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Yoga Master Muhammad Arshad: a person, an institution

By Shahid Shah

I met him nearly two years ago and have been watching him closely since then. To me, he is second to none, a very unique character. A handsome and healthy person with no greed for money, Muhammad Arshad is helping people from dawn to dusk with cheering smiles.

On any given day, visit Nisar Shaheed Part in DHA, Karachi in the morning. You will find a handsome man instructing his pupils on yoga and other physical exercises. He is untiring and cheerful Muhammad Arshad, as businessman having roots from Chiniot, Punjab. Though, he is in his mid-fifties, he possesses heart of a child and enjoys amid gatherings of children on Saturdays and Sundays during yoga classes. He loves all human beings, children the most.

It is very hard for me to become inspired by anyone, but I found someone to be inspired off after a period of more than two decades. Always having smile on his face, his joy increases on weekends when children outnumber the adults on yoga exercises.

“One day a lady secretary of a yoga professional visited here for few days and asked Sir Arshad to charge fees to yoga learners, which he refused instantly,” said Muhammad Idress, another gentleman and companion of Muhammad Arshad at yoga group.

He said professional yoga masters were charging at least Rs15,000 per month on yoga classes on alternative days while Sir Arshad provides free classes on each and every day throughout the year. “Besides, free breakfast is provided to children on most of the Sundays.”

After spending some time with the yoga group, I got to know that he is also running a free high school with enrollment of 500 children in a remote town of Karachi among those communities, who are not always pro education of their children especially female children. But, at his school, more than 50 percent students are females. This was another inspiration for conducting an interview of Muhammad Arshad.

He owns a successful business, which he inherited from his father and increased its growth with his siblings.

Muhammad Arshad started the charity school in Ittehad Town, near Baldia Town some 17 years ago, where four batches of children have passed out the matriculation classes. I was anxious to see the school, where all teachers are female and entry of male is prohibited because of the locality, which was very difficult to be convinced on education, especially that of female children.

After 9/11 catastrophe, Arshad once visited this area on invitation of a worker of his factory, who wanted him to support a madressah, where son of his worker provided religious education. He continued his visits for some time with supporting them in installation of electricity meters and providing religious books etc. He found that the children coming to madressah were not school going, where majority of community belonged to Swat, Waziristan and Hazara divisions. Male members were mostly drivers of trucks or private rickshaws. “I decided to educate their children,” Arshad says.

Group photo of Arshad Yoga Group

He took 10 orphan children from the madressah and asked one lady in the locality to provide them education. He started from the Montessori class and provided books, uniforms etc. Later, he purchased separate land for the school, which was named behind late grandmother of Arshad, Hajira Bibi, who is buried in Makkah, near grave of Hazrat Usman Ghani (a.s). “I got it registered with the board and had a dream of seeing someone passing matriculation from the school,” he said. Now, four batches of a total of 130 students have passed out.

This is a community where some children sleep hungry, so schooling was tough for them. “Initially, I faced opposition from the head of madressah as well. He had several objections,” he said.

Muhammad Arshad has not limited himself to free education of the children only. He helps people of the area in other difficulties too. He arranged marriages of several females in the area from his own pocket. “Some girls who passed out from this school are now teaching here,” he said believing in empowerment of women.

One thing which shows his dedication towards this cause is his ability to fund the whole expenses of 400 children, their books, salaries of the teachers, utility bills and other expenses of the school. He has refused taking donations several times. “I fund this school with income of my family only. I have refused donations from my friends and other people,” he says.

Arshad, who is in business for 30 years with his brothers, said he learned from his father; “helping the humanity is true life.” His father has spent all his monetary savings among needy people in an eye hospital. “My determination to welfare work came from teachings of my father,” he said.

I just forgot the yoga between the school story.

Muhammad Arshad is doing yoga and other physical exercises regularly at Nisar Shaheed Part for last 15 years. He used to do exercises and yoga lonely between the crowds of walkers and joggers. One person named Dr Ashraf came to him five years back and wanted to join. They were joined by Muhammad Idrees in a few days, then others joined and proper classes were started. Some days, attendance reached 70 as well, said one yogi. “I have counted above 50 people myself,” said another.

At Yoga Group, yogis bring their children as well besides children of other people join them on Saturdays and Sundays.

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