Thursday, July 11, 2013

Boot Camp Ramadan

By Dr. Azher Quadir

(I am posting this article written by a dear friend. It is very thought provoking and it deserve a reading.)

Boot Camp Ramadan started today. Some registered for it a day earlier. For many it is all about prayer and fasting. To our favorite poet philosopher Iqbal, the perspective on praying is a little discomforting. As always Iqbal articulates the ardent wishes of the truth seeker in one verse and himself provides the response from the Divine in another in his most eloquent and provocative style.

Kabhi Ae Haqiqat-e-Muntazir! Nazar Aa Libas-e-Majaz Mein
Ke Hazar Sajde Tarap Rahe Hain Meri Jabeen-e-Niaz Mein
Jo Mein Sar Basajda Huwa Kabhi To Zameen Se Ane Lagi Sada
Tera Dil To Hai Sanam Ashna, Tujhe Kya Mile Ga Namaz Mein

O Awaited Reality (Allah st) for once show yourself in material (visible) form as thousands of prostrations are agitating within my submissive forehead ( for obtaining proof of your existence) and in the next verse comes the stern response
when I laid down my head for prostration I heard a voice from the earth beneath announcing, 'your heart craves for idols (idols of materialism, wealth, power etc.) ' what can you get from your prayers?
As we begin boot camp Ramadan once again, hoping to strengthen our spiritual muscles and develop a stronger relationship with the Divine, Iqbal's message should remind us in no small way to reflect upon the many idols we have come to worship, either consciously or unconsciously in our contemporary lives of the day. The greed for wealth, the quest for goods, and the pursuit for power have become intimately integrated into our life styles and become our modern day idols. We are increasingly seekers of pleasure, obsessed with our needs, and oblivious of the misery or the misfortunes of others. We favor the practice of a narcissistic piety that tends to distance us from the troubles and tragedies of our neighbors, the struggles and sorrows of the poor, the plight and problems of the under served. This annual boot camp is therefore an important time to take a break from our crowded lives, to take stalk of our priorities and our pursuits.
The Quran reminds us repeatedly that the purpose of our creation is to worship Him who is the Creator of our universe. If worship is understood to serve Him and do His will, then is it possible to serve Him without serving His creation? The paradigm of worship that promotes our meditative behavior alone without inspiring us to serve fellow man is clearly incomplete. The dichotomy created between the spiritual and the secular is sadly mistaken and a disservice to the faith. The Quran also declares that those who truly worship and those who truly pursue His will are those who will form a model community and they shall be leaders. In a world full of so many competing ideologies, is it possible to lead with a paradigm that fails to see the full picture and remains obstinately incomplete? How much significance is there to our feel good worship which remains unaccompanied by its do good complement, which can address the problems of the world we live in? Yet we remain steadfastly convinced that this is what makes us pious and what makes us the models for mankind.
Boot camp Ramadan will be doubtful to do us much good if we continue to harbor the belief that piety is promoted exclusively through the practices of prayer and fasting. The price of piety and the prize of leadership are neither so cheap nor so easy to obtain. Much more is required and demanded of us if we are to be truly blessed with both. Those who traveled this journey before us, endured a lot more, sacrificed much more and struggled much harder to overcome powerful adversaries, to win unwinnable wars, to gain the trust and respect of their peers and to establish more just societies. We can be certain that for them, Boot camp Ramadan was more than getting up for Suhoors to party or getting together for Iftars to dialogue. Boot camp Ramadan was not just exhaustive nights of taraweehs for them either. Boot camp Ramadan was undoubtedly a transformational experience for them, which made them stronger in faith, gentler in compassion and more humbler in victory. It certainly transformed them from being unruly nomads to disciplined warriors. It transformed them from being victims of tribal loyalties to become devotees for inter-racial unity. It transformed them from the bondage of lands they loved to become citizens of the world they inhabited.
Recall that when Tareq (of Jabral Tareq fame) reached the shores of Spain he ordered his fleet to be burned down so there would be no possibility for his men to return home. Half a century later they were masters of the land they had come to call as their new home. Fast forward to our times, as another generation of Muslims landed on the shores of America to claim it as their home. Some half a century later our loyalties remain divided, our love for country uncertain, our political power non existing.
If our future is to be different we will need to retrace our footsteps in history to reflect a lot deeply on who we were once and who we have become. Boot camp Ramadan is a good time to do just that. Change can only come through an awareness of our paradigms, with a willingness to see the full picture. To recognize that the boundaries of worship are not confined to the walls of any mosque. That a line in the sand cannot be drawn between the spiritual and the secular. That character counts. That our purpose in life is to serve fellow man, starting from the fellowship of family where it all begins. This much at least the boot camp of Ramadan should produce. Otherwise it will become just another month of hungry days and sleepless nights.
We pray Allah (st) to forgive our sins and our shortcomings, our faults and our frailties, our trespasses and our indiscretions. We pray for His mercy as we right our wrongs, as we rise from our falls, as we strive to improve our souls and become better spouses, better parents, better friends and neighbors and better members of the communities we live in.
We started this argument with the pronouncements from Iqbal on prayer. We will conclude it (with an apology to all who are uninitiated in the language), with a few more inspiring words from Iqbal, which can be the rallying call for boