The Angels have descended. The blessings are ready to pour forth. Forgiveness is all set to grace the lives of many. It’s Ramadan. A holy month that is more than just keeping away from food and drink. A month where we are essentially required to sniff inside. You know, pull back the collar, lower one’s nose and find out where the smell is coming from. In most cases it’s coming from us. And of course, no surprise there. Or so, will vouch God, and countless researchers and psychologists minting money off of self-improvement methods and books.
So what are most of us reeking of? Stench of anger, impatience, jealousy, potty-mouthing, back-biting, deceit, immorality and the works. So does the stench go away this month? Not really,at least not for most. But for some, it does tend to fade away in the background, like it’s coming from the neighbour’s backyard. Of course this is at times also a mind game, a delusion making you think you succeeded in controlling your anger, or managed to walk out of a full gossip session 101. Until, you didn’t and fell back on your knees, grovelling at the mercy of the relapse monster. Yet, all’s never lost. For a few blessed ones, this precious month makes all the difference. People who find and safeguard the spirit and emerge as permanently upgraded humans after the thirty days.
In Pakistan, a lot of what happens in Ramadan has to do with food. What to eat at Sehri/Sahoor time, what to gorge down at Iftar, and what to fantasize about in between. The few remaining hours are perhaps spent in quick recitations of the Holy Quran, doing Zikr on ornamental garlands (tasbihs), charity, listening to Quran lectures,and acutely believing that we are in fact the holiest of them all. And that this month is a proof of our self-serving, piety. And why not? The smell is always coming from the other person. God forbid, it should ever grace our floral scented sweat glands.
But that’s the thing. As a country, we are always smelling. The skunks never leave. No matter how much we try to hide behind our bleached cloaks of Ramadan, we won’t be able to hide the bloody stains that spill on our streets, taunting our beliefs, spitting on our righteousness. Pakistan’s much respected, humble and bear of a talented Qawwal (Sufi singer) Amjad Sabri was brutally shot yesterday . The whole country and anyone abroad who has ever heard of him is in pain, shock and unbelievable anger. The usual suspects line up. Terrorist organizations, zealots and the lot. The heart doesn’t really care who did it. Frankly it won’t make a difference. But the ‘why’ always scratches and pokes and nags! Why, oh, why, oh…
We mourn. Just like we mourned our late governor Salman Taseer, who too was shot over maniacal and distorted beliefs several years ago. Yet we do nothing about the putrid, rotten, forsaken whiff of decay that our noses breath, day in and day out. It’s because our senses are shutting down on us. Nothing looks the same, or smells the same, let alone feels the same. We stand helpless, looking up, and feeling low, extremely low.
Ramadan has never been more important in our lives than it is now. But who will revive its spirit in as dead a society as ours? Who will shake us out of our psychosis of lavish Iftar and Sehri parties, all-day sleeping marathons and ‘I’m fasting because everyone is’? Surely the death of a renowned and respected individual is not enough. Surely many more will have to die.
As our nation hums Amjad Sabri’s legendary ‘Bhar de Jholi Meri Ya Muhammad….’ [Roughly translated as: Fill my barren existence Dear Muhammad (PBUH)] with melancholy and watery eyes, here’s hoping and praying that Sabri left with a full ‘Jholi’, because his people, his country, left him deathly barren.