Reflections of the Past: A Brief Autobiographical Note Salman Ahmed Shaikh My personal statement was adjudged as the best among the hundreds of them received by Fulbright office in 2010, I was told by two members of the interview panel when I was called for final PhD scholarship interview in September 2010. It was not down to my command on the language, I guess. It was perhaps down to the dramatic paths the various phases of my life had taken and the events which had appeared one after another in such a short span of time. Secondly, perhaps, it was down to the honesty with which I told the story of my life in that personal statement. Life is uncertain and may end at any moment, but one feels it that way despite of having diverse religious background or no religious background in this part of the world due to the current turbulent times and security threats to life and property faced by everyone nowadays. I consciously got my book out so early to ensure that if I become victim of the uncertain security situation, the work done and effort put in must be available for others to carry on with. Having completed an important phase in life and having the concern that I may not be able to tell this story in future, I allowed myself to write a brief note on the events and happenings I had experienced and been part of. The purpose is not to gain fame and be regarded as hero. I know my shortcomings and weaknesses and with them, it would be a great blessing of Allah only if He forgives me of my mistakes and sins. The purpose is also not to present myself as a role model. It is because we have the lives of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) in front of us in every detail and which is the perfect model to follow in every respect. Then, we also have the lives of pious companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) belonging to different tribes, nations, professions, creed and in both genders Who (may Allah be pleased with them all) have been excellent role models to follow for all of mankind then, now and forever. The purpose is to unfold a journey which I went through and whose only the brighter parts could help one get motivation, especially those who have known me before this in anyway personally and professionally and some details of the story could help us understand
our systems, subsystems and todayâ€™s society and its complex issues better. --On this day, seven years ago, it was the beginning of life in university for me. Now, seven years later, today, it is the beginning of an end as I start PhD. I am not looking too far ahead and not sure whether a rigorous PhD program spanning over 4-5 years with my current circumstances is a possibility or not, but, nevertheless, it is an important phase in life which begins today. Some people think that life in academics is not about practical things. This is completely bizarre. A theory is developed only after it is proven through facts. That is the case in all sciences, be they physical, natural, social and management sciences. The facts are nothing but representation of reality. The breadth of choice and independence one has to pursue any research area to develop its theory warrants innovativeness and exposure, not possible in every professional corporate job which eventually could make one redundant. Yes, there are professional, commercial and economic challenges one personally has to face in a non-academic career, but, they are to be faced by anyone anyway. However, the role of an entrepreneur is pivotal in any society, especially a developing one. But, it is unfortunate that not many university grads pursue to become one these days. I have had a very unique educational background. I have studied in Madarsa, a private school and then in an established public and private university. I was born in Karachi, but my schooling and college education was completed in Hyderabad which is 160 miles north of Karachi. I have been able to experience the diversity of our educational systems and it has exposed me to witness problems in all educational systems. Indeed, it was a unique experience as it rarely happens in this polarized society. My early childhood was filled with responsibilities. I was admitted into the Madarsa at the age of 8 years in 1993 where I learnt Quran by heart. When I had memorized one third of the Holy book, I struggled and for the next 6 months, I did not make any progress. Life seemed difficult then and there was no confidence. My father also asked me to leave it if I thought it was not doable by me. I kept on memorizing the earlier portion and after 6 months, got the go ahead to move forward
in memorizing the next parts of Quran from my teacher. The remaining two-third part of the Holy book took me just a year before I finally completed Hifz-e-Quran at the age of 13 years with the grace of Allah in 1997 and stood in Traweeh as reciter for the first time at the age of 14, Alhamdulillah. My parents took me out of school after passing 6th class for two years when I was in Madarsa. In 7th class after I got back to school, my age was 14 and half, height 5'7, not comfortable with uniform (trouser and shirt) and I was referred to as uncle by some as I was coming from Madarsa after a break in studies of two years. Having no background of English and Maths fresh in mind, I used to memorize Maths. In the same class, the English teacher praised the way I performed in the subject of English despite the break in studies. It was back in 1998, the chairs in computer lab in school were too small for me to sit on them. I am left-handed and chairs had no provision for such ability at that time in school. The tutor only allowed us to play some very old two-dimensional computer games. We had a video game shop in family and this class was not attractive at all. With my tall height, I had to sit on the last seat. But, that remained the place to be for me in all academic years afterwards. Almost, no teacher called me by my name in school and college, all used to call me â€˜Hafiz Sahabâ€™ instead. The fellow students with whom I used to be in class before I went for a two-year gap in studies due to Hifz-e-Quran, were two years senior than me in 1998 when I returned to school. All were co-operative, but there was distanced relationship, partly due to my shy and principled nature. I never ask for help until absolutely necessary. Some of them did show concern and encouraged me that I could still make a comeback and clear secondary school. Once, two students of that class were asked by the principal to come in our class and maintain order and discipline in our junior class. I stood silent and was always disciplined. Who knows what life can unfold in future. Last year, in 2010, there was one student in my MBA class who was one class senior than me in school. When I came back from Hifz after 2 years, I was sitting with students much younger than me. I didn't ask my father to get me promoted. That student was not just a class fellow, I was his teacher. He is a competent fellow and pursuing another degree in his career after his technical education in another discipline and became my student partly because I started teaching at very young age. But, in the same class, there was another girl student
