Sparks of Fire is the life story of a remarkable Muslim woman born in Old Delhi in 1932 who became a legendry aid worker, most notably in Bosnia during the 1990s. Her memoirs interweave history with biography in a vivid way, unfolding a story of a life both shaped by the circumstances of the day and one person’s determination to make a difference.
The memoir is unique in providing a school girl’s account of life at the famous Jamia Millia school in Delhi established by Dr Zakir Hussain and later the experiences of Muslim families seeking refuge in Humayun’s Tomb when massacres commenced in Delhi in 1947. There is a poignant account of a young bride’s efforts to adjust to a westernised life-style as a diplomat’s wife in Geneva and then subsequent years as the family’s wage earner in Karachi and London.
The Balkan crisis compelled Saida Sherif to rise above such domesticity, and her heart went out to do whatever possible to help the Bosnian Muslims facing ethnic cleansing. Her personal encounters and portraits of the people she met will move the reader to tears: she cared for young men who had lost their limbs, and women who could not face childbirth as a result of Serb violations. Amongst the tragedies of Bosnia there are also important lessons of human solidarity and an appreciation of the work of other individuals and institutions.
Saida Sherif ’s account conveys her passion for communication and education. Her experiences in establishing schools in Bosnia, Kosova, Azerbaijan and Pakistan in conditions of war, natural disaster and poverty will be edifying reading for development workers. Wherever her travels have taken her – and these include Canada, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Palestine – her capacity for forming friendships and her gratitude for God’s blessings are a remarkable testament to a life lived to the full but also in the service of others.
“I have known Saida Sherif for more than 20 years.
I did not know much about her life in Pakistan and
her memoirs, Sparks of Fire, is a fascinating read. It
takes us on a journey which is familiar to many of the
first generation of our community, but may be an eye
opener to the succeeding generations. I welcome her
Memoirs so we can recover, preserve and cherish our
historic memory. For without such memory there can
be no identity and self-respect. I recommend to all to
read this wonderful journey into the past and present.”
Ahmed Versi, Muslim News