Hakim Mohammed Said A profile of Choices, Challenges and Commitments

Life is love, Life is service

By. Lily Anne D’Silva

Many terms can be applied to Hakim Mohammed Said that can best describe his character and personality, terms like friend, author, bibliophile, idealist, innovator, physician, industrialist, world traveller,  philanthropist  and patriot etc.  but none more applicable than visionary and realist.

Every man has a dream, a vision. For some, the vision is prompted by the self and tends be egocentric. For others, it is prompted by the heart and tends to be philanthropic. Each man strives to attain his vision in his own way and marches to the beat of his own drum. The vision of Hakim Mohammed Said was a vision of the heart, but what was it that made him different from other dreamers or visionaries? What motivational force inspired him and drove him on relentlessly to turn a vision into reality? It was his sense and belief of a tryst with destiny. He believed firmly that he had something to do, something to give and a way to give it. He adopted the Shavian philosophy as a direction for his life: “Some men see things as they are and say, why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” He essayed all things corresponding to his multi-faceted personality, ministering to the sick and physically impaired, reading, writing, publishing, collecting books, travelling, as a social reformer, innovator and industrialist. But the heart of his humanitarian mission lay in the world of children, child development and human development through education. His life became like a river, flowing in ceaseless endeavor for God and man.

Realizing that education is the human environmental issue of the age, because of its enormous impact and influence on our economic prospects, not to mention our personal happiness and fulfillment and moral strength, he established a “heartland of education” in a desert land of scrub and sand. This is why his dream city — Madinat al-Hikmah, city of education science, and culture — fast became a reality. This is why an institution — the Hamdard Foundation Pakistan — is committed to building bridges of friendship throughout the world, by promoting encounters among men of learning of the East and the West. This is why the Hamdard Public School, Hamdard University, Bait al-Hikmah, vocational training centers and youth centers have been or are being built at Madinat al-Hikmah. The gap between the vision and the reality is gradually narrowing down and hopefully, within a decade, Madinat al-Hikmah in full bloom will be a lasting testament of Hakim Mohammed Said’s service to the people of Pakistan.

Hakim Mohammed Said’s life had been distinguished and shaped by choices, challenges and commitments. As a child, he took delight in the magical years of childhood. At 13, he came to crossroads in life when he was confronted with choices — To study or not to study for a profession, to pursue a hedonistic life by virtue of wealth, or a life of study and labour.  His father, Hakim Abdul Majeed, and his elder brother, Hakeem Abdul Hameed at Delhi, had dedicated themselves to a life of service to the people and the practice of medicine. Fortunately, family values and family traditions triumphed and the young Said chose to follow in his father and brother’s footsteps in rendering service to humanity through practicing the healing art. Mindful of Aristotle’s dictum that to become an able man in any profession, three things are necessary— nature, study and practice, the young Mohammed Said applied himself diligently to his studies. Having graduated with honours from the Ayurvedic and Unani Medicine College, Delhi, he practiced medicine to such a degree that he soon became well known. At the same time, under the guidance of his brother, Hakeem Abdul Hameed, he learned the processes of manufacturing medicines.

Then came the momentous year of 1947, when the sub-continent was split into two nations: India and Pakistan. For many, this phenomenon spelt a change of place and lifestyle. For Hakim Mohammed Said too, it presented a choice and challenge. Should he move to pastures new and establish Hamdard in the newborn land of Pakistan? Or, should he remain in Delhi? He was aware of the blood, sweat, toil and tears that would be spent in the establishment, but he made the choice, and faced the challenge, such as pioneers face in starting afresh in an unknown place.

The early years in Pakistan were agony, without its ecstasy. Lack of material and financial resources, trials and tribulations weighed him down. But with supreme trust in God and confidence in his own abilities and endurance, he laid the foundations of Hamdard firmly in Pakistan, Pakistan was then in the throes of emerging and taking its place in the comity of nations The echoes of its bloody birth still reverberated. The raison d’etre f its existence, the ideals of its founder Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, had yet to be demonstrated to the world. The years that followed were fruitful years into which were poured struggles, hard work, and sacrifices of Hakim Mohammed Said and his colleagues. Hamdard took root firmly in Pakistan and became a household word. Anchored to a firm base through the pharmaceutical industry, Hakim Said now broadened his horizons.

Aware that we live in a global village where interaction and inter-dependency are a reality, he set up the Hamdard Foundation Pakistan and commissioned it to build bridges of friendship and goodwill throughout the world, by promoting encounters through meetings and conferences among men of wisdom and learning of the East and the West. 