who in respect wrote ‘yours daughter’ in salutation in an e-mail once. Perhaps, the PhD has taken its toll even before it started. Now, I have lost some hair too and those remaining are getting grey by every day. When I got back to school, I achieved 3rd position in the first exams I took. It surprised many of the teachers that I was away for two years and studied many things for the first time and performed very well. Even at the very early age, I wanted purpose in my life. I don’t remember if I had ever complained about education and studies. In 6 years of university life, I was hardly absent on any day. From my pocket money of Rs 5 in 1996, I used to buy a ticky pack of biscuit for Rs 3 and a short story book for Rs 2. From the shop I bought those books; I think that perhaps most of his stock of story books was bought by me alone, but from time to time. I used to read them again and again before the cricket matches just to let time pass easily. I had always been very fond of cricket, in fact, the matches I have seen in last 20 years, almost every match is fresh in mind and some of the records and history I have is a rare statistic. I seldom got top ranks in school, but I was always there and thereabout. I got 2nd position at least seven times in my school but never got the 1st position. But, I never used to hide my intent and wish to get the 1st position among my classmates. In school, I was my own mentor, regulator and motivator. I got 1st position eventually for the first time in school in my last school exams! I was in ninth class when I went to perform Hajj. The rule at that time was that one needed to give at least 2 papers in a year of examination from current class so as to be able to give remaining papers along with papers of the next class in one attempt. When flight dates for Hajj were coming, my family sent a special request for delay of our flight dates to Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf - then, the Chief Executive of the country and President -. He accepted the request as we got the flight dates delayed. But, then, the exam dates also got delayed. Fortunately, my second paper was just a night before I had to go for Hajj. If I had not been able to take that, I will have lost another year and perhaps, I would have left studies after that. Next year, in 2002, I attempted 8 papers, 3 extra from the ninth class and achieved 81 percent marks in matriculation exams. In one of the papers, I mistook the paper timings and came in late by about 45 minutes. I completed secondary school at the age of 18 years in 2002.
By that time, I had Alhamdulillah, stood and recited Holy Quran four times in Traweeh prayers. The school where I studied had a monthly fee of Rs 200 in the year 2000. That was not long ago and if we compare it today (in 2011), in Rs 200, we may not get a Rickshaw to reach school or any place which is more than 10 miles away! I got a 25 percent fee waiver in college for achieving distinction in matriculation exams. The monthly tuition fee was Rs 600 in 2002. I started participating in competitions and achieved 1st prize in a quiz competition on “History of Computers” held at KIIT in 2002. I also achieved a special prize in a debate competition in 1st year of college in 2003. I came to Karachi to pursue higher education in 2004. I could not get into IBA, but cleared the aptitude test for Bahria University. When I appeared for interview at Bahria, I was asked many questions by the panellists who were teachers of great calibre. When I came out after interview, I saw that there was a mention on the note the head of Department had given to his clerk in which “Excellent” was written. Coming from an underdeveloped city to a metropolitan was another different experience in my life and career. The embedded self responsibility and self regulation in my nature helped me to overcome the challenges that I had to face. I had to do every thing for myself like cooking, washing and maintaining my health and keeping me motivated and focused on studies after all. University education provided me an excellent platform to study and do research. I was able to adjust quickly to the semester system and objective evaluation methods. I achieved a GPA of 3.67 in my first semester and maintained it throughout. In later half of my undergraduate studies at Bahria, I played a very active role in Bahria Economic Forum. I was the editor of the Bahria Economic Journal and contributed with a research paper in its 1st issue. I also participated as speaker and as organizer in various events and seminars at Bahria. I also submitted research papers to Szabist (Karachi), COMSATS (Lahore) and International Islamic University, Islamabad back then. I remember that in spring of 2006, I participated in an advertising competition at Bahria. The audience had some naughty fellows who booed me and made it impossible for me to speak and present my piece. Speaking English was a bit unnatural for me despite having scored 106 (out of 120 marks) in ToEFL later on in 2008. But, I kept on describing my ad and eventually, I was awarded a third prize. I was
