I return home from my extended trip jetlagged, harassed and homesick, with tons of pending home tasks and office paperwork that a ten-week hiatus entails. I tackle these troubles quickly, within a couple of days, alhamd’Allah. But the month of Ramadhan, in a few days, is staring in my face. Hot, long, weary, dog-days of belly rumbles and lethargies and pining for magreeb. These will be the longest days of Ramadhan in the northern hemisphere before we slowly swing the pendulum the other way.
It has been soopa hot and dry here in Sanford, with temperatures testing the 100º F mark. But guess what? Allah’s mercy rolls in with the arrival of the blessed month. The skies darken, the rain pours, and pours some more, and the temperatures subside; it has been consistently wet and balmy since the month set in. The dreaded first few days are a breeze, so are the subsequent days, Allah sends His blessings of tranquility and ease and serenity as I fast and reflect. As usual, I am overly apprehensive and ungrateful. Even working out, mandated by my medical doctors, fall into place. Ninety minutes at the local gym is a challenge without water and the omnipresence of scantily clad humans of course, but I engage in supreme jehaad of the nafs and prevail. Only just. Even jogging the five mandated miles on alternate days is possible before duas and magreeb at HIC. So, I merrily trot away as our upright President bobs, with the mighty executioner’s sword in hand, with honorable Bedouins in faraway lands. It’s all in the mind. Life’s good, alhamd’Allah.
We are blessed with Hasnain Rajabali as the lecturer for the first half of Ramadhan at HIC. His lectures are a shot in the arm, as usual. Here is a man who is a pleasure to listen to, and teen daughter Maaha Zainab is in love with his practical, sometimes witty, advice. I see other teenagers as well, their lifeline mobile phones ignored, in rapt attention to his lectures; now, that’s a miracle, no? As one who is not too public savvy or running in a popularity contest or being always politically correct, I feel an affiliation to Rajabali’s frankness in matters that can (and does) ruffle feathers at times. Unfortunately, too few of our current pool of ‘speakers’ want to venture away from their comfort zones. Rajabali’s is one of a very few who does not have his head buried deep in the muck.
Rajabali touches on several topics, but the following are outstanding, worthy of continuous ponder:
> The religion of Islam, hands down, is ahead of the pack, in both substance and intelligent rational. It is clear, logical, hits the bull's eye in the matters of truth and justice, establishes and elevates the honor of an individual based only on deeds.
> Given the above, Islam is primarily a verb and not a noun. It is a religion of action, not from a birth or an acquired title.
> Humans are a universe in ourselves. Allah has bestowed in all of us His many attributes. And given us all free will to choose good from evil. We need to elevate ourselves and reach for the sky so that we can touch the stars. That Allah has created us with intrinsic goodness and that it takes hard work to do evil or be seekers of hellfire.
> We, ahlebeyti Muslims, will be held to a higher standard on Judgement Day. Because we epitomize the truth, follow the best that Allah has sent to mankind, and that tabligh is not trying to convert others; rather it is in our actions, our akhlaaq, our morality, our speech...
> That smoking, in whatever form whatsoever, is inherently haraam, a fact I heartily embrace, even though I am stupid to have indulged in the nasty habit in the past. Even though some of our marajas, for perplexing, frustrating reasons, will not come out and openly outlaw the menace.
But even though we are all pepped up during the lectures, old habits are hard to abandon. The air outside HIC is as stinking and polluted as ever, and I scramble to find pockets of clean breathable air. The grounds are littered with ugly, sodden cigarette butts, even though management has provided containers across the grounds. I wonder if we give our homes the same treatment? Time for HIC to restrict all smoking the rear of the complex perhaps? Wishful thinking?
Rajabali touches upon the goodness of life, of good deeds and kind words. There is an abundance of good in all of us, yet some of us are fixated with a woman’s sexual anatomy; except for the wrong reasons. One of our upright member, ‘leadership’ material no less, has just finished reciting Dua e Iftetah, a gem of a dua, given to us by none other than the Imam (a) himself. He sits outside HIC afterward and cites a woman’s sexual anatomy in casual Kiswahili banter three times in a span of two sentences. Kxxxmamayo, he says, this guy did this and this, kxxxmamake this and kxxxmamababiyo that. Baffled and repulsed, I glare at him; to no effect. What is it with us? Why do we have to resort to this offensive uncouth and vile word repeatedly? I hear it all the time, every time I visit HIC. Is it an East African Khoja curse? And why pick on the poor woman, a mother? Why not hurl this offense at the man’s sexual organs? The father for a change? I guess this is a question that’ll never be answered, beyond comprehension. Not meaning it as abuse is not an excuse, ever.
The management of HIC and its volunteers shine through and through. Yet again. Incredible selflessness and dedication from the team ensure the smooth running of the center - from the yummy food (most nights), especially the new addition of exotic salads, cleaning up, parking and the various programs for all ages throughout the month; there are after-events almost every day. The inter/intra-faith programs are a resounding thumbs-up, and again, Rajabali shines with the keynote address and the ready answers he has for the attending guests. HIC is growing…there are so many new faces…with wonderful additions like the ever smiling and industrious Akil Anjarwalla. HIC will move into their new digs a short distance away soon, insha’Allah. It has been a long six years since I witnessed spade touch the dirt at the start of the construction. It is a beautiful structure, grand and imposing. Although a bit further to me than the current HIC, it’s so close I plan to continue attending it every day when in town, insha’Allah.
There are reciters and then there are good reciters, and then there are disciplined reciters. Amongst our reciters, are a few, bless them, who take upon themselves to add masalas to the standard duas and amaals rituals that take place on the eve of 19/21/23. Even more than the Imams (a) recommend or did. Imagine! Because they are convinced they have a good tenor. Khoob. So, they slip in a few of their own concoctions that will prolong their echo from the mic and elongate the already two hours plus spent pleading and begging and imploring Allah for everything under the sky. These masalas would be okay, I guess, if this was a one-time deal. Alas, these tend to stick, and become rituals. Till kingdom come. Never mind it is the peak of summer, with short nights, it is late in the night, there are infirm elders who can’t but want to finish the rituals, there are infants and young ones barely able to keep their eyes open. No Sir, the masalas be must be added, by God, whether logical or not, like it or not. Never mind that we rarely follow up these duas with concrete action. A good tenor does not compensate for taqwa, I say…
The sanctified and blessed period is sullied by events in London with illiterate animals mowing down and knifing innocent people, all in the name of my religion. Seven are dead and scores injured in this heinous act. What did you achieve, you bastards, except the damnation of hellfire and for us here, to yet again, bear the burden of consequences that wrongly, but understandably perhaps, raise an accusing finger at us or view us with reproachful eyes? I get engulfed in gloom and utter frustration. When will this all end? When will the powers that be take the fight to the original land of these lunatics?
Allah knows best.