Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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A Long Ride

Hajee Hanif, 62, left India for Pakistan at the age of four.

Since then he has been kidnapped at gunpoint, published in prominent Arab newspapers, left penniless and asked to form a Web log for the World Muslim Congress.

And when Evanston residents and students hail a 303 Taxi, they just might find Hanif sitting in the driver’s seat.

The Chicagoan breaking his Ramadan fast with a hot chocolate in the front of his cyan and white cab has dreams of establishing a model university in Pakistan and working for peace one issue at a time through his Web log.

“He is a man of hopes and beliefs,” Ray Olayan, Hanif’s mechanic and acquaintance of about five years.

Hanif said he founded a Web log, the World Muslim Congress (trust), at the request of Dr. Inamullah Khan, then secretary general of the World Muslim Congress. The congress promotes cooperation among members of the international Islamic community and holds Consultative Status with the United Nations. The blog posts editorials about Islamic issues.

For Hanif the Web log is part of Jihad, the Islamic idea of struggling both internally and externally against evil in the world.

Leaving India in 1947 inspired Hanif to work for peace.

“I remember a little bit but not much,” Hanif said. “There was killing all over. Too much killing. Everybody was afraid and we were walking and walking.”

The rest of Hanif’s life built up his faith in God. Success has come in cycles in his life and he said the positive progress always came after asking God for help. This is what happened when Hanif joined his father’s steel sales business in 1958.

“I was thinking if God gave me 100,000 rupees I would be able to do a great business,” Hanif said. “I asked one time for 100 and after a while I noticed he was giving me 100,000 a day. Notice his generosity.”

But Hanif’s father asked him to quit the family business because he didn’t have the fighting business spirit. So he started investing in ships and went into the import business.

Hanif sunk into debt when a motorcycle transaction went awry. Then a group seeking a ransom kidnapped Hanif for 28 days. By the end of the ordeal, Hanif was penniless and chose leave for England fearing for his safety, he said.

“I used to stay at really nice hotels in London,” he said. “But for the first time I realized London was expensive.”

Eventually Hanif arrived in Chicago. Without a job or money for food, he again turned to God. When someone offered him a job as a cab driver a short while later, Hanif accepted.

“Ever since he started we’ve had no problems,” 303 drivers manager Steve Rapoport said. “Which is not necessarily the case with other drivers. He takes care of what he’s supposed to.”

Cab driving is temporary, Hanif said. He is working on starting an export business. As soon as he earns enough money, Hanif said he will leave cab driving.

“The cab driving is (because) I don’t want anybody to help me,” Hanif said. “People would love to help me but my conscience won’t permit.”

In the meantime he enjoys making small contributions to the society as a cabbie.

When none of the other taxi drivers would take a $2 job to transport an elderly person across a busy street, Hanif said, he accepted.

“If I have a senior citizen I treat them like my own father and mother,” Hanif said.

With the right resources, Hanif said he hopes to increase his ability to help people. Hanif said he has heard the value of the land he left in Pakistan has soared.

“If the money is in billions I have an idea where to spend the money,” Hanif said. “It all depends on the circumstance in Pakistan and here.”

As he awaits verification, Hanif dreams of creating a school in Pakistan to teach vocational skills.

And if there is enough money he wants to start a television station to broadcast the professors’ lessons to the masses. Hanif said he pictures people gathering around a television in a public park to learn.

But for now his dream has to wait, and soon Hanif will be carting Northwestern students to the airport as they leave for Thanksgiving break.

“Oh my God, lots and lots of Northwestern students,” Hanif said with a smile. “Too much.”

Reach Elizabeth Gibson at [email protected].

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
A Long Ride