O Allah, This is the month of Ramadan, in which descended the Holy Quran as guidance to mankind, and a divider [between truth and falsehood]. O Allah, bless us in this month, and give us Your help and accept our prayers, for certainly you have power over all things.
– English translation of a prayer said by the Dawoodi Bohras during the month of Ramadan
I don’t write about religion, and certainly not mine. Not here at any rate. And not before now. In a month that is dedicated to prayer, fasting, piety and purity it seems an appropriate time to start.
The month of Ramadan is considered to be a unique blessing for Muslims. These 30 days are personalized, talked of as a great and honorable guest, whose presence represents an opportunity for the pious at heart, to sow great rewards in both this life and the hereafter. This personification is addressed, beseached and requested, used as an intermediary and as a representative in the presence of the Divine. This is the orthodox line, the position that’s taken in all the literature. It is a month to be honoured.
Yet I find no one is actually thinking like this Everyone is seeing Ramadan as a burden, waiting for the day of Eid-ul-Fitr. Their calendars are out, even by the very first night, to calculate just how long they will have to wait for, when the 30 days will come to an end and they will be free to enjoy feasting and food again. All the talk centers on where we’ll be in four weeks time, what joy will await us on a Monday similar to this one in a fortnights time, and things in a similar manner repeated ad nauseum.
I find it personally an odd way to welcome a guest. There is the initial ceremony of welcome, great drama pomp and presentation, all designed to show the veneration that this august visitor deserves. Then as soon as perhaps they have settled into a chair, the questioning turns a shade nastier. How long precisely does our guest intend to stay? Will he be staying here all the time? Are they sure? Inconvenience, no off course its no inconvenience. Questions in a similar vein continue.
Now this just seems to be the rankest hypocrisy to me, this constant mouthing of an ideal and the constant back stabbing to undermine it expressed almost within the same breath. Even if it is in your heart, you don’t need to say it aloud, and pervade that thought through the minds of everyone, like the point of the month is the finishing line, and that is where our attention should be drawn. Keep these thoughts to yourself, the finish line is neither here not there, and if it is relevant to your treatment of your guests. You should treat them as well on their first day as you intend to treat them to their last.
To me, I’m more interested in the intermediate markers, the every day prayers to attend, the shiouri to do in the mornings, the small baby steps that make up the whole process, which can be reconciled with the proper respect due our honorable guest.
As my mum points out, this is the nature of people. They’re not going to be any different, and it’s hypocritical but true that they will continue to behave in this way, and will not see anything out of the ordinary in doing so. Human reaction to hypocrisy more often then not, is ‘so what?’. It is so endemnic so pervasive and so normal, that my indignation at hypocrisy is considered abnormal in a manner of speaking. I’m not so accepting; but I think that I shall have to keep my peace. After all the people saying this are the entrenched senior members of my community, and I don’t see any need to make myself a false martyr by challenging them.