Do we deserve to ‘celebrate’ Eidul Fitr this year?
“Chand nazar agaya! Ramazan Kareem! Kal se rozay shuroo.” (We can see the moon! Ramazan Kareem! Fasting begins tomorrow)
Some spend the night before in prayer. Others clink glasses and prepare for the pause in self-induced inebriation. Others stock up on Rooh Afza and pakora mix. Some can’t wait to be put in a food detox in hopes that they will lose the last few pounds during the holy month. The others are scared those extra pounds will sneak up on them. Some prepare a week in advance, cleaning out their savings account so that the banks don’t deduct zakat fees that they are liable to pay.
Whatever the month begins with, eventually after the passing of the first day, everyone starts to feel the pangs of what the fast really symbolises. Never before are we so attuned to realising the little shortcomings of our characters and how, in the simplest of manners, we lose our humanity in the months that follow and fall behind each Ramazan.
Eventually, we embrace the month and feel the stirrings of a spiritual awakening that has probably lain dormant. It’s little things like being socially conscious and considerate; knowing that there are many who don’t even have enough food to break their fast, little things like common courtesy, where you speak with a humbling string of words that are clear of obscenities. We make sure to prepare platters of food for those who cannot arrange it for themselves. If we’re not fasting, we make sure that we don’t make it obvious to those that are struggling until the time that they can finally eat again. We look forward to every day when the entire family sits at the table and opens their fast together; the azan breaking the silence of a day long struggle and the clinks of plates, crunching of samosas and slurping of water forms the beat behind laughter and engaging family discussions/conversations.
With the holy month in motion, we take one day at a time and slowly alter our own habits. When speaking humbly required effort, it now comes naturally. When people enjoyed being left to their own devices and inevitably nurtured a detached relationship with their families, now find themselves participating in iftar discussions ever so naturally. We begin to value. We begin to decompress our complicated lives.
But most importantly, we begin to share; ourselves and our hearts, not only with each other, but with God.
Not everyone is able to pass this test though, with many losing their patience in traffic moments before iftar, or hoarding on food as if afraid that it may as well be a mirage of food that may disappear. But, when taking this particular Ramazan into context, this isn’t even the worst that people have proven themselves to be. The amount of violence and intolerance that has been witnessed in this month alone is disgustingly horrifying, and a reminder that even when religion is meant to bind us together and humble us, it’s being used as an excuse to preach people’s own warped perception of Islam.
The Orlando shooting, Istanbul Ataturk airport attack, attack in Baghdad, Dhaka attack and Saudi blasts were heart-wrenching exhibits of violence. We have Ahmadi’s being killed at nights when people are supposed to be praying for redemption. Ironically, he was a doctor – his job was to use his education to save lives, and the ignorance of a select few self-righteous found themselves feeling compelled to carry forth their so-called God’s wishes. But, I’m pretty sure most of us have skimmed over this news (like many others like it) as a so-and so, having become completely desensitised towards their plight.
One of our countries’ rare talents and prized possessions, Amjad Sabri was killed in broad daylight. I won’t reiterate the fact that his death was an absolute obstruction of justice but what I found appalling was that people stood around him, a man who had just been shot in the head, and made videos. I open up my WhatsApp to see videos of his head drooping on the side of his body while he lay sitting in the car with blood dripping down his side. People were circulating graphic images of his face, post death. And this is ordinary people that live amongst us.
Have we no shame?
We’re making a man’s death, whoever that man may have been, a horrific source of entertainment? Do you really need to make videos of a man who has been brutally slayed? Do you need to make videos of his body being put to rest six feet underground?
The maulanas have proven themselves to be no better this Ramazan. We’ve had them on talk shows talking down to women – Maulana Hamdullah proving to be the most uncouth, threatening to pull off Sirmed and her mother’s shalwar.
