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Caravan of Knowledge

Last night Shahid and I were guests of Javaid Syed at his table for a fundraiser for Karwan-e-Ilm ( which translates to Caravan of Knowledge), a non-profit organization dedicated to educating needy students for higher education in Pakistan. It is one of many others founded by Pakistani-Americans who want to help the country that got them educated and started on their journey to a good life in United States. I loved how one of the organizers called it “lightening the debt of the land” or “mitti ka qars” in Urdu. For so many who got educated as doctors and engineers in Pakistan, and were able to sail right into the upper middle class in the United States, it is an obligation to pay back the country that got them started, in addition to the many causes that they support in their adopted country. While I got all my higher studies done here, starting in high school, I am very impressed by their loyalty and generosity.

Karawan-e-Ilm has produced thousands of doctors, hundreds of engineers and associate engineers and hundreds of Masters Degree students. On our table we saw profiles of students seeking scholarships which was so sweet as it put a face to the organization which helped it raise $35000 just last night, and a similar amount in Toronto just last week!

I even remember that back in the early 70’s, my husband and a few friends founded the Society for Education in Pakistan, and my father Mohammed Farooq, who was posted back in the Foreign Service in Islamabad, became the local contact. We would adopt school children and receive their photo and bios. Meetings used to be held in our 1-bedroom apartment in the Bronx! It is good to see the tradition continue and the fundraisers getting to be larger and more productive events. In fact, last night we were treated to the amazing talent of Pakistani Violinist Ustad Ahmed Raees Khan. He mesmerized us all with his wide range of genres that he could play and the way he played the violin was heart melting. He transferred the human emotions in songs into the violin strings and we were moved and swaying as one as he played ghazals, geets, Bollywood songs and kawalis. My samdhan Fauzia Syed of course was humming along next to me in her own beautiful voice, and was amazed at the range of tones Raees Khan could produce on the violin. The dueling performances of violin and tabla – performed by our popular and talented Imran Sagar- were captivating as both instruments outperformed each other in these gifted artists’ hands.

There are so many such causes, such as Development in Literacy (, for whom my friend Fauzia Iqbal used to host fundraisers at her own personal expense, and which has opened hundreds of girls’ schools in Pakistan; The Citizens Foundation, Human Development Foundation, and many, many more if we looked at all the emigrants in US, UK, Australia, Canada, etc. Obviously, most Pakistanis migrated to the English Commonwealth countries, as we were a British colony until 1947. Other emigrants might go to France, if they had been occupied and indoctrinated in language and culture by that colonial power. And that reminds us how the “developing” countries continue to fail in massively upgrading their educational systems and rebuilding institutions. One of my grand-uncles used to say that when you destroy the language and culture of a nation, that nation can never succeed as its social fabric is broken. A question I always ask is if societies are torn apart by colonialism how do you rebuild again without bloody revolutions, such as in China? Colonialism is no excuse for the state of affairs and at the same time, the West’s lack of acknowledgement and support for recovering from slavery and colonialism is noteworthy too in terms of its empires’ legacy. In the meantime, Muslims should continue to use their zakat (2.5% of one’s wealth and savings mandated to be given to the needy) money for worthy causes here and abroad, and it was wonderful to be at yet another such event celebrating generosity and talent- both- right before the month of giving Ramadan which starts in a week or so.

About this website


– Educating Children – Empowering Communities

Developments in Literacy (DIL) educates and empowers underprivileged students, especially girls, by operating student-centered model schools; and provides high-quality professional development to teachers and principals across Pakistan.

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