A series of activities were initiated through the years — moral and cultural movements such as Awaz-i-Akhlaq,  Sham-i-Hamdard, national and international  conferences  in co-operation with UNESCO and WHO, publications on science, history, law, religion, biographies, travelogues, house journals like Hamdard-i-Sehat, Hamdard Medicus, Hamdard Islamicus and UNESCO’s Payami, hosting visits of national and international delegations, and taking Pakistan’s message of peace and brotherhood to the countries which he visited. These have contributed immensely to nation building and the recognition of Pakistan in the international community of scholars.  The slogan he made popular through publicity, displays and hoardings, Love Pakistan, Build Pakistan, reflected his deep passion for Pakistan in which he wanted all people to share.

The second challenge lay in the revival and recognition of Unani  (traditional or alternative) medicine in Pakistan, in the sub-continent and in the world, as well as in the development of the indigenous pharmaceutical industry. Under the imperial rule, the Unani system of medicine was almost proscribed on the ground of it being unscientific and obsolete. This gave the vantage to the Western system of medicine, which was beyond the reach of the masses. Little or no research or investigation was undertaken in the traditional system of medicine. Hakim Mohammed Said, realizing the truth of Dr. Samuel Waksman’s words, ‘The cures of all of man’s illnesses are under our feet and around us. God put them there. It is up to science to identify and apply them’, made the revival and recognition of the Unani (Greco-Arab) system of medicine, the central point of his work in Pakistan.  The result of the struggle was that Unani Medicine by virtue of it being safe, reliable, effective and affordable has come to be the most popular form of treatment in the country. From modest beginnings, with a hired room and furniture and second-hand copper equipment in 1948, the Hamdard pharmaceutical industry has grown to a formidable workforce including hakims, doctors, scientists, pharmacists, chemists and workers. Introduction of fully automated processes in the manufacture of medicines has updated and modernized the pharmaceutical industry. Hakim Mohammed Said joined the campaign of efforts to get the traditional medicine recognized internationally and by the World Health Organization. The campaign has borne fruit. WHO has given recognition and an official status to regional, ethnic and alternative medicine, under one nomenclature viz. Traditional Medicine.

Having opened a window on the world, he turned to another challenge: i.e. the problem of illiteracy. He tackled it through philanthropy in education, because he believed firmly that the well-being of a nation comes not only through promotion of health – physical and mental – but also through promotion of education, because education has an enormous impact on personal development and economic prospects.

Philanthropy is defined as the art of giving. Its quality is not strained. It falleth as the gentle rain of heaven upon the earth beneath. It is twice blessed. It blesseth him who gives and him who receives. With this slight twist to Shakespeare’s words, the philanthropy of Hakim Mohammed Said can best be explained. Although it extends in all directions from aiding the sick and the distressed, the widows and orphans, endowing schools and libraries, mosques and orphanages, individuals and institutions, yet the thrust of philanthropy has been in the sphere of education which culminated in the institution of Madinat al- Hikmah — the city of education, science and culture, situated on 350 acres of land along the borders of Sindh and Balochistan provinces. It is a heartland of education, a vast undertaking to help achieve moral and physical welfare, peace and progress. It includes many institutions (whose progress to date is reported in the pages that follow) such as the Bait al-Hikmah (easily the biggest library in the sub-continent), the Hamdard Public School, Hamdard University with its constituent colleges and institutes with campuses in Faisalabad, Lahore and Islamabad, the Hamdard University Hospital, Centre for Horticulture and the beautiful Abu Hossein Masjid for children.

Hakim Mohammed Said’s cruel and untimely death is a terrible blow to his family, friends and the institutions that he has built. His adventure in life has come full circle, ending in a coda of achievements, which earns for him a place among those to be most remembered in Pakistan. His legacy is not riches, possessions or worldly goods of any kind. It is the way he lived, the lives he touched, the promises he kept. It is the kind of man he was. He looked on life as a journey and one of his favourite quotations was a passage from Robert Frost:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep…
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep…”

Some of us journeyed along with him. On that fateful day of Saturday, October 17, 1998, he left us and went ahead on a long journey from which there is no return.  Some of his promises lie unfulfilled. For us who had been privileged to be with him during part of his journey, these promises are a sacred trust. 

We pledge our love and support to Sadia, his daughter, who has bravely taken up the reins to carry on his mission and to the family members and friends who truly mourn his loss.