also asked many a times to recite verses of Holy Quran in events at Bahria and I used to select verses appropriate for the occasion and time and recited with translation in Urdu and English. I got late in formal studies, but had strong interest to read advance books on literature, philosophy and religion, since as early as in 7th grade. I wrote books for Ghazanfar Academy Publishers with an objective to provide affordable and simpler texts to the local undergraduate students. With same purpose in mind, I also started teaching at Hyderabad at comparatively four times less pay, but with the reason in mind that for others like me who could not migrate for higher studies in better universities, I shall come forward and bridge the gap as much as possible. I also wrote a book “Industries of Pakistan” for National Book Foundation for which I was awarded a commendation certificate. One of my teachers used to tell about me in the class “Often students are known by their institutions but, sometimes institutions are known through some of their students.” I never resorted to cheating and plagiarism for private benefits. I had always given topmost priority to honesty. I was away from school for two years when I was in Madarsa; I could have got admission in higher classes if I had paid my fees for two years. But, I chose to get admission in 7th grade from where I left off. I had to sit with students who were younger than me, but I always took it positively. In fact, I took this opportunity to impart good values and habits in them. They respected me and it made me ever more responsible. I have always been open to diversity in ideas, culture and society. I have the habit of accepting something different in favour of rejecting some of my former views if anyone could prove them wrong. I have always maintained that issues should be resolved through intellectual reasoning. During under-graduation, I provided private tuitions while going to the places on foot back in 2005. Then, I also taught in a coaching institute in 2007. During the same time, I wrote 8 books which were solution manuals of textbooks for BCOM/MCOM students. The offer of writing solution manuals came from a publisher in July 2006. In that job interview, I had a pen in front pocket whose ink leaked and I was wearing a solid white color shirt. On the same day, I gave another interview in accounts based organization. I got accepted at both places on the same day.
Did the job in Accounts for Rs 6,000 per month for fulltime in summer of 2006 and then for Rs 3,000 for part-time with studies. During that summer, I remember that due to heavy rains, it took me about two hours consistently to reach home from office in public transport. In summer of 2007, I did internships in Citibank and ABN AMRO and did not use the stipend and never pursued a conventional banking career despite having done an extended internship in Treasury department of Citibank which was regarded as the best place to start a career from for a finance graduate. I received a special letter of recognition from the treasury department head on my work as an internee in 2007. During the stay at Karachi, I had to do cooking, washing, cleaning home and spent 3 years with tin sheet as a roof and had to go out to university to avoid heat in summer even if there was no class. I remember that sometimes there was so much dust in my house and I did not get time to clean my room, so I used sleepers always to move around in my room in dusty summers. That affected my eyes a great deal. I rented a room on the roof of a house with just barely a plaster and incomplete cemented flooring. There were some days I spent without water and electricity because there was no time to fix the problem. I had to travel to Hyderabad back and forth every week and it took away 12 hours from me every week. While in Karachi, whenever, I got good grades, better GPA or any other significant achievement, I used to give myself treat. On such days, I would allow myself to eat better food and leave studies for the day. When I first came to Karachi in 2004, I did not have cell phone. I used to go to PCO to call my family. In one minute, I would repeat the rhetorical sentences, hear out few from family members and that was it. The PCO owner once said that if I will get customers like you, I will soon have to close the shop. If somebody tells him now that my favorite subject was and is â€˜Economicsâ€™, he will have no doubt in believing it. Sometimes, when there was no money change, he would forgo the Rs 3 charged for the call. Talking of food, well, it was a problem. I never liked eating from outside. My mother tirelessly had to prepare food for me. Later, I
asked her to prepare ‘roti’ as well. On some days, the ‘roti’ was so stiff in refrigerator that it was cut in pieces when I used to hold it a little carelessly. Sometimes, I had to add some drops of water to make it eatable and I ate it, ate it and ate it for seven years and still counting. I never spoiled the food until it was absolutely necessary; this is the way my parents brought me up and it is the case generally in our society and I was no exception. I never bogged down, never gave up and never thought I won't make it, got graduation with Honor Cum Laude (got GPA of more than 3.6) and secured 1st position in my MS. But, the lift I needed with scholarship for PhD did not happen. But, I feel very satisfied that I never led my circumstances come in my way to do the job I was supposed to do. I never cheated in all my 18 academic years. I remember I was going to Hajj when I was in 9th class. I had to just go after taking my 2nd final subject exam, when the invigilator got to know, he offered all sorts of help, but I refused. After coming from Hajj, I had to take practical exam for chemistry. Usually, they ask to write the summary of one of the practical exercises. I had memorized three. He knew that I came from Hajj, he said: “do any two” and went out of the room. I was alone in the room and did the ones I had memorized and I didn't look at my practical book. After 1st year exam in the college, one responsible person in college administration asked me to share the cost of buying a position in annual college exam. The college was new and they wanted positions to grow, I refused and my friend who was given the same offer also refused. When results came, I got only 69% and was not even asked by the college administration as to what happened and why I got low marks. The friend with his integrity got better marks and he was at least praised and given recognition despite him also turning down the offer. In the final result after second year exam, I got a better percentage than all three of the fellow students in the same league who were above me in grades in the first year. In final year college exams, the invigilator who was my teacher incidentally, came to me and told me that my answer is wrong, he turned over the question paper and solved the question in the right way. I told him that I know other questions as well and I have choices and can attempt them, but I will not since I could not identify the mistake myself.
