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This Ramadan

21 September, 2006

By Anwaar Hussain


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THE MONTH of Ramadan is here again. We Muslims will once again launch headlong into starving ourselves every day from dawn to dusk. In all our religious obligations we have become so ritualistic that the substance is almost forgotten and the form has been kindled into worship itself. We have become past masters at missing the woods for the trees.

 

Like all the Ramadans before, the prices of daily commodities are sure to sky-rocket. One is led to believe as if on a cue the fields have started to yield less, the cows to hide their milk and the hens to lay fewer eggs. The common man is left with just enough skin by the traders to re-grow for the next Ramadan.

Yet the same traders will go back to their Iftaars (breakfast meal) and prayers with a solemnity the like of which is not seen the year round. After each prayer they will implore Allah for forgiveness and prosperity for self and their brethren. Refreshed from heavy Iftaars, they will get on with renewed vigor to add tap water to milk, used engine oil to edible oil and ground bricks to spices. They will sell what they can without a qualm and hoard the rest to exact a telling price from their customers in the days to come. That leaves them with just enough time to be present for Taraweeh (nightly prayers) and once again beseech Allah for mercy. Their consciences, of course, look on through the eyes of a dead fish all this while.

To be fair, though, the traders are not alone in this.

The rest of us are not much different the year round and in the month of Ramadan? No amount of prayers has been able to instill discipline, harmony, genuine piety and a quest for knowledge in us. We continue to inconvenience others by miss-parking our cars, throwing refuse out in the streets, honking horns at each other, jumping red lights at the traffic signals, slamming doors in peoples faces, telling blatant lies for petty profits, disrobing women by unashamed ogling, spitting huge globs of saliva in a to-whom-it-may-concern fashion, never turning up on time for appointments and keeping taped sermons on the whole night blaring at full strength from Mosques’ minarets long after the Maulanas (priests) themselves have gone into a deep snooze.

One rarely sees any one imploring others to stand in line, run to give a helping hand to a disabled, get up to vacate a seat for ladies or the elderly, take care of personal hygiene, or keep his immediate surroundings clean and pollution free. We are busy instead in quibbling over the length of facial hair, where to tie our shalwars (Pakistani trousers) for offering prayers, and our hands while in prayers, the number of Rakaats (prayer parts) in certain prayers, digging up relevant Ahadeeth (Sayings of the Prophet PBUH) to suit our purposes, declaring more Muslims as non-Muslims, pronouncing non-Muslims as Wajeb-ul-Qatal (liable to be slain), issuing Fatwas (religious decree) on non-issues, finding short-cuts to heavens, declaring Jihad on every thing but on purification of self, illiteracy, poverty, backwardness and hunger.

We continue to think of ourselves as God’s chosen people while our conduct shows any thing but. We are busy instead in looking down upon all other religions and people with a royal contempt, censuring the West for all our ills, finding a Jew at the root of all our miseries, blaming every one but our own selves for our wretched state and conjuring up conspiracy theories out of thin air to validate our gripes. Some hypocrisy---self included.

If cleanliness is half the faith then the West of today, the Viking brutes of yester-years, have beaten us to the claim hands down. If the other half is the rights of others on us then again we need to turn our heads westward to behold the sight.

Islam is not just about prayers and worship. A significant number of Ayahs (verses) in the Holy Koran deal with purification of self, interaction with others, knowledge of the universe and what is contained therein. The West is busy conquering the same universe, solving its riddles, harnessing the nature for the benefit of mankind and finding that time is their only competitor. From medicines to cure our diseases, to the cars we drive and the airplanes we fly in to visit our holy places, we are dependent for all our systems on the same West.

Yes, a handful of powerful Western leaders holding the reins of brute political and armed power have indeed unleashed a war on Muslims. And yes, as a result innocent human beings are surely being trampled upon ruthlessly. And yes, even genuine liberation struggles now stand deluged by the dam burst of venom against Islam. And yes, terrorism certainly has become a whip with which Muslims are now being flogged the world over. And yes again that Muslim countries are undeniably being either invaded or threatened with invasion on the flimsiest of pretexts.

But how does the Muslim world propose to counter that? Can we restore ourselves to our glorious past by suicide bombing or beheading of innocent human beings? Or by issuing Fatwas to that effect? Or by continuing to pray for Divine intervention? Or by hating the whole West for the stupidity of a just a few of their leaders? Has it occurred to us that the only, repeat only, way to walk tall and strong in the comity of nations is to come at par with the West in education, technology and economy?

Look at the Muslim world today. We cannot complain of being barren of resources. One fourth of the world population is Muslim and sits on nearly seventy percent of the world energy resources. Yet the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the entire Muslim world taken together comes to a measly twelve to thirteen hundred billion dollars. Japan’s GDP, by comparison, stands at five thousand five hundred billion and Germany’s at two thousand five hundred billion dollars. In other words, Germany’s GDP alone is twice and Japan’s is four and a half times that of the entire Muslim Ummah (nation).

Islam teaches us to seek knowledge, even if it involved travel to China. Quite evidently the Prophet (PBUH) was actually referring to worldly education, and not religious, as the Chinese were always non-Muslims. While from the 7th to 15th century AD, transfer of technology took place from the Muslims to the rest of the world, we have been in a horrendous downslide ever since.

The once wonderful madarasah (seminary) was supposed to be a prestigious seat of learning. It was a bastion of knowledge and a guiding light to the world. When Islam was at its pinnacle, every order of learning from mathematics to science, from medicine to astronomy, from philosophy to jurisprudence were taught at these institutions.

Great Muslim luminaries such as Al-Beruni, Ibn-e-Sina and Ibn-e-Khuldoon were the products of these same very madaris (seminaries). Sects and different schools of thought in Islam have existed side by side since long. There was nothing wrong with intellectual differences flowing from freedom of thought as long as such differences remained confined to academic debates. Embedded in the walls of these madaris are echoes of great scholarly dialogue between various luminaries of the time.

Take a look at the state of education today. In the entire Muslim world, there are only about 380 universities, of which just 25 are counted as world ranking. The entire Muslim world produces a total of 500 PhD’s every year. By comparison, in Japan alone one thousand universities award PhD degrees. In England, three thousand do PhD and in India five thousand every year.

And about the state of technology of the Muslim world, the less said the better. At the time when the US invaded Afghanistan, there was only one factory in Kabul manufacturing earthen crockery. No wonder then that an international correspondent called the US invasion of Afghanistan as “Technology Vs God”.

Now the same madaris are being used to mislead innocent Muslims by promoting intolerance, hatred and violence. Modernistic thought is termed blasphemous. The syllabus has been honed to instill sectarian loathing resulting naturally in fratricidal killings. The subject of “Haqooqul Ibad" (obligations towards fellow human beings) has been confined to scriptures and an occasional lip service.

From the podium and the pulpit, the so called Ulema (clerics) have declared more Muslims as Kafirs (infidels) than motivating these so called Kafirs to embrace Islam. Adherents are being incited to kill innocent people in mosques and their places of worship, while audaciously claiming Islam as a complete way of life. Muslims’ consciences are now being put to sleep here with sweet lullabies of their marvelous past as the world goes by at a breath taking speed. We are told to keep hugging past splendors to our chest and remain prostate in prayers waiting for a Salahuddin Ayubi to appear and restore us to our rightful destiny.

Is this the way of life that Islam teaches us? That we fight amongst ourselves and others and take innocent lives in their places of Worship? And all in the name of Allah? True Islam is nothing but kindness, forgiveness, compassion, honesty, fair play, goodwill and accord. There is no place for extremism, militancy, violence, fundamentalism, hatred, intolerance and anger. Mosques, Mandirs, Synagogues, Churches and Temples are all supposed to be sacred places of worship where we seek the blessings of God Almighty and where we must allow others to seek the same from whatever entity they call God.

There is a race for progress among all nations. The world is busy in development of human resource, mental enlightenment and technological growth. We have to wake up from our self-imposed slumber and join the race. The alternate will for sure condemn us to crawl on all fours eating the dust of the beaten path trailing leaders who are even now well past the horizons.

Let us pause this Ramadan and ask ourselves a few questions. Who were we? What happened to us along the way? Where do we stand today? Which way are we headed?

What do we think the great Allama Iqbal had in mind when he said?

Lay gaey taslees kay farzand meeras-e-Khalil,

Khisht-e-bunyad-e-kaleesa bun gayee khak-e-Hijaaz

Copyrights : Anwaar Hussain

http://tinyurl.com/gayhb

Reader Comments:

McDonalds and identity reconstruction

Relationships between Islam and youth culture are complex. Preachers interacting with Muslims youths reject their 'Western' culture and criticise their entire way of living: food, music, drug habits and petty delinquency. For them , to be a born again-Muslim means a rejection of their habits. Born-again Muslims refuse to use the word beur or even 'Arab', and call for the exclusive use of the word 'Muslim'. Gaols are known for producing born-again Muslims, but this is clearly linked to a high number of young Muslim detainees. On the other hand, in Western Europe at least, many such youngsters have used Islam as an occasional form of protest identity: calling for halal food at McDonalds, explaining Islam by attitudes that are more linked with their youth culture (rejection of women from public space, all-male gangs) or fasting during Ramadan as a sign of neighbourhood belonging (while they never pray and almost never go to the mosque).
Of course there are specific patterns of re-Islamisation in the suburbs - such as the hijab, beards and a growing visibility of Ramadan - that also contribute to the enhancement of neighbourhood identity and to a sense of solidarity. It is quite common for non-Muslims to participate in iftar, the breaking of the day-long fast during Ramadan, as a form of socialisation, while, as we shall see, some young non-Muslim convert to Islam to join their friends next door in their quest for protest identity. At all the celebration during Ramadan is more an economic field in Pakistan, than the Muslim identity strenghten to new fields of common culture in another peacedome aka. the global play of McDonalds enlighten the example how to firth the coals of gold in home facilities. Salaam !

Shokat Saleem, Georgia - 21 September, 2006

good article


Congrats to Anwaar Hussin for the excellent article. I would like to add something extra. The practise of fasting in the day and eating in the night is scientifically bad. in muslim countries thousands of people end up in hospitals because of the sudden departure from normal practices. Stomach problems, blood pressure, heart ailments, diabetes etc are common problems during Ramadan. Muslims should examine this and find out whether fasting in the day is really good.
Also Mr Hussain complains that the Muslims are yet to catch up with the west in many respects. they seem to be resting on their past laurels, which may or may not be true. I, for one, am pessimistic. Our prophet said to get an education one should not mind even going to China. fot 1400 years later we only love to quote this, but our plight remains the same. By caring too hoots about family planning and the impact of large populations, we are proudly claiming to be the largest religion in the world. As if this is some achievment!

Rizwan rehmat,
Islamabad

rizwan rehmat, Pakistan - 22 September, 2006

This Ramadan

Your article was well put.
I never do the things you mentioned in disregards to other humans. So you don't need Ramadan month to prove anything to GOD....You do it all year round! And the Western world has not unleashed a war on Muslims, no matter what you think or have been told. Watch a news station in the U.S. and you will then know the truth! Unfortunately we don't boast about what we've done for every part of civilization, but we continuously get trashed for everything else. You tell me, what other country in this world would allow Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to come and spew all this hatred about the country that they are in, and live to tell about it. Only in America! No leaders of any country has any respect or dignity for others, and that's why this world is in such turmoil! At least our president has restraint like Pervez Musharraf. And you should THANK GOD for the President you do have. He is in the middle of everything, just like our president. GOD BLESS YOU ALL in the month of Ramadan.....And GOD BLESS THE WORLD!!

Cindy, United Kingdom - 22 September, 2006

The meaning of Ramadhan

Fasting during Ramadan was ordained during the second year of Hijrah. Why not earlier? In Makkah the economic conditions of the Muslims were bad. They were being persecuted. Often days would go by before they had anything to eat. It is easy to skip meals if you don’t have any. Obviously fasting would have been easier under the circumstances. So why not then?

The answer may be that Ramadan is not only about skipping meals. While fasting is an integral and paramount part of it, Ramadan offers a comprehensive program for our spiritual overhaul. The entire program required the peace and security that was offered by Madinah.

Yes, Ramadan is the most important month of the year. It is the month that the believers await with eagerness. At the beginning of Rajab --- two full months before Ramadan --- the Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to supplicate thus: "O Allah! Bless us during Rajab and Sha’ban, and let us reach Ramadan (in good health)."

During Ramadan the believers get busy seeking Allah’s mercy, forgiveness, and protection from Hellfire. This is the month for renewing our commitment and re-establishing our relationship with our Creator. It is the spring season for goodness and virtues when righteousness blossoms throughout the Muslim communities. "If we combine all the blessings of the other eleven months, they would not add up to the blessings of Ramadan," said the great scholar and reformer Shaikh Ahmed Farooqi (Mujaddad Alif Thani). It offers every Muslim an opportunity to strengthen his Iman, purify his heart and soul, and to remove the evil effects of the sins committed by him.

"Anyone who fasts during this month with purity of belief and with expectation of a good reward (from his Creator), will have his previous sins forgiven," said Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. "Anyone who stands in prayers during its nights with purity of belief and expectation of a reward, will have his previous sins forgiven." As other ahadith tell us, the rewards for good deeds are multiplied manifold during Ramadan.
cont...

Puktun, Pakistan - 25 September, 2006

The meaning Of Ramadhan

Along with the possibility of a great reward, there is the risk of a terrible loss. If we let any other month pass by carelessly, we just lost a month. If we do the same during Ramadan, we have lost everything. The person who misses just one day’s fast without a legitimate reason, cannot really make up for it even if he were to fast everyday for the rest of his life. And of the three persons that Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam cursed, one is the unfortunate Muslim who finds Ramadan in good health but does not use the opportunity to seek Allah’s mercy.

One who does not fast is obviously in this category, but so also is the person who fasts and prays but makes no effort to stay away from sins or attain purity of the heart through the numerous opportunities offered by Ramadan. The Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, warned us: "There are those who get nothing from their fast but hunger and thirst. There are those who get nothing from their nightly prayers but loss of sleep."

Those who understood this, for them Ramadan was indeed a very special month. In addition to fasting, mandatory Salat, and extra Travih Salat, they spent the whole month in acts of worship like voluntary Salat, Tilawa (recitation of Qur’an), Dhikr etc. After mentioning that this has been the tradition of the pious people of this Ummah throughout the centuries, Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi notes: " I have seen with my own eyes such ulema and mashaikh who used to finish recitation of the entire Qur’an everyday during Ramadan. They spent almost the entire night in prayers. They used to eat so little that one wondered how they could endure all this. These greats valued every moment of Ramadan and would not waste any of it in any other pursuit…Watching them made one believe the astounding stories of Ibada and devotion of our elders recorded by history."

This emphasis on these acts of worship may sound strange --- even misplaced --- to some. It requires some explanation. We know that the term Ibada (worship and obedience) in Islam applies not only to the formal acts of worship and devotion like Salat , Tilawa, and Dhikr, but it also applies to worldly acts when performed in obedience to Shariah and with the intention of pleasing Allah. Thus a believer going to work is performing Ibada when he seeks Halal income to discharge his responsibility as a bread-winner for the family. However a distinction must be made between the two. The first category consists of direct Ibada, acts that are required for their own sake. The second category consists of indirect Ibada --- worldly acts that become Ibada through proper intention and observation of Shariah. While the second category is important for it extends the idea of Ibada to our entire life, there is also a danger because by their very nature these acts can camouflage other motives. (Is my going to work really Ibada or am I actually in the rat race?). Here the direct Ibada comes to the rescue. Through them we can purify our motives, and re-establish our relationship with Allah.

Islam does not approve of monasticism. It does not ask us to permanently isolate ourselves from this world, since our test is in living here according to the Commands of our Creator. But it does ask us to take periodic breaks from it. The mandatory Salat (five daily prayers) is one example. For a few minutes every so many hours throughout the day, we leave the affairs of this world and appear before Allah to remind ourselves that none but He is worthy of worship and of our unfaltering obedience. Ramadan takes this to the next higher plane, providing intense training for a whole month.

This spirit is captured in I’tikaf, a unique Ibada associated with Ramadan, in which a person gives up all his normal activities and enters a mosque for a specific period. There is great merit in it and every Muslim community is encouraged to provide at least one person who will perform I’tikaf for the last ten days of Ramadan. But even those who cannot spare ten days are encouraged to spend as much time in the mosque as possible.

Through direct Ibada we "charge our batteries"; the indirect ones allow us to use the power so accumulated in driving the vehicle of our life. Ramadan is the month for rebuilding our spiritual strength. How much we benefit from it is up to us.

Puktun, Pakistan - 25 September, 2006

A timely wakeup call

This is a beautiful piece of writing, thanks for sharing. Just some quotes from it, with few personal remarks:

"And yes again that Muslim countries are undeniably being either invaded or threatened with invasion on the flimsiest of pretexts.

But how does the Muslim world propose to counter that? Can we restore ourselves to our glorious past by suicide bombing or beheading of innocent human beings? Or by issuing Fatwas to that effect? Or by continuing to pray for Divine intervention? Or by hating the whole West for the stupidity of a just a few of their leaders? Has it occurred to us that the only, repeat only, way to walk tall and strong in the comity of nations is to come at par with the West in education, technology and economy?"

This has been a hot topic of discussion in many gathering when the Muslims sit toegther particularly in the West, and some of our friends believe that "suicide attacks" are permissible under current situation of Muslim Ummah. They, however, provide no long term solution to our plight.

" Modernistic thought is termed blasphemous."

This again leads to the well-known battle of moderate vs. fundamentalist Islam. I , personally believe, this is more to do with knowing realities and adapting to the current world, in order, to survive in the todays´ golbal village.

"True Islam is nothing but kindness, forgiveness, compassion, honesty, fair play, goodwill and accord." There is more to Islam than the 5 prayers and the 30 fasts .......... and its high time, we start realizing this ....

"Mosques, Mandirs, Synagogues, Churches and Temples are all supposed to be sacred places of worship where we seek the blessings of God Almighty and where we must allow others to seek the same from whatever entity they call God.." ............................. Everyone should be allowed to have his own beliefs and to follow them, and labelling (or hating) people based on their following other reilgions is throwing us into a situation where we fail to win friends and mix into Western societies, getting alienated and finally, creating a situation of "preaching Islam to Muslims, and finding faults in our own brothers".

Authors´ conclusion "The world is busy in development of human resource, mental enlightenment and sound technological growth. We have to wake up from our self-imposed slumber and join the race." I fear, in order, to do this, we will have to realize the supermacy of the West and some of us will have to learn the "tactics of worldly progress" ( I think, we are allowed to struggle for worldly matters as well, besides the Hereafter) from the West, join hands with them to develop friendly relations and finally, cultivate a cycle of "re-brith of knowledge" in the Muslim world, and this may take centuries ...................... but there is no other possibility, and we can not win the struggle by suicide attacks.


Sajid, Australia - 29 September, 2006

Very well put Sajid

Your comments were better put than the original article. As far as I know, whatever GOD people pray to, does not promote the killing of innocent people. So why do some Imam's preach this hatred? I would like to correct you on one thing about your comments though....There is no supremacy in this world except for GOD, and until we all realize that GOD is the only one that can take a life, I'm afraid there will be no peace.

Cindy Lees, Pakistan - 05 October, 2006

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