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Taking Stock
The Bliss of Happiness
By Rizwan Ullah

Man is acquisitive and possessive by nature. He is naturally hedonistic, seeks pleasure in every possible manner and enjoys it. While pleasure can be obtained in many ways, the joy that comes through possession has an element of dissatisfaction, which impels for more and more efforts to acquire more and more. It is contagious. This contagion is the root cause of many common evils in society. 

Big and small all alike put in their best effort to obtain and acquire, even by usurpation, as much as possible. The thirst is virtually unquenchable. Like individuals, states and countries suffer from this human instinct and cause unrest among the people and communities. Perhaps it would be next to impossible to stamp out an evil embedded so deeply in natural instinct. But it can be bridled and channelized in such a way as to give a healthy vent. This social requirement is imbibed in the Islamic tenet of fasting. It works like this: Practice self-restraint and self-abnegation within bearable limit that you may realize the pains and pangs of deprivation, and thereby experience the feelings and sentiments of the deprived people. Then appreciate the joy of your possessions. Having reached that stage try to part with a small portion of your worldly possessions for the use and benefit of the dispossessed and deprived people. Then you will experience the joy of a different sort, which results from giving something. It is contrary to the joy that comes out of acquisition. As you share your possessions you share the joy of possession with others. It is an extension of the pleasures. It is a training in fellow feeling and a lesson in mutuality in the society.

This is what Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr is all about. In the evening, at the end of the day of self-restraint, that is fasting, the faithful enjoy the bounties granted by Allah. To relieve the similar pain of deprivation suffered by others, the dispossessed ones, they partake the edibles with them. After having enjoyed the blessings of Allah the faithful go for a longer duration of prayers as an expression of gratefulness. Thus one feels the state of deprivation and the joy of possession alternately throughout the month of Ramadan, every day and every night. It is a sort of exercise in sharing and a sort of fellow feeling. At the conclusion of this mouth long exercise it is natural that a large number of people, the givers and the takers, get together to celebrate the peculiar collective joy and also to celebrate the successful culmination of the great social experience. Moreover, every Muslim of course who is capable of paying, must pay a fixed amount of money called Fitra to the poor and needy before the congregational prayer of Eid-ul-Fitr. The amount of Fitra is calculated in terms of a measure of grain. Even grain can be given. The purpose of this payment in cash or kind is that no one should go hungry on that auspicious day of happiness and rejoicing. The parents must pay that amount on behalf of their children. If for the sake of a rough calculation we take ten rupees per head, just imagine how much money is ploughed into the weaker sections of the society in one single day by about ten crore Muslims who are well-off and able to pay.

Zakat is a mighty source of money that emanates from the Muslim society and flows incessantly like a stream through the dry lands of poverty promising some life giving resource for everyone in need. It is one of the basic tenets of Islam. It is obligatory for every well-to-do Muslim to pay two and a half per cent of his savings at the end of a year. It is yet another exercise in self-sacrifice, seeming pleasure away from acquisitiveness, sharing happiness with the poor recipients. It is an economic principle beyond the comprehension of the materialistic and acquisitive world. But alas this incalculably huge amount is not used in a way that results in desirable benefits. Most of it goes to the madrasas and charitable organizations but part of it is absorbed in wasteful channels.

This amount of Zakat can be paid anytime during a calculable year according to ones convenience. But most people prefer to pay it during the month of Ramadan so that the poor get it in time to pass the month of fasting with some comfort and satisfaction.

But unfortunately in many cases things go awry. Things do not work according to expectations or as they should. The availability of money attracts beggars from all sides. They swarm the cities, hound the probable payers. These people belong to all traditional castes and creeds but in fact they are one single tribe of the poor and the deprived craving for the basic needs of life and hunting for it in every humiliating and frustrating manner. Many representatives of charitable organizations may also be seen trudging down the city streets and knocking at closed doors. It is a painful sight, for this should have been a time for them to get some rest and respite but they run agonizingly helter skelter soliciting and collecting funds.

Another painful situation is the vitiating permeation of politics in an affair, which is spiritual, friendly and a sort of social get together- the so-called Iftar parties politicized and vandalized. Had this opportunity been used to propagate the Islamic message of peace and fellow feeling these parties would have served a worthy purpose. An opportunity is wasted in frivolity.

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