At Bahria, I remember, I could not do an exercise on my own in an assignment, so only did the parts I knew and never cheated and still got the good marks from the teacher. In a financial management course at Bahria, once a lady teacher asked how many marks I got in a quiz, I could not get maximum marks and was perhaps the only one to not get maximum marks in that easy quiz. She was not going to look back into the papers and was only relying on my answer to fill the marks sheet. I told teacher the exact marks which I got which surprised the teacher. I was given full marks by the teacher just for telling the truth. Once in a budgeting course, I got very low marks. The fellow students and the teacher were amazed to know the marks. I did not complain and never went to the teacher for additional marks. The teacher in next class came and told that there were many students who got better marks than me who came for additional marks request, but, I, having found no reason to complain and request for additional marks, did not go to him for additional marks. He then told in class, that he gave me some grace marks himself despite of no request from me. Once in a computer programming course, I got lowest marks in class in Midterm exam despite having done the best in class work and having some background in programming. I was, in fact, helping class mates understand the subject who were having problems. At that time, I was disappointed, in fact, complained with the teacher as well as to why I got such low marks. But, then, I took that as challenge and got almost maximum marks in terminal exam to achieve a grade of B+ (more than 80 marks out of 100) in that course. When I started off under-graduation in 2004, I was very shy in presentations and achieved low marks in them initially. Later on, I could come with a smiling face and had no problem in making everyone in the audience listen to what I was speaking. One of the best economics teachers I got an opportunity to learn with, once said in class that he will complain about me to the Head of Department. He said that he was going to tell the head of Department that he was hired for giving lectures, but answering my queries was another added task altogether. It had been an absolute honor and privilege to have such comments and regards from people I so much admire and looked up to. At Szabist, passing marks in MS were 80 for each course and in tense situation, in one of the courses; I left a question in exam accidentally
which had five marks. I informed the teacher that I had to get this much marks to qualify in the course. The teacher had earlier given his cell number to all students. Despite the delicate situation, I never contacted him again before the result in person or through call. When result came, I got exactly 80 marks, no more no less. In another course at Szabist, I was present in all classes punctually and in the last class in which there was final exam, I got late by one hour. The reason was that I did not have ID card. When I phoned the university, they allowed no exception to entry without ID card. It is because they may have experienced people to misrepresent in such cases. But, I was not and never did in such matters. I did not want to tell a lie and use someone elseâ€™s ID. My two friends offered their ID cards, but I went to home, got the ID cards, got late and then came one hour late for the exam. I forgot the calculator as well in that paper and still did not ask for it from others. Fortunately, I cleared that exam too. In final presentation of Independent Study I did as part of MS requirement at Szabist, I was scheduled to come as a third last presenter. My slides were not opening in the PC at room. I was going downstairs again and again after every break to fix the problem but to no avail. When I came back from the second unsuccessful attempt, I was called in for presentation and that was well before my scheduled time which was allotted to me. My supervisor was more enthusiastic than me on the kind and nature of work I was able to do. In the whole time before presentation, he kept talking about it to people he met before seminar started. When president of the university came in, my supervisor urged me to come for presentation immediately, facilitated also by the fact that the room chair (evaluator and referee) had to go before scheduled ending time. I could hear my supervisor talking to the president about the quality of the work and paper before I started the presentation. I knew the power point slides were not working, but tried to deliver whatever I could recall. The president sat on the chair where I had the hard copy of my slides. So, I also could not look at the hard copy of slides. Since the presentation did not go the impressive way I and my supervisor had expected and wanted. He got a little excited to jump in to answer for me. He did it all in good faith. It might have prompted some to think that it was perhaps he, who did that research work and not me. Since the supervisor could not resist because he knew (and he alone in the room) the hard work I had put in that research work and
which could not be presented there by me in the same manner, he tried to answer himself the questions posed at me. Since he tried to break in, the room chair asked later questions in slow voice and fast speed from me. I had already been through some series of unfortunate events and could not understand some of the questions on spot and the room chair was also not able to give me more time to answer because it could have started a debate between the three with me only having all to lose. My supervisor spoke for me, he did it in good faith, but it did not help my cause as I could have given the answer myself if I was given the chance to speak. I was left to think whether after all that I did, will I be able to even pass the line or not. Fortunately, I did get the passing grade in that research work. There were many such stories, I was not perfect though, but I was upright and courageous on such occasions, Alhamdulillah. When I applied for MS at Szabist, one lady in the interview panel asked me that why I was looking to apply for MS leading to PhD at such a young age. Interestingly, only six years back, I had only done secondary school at the age of 18 years, much later than the normal average age of 15-16. I was short listed for Fulbright Scholarship interview in 2008. About 1,200 people applied for the Scholarship, 150 were short listed. My strength was my writing. My personal statement was original, relevant, brief; but comprehensive and touching. I got a normal GRE score with 640 in Maths and 530 in English. But, I think I was called in for my writing skills. I went for interview in Bus to Islamabad and spent the night wandering on roads when there was a bomb blast in Marriot in September 2008. But, I was hopeful that I had a chance to build Pakistan if I got this scholarship. The U.S interviewers were biased in my opinion, I felt at that time. I felt that after looking at my beard, they were giving impressions like they were not interested. They did not give me much chance to speak. I was asked to write an essay on spot on extremism which they evaluated before calling me in the room. I briefly mentioned my Madarsa background. They took this point and the interview became more of an FBI interrogation than a scholarship interview.
