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Published in the 1-15 December 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition


The Ramadan gone by...

By M Yusuf Khan

This year Ramadan was no different from the preceding years yet two observations need to be shared. One was very positive, the other a little disquieting. For the first time a Maulana of the stature of Israrul Haq Qasimi wrote a full-fledged article in the Rashtriya Sahara pleading the Muslims to be more considerate and not inconvenience their neighbours during the sacred month. Anyone who lives in predominantly Muslim locality would know how loud speakers are turned on full volume to recite the Qur'an, devotional poems and also to announce the closing time of Sehri (morning meal) etc relentlessly. He logically argued that there is no household that does not have a couple of watches with in-built alarms to help them wake up for the Sehri. With kind courtesy of Muslim businessmen and good Samaritans the Ramadan timetable is generously distributed therefore the Muslims are not entirely dependent on the announcement from the numerous mosques in the area to regulate their religious chores and activities. This is not to say the Adhan can be dispensed with altogether. It is unthinkable to any faithful. One is talking about the high decibels of the loud speakers. The high level of noise is not just irritating but also damaging to health. At night it can disturb sleep and cause great inconvenience. After the court intervention most big cities have put a ban on loud speakers in public places and they are expected to keep the volume low within permissible decibels.

We live in a multi religious society and we have to be considerate and caring to our neighbours as expected of us by our faith, reminded the Maulana. It seems to me that we do not care for the teaching of Islam and considerations for the fellow human is low on our priority. Our actions are based mostly on reactions. If a particular community can take out processions why shouldn’t we?

We live in a multi religious society and we have to be considerate and caring to our neighbours as expected of us by our faith, reminded the Maulana. It seems to me that we do not care for the teaching of Islam and considerations for the fellow human is low on our priority. Our actions are based mostly on reactions. If a particular community can take out processions why shouldn’t we? If Jagrans can be held why should we stop blaring our loud speakers in the holy month, seems to be the refrain. The Maulana’s appeal was very reassuring indeed. It gave a hope that his views would be respected and the Muslims would pay heed. But that was not to happen. A Zakirnagar resident informed me that the nights were as noisy as ever. The indiscriminate use of loudspeaker continued unabated. What is more, even in Hauz Khas this year the Fajr Adhan could be heard from our flat, which was not the case earlier. In the stillness of the night the sound travels long distance, loud and clear. No doubt, the Adhan delivered in a mellow voice is a soothing and moving experience but I am not sure how it is received in the immediate back yard in the dead of night that is inhabited by our non-Muslims brothers.

The other unusual thing about this Ramadan was the sudden spurt of the ‘fund collectors’ of Madrasas. It seemed unprecedented. And you can say they were a determined lot, highly motivated. The high level of motivation, one suspects came from the high percentage they receive from the money collected which could be as much as 40% of the total. No time was an odd time for them. The doorbell would ring at seven in the morning, any time in the afternoon and even after sunset when one would have liked to take a rest for a while after the day’s fast. They were quick in telling you that last year you gave so much, so how about adding something to that. One wanted to remind them that there is no haggling in these matters and whatever is given should be accepted with grace. But how do you expect the collector to know this when he cannot even write down your name in the receipt he is carrying. (I came across one such case) Then you have to contend with enthusiasts from as far as Murshidabad in West Bengal. How did he get my address? Thanks to my Hindu Bengali cook who actually brought him to the doorsteps. Who says we need more integration or understanding between the two communities? But seriously we have to find a more organized way of parting with our hard earned money that goes towards Zakat. Of course this goes against the spirit of globalisation but can’t we say that charity must be confined to the beneficiary within a radius of 5-10 km from your house. Let the Madrasas draw their own radius of operation and spare their onslaught on the capital city. When I give money to these collectors grudgingly I always feel that I may not get any reward for this in the world hereafter. God knows better.

Till a few years back during Ramadan my mailbox would have surprise postcards written in scraggy handwritings from some quaint places in the south asking for alms. It was difficult to know if their need was genuine. When someone comes up with an institution to handle Zakat money, doubts are raised about its correctness. The funds used for its advertisement draws flak. The volume of work and the projection of the task undertaken by the foundation are questioned. All this leaves an average Muslim very confused. Is there a solution? Things are a lot easier in the villages where you know that the alms are going to the deserving person or institutions. It is difficult to ascertain these in the big cities for obvious reason. 

There is yet another issue that needs to be addressed. The number of Namazis has increased over the years and most mosques cannot accommodate them particularly on Eid day. They spill over on the roads obstructing the normal traffic. The administration handles it well but the road users do suffer. If any thing, in future the number will increase further. How are we going to cope with it? While raising this issue one is aware of its sensitive nature and it is being done with due reluctance. Should we not find a way out before others raise this matter for their political advantage? It needs to be emphasized that this is not a hint to give up our right to practice religion or retreat from a position. It should be done as a show of being considerate in the true spirit of Islam.

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