As if the month of Ramadan were going to be there to the last syllable of recorded time, many of us disinclined Roz-e-daars would conjure nightmarish visions of the mind boggling hunger/thirst pangs and the brute curfew on the freak outs. Hot, scorching Ramadan was a desert of vast eternity for the breed of zaeeful-iman (iteqaad) believers. In this specter, slackers would be kind of apprehensive of not surviving the onslaught. As if gone nuts, guys would poke each other quizzically, ‘don’t you feel the heat of fasting? Oh, when is it gonnebe over?’ The sign of ‘run down’ appeared from the morning itself. By afternoon, knocked out to the point of exhaustion, eyes skinned for muezzin to shout Iftaar/Azan for Maghreb…… ‘We’re ready to drop…… more dead than alive.’
Like any other half-baked zealot, for the week-kneed-fifty- something me, with all the soda water josh on earth, the holy month of Ramadan, at least for the first ashra (10 days) is always ecstatic. The prayer congregations (in the Masjids) overflowing into streets, the huge rush of people vying up for entry into bath rooms in the masjids to perform wazoo and then the battery of believers, clad in piety24*7……skull caps etc., offering prayers under the scorching sun, getting up in the morning at the sahar khan’s call and waiting for Iftaar in the evening, believe me, would charge me to the new emotional heights. But then it was not many days before the excitement was on wane. The soaring temperatures had taken their toll. The tempo was going downhill. 20 rakaats of Taraweeh are (always) awfully tiresome for a shirker. Though I did make sure to offer 20 rakaats (Quran) Taraweeh, but a lot many slackers (more disinclined than me) in our masjid, would make fiendish plot. Even if averse, for the purpose of offering 8 short rakaats, they’d go kind of Ahl-e Hadith. Attendance of a dozen or two rows of nimazees in the 20 rakaats of Quran Taraweeh (in the beginning of Ramadan) in the masjids soon went down to a row or two during the last ashra, except of course on Shab-e-Qadr.
A section of believers, fanatically ultra-religious, with their hackles always up, during the month of Ramadan, would be all eyes to outmaneuver fellow zealots in occupying the place in the first saff (line) preferably just behind the imam. While a few of them belonged to the regular (aboriginal) group of nimazees, majority however belonged to the group of ‘Ramzan nimazees’ (I recently discovered, there is a section of ‘Ramzan reshal’ (bearded) too). Emotionally charged, the ubiquitous ‘Ramzan nimazees’ seen everywhere in nooks and corners in the Masjid, one wonders, how many of them making the mistake that most of us make: believing that they shouldn’t believe in themselves. For days together, masjids were filled with young and old, educated and uneducated, businessmen and pathwaris, clerks and babus, accountants and cashiers, thekadars and engineers, bosses and workers, ministers and bureaucrats, all taking ownership of their Islam. But with the Mahi-e-Ramzan (Ramadan) coming to end the attendance of these tenured nimazees gradually thinned down.
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Ramadan was much more than fasting; it’s the fostering of a culture of abstinence aimed at purifying thought, speech and general behaviour. The cacophony of celebrations of the holy month dying natural death, the breed of nimazees that would tumble out of their houses to fill up the Masjids to overflowing will vanish into thin smoke, without leaving traces behind. The (seemingly ephemeral) urge to sweep the dust of sins and inward corruptions had its last bout on the Shab-e-Qadr. Fellows that pledged with great fervor to continue with it after the Ramadan may not keep their promise. Regular nimazees, virtually pushed to the wall during the holy month by the hyperactive ‘Ramzan nimazees’ will console themselves into thinking that the ‘happy days are here again’.
For a regretful section of believers, Mahi-e-Ramzan was the month of practicing fearing Allah, accepting the little things that one had achieved, preparing for departure from this world to the Hereafter. This was the time one could practice self-discipline, self-control, self-restraint, self-education and self-evaluation. By accepting these criteria and by practicing them, the faithful had ample chances to achieve Taqwa. A 30 days’ religious honeymoon was a break, a lucky chance to avoid immorality, anger, outcry and uproar. It was when one could shy away stupidity, all makrooh and haram. By achieving these good manners, the faithful could come out of fasting as a better human being in the society…….fasting inculcates self-restraint and self-control as the person fasting doesn’t only have to abstain from food and drink, but s/he must also refrain from many other things: backbiting, gossiping, fighting, using foul language etc.
Many of us might have imbued the spirit of charity during the holy month. Abstaining from food and drink would give kind of a firsthand experience to the more privileged as to what the less fortunate may have to endure the year around. It acted as a spur for them to donate more to charity and to give out of their wealth to those who couldn’t afford the same luxuries that they did. Probably the best thing about Ramadan was that each and every action was done truly for Allah and each served to strengthen our faith in Him. Ramadan was not just a month in which we refrained from food and drink for a few hours. It’s a chance to make up for the time lost around the year in other work and revert to Allah, beg forgiveness for the sins done around the year, and finally, a chance to better the life waiting in the Hereafter.
During the holy month there was a flow of blessings and rewards from Allah. Alas! How many of us succeeded in reaping the full benefits from these thirty days? The lucky few, who practiced Mahi-e-Ramzan with all the khashu and khazu, repentance and remorse, someone has for them rightly said; ‘arfa cho’ui a’almus eid cha’ai aashqus’