Overall, they asked me about religion about which I had mainly studied in Urdu and Arabic. Suddenly having to talk on such abstract, technical issues in front of an audience that was not wiling to wait for answers or understand the technical jargon which required giving me some time to speak was difficult to cope up with. Unfortunately, I was not fluent as I could not have been at that time. I went to Islamabad for the first time. It took me a full day of traveling and a night full of wandering at Rawalpindi / Islamabad around Daewoo Bus Stop. I was not sure that interview will go on after blast. I thought that 15 minutes were never enough to judge a person. All literary and research miracles are in writing. In speaking, it is difficult to express all views especially if they are abstract, complex and having to talk on them suddenly and in a language in which you write, but don’t speak much is a very difficult thing to expect. I could not get the scholarship. Based on my initial feelings, I sent a letter of protest to Fulbright office. Ten months later, I realized that my refusal could have many other reasons than the ones I had earlier analyzed. I apologized to Fulbright office in another letter which I sent ten months later. Then, when I applied the next year, I was again short listed for final interview. It proved that if I had been discriminated against, I should not have been selected again. It was in that interview in which two PhDs in the panel told me that my personal statement was the best they received that year. Perhaps, due to my lack of background in Economics, I again lost the scholarship award and then never thought of scholarship again and moved on with life. I do not want to give the impression that I was always serious and into books and studies. I have had great fun in academic life and have always been like that. I think there is a funny part to everything in life. Recalling the past, I would share a few light experiences as well. In a business communication class, the teacher gave a class assignment to give imitated speech of Martin Luther’s famous “I have a dream…” speech. Students were coming one after another; but, no one could generate the same energy like Sir Martin Luther. It was impossible to do so as we had absolutely nothing to relate with it suddenly when asked. It was also almost impossible to look at the copy of the speech and generate the same enthusiasm Sir Martin Luther generated with facial expressions and body movement.
The teacher said to every participant that we were not been able to create the same energy and feeling Sir Martin Luther exhibited. Knowing this is a complex task, I came on my turn. I knew it was almost impossible to look at the copy of the speech and generate the same enthusiasm which Sir Martin Luther generated. I adopted the strategy of using teasingly long pauses and in these pauses, I gave performance like an established actor showing grief, somberness, thumping desk and yelling. The pauses and actor-like performance finally satisfied teacher to some extent, but, he and others knowing the artificial nature of it all, laughed so loud and for so long that we were unable to continue class after it on that day. In another instance, I was called in by the teacher to present a specific case study on WTO. I had not read the transcript before. I came and repeated a few lines from the question and then started some general talk on the issue in a very serious manner. Then, I started relating it to Pakistan and finally got the crowd to erupt and clapping madly with emotional comments. The teacher understanding the reality behind the general content delivery also smiled. In yet another instance, once, there was an economics teacher who had interest in poetry. Sometimes, he uttered verse of a poem and since usually they were very common poems, I used to complete the other verse for him. He thought that I also had good interest in poetry. It went on and on. One day, he uttered a pretty difficult verse and looked at me and said ‘irshad’, ‘irshad’ (complete it, complete it). The verse was describing a very light idea about nature. Having no idea of what the next verse was, I uttered some famous and very serious and revolutionary verses of Allama Iqbal. It made the teacher and class laugh for long and finally the teacher came to know in an interesting manner how much poetry I had learnt. In 2008, while passing out from Bahria after BBA, I gave interview at Bank Alfalah with CFO being the part of the interview panel. In fact, he was the main interviewer. I knew I will get the job because CFO was personally impressed with me in that meeting. He said all your research and social objectives will come to end once we take you and you start your career in branch banking. I said I will carry it all along my life without hoping for any reward and recognition. Since I do not have any material objectives for my research and social endeavors, why should I stop on my journey? He
