Whenever a natural calamity or man-made disaster hit Pakistan, Dr Asif Mahmood Jah and his devoted teams of Customs Health Care Society reached the affected areas without wasting any time and helped the helpless people by providing them basic necessities of life and medical assistance. He played a role in rehabilitation of homeless people and did relief work for the Internally Displace Persons (IDPs) of Bannu and Waziristan, including those of other regions. He wrote 20 books and got Sitara-e-Imtiaz for his contribution as a social worker, writer, author and philanthropist. However, his services were not confined to Pakistan; he felt the agony of Syrian refugees and decided to go to Turkey to help them.

His book (travelogue) “Syria, Turkey, Refugees and Service” points out every aspect of the tragedy of the Syrian refugees and the facilities being provided by Turkey to the homeless Syrians.

In the beginning of the book, Dr Asif Jah describes the unprecedented devastation and destruction which Syria faced due to the proxy war of the major powers. It was the worst humanitarian crisis, which resulted into martyrdom of millions of Syrians. The tragedy compelled millions of Syrians to flee the country amid heavy bombing and gunfire, which destroyed their homes.

Quoting sources, the author says that an estimated 15 million people have been affected by the Syrian civil war and almost similar number compelled to leave the country. A vast majority of Syrian refugees lives in various Islamic countries in refugee camps. Turkey hosts the largest number of registered Syrian refugees – approximately four million.

It is mentionable before going to Turkey, filled with grief and sorrow, Dr Asif Jah had collected donations and dispatched relief packages for Syrian refugees settled in Turkey in the end of 2017. He wrote that his children Yumna, Hazaifa, Mahnoor and his wife Asma, who helped him in writing this book, assisted him in preparing relief packages and gifts like special dresses for women. Despite this, he was not satisfied. Hence, filled with enthusiasm and a sense of strong sympathy, he set aside human limitations and official engagements as a government officer in April 2018 and left for Turkey along with a devoted team.

A thorough study of the book shows that Dr Asif Jah not only provided Syrian refugees relief goods and monetary help, but also described their plight and Turkey’s support to them. For this purpose, the author visited various refugee camps in Turkey and provided all necessities of life, including gifts, to them. His selfless aid reached almost all war-affected Syrians, including women, children and the elderly. In some cases, packets of relief items and gifts were urgently packed with the cooperation of his wife. Special gifts were also given to Syrian children. The author also visited orphanages and distributed goods and money to children living there.

In the book, Dr Asif Mahmood Jah admired the role of Turkish NGO Yardim Foundation, which is conducting welfare activities for deserving Muslims all over the world. He also contacted the office of the Foundation whose top officials assured him that they are ready to work with the Customs Health Care Society.

During his interaction with Syrian refugees, general public, intellectuals and dignitaries, Dr Asif Jah came to know that as compared to other countries where these helpless people live Turkey has provided them all facilities which Turkish citizens enjoy. According to him, it reminded him the migration of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers from Makkah to Madina.

Besides, the author discussed every city and place of Turkey in historical perspective. Dr Waqar Badshah, who speaks Turkish language, guided him on each occasion. During his visit to various cities such as Istanbul (Old name Constantinople), Urfa, Konya and Bursa, Dr Asif Jah covered all dimensions of ancient buildings, castles, monuments, mosques, churches, residences, museums, bazaars, graveyards and streets constructed by the Byzantine emperors and Turkey’s Ottoman emperors. He mentioned the ancient places of the Roman Empire in a comprehensive manner, while depicting architecture of buildings of various cities and towns from every possible angle. He also wrote short history of these places.

Istanbul was his focus of attention, as he mentioned Blue Mosque, Underground Basilica Cistern, the Ancient Orient Museum, Topkapi Palace, Home of the Turkey’s Sultans, Grand Bazaar, Galata Tower, the Hagia Sophia, etc. in an amazing way.

He paid much attention to the tomb and mosque of Abu Ayyub Ansari who was a close companion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). After the conquest of the Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, a tomb was constructed above Abu Ayyub’s grave and a mosque was built in his honour.

Another key attention of the author was Sultan Muhamm Al-Fateh who conquered the Constantinople in 1453, as early wars failed in ending the Byzantine emperorship. Al-Fateh changed the name of the city to Istanbul.

During his trip to Urfa city, besides indicating other places, Dr Asif Jah particularly gave importance to the Harran Museum, which has remained the centre of teaching and learning since the ancient times. He has also pointed out Jihad of the Prophet Abraham (PBUH) against the evil empire of King Nimrud and indicated that Harran is the place where the Prophet Abraham (PBUH) spent several years. Among the archaeological finds is the oldest Islamic university, as the author indicated.

He also met the Governor of Urfa and wrote that unlike Pakistan, there is no protocol even for the governor and he has small staff. Upon reaching Konya city, its historical places and spirituality can be felt when the author visited the tomb of Maulana Rumi -- a renowned mystic, an Islamic scholar and a Persian poet.

Regarding hospitality, wherever the author went, he was warmly welcomed by the Turkish concerned dignitaries and the people, which had proved that Turkey and its citizens have matchless love and extraordinary attachment with Pakistanis.

Dr Asif Jah opined in the book that in the leadership of President Tayyip Erdogan Turkey has paid all foreign loans and made progress. It has become a model of imitation for other Muslim countries. He requested various NGOs of the Muslim countries to cooperate with one another not only for welfare of the needy, but also for creation of unity among the Islamic countries.

Without any prejudice, the book narrates various civilizations, including those of the Armenians. Apart from old places, the book illustrates the modern Turkey, its buildings, roads, hotels, restaurants etc. It also gives awareness about Turkey’s industries and business activities which have played a key role in development of the country.

While describing Turkey’s old and modern culture, the author elaborates that Turkish people wear both European and Turkish dresses. He mentions their food, marriages etc. in a vivid style. He writes that there is no VIP culture in Turkey and people have discipline in ways of life, which can be seen on their roads where there is no traffic jam.

The author clarified, “The basic aim of this book is to give awareness about the affected people of Syria. In such a critical situation, it is the duty of the Islamic world to help Syrians.”

The author has drawn the picture of every visited city and its important places, and related-history in such a way that one can easily understand the local surroundings of Turkey’s cities, culture and old and new traditional values.  As regards observation power of the author, readers can note that starting from Lahore to Istanbul and returning from Istanbul to Lahore, he has also described the system of immigration and Custom clearance of the passengers, including taxi drivers. In these terms, the book will be a guide for tourists who want to visit Turkey.

 

Title:        Shaam, Turkey, Hijrat aur KHIDMAT

Author:      Dr Asif Mahmood Jah (Sitara-e-Imitiaz)

Pages:        231

Publisher:  UMT Press, Johar Town, Lahore