In 1987, he walked 2500 km across the Arabian Peninsula in order to perform Hajj and collect funds for a charitable hospital in Karachi. He was 66 years old.
In 1998, he skydived from 10,500 ft to raise funds for Support a Child, Save the Nation, a philanthropic project for Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, which aims to eradicate child labor through education. He was 77 years old.
In 2004, he walked 100 km from Whitby to Mississauga in Canada to raise funds for a Seniors’ Home. He was 82 years old.
Popularly known as the “Volunteer Charity Walker from Pakistan,” his name was Major Muhammad Abbas Ali, a retired officer of the Pakistan Army. “The rich pay zakat on their wealth; I pay zakat on my health as well,” he often said.
Perhaps his biggest achievement in life was the organization which he founded along with his wife, Sarwar Jahan Begum, at the age of 72, known as Muslim Welfare Centre (MWC) in Ontario, Canada. Initiated with an interest-free loan of $14,000, it began in a tiny room which served as a Halal Food Bank for the destitute.
“It was a miracle of Allah, it was a golden opportunity to fulfill our ardent desire to serve humanity in distress… We jumped in the field of welfare of the needy with the banner ‘Service to Humanity is Service to Allah’ … We started serving the needy with grocery irrespective of religion, nationality, caste, or creed. Within a couple of years time, we were not only able to clear the loan but when we looked at the bank balance, it had soared to $80,000,” wrote Major Abbas, remembering the early days of his organization and the generosity of the community.
Both husband and wife, tirelessly and selflessly, devoted themselves to the center, aided by likeminded individuals who also committed themselves to this noble task. Over time, the organization expanded and took up more and more causes. Today, MWC is operating four Halal Food Banks in Ontario and Montreal, serving over 6500 needy families on a monthly basis. In addition, MWC is operating Halal Meals on Wheels, distributing about 350 lunch packs to the homeless people in Toronto downtown area every Saturday; warm clothes and blankets are also distributed during winter through this project.
In 1996, MWC established Muslim Welfare Home, a shelter for needy women and children, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with a full-time staff on duty. So far, over 3500 single women and mothers with children, irrespective of their backgrounds, have benefited from this shelter. Moreover, MWC has launched a free medical clinic in Toronto for those who do not have health coverage.
In 1999, MWC opened a branch office in Pakistan and introduced its welfare project, Support a Child, Save the Nation. At present, MWC is operating two schools in poor localities of Karachi and providing primary to secondary education to over 650 children. It costs only $1 a day or $30 a month to sponsor a child. The child receives free education, uniform, books, stationary, shoes, etc. Support is provided to the child’s family too in terms of grocery along with assistance on a monthly basis to help them cope and encourage the family to keep their child in the school. Furthermore, MWC is running two medical clinics in poor localities in Karachi, staffed by qualified doctors. Medical examination and medicines are free at all locations.
MWC has initiated a water exploration project in the Thar Desert region of Pakistan as well. They are digging wells and installing tube wells in the desert communities to provide water to the local population. An ongoing project, 50 wells have been dug in remote villages. Recently, MWC sent $160,000 worth of food boxes, medicines, and cash in relief efforts to the flood victims in Pakistan. More than 3000 food boxes were sent via PIA from Canada in addition to 3.5 tons of food, baby milk and toiletries.
Major Abbas passed away in 2009 at the age of 82. Sarwar Jahan Begum died in March, 2013, at the age of 84. A team of dedicated directors carry on the work begun by Major Abbas and his wife.
During his life, Major Abbas received more than 20 awards from various organizations, including UNICEF, Canadian Association of Pakistani Media, and the Consulate General of Pakistan. Posthumously, he has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Canada. Additionally, McLevin Park at 180 McLevin Ave., Scarborough, has been renamed “Major Muhammad Abbas Ali Park” in recognition of his humanitarian services to the community at large.
According to his wife, “Major Abbas was not only the founder of MWC, he was a true leader, filled with tremendous determination, dedication and patience. He was a source of inspiration, and a great mentor, who left behind a strong team of equally dedicated and capable staff, volunteers and directors.”
Major Abbas and Sarwar Jahan Begum are admirable role models, people whose steely will and selfless mission enabled them to help the impoverished humanity of our world despite the frailty of their years. Their organization continues to sustain the humanitarian work they established. What a wonderful sadqah-e-jaariyah! May Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, enable us to follow in their footsteps. Ameen.