Never mind the fact that this in itself is a gross exhibit of misogyny. What’s worse is people were defending him, saying that Marvi was too loud and vocal and that she deserved it. No matter what, demeanour aside (considering the maulana’s demeanour was even worse), voicing your opinion is not reason enough for vile and disgusting threats such as these. What’s worse? This talk show was aired for obvious reasons – the whole spectacle would bring in ratings and viewership.
An intolerance for discussions was once again met with violence as Hamza Ali Abbasi’s show was banned after he chose to discuss the plight of Ahmadis on his show. Maulana Kokab Noorani, self-righteous as all maulanas are, spoke on live television in response to Hamza’s attempts and claimed that his behaviour was an act of treason that should be handled as any act of treason would be.
This was also aired for obvious reasons.
Airing these kinds of happenings makes us desensitised to the connotations behind it, and we find humour in it rather than disgust. All this became fodder for gossip this Ramazan, and a source of entertainment for people – promoted by your very own Pakistani media houses, because that’s exactly what they were aiming for.
I don’t know what your God taught you. My God definitely doesn’t teach me that I have the right to decide who gets to live and who should be forever silenced.
But that’s not even the question here.
What befalls many people is that Islam doesn’t condone hate speech or justify people finding entertainment in other people’s emotional or physical traumas.
And these are only happenings we get to see on the internet or from the comfort of our TV screens. This month has witnessed a surge in crime; kidnappings, including that of Awais Ali Shah, the son of Sindh High Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, as well as people being robbed at gun point when they’re heading to or back from taraweeh. We’ve had women being harassed by their own sex because of what they have been wearing this Ramazan, claiming they were sent by God to ‘fix’ people like her. We’ve had people beating up non-muslims for eating in public.
This month in particular has proven that on some people, humanity is lost and they are victims to their own flaws; to inflict violence, to preach their own righteousness, to pass judgments, to gossip and find entertainment in other people’s misery, and to breed insensitivity. Habits die hard, and many traits are our fatal flaws. We may challenge them but most of the human race is incapable of sustaining any form of discipline.
As for some of us, we try; Ramazan forces us to challenge ourselves and prove that we are all capable of being the best version of ourselves. Eventually we do feel that we can fight from succumbing to the flaws of our own kind.
But as soon as it had begun, it ends. And there you have it!
Chand raat mubarak. Eidul Fitr ka waqt agaya hai.
(It’s time for Eidul Fitr).
A new frenzy begins. Women splurge on mehndi and bangles, and invest their money in expensive clothes. People dust off the cobwebs on their indoor bars and are reminded of inebriated freedom. Domestic staff is told to spend the first day of Eid on the job. Children aren’t invested in touching base with their relatives, they’re eyeing the prize; more houses equals more Eidi. We invest our time in splurging on extravagant dinners, material possessions; all the things that we used to believe make us content.
Although this is very much in light of celebration and happiness, these small steps settle us into our old habits. We snap back into the old version of ourselves and, soon enough, we fall back into our self-serving, selfish, socially devoid mannerisms. We forget that our forceful starvation is a fact of life for many. We forget that many are sleeping on the streets while we leave the AC on for the night and cosy up in our comforters to prepare for yet another peaceful slumber. We forget that people die every day because of social barriers we set amongst ourselves. We forget that when we go off to buy a new wardrobe for the upcoming season, many rummage through dustbins for your old clothes so they have something to wear. We forget that when we drive to and from places in our chauffeured cars, others are commuting on foot or by bus and being subjected to harassment. We forget to pray. We forget to feel blessed, because eventually, we forget everyone but ourselves.
We forget that our taxing routine of clocking in and out of work and daily activities is actually a luxury.
Many of our kind have proven this month to be hopeless causes. But, as for the rest of us, the little humanity that does surface around the month eventually succumbs to indifference as we become empty vessels that sit on the side-lines while those with their warped ideologies preach and practice and take over control of our country, our safety, and our sensitivity towards one another.
Right after Eidul Fitr, we inch towards losing ourselves yet again, until the moon shines once more and awakens our conscientiousness, however brief it may be.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.