said impressive twice! But I didn’t show any sign of pleasure. I thought at that time and still believe that if I am right in my pursuits, I do not need confirmation from others to tell me that I am right! In that meeting, I told him that Einstein once said that Newton was great and he was a man of great stature, but I am standing on his shoulder. CFO said not everyone is or can be Einstein. I said: “Not everyone thinks of becoming Einstein either.” Such exuberance dwindled in my personality and I got some maturity, but all of it, I realize now, is always useful as long as one stays focused and motivated and compliment it with actions, hard work and efforts and not with smart words and gimmicks only. Later on, I got calls from both Bank Alfalah and Meezan Bank. But, I joined Meezan Bank. I got the job at Meezan Bank in 2008 on my 24th birth day. Felt so much pleased. I had to move from one branch to another branch on rotation for the next 6 months. I had reservations with Islamic Finance. I highlighted them in training sessions and was recommended by all trainers for posting in Head Office. It took time and on the same day, I got the offer letter both as a regular officer in branch and few hours later, also received transfer letter to Head Office. This happened thrice in life, two job offers on the same day! On another occasion, I got offer to teach in two institutes of Hyderabad on the same day in Ramzan of 2009. The branch manager in Meezan bank felt very happy while giving me the transfer letter for head office and said that he feels happy that he was my first line manager in my career after I got this first formal job at an Islamic bank. I resigned from Meezan Bank in April 2010 due to special circumstances. I had nothing after that, lost bonus, lost job and all that happened when I had to defend my Mphil Thesis in few days time. When I left Meezan Bank, I got several offers from abroad to write others’ thesis for money. Offers in aggregate were worth USD 5,000. When I resigned from Meezan and with no job, I got similar offers from Hamdard university MS students. Needed money then desperately, but I refused. I was able with the grace of Allah to complete MS from Szabist securing 1st position in the batch. Then, became an External Reviewer for Bankers’ Academy, USA and research analyst at Reuters. I got my book published on Islamic Economics and it was sold both in Pakistan and overseas. I got an opportunity to teach at Szabist, PAF KIET,
Biztek, University of East and HIAST Institute. I supervised 11 MBA theses to date and one Independent Study and Thesis at MS level, perhaps one of the youngest to do so at the age of 26 in universities I remained part of. In June 2011, the first batch of my Thesis students had their final presentation. I thought I shall go, but, I could not go to see the presentation. But, as my students told me that after receiving my motivational SMS just before it began, they gave a very good presentation and all of them were applauded much more than others. After post-graduation, I got the honor to teach in a 3rd ranked university of Pakistan. Even if I could not have recited Holy Quran in Traweeh, I listened as Samaâ€™i (a sort of referee) for my cousin and after a gap of 7 years, Alhamdulillah; Allah enabled me to stand again in Traweeh to recite Quran in Ramzan of 2011. Back in 1999 and 2000, I recited Quran in Traweeh at a prayer place in a market. Inayat Khan, a known poet and professor, gave a sermon on the last day of Traweeh and encouraged me to learn Arabic which I still could not come to grips with. In 2002, I could not recite when my father had heart attack and I had to spend time at our shop as well. In 2003, Alhamdulillah, I got the opportunity to recite in Masjid. Alhamdulillah, Allah blessed me more than I deserved. Teaching at various places in Karachi and Hyderabad now for the last 2 years. My observation is that a student needs to waste less time in figuring out what the teacher doesn't know & spend more time on what could he/she learn from the teacher's knowledge. Adopting 1st way, one will gain nothing but excuses in life. Until education beyond monetary opportunities gains significance & pursued as an end in itself, we are long way away from progress. Monetary benefits will definitely come, but one should pursue education not thinking about it. If a field matching aptitude is selected, excellence will be achieved and it will be rewarding in financial terms too. Now, I have conducted various guest speaker sessions on my book and on various economic issues at Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi and also invited at Naval Academy for a lecture. A part of my research was aired on Dunya TV channel in October 2010 and I also spoke in a TV program on Business Plus TV in February 2011. I got an offer from a US publisher to write second book along with an Australian Professor. I became referee to a foreign journal and then became member of
