties of the more recent music interested him and almost all of these originated from our part of the world. My father could not even comprehend my liking for rock n roll music. He used to enjoy going to the movie theatres when these existed, but watched very little television. He was not drawn to sports much although he did play tennis and liked to swim in his younger days.
My father loved children . All the children in our extended family adored him, perhaps because they felt the love coming from him. Many of these children are now in their 40’s and 50’s, but none has forgotten his affection.
He was a great father. We didn’t see a lot of him because he worked from morning till night. But we knew that he was looking out for us. Very early on, he and our mother had instilled the idea that success was going to be through hard work and the acquisition of knowledge. There wasn’t going to be a huge inheritance coming our way and even if there was, it would be of little benefit. We were repeatedly informed that for centuries, our ancestors were people of knowledge and worked hard for a living and the two of us, Zeba and I, were to be no different. He gave excellent advice. After high school, he arranged to have me work in an accountant’s office. When he saw that I hated numbers, he let me choose medicine, but never forced me. When I graduated, he advised me to specialize in a field which would require least dependence on others, e.g., medicine, ophthalmology, plastic surgery, etc. I did the exact opposite. Although I am still excited about what I do, in objective terms,
I would have been better off following his advice. He always gave me all the credit for doing well, although I know I couldn’t have done it if I had had a lesser father.
He loved Pakistan with a passion. He often recalled how he had been in the front rows of the crowd when the Pakistan Resolution was passed in Lahore in 1940. He thought the world of Mr. Jinnah and would describe with fascination and reverence, every direct observation he had had of him and all of his sayings and speeches.
He took up teaching early, in 1948, when he taught Pharmacology, pathology and Medicine at Dow Medical College, when many of the Hindu professors had migrated to India. He knew that the future was with the young. He also knew (as did Jinnah) that the future was with people of all faiths and ethnic origins. This was evidenced in the spectrum of his friends, which included people of all possible religions and ethnicities, here and around the world. Till the very end, he couldn’t accept how we had let this beautiful land go the way it had. He had certainly given it his best.
To conclude, Allah gave my father more than 91 years to live. I believe that he lived them well. He pursued excellence and gave much more than he took. He would have been happier if he had left it better than when he had found it, but then, he had done his part. He taught me, his students taught me, and now my son Saad tells me that one of his anatomy professors at Cornell Medical School keeps asking about his Dada, who had taught him medicine.
His Dada has returned to his creator. Inna lillahe wa inna ilaihe rajeoun. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
(The above is Dr Sulamian Hasan’s eulogy at a memorial meeting held at Dow University of Health Sciences held in February this year. Dr. Hasan is a practicing Cardiovascular-Thoracic surgeon, Charleston, West Virginia, and Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery, West Virginia University)