Today the blissful innocence of the Ramazans of my youth is far gone
Growing up, my family treated the start of Ramazan like the start of a new year. From an early age we were told not to view the thirty days as deprivation from food, water, and basic human vices like gossiping. Instead we were taught to view Ramazan as a sublime and peaceful month which would heighten our spiritual growth and instil in us forgiveness, patience, resilience, and compassion for the less fortunate.
I remember these early years of Ramazan as a time of simplicity, safety and fun. As our prayers increased, so did our post-iftar socialising. As we retreated inwards spiritually we reached outwards with ample amounts of generosity, love and kindness for our family, friends, co-workers, and neighbours.
Today the blissful innocence of the Ramazans of my youth is far gone.
Now the start of Ramazan weighs heavy on me as both a blessing and curse. A blessing because I know almost all my fellow Muslims will be spending 30 days focused on fasting, praying, and spiritual revitalisation. A curse because I know a select few ‘Muslims’ will turn all of us victims to their heinous terror games.
By now countless studies have confirmed the global phenomenon of “Ramazan Rage”. Occurring in both Muslim nations and countries with significant Muslim populations, a surge in crime and violence during Ramazan has been widely documented globally.
From Algeria to Indonesia statistics indicate a whopping 320 per cent rise in disputes, assault and domestic violence. In places like Pakistan we regularly hear about self-appointed Ramazan police beating up both non-Muslims and Muslims found eating in public during the hours between sunrise and sunset. Reports suggest that across the Muslim world there is a 120 per cent spike in domestic violence against women and children. Equally heinous are those who take advantage of Ramazan by preying on the poor and desperate. In places like Yemen where a spike in food prices during Ramazan are common, reports indicate that parents are often forced to sell their children to child traffickers.
What turns a month premised on peaceful introspection into a month of spikes in violence and crime is a loaded question. Whether it’s the irritability resulting from not being able to eat, drink, or smoke or something larger than that, the truth is that the phenomenon of ‘Ramazan Rage’ is well-documented and real.
Two years ago, it was in Ramazan that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi would announce the rise of the Islamic State. This year, the Islamic State, at the start of the holy month, renewed its call to arms by calling upon its followers to make Ramazan a “month of calamity for non-believers”.
Around the same time, the Taliban, never ones to be left behind, turned down the Afghan government’s pleas for nonviolence and instead announced heightened attacks on “scholars, parliament members and innocent Afghani people”.
The madness would reach a fever pitch when assault rifle-wielding American-Muslim Omar Mateen went on a killing spree that left over a hundred dead at a Florida nightclub. Whether Mateen’s lunacy was carried out in response to ISIS’ earlier call for heightened violence during Ramazan or whether it was due to some other non-religious factor does not matter at this point. The fact is that America’s deadliest terrorist attack since 9/11 was carried out by a Muslim during Islam’s most blessed and peaceful month and nothing is more gut-wrenching and heartbreakingly disgusting than that.
After the shockingly large number left dead in Orlando this Ramazan, Pakistan has been second in line for the accolades of the most violent Ramazan ever.
In Pakistan extremism is exactly what its name belies: extreme; so extreme that all living, breathing things are targets. We saw this with the kidnapping of Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah’s son.
The son’s crime?
Some lunatics decided to use him, an innocent human life, as a bargaining chip to negotiate the release of their currently imprisoned terrorist comrades.
A few days prior to chief justice’s son’s kidnapping, Chaudhry Abdul Khaliq was shot in the head and killed.
Allegedly violating Pakistan’s oft-abused blasphemy laws – a charge levied against him not by a judicial body with any real authority but instead the Pakistani Taliban: a group of rogue non-state actors. A few hours after Sabri was gunned down, news would surface that prominent Shia Noha reciter Farhan Ali Waris had managed to escape an assassination attempt by mere minutes.
The godless lunatics who went after Sabri and Waris had convinced themselves that these men who had dedicated their career to singing praises of God and his beloved Prophet were, in fact, blaspheming the very entities they’d spent a better part of their life loving and praising. The irony is heart wrenchingly too great.
Looking back at the past few Ramazans, it is evident that the onset of the holy month has brought with it a shadowy spectre of death and destruction across the world. Reality is that while most of us are busy fasting and worshipping, a select few mad men have taken advantage of our relaxed, peaceful state of existence by deploying their warped, self-constructed rules of religion by waging war across the planet with the hopes that this will be their means of getting an express one-way ticket into heaven where they will find themselves placed directly in the 72 pairs of arms of virgins they believe to be anxiously waiting on them.
Had this not been our tragic reality, it would almost be funny.
While I would like to believe that Ramazan is a month of peace granted as a reprieve from the daily drudgery of work and life commitments, the reality of Ramazan in the 21st century is far too different.
Under Islamic law, warfare during the holy month has always been permissible. In fact, during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), several major battles were fought during Ramazan, including the infamous Battle of Badr.
But going to war in the name of Islam 1400 years ago versus the present day where war is waged by twisting the very essence of Islam into an ugly and deformed thing are two very, very different things.
We are well past the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the birth of Islam, when war was a tool to gain land and spread religion. Nor are we able to simply reduce episodes of modern day Ramazan Rage as simple by-products of hunger and thirst.
The reality is that the Ramazan of my childhood has been replaced by a month of heightened anarchy in which zealotry and fanaticism reign supreme. The reality is that the future Ramazans of my children will always be tainted by the threat posed by a small, but devastatingly powerful group of deluded ‘Muslims’ who, using their weapons and warped justifications, have marked us all as “non-believers” worthy of being tortured, beheaded, riddled with bullets, and murdered in cold blood.
Unfortunately, we – and by ‘we’ I mean both Muslims and non-Muslims alike – will always fall outside the ambit of the Islamist’s brand of Islam because his Islam is an Islam that the planet’s 1.6 billion Muslims will never recognise nor accept.
This week as we start the final ten days of Ramazan – known as being the most potent in their power to fulfil even the most complex of our prayers and desires – I find myself praying for a return to Ramazan itself.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.