Muslims seem to receive this Ramadan with somewhat dampened spirits. A thin blanket of gloom appears to have descended upon them that mulls, if not culls, their enthusiasm. Out of sight is the fervor, the liveliness, the excitement and the emotional warmth with which they greeted Ramadan in the yesteryears. They pray, but the spiritual delight seems to hover above their heads: while they, unable to lure it down, unable to rise up to it, long, but not attain.
What could be the reason? Is it weakening of faith, irretrievable loss of spiritualism, a consequence of the battering they receive in some parts of the world, the discrimination they face at universal ports, or is it despondency concerning political and economic revival?
Perhaps all these could be traced back as the possible reasons. Each, and a few others, definitely plays its role in creating the gloom among the Muslims in this season of sorrow. Yet there is surely a central reason which accounts for it, though to which we shall return to deal with at length perhaps on another occasion. At the moment, we have another issue on hand.
Our reference to the nights and days of the modern times as the season of sorrow reflects the truth, less obvious to some, more to others, but is there, alright. Melancholy is the identification mark of the modern world, a necessary quality of today’s life-style, an icon on the faces of the people.
The crowd of today is the bier-carrier of a dead civilization that has begun to rot. Decorum demands that they display no mirth as they drag the coffin-wagon to its burial ground. They may eat, drink, celebrate and, dance along (like some bier-carriers of Africa, Asia and other parts of the world do), but they may do so like robots, like the sad-at-heart celebrities that broadly smile for the lens. They express joy, but it is on the lips with nothing touching the heart. It is a mechanical gesture of a mechanical culture, the smile of an air-hostess, a sales-girl, a receptionist. They are taught to grin, even as the heart burns; paid to smile to placate the customers’ scowl. When was it last that you saw a man smile with sparkling eyes, beaming face, scattering warmth?
When was it last that you heard a hearty laugh coming down the aisle? When was it that you last heard the newest jokes down the lanes, sent across the downtown? When was it that you last read a moving poetical line, a true lyric of love, a genuine portrayal of nature’s charm? When was it last that you heard a peel of laughter coming from a gathering of women five? When was it that you last heard a child’s morning song?
Mark the seriousness on the face of the child. His nose displays the marks of spectacles, his eyes lusterless, and his heart invaded by the worries of a life he is yet to begin. He must achieve – now – or be damned the lifelong; work hard, or begone; tomorrow belongs to the mug-pot, the grade-topper, the self-denier (of a run in the park). He must run, but in the rat race. His playground has been taken away from him, and a parking lot built for the homeless car-sleepers that appear, owl-like, after dark and disappear by the morn. Do you see sadness in his face and profile?
Today, every hour of the TV gives the people a fresh dose of sadness; every dramatic new turn in life ends in a new tragedy; every marriage in separation, every child in rebellion, every president – white or black – a charlatan.
Mourn then, as you push the cart of life, a wagon filled with corpses of failed promises, failed economies, failed monsoons and failed morning breeze. Futile is the senseless morning rush of the monster machines, senseless economic struggle that pays less while demanding more and more of people’s time, overwhelming the Cyndy Sheehan “robber class” promising a turn around, dismaying leaders that come with 32-teeth smile, but who can only deliver missiles, sent across to wipe out unknown woman and child.
There is little to cheer the bier-carriers, little to lift the dispiriting souls, little to fill the kitchen cabinets, little to quote a fresh word of wisdom, a proverb new. The elitist curse the soldiers who exposed the national character, the common people at a loss about how ideas, things and thoughts are moving, and the intellectuals wondering whether the next regimes in their glorious lands will be communistic or fascist. Futile it is they know, to wish that after Ibn Khaldun’s 3-tier ‘asabiyyah’ the nation and the civilization will rise again, futile it is, they realize, to fasten hope on those who are now collecting yellow autumn leaves. Never in their ancient and modern history have they accepted universal responsibility.
In has moved the season of sorrow.
Being with the crowd is to be sharing its pace, its fate. This season of spiritual drought is a feature that the Muslims cannot escape from. Are they not in the mainstream of a life-style that in truth is hollow, unfocussed, sterile, marked by insatiable greed and dominated by ennui? Does it not, being in the mainstream, mean that they share with the crowd the good and the evil of it all?
When you are in a crowd, you are not an identifiable individual anymore. Step aside, find your own path, tread your own line, march on to your own goal, and then be noticed and treated differently by the One on High. In the crowd, you are invisible, an undistinguishable dot, a mere identify card.
Stand apart. You belong to a different caravan: those who carry the Qur’an in their one hand and feed the needy with the other as they hasten on, over a historically tested track that ends by the Splitter of the dawn.
Stand apart and don’t dance with the dancers. Play not their album, sing not their song. Strike not their gong, blow not their horn. Stand apart, a figure of solemn truths, a man of message and morals, a person of profound dignity.
Stand apart, change your direction, alter your destination. Halt there not as a critic but go along with the crowd; helping the fallen ones to their feet, feeding the hungry ones, clothing the naked ones of body or soul. Offer the nectar of your life as drink to the stranger, give, ask not; serve, accept no service, seek not rewards, nor even thanks, let yours be the upper hand.
Stand apart, get out of the gloom.