Voices of Wisdom Digital Archive
Dr. Shams Jilani

Picture of Dr. Shams JilaniI was born in India in 1931. From the very beginning I was under the influence of my grandmother. She was very noble, very wise and actually she was a saint. She developed my character. She was also very God-fearing and had sensitivity for all humanity and always she taught me that you do what is good for humanity and I am practicing the same thing up to this time

In 1952, India forfeited all the states due to Socialism. We had no choice but to move to other countries. I moved to Bangladesh which was East Pakistan on that time. Then I moved to West Pakistan. In 1988, I moved to the United States. I was in New York but I felt it was the same as Pakistan. I visited Victoria and I was much impressed by this area. Greenery like this! I preferred this place. It was a requirement that I went back to Pakistan then applied for Canadian immigration. The consul asked why I was preferring Canada over the United States. I replied that I am a peace-loving man and I prefer a peace-loving country. Another is that I am very fond of the natural beauty and when I visited this place I found it was very rich in natural beauty. I am a writer and poet and prefer the natural beauty and I liked this part of Canada especially. That’s why I settled here. 

From the very beginning I was in Richmond because it was not too big a community and they gave me a warm welcome. I did not feel any problem. It was easier to manage in a small community where there are not too much crowded areas. Actually, I changed to many places but when I settled here, I felt like I was part of the community. I joined the Minoru Seniors Centre. It was a fully European community and I did not feel any problem there. I worked a few years with that organization.  

In 1995, Richmond News started a campaign with Save-On Foods and they put ballot boxes throughout the city and they asked people to nominate the first Community Achiever Award. I got the overwhelming majority and I was the very first Community Achiever. It was a big achievement that in 6 years I got so much popularity I could not believe it was me. When the editor phoned me, I asked how is that possible?

I was involved in a lot of things at that time. I was on four Advisory Committees of the City of Richmond. I was also a director of the Richmond Multicultural Concerns Society and founder and chair of the Richmond Multicultural Seniors Society. For more than ten years, I have been a member of the City of Richmond Seniors Advisory Council.

There was a problem. All the Indian seniors did not have a place to meet. The City told me to arrange a place for them to meet and get together. That was the problem - they would sit in the benches in Richmond Centre and be occupied the whole day. I organized the Richmond Seniors Society and now it is still running.  They used to meet every Wednesday at Caring Place.

I was always trying to help people when I was a child and the same practice continues still. I feel the pleasure when I help anyone and I want to deliver something to help anyone every day. That is the reason I work for the community. 

When I turned 65, I became involved in seniors affairs. When I got the recognition as Community Achiever, I visited the 411 Seniors Centre and I liked that centre. I thought it would be good to share my experience with that centre too. It was the first centre that adopted a fully multicultural policy. I was elected as a board member and chair of the Multicultural Committee and still I am continuing for the last 12 years. My work in the 411 is more significant comparatively to others because I focus fully on this work.  

It is not a question of pride but self-satisfaction. According to our holy book Qur'an, God said “be water, don’t be bubble”. And using that example, water is always useful for the community, for nature, for the universe. But bubble is made from the water. Be water; that is the saying of Qur'an. That impressed me and I am doing that. I think every Muslim should be like that but unfortunately not all are like that. They say they are Muslim but they are not practical Muslims. If you go that way, there is a lot of responsibility. They should be excellent with their neighbours. If somebody is hungry, no matter if he is Muslim or not, you are not allowed to eat until you feed that person. Nowadays it is quite different.

All my poetry is a message to be good for human beings and you must realize your duties. The same thing is in my prose. I always prefer to teach actual Islamic values and make the people good for humanity because this is the main message of Islam. I wrote a book on Human Rights in Islam and it is the very first book of its kind because there was no such comprehensive book on that subject. I teach in that book every aspect as a Canadian on how you behave, how you can pray, do your thinks, to build the Muslim community, role of the mosque need a change, because nowadays it is not satisfactory according to the teachings of the prophet, Mohammed (peace upon him). It was there center of community work, lot of other things. Islam is not only religion; it is a comprehensive way of life. So if you only go to mosque and pray, that is not enough. Need is what you are delivering to the community. That is the main message of Islam.

I am proud that Canada is providing justice to everyone. That’s why it is a beautiful country. And it is morally beautiful country and the justice system is good in Canada. Churchill said in the 2nd World War that if our justice system is alive, then we are alive. We will never be defeated by anyone. So in Canada, if the justice system is alive, then we are alive.  It is the first preference in the world and that’s why this is a peaceful country. 

Qur’an comparing all that says “Be just to everyone.” This is also part of multiculturalism: be just to everyone. There are three main teachings of Islam: you must always be just, be excellent to everyone, and have patience. Those three qualities must be found then he will be a will be true Muslim. Unfortunately we are not nowadays. Majority does not follow this. This is blamed on the Muslim community, not on the religion because religion is very nice, very good, but the practice is not good. 

My general advice is that you must be part and parcel of your land, where you live. Offer the best of your ability for that land. Also be kind to everyone, and be just and be patient. It is the teaching of Islam, not something I am saying on my own. 

Honor, publicity, and everything I got, it is all the blessing of God. If somebody does good for the human being, then he will get the benefit from it. As I quoted before, the Qur’aan said “be water, useful to everyone.”