editorial panel of the only journal on Islamic Finance published from Pakistan. My papers were also cited in at least 5 published research papers both in Pakistan and abroad. I got more than two dozen articles published in at least 8 different magazines, both in Pakistan and other parts of the world. I was invited by SBP Islamic Banking Department Head to discuss my book and I discussed with him my views and research on Islamic Economics. More than 300 people from all over the world have now subscribed the mailing list at my website www.islamiceconomics.viviti.com to receive updated research articles I write. Now, I have written 18 papers and collectively received close to 5,000 downloads at various research repositories. Several of the papers repeatedly appeared in top 10 list in the various categories at SSRN. In two famous research repositories, namely REPEC and SSRN, I am among the top 3% authors registered with the repository from all over the world in just more than a yearâ€™s time. I was ranked 3rd in Top Authors list from Pakistan in January & February 2010 at Econ Papers & MPRA. More than 1,000 e-mails had been received on my research from mainstream scholars, professionals and students. In February 2011, in International Conference on Islamic Banking & Finance at Riphah International University at Islamabad, I was able to present my paper in front of the scholars from whose books I have learnt and acquired knowledge over the years and whose works I have cited in my book. Recently, 2 Abstracts of my 2 papers were accepted for International Doha Conference. It is the biggest conference of them all in Islamic Economics. Pioneers and the greatest Islamic economists had participated in last 7 conferences. When first came to Karachi, I applied to IBA - the top business school of the province and second ranked business school of the country and got refused for admission in BBA. Seven years later, 95 candidates applied at IBA including me for MS and PhD in Economics. On the eve of IBA PhD test, I found out that they offer scholarship plus teaching fellowship. I could have showed them GRE International result and avoided test. It was hard luck as I could not see the detailed information before available on their website. My GRE International score was 740 out of 800 in Quantitative section. IBA required just a score of 650. I didn't know that. I could have showed it and got exemption. I got 740 points one year before in GRE after a lot of hard work and focused approach. Things were different
one year later. Tired mind, limited availability of light in nights, hectic office work and plenty of classes to teach and had rusty mathematical skills. For preparation, I had 4 days. In them, my cell was snatched, had fever, city was bleeding, had to experience 2 hours of load shedding twice after 6 PM when I returned from office. Further, I had to teach two classes. To add more confusion and panic, I was going to the wrong campus and just looked at the right campus hours before the test and it was at Abul Hasan Isphahani Road, the dangerous place to be there in those days and times as far as the security is concerned. I left all preparation on the eve of test and was depending on just all the past work. Fortunately, I cleared the test. In IBA Interview for PhD, my Maths, Stats & Economics was challenged & was challenged pretty hard. I stood firm, tried to give all the answers I could, but did give wrong answers to few. But, stood firm, tried my best and they acknowledged my interest and willingness and then, they asked me to go outside, wait for 5 minutes, then called me in and said, we can't offer you PhD. But, they took me as provisional candidate for PhD after a meeting and final interview with Dr. Ishrat Hussain â€“ Former Governor, State Bank of Pakistan - and asked me to do 3 courses and then I was told that I will be taken as a regular PhD candidate. Out of 95 applicants at IBA, I topped the final merit list with highest points! I also applied for PIDE PhD Program. Journey started on Friday in mid July 2011. I couldn't get Daewoo Bus for Lahore, waited on their stand till 3 AM. I went with other bus after Fajr prayers, 25 hours journey and straight into PIDE Test. Gave test after 37 hours of travel. One of the most difficult tests I ever gave. People from formal background in Maths, Economics and Stats participated. In Faisal Mosque, I stood & was consoling myself in the evening and preparing myself for the bad news; but, I got the phone call after Maghrib that I had cleared the test. Gave PIDE final Interview a day after.11 people were selected for it. My lack of Background in Maths, Stats & Economics came in way. There was little hope in that. But, I got selected for PIDE, Islamabad for PhD. This was perhaps best ever achievement after Hifz-ul-Quran. It was only made possible by Allah, Who gave enough will to travel for 37 hrs, give toughest test where specialist in Maths, Stats and Economics competed.
7 years back, I stepped in Karachi blank and with most innocuous personality and shortcomings in doing the very basic things for myself. I couldn't achieve much in wealth; but achieved everything that there is to achieve if I think another way. Still travel by public transport and very early in career and have not cemented and established myself. But, I only want to say that if I could do it with what I was and how I was feeling and thinking 15 years back, then everything can happen. My former Madarsa background, having not come through O/A level stream of education, having not studied in the usually best regarded schools/colleges, having not originally lived in a more developed city, having lived alone with usual problems one has to face in such circumstances, having lost some early years in Education and other such likewise situations have not come in my way to pursue my goals, career and research interests. All virtual university lectures are available online, textbooks can be freely downloaded, several research sites have up to date research on any field available freely, and lectures of Nobel laureates are available very easily. MIT course syllabus with handouts & slides is available freely. Financial calculators, Accounting software etc all are available free of any cost and pursuit of education is now much easier and such hindrances of past, real or perceived are not significant anymore. What prompted me to research in Islamic Economics is the objective to present Islam as a coherent, logical, rational and comprehensive socio-economic system which has answers to all contemporary economic and other social problems of today and tomorrow. The goal had been to clear minds about Islam and its teachings before looking to influence actions and prevailing systems. Hence, the focus is more on silent research for answers on current and potential critique on Islamic teachings. Having said that, my research interest also has a very sound applied focus. But, in proposing any change in the prevailing system, I have not left away the ethical precepts of Islam, even if they become a hurdle in allowing my research work to become mainstream thought. Even academic laurels can also be achieved in writing what is mainstream thought and defending it. But, I have decided to follow the truth even if in this pursuit, I remain all alone. Few minor shortcomings in printing the book taught me that no one, no thing and no work can be perfect. If this effort was accepted by Allah, then it was all worth it, else accolades and wealth can be achieved in doing other things than research with a non-commercial and novel perspective and mostly self funding it.
May Allah forgive my sins and enable us all to live our lives in accordance with His will. May He enable us to contribute in Nusrat-eDeen. May Allah enabled me to always and everywhere speak out that there is nothing more true a fact than this one: Allah is the sole creator of all this universe and before Him we will be answerable for all our explicit and hidden actions and intentions on the judgment day. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my parents and grandmother for their support right throughout my life. I would also like to thank my teachers especially Qari Khalil Ur Rehman (Senior Faculty, Jamia Dar-ul-Uloom, Hyderabad) and Qari Sher Ali Khan (Senior Faculty, Jamia Dar-ul-Uloom, Hyderabad), Mr. Mansoor (Senior Faculty, City Foundation High School, Hyderabad), Mr. Shakeel (Senior Faculty, Saifee College, Hyderabad), Mr. Akbar Saeed (Associate Professor, Bahria University), Mr. Naveed M. Khan (Head of Department, Management Sciences, Bahria University), Mr. Ehsan Shaikh (Senior Faculty, Bahria University), Mr. Khalid Khawar (Professor, Bahria University), Mr. Salman A. Khan (Associate Professor, Bahria University), Mr. Wajid Hanfi (Senior Faculty, Bahria University), Mr. Ahsan Hussain (Professor, Szabist, Karachi), Dr. Amanat Ali Jalbani (Dean, Szabist, Karachi), Mr. Shan Saeed (Head of External Affairs, Biztek, Karachi) and Mr. Faysal Abdullah (CEO, BMC Pakistan & Senior Faculty, Szabist, Karachi). I would also like to thank Dr. Khalid Zaheer (Dean, University of Central Punjab), Dr. Muhammad Nadeem Hanif (Additional Director, Research Department, State Bank of Pakistan), Dr. Asad Zaman (Professor, International Islamic University) and Dr. Muhammad Nejat Ullah Siddiqui - who is one of the pioneer researchers in Islamic Economics - for their valuable comments and suggestions as well as answering some of my queries diligently. As I look back, I can hardly imagine the huge role and importance of teachers, especially those, who taught us in school. Huge contribution in success of everyone they taught. Some of our teachers are definitely not as responsible as others. But, there were many others who have had an immense impact on me and my class mates. Few months back, I went to Bahria University. I was able to shake hands with my teachers. Everyone remembered even though I've long beard now. Even watchman remembered in front of whom I said to my father that I couldn't live in Karachi and let us take Pay Order back if
possible. Thankfully, the watchman replied, â€œno it would have been processed if you had submitted it a week backâ€?! A great teacher can convert a childish dream into a serious target; he/she can raise the bar for the students. My teachers raised the bar for me big time. It had been a long and exciting journey. There's nothing bigger than respect. If someone is called in a ceremony, then, comments there can be artificial. But, on that day, I came unannounced and got great comments and that reignited me. May Allah enable me to be like them. Most definitely, there were failures on the way and there could be in future too. But, I've also learnt that once time passes, we'll only remember good memories, not bad memories. I tried to think about any failures, there were, but couldn't remember them. There's a reason why people are not given any certificate/award/medal for failures. It is to let them forget failures in life. What makes a person successful is whether he/she finds a meaningful purpose in life and is committed to pursue it with passion or not. This pursuit could be professional advancement, material advancement, social endeavors, inventions, research, artistic work etc. Whatever it is, if a person is committed to it, finds interest in it, and pursues it with passion and does not feel burdened with it, then, that defines a successful life. Fortunately, as Muslims, if we look at the real responsibility and task ahead of us, then, everyone, from every gender, creed, region, profession and having any circumstance in life has the perfect and complete chance to be successful in the eyes of our Creator. With request for remembering in prayers, Salman September 06, 2011