A photo of Farzana Fazelbhoy

Farzana Fazelbhoy

Mumbai, India


I started talking to God as if He were a person. I said ‘Hey! You know what? You listen to me right now. I have done every damn thing for this child. OK, I’ve been mad, I haven’t prayed. But today I have done everything to the best of my ability for this child. And what do You think You are? You mean to say You’re going to keep on doing this and I’m supposed to keep on going this way and crying about it? I want to tell You one thing. You want to give me a child like this, I’m willing to bring him up. But! I need You to be part of this, otherwise I wash my hands of him. You have sent me this child. I have done my best. If You ever make me cry again, I shall give up on this child. So You make a decision—what do You want to do? Do You want me to do the right for this child? Then You better jump in because I can’t do anything more.’

Daniel’s Reflection

I met Farzana Fazelbhoy in Mumbai, India where she shared with me the story of devoting her life to raising Hanif, her autistic son. Hanif was born handicapped and with physical deformities. He was unable to sit up or walk until age 11. Farzana committed to doing everything possible for Hanif, but when she got a call from the best school in Mumbai asking her to not have him return, she broke. After crying for three hours, Farzana said she started arguing with God. Then the phone rang with a new friend’s offer to get Hanif into another top school in Mumbai. Farzana said that since that moment she has always known that she was supported by God in anything that Hanif required no matter how hard it got.

I love rewatching my interview with Farzana because it reminds me of the Jewish value of arguing with God. My beloved teacher, Leon Steinberg (of blessed memory), used to quiz us by asking, “Who was a better person, Noah or Abraham?” The answer was Abraham because he argued with God when he was told that God would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham argued, “What if there are 50 righteous men? What if there are 30 righteous men? What if there are 10 righteous men in those cities? Will not the God of all the Earth deal justly?” And he would remind us that when God told Noah he was going to destroy the world, Noah did build the ark as he was instructed but he never argued with God on behalf of the world. So while Noah was obedient, he is not considered as righteous as Abraham who argued with God.

In my journey with Portraits in Faith, it injects me with new energy every time I am reminded to stand up for the world, to argue with the God of my understanding, and to demand justice. I’ve come to know that arguing with God for justice is the same as loving my fellow man.  

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