Disclaimer: I am not against performing rituals nor I judge any religious practice to be right or wrong.
The other day, kids were playing Cricket in the street in our neighborhood (like they always do). One kid hit a shot and the ball fell inside a home. The home had recently been decorated with green icicle lights in commemoration of the birth of our Prophet, Muhammad (Peace be upon him). The kids rang the bell and a young bearded man came out on the door with ball in his hand. He twisted his face, rolled his eyes and told children (in a threatening tone) that he won’t return them the ball if it again got inside the home. Anyone who grew up listening to the stories of the prophet’s kindness and love with children could imagine how compassionately and kindly the prophet would have acted here. The incident made me realize that when it comes to doing anything that doesn’t require us to act justly, we leave no stone unturned in exhibiting our love and respect for our religion and religious personalities, whereas, at the same time, giving lip service to the injunctions of the holy book and the very teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in shaping our attitude and behavior towards life.
In our society the exhibition of religiosity has increased manifold. The emphasis on the performance of religious rites with all their pomp & show sans their very purpose has just gone overboard. During Ramadan/Ramazan, the month of fasting, we stay hungry throughout the day, offer prayers regularly but do very little [or nothing] to understand the very spirit of fasting and reform our personalities likewise. Whereas the month signifies the attaining spiritual strength and eating/drinking less, we however defeat the noble purposes of fasting every year. Traffic jams become more usual, the consumption of foods increases manifold accompanied with a significant push in prices.
The same kind of showoff is witnessed during the month of Hajj wherein the Great Sacrifice offered by the prophet Abraham is repeated by sacrificing the animals as required by the Quran. This one injunction of the Quran is so proudly acted upon only because all it requires is a couple of thousand rupees. That’s it. Though Allah says, “Their flesh and their food reach not Allah, but the devotion from you reacheth Him. Thus have We made them subject unto you that ye may magnify Allah that He hath guided you. And give good tidings (O Muhammad) to the good.” ( Quran 22:37) Otherwise no other injunctions are followed with such enthusiasm because they require reforming our character to attain piety; such as not to lie, not to cheat, to be just and fair etc. We buy the best animal at maximum price, where does the money come from is least bothered about.
Then comes the month of Muharram. On 10th of Muharram 61 (October 10, 680 AD) a The Battle of Karbala between Imam Hussain [peace be upon him], the grandson of the Prophet of Islam, and Umayyad ruler Yazid I took place wherein Imam Hussain was martyred along with his companions. The event also strengthened the earlier division among the muslims. The day is mourned throughout the world by muslims in general and Shias in particular. The first ten days of Muharram are accompanied with a number of ceremonies associated with the incident of the Battle of Karbala. The message and the spirit as to why Imam Hussain rose against Yazid (ruler of the time) and why he gave his life along with his family and companions are well forgotten and skipped over by the narrators of the event, all that remains today are customs.
There is no denying to the fact that religious rituals are necessary to keep our faith alive, but the spirit should never be lost, in fact the message of justice, compassion, humility, love, tolerance, forgiveness and kindness which is at the heart of every story should be put emphasis on.
Peace be upon you all.