Author: Suleman Ahmer
About the Book: In 1992, by the grace of Allah (swt), I bid farewell to Engineering to volunteer in Bosnia. In my travels to war-torn areas since then, I have seen the best and the worst that life has to offer. Where I witnessed war, destruction, death, suffering, captivity, hate and rage, I also saw compassion, love, self-sacrifice, altruism and dedication to Allah (swt). While I came across devils incarnate, I also met the finest people that the Muslim Ummah has produced in these times.
This small book is a collection of those experiences. I used to meet Muslim students while speaking at Universities, their faces radiating the passion for Islam. More than that, I saw in them a promise for the future. I decided to keep in touch by sending them e-mails about my experiences. The first story ‘The City, The Girl and The Little Rag Doll’ drew responses from people I had never met. I was amazed. Writing is not my forte but as long as people were willing to listen, I had stories to tell. Thus started a series of stories and essays through which I recruited people and raised funds for our projects overseas. Though written at different times, I have grouped them under headings like the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The approximate date of writing appears under each title. Although these are true stories, the statements quoted–because of being constructed out of memory–are a close approximation of the actual conversations.
I dedicate this book to Allah (swt) to Whom I owe everything. My thanks are to those who encouraged and helped me to put it together. Special thanks are reserved for Syed Sarfaraz and Irum Sarfaraz for their help with editing the manuscript. Through this book, may Allah (swt) give you an insight into the lives of Muslims afflicted by wars and the Muslims who chose to work with them. I dream of the day when you will join us on our journey and this little book would have mattered in your decision.
– Suleman Ahmer
Preface To The Second Edition: In 2002 I quit relief work. It was a sad decision. It was time to move on. The past 10 years—though turbulent—had been the best of my life. A lot also happened after the first publication of the book: stories which will have to wait for now. It was now time to share the fruits of my experiences with others: the lessons that I had learnt the hard way so that others may not have to suffer. With this started Timelenders, a training and consulting firm which helps individuals and organizations come up with powerful and worthy visions. Since then, over 6,000 people, belonging to over forty nationalities, have gone through my courses. And as I see lives transformed, I thank Allah (swt) that my bitter experiences were not all in vain. For this edition, I again thank Allah (swt). Special thanks are also reserved for my dear friend Syed Abu Ahmed Akif, who not only encouraged that this edition should come out but did extensive editing of the manuscript. I have not altered the contents of the stories, some of which were written fifteen years ago.
A lot has changed since then. The world has changed. I have changed. Now looking back, I think there are things that I would have done differently, thought differently and dreamt differently than the emotional and idealistic young man that wrote at that time. Similarly, that young man may also not agree with the person who is writing this preface today. But that is life. The journey continues. Alhamdolillah.
– Suleman Ahmer
About the Author: During his graduate studies in the US in 1992, Suleman volunteered for relief work with Bosnian refugees in Croatia and delivered supplies to the Bosnian city of Mostar. He returned to his studies in the fall of 1993. In 1994, he joined Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), a Chicago-based relief agency and served in six countries. Deciding to change the focus of his efforts from relief to long-term strategic work, he left BIF in 1999 to join Nasr Trust which primarily focused on educational projects. In 2002, he founded Timelenders, a management consulting firm where he has taught the power of visions as a basis of individual and organizational transformation to thousands of people from over forty nationalities. Suleman has a bachelor’s of Electrical Engineering from the University of Nebraska. His research on Solid State Physics commissioned by the US Air Force culminated in published work. He has travelled to over 25 countries including Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Croatia, Chechnya, Russia and Tajikistan.