Mushaira-e-Iftaar

Today is the fourteenth consecutive day we’ve been fasting during the day, and will continue to fast for the next 15 or 16 days, depending upon moon-sighting. During the holy month of Ramazan friends and relative invite each other for Iftaar (breaking of fast) dinner.

Yesterday I started a thread on email with a few verses, and my friends gave an overwhelming response likewise. This is how it went like.

{ English}

Me:
O’ my brothers the great
Long time since we’ve all met

Why don’t you invite for Aftaar
Let the venue be near or let it be far!

Sharoon:
You owe us a b’day treat so let it be aftaar,
Do it quickly bro as the eid is not so far

Me:
Ye Eid is near ‘n’ lots o expenses are in line
You must invite us and be our Valentine!!! 🙂

Umar:
In ramzan ..there is no room for wine and dine
Go to langar of Abdullah Shah Ghazi and stand in line

Me:
Anyone from our group should invite
Aftar may be heavy or it may be light…

{ Urdu}

Rehan:
Rasm-e-dunya bhi hay, moqa bhi hay aur ooper sey hey Ramazan
Mil k dey dein Iftaar-dinner, Agha, Azhar aur Umar Khan!

Me:
But, ramzan me b tum log kya kam girte ho
Aftar ko aftar nhi, valima samajhtay ho…

Umar:
Jaib k haalat buhut hain kharab
Kabhi hamain khilao naan shah faisal k kabab

Rehan:
after eid, alag sey dey ga toh phatt jaye gee
mil k dey dou abhi, jaib aur izzat, bach jaye gee

Umar:
Jazbaat o ahsaasaat ko kaarobaar bana baithay ho
Gift daitay nahi party ki batain kartay ho

Sharoon:
Wo Dost tha magar uski achi Kamai na thi,
K Soup, bottle, Chai usne kabi Pilai na thi

Umar:
Baby aur teekoo ki buhut bari kamaaee thee
Q K unkay saath peer ki dua aur rehnumaaee thee

Exhibition of Religiosity

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.

Espirit de Ramazan

The holy month of Ramazan is around the corner. We have been awaiting this month eagerly (perhaps); we do that every year. This month signifies the cleansing of the soul [of bad habits], attaining spiritual strength and eating/drinking less than the normal. However, we are determined every Ramazan to defeat the noble purposes of fasting. In this month, the attendance in the mosques does increase, but compassion, patience, simplicity and peace still remain alien to the society at large. Among other things, traffic jams become order of the day because all the ‘rozedaar’ people try to rush to their homes blindly without caring about traffic signals. The consumption of foods increases manifold creating tremendous pressure on the market and pushing the prices up. Penny pinchers find good opportunity in making money by storing food items months before Ramazan, which they sell them on very high prices during the holy month. Come Christmas, there are huge discounts. Come Ramazan, and there are record-breaking price hikes. Hoarding and profiteering starts running down our veins at much faster pace during the month.

People eat the stuff in this month which they normally avoid for health reasons. I overhear some priests telling us that the more we eat the more rewards a fasting person earns. It’s very rewarding to serve Iftar to as many people as one can afford, but serving too many dishes and drinks and desserts to oneself is quite contrary to the chi of fasting. But it is even far more better to serve Iftar to people living under straitened circumstances than well-off friends and relatives. We are an Ummah who believe more in overt rituals and less in the spirit of the religious practices. A simple Iftar dinner will include dates, samosas, pakoras, chatni, ketchup, dahi baray, chaat, all the seasonal fruits available, soft drinks, parathas, simple chawal, briyani, qorma, karahai, koftay, mutton, few vegetable dishes, fish, and lastly desserts. I’m afraid to have missed few. I wonder why we forget about the simple way of life as ardently preached by Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] whom we proudly hold as our paragon! The eating habits of the prophet are well known to us all, but we still tend to forget.

Yes, everything is created for humans, and we have the right to eat and drink as much as we want if we can afford, but resources belong to the society. Habit of increase in eating completely neglects the main idea behind fasting as Quran says: “Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness” (al-Baqarah:183). Piety & righteousness are hard to find.

Besides eating fiesta, the whole month turns out to be more a raree-show. To captivate audiences at home for Iftar, TV programmers roll out the year’s biggest shows. Commercial propaganda become more successful, one company promotes a children’s art competition to benefit orphans, while another rewards the winners of its Ramazan prize draw with a trip to Mecca for Umrah. Quick to get in on the act, a dozen of religious channels run a phone-in and SMS quiz shows that dispense lesser prizes of cash and grand prize of tours to the holy sites.

After Ramazan, for most of us the chief hope is that prices, which soared during Ramazan, will drop back to normal. Others may relish more their sudden freedom from being relentlessly prodded to spend and consume.

Live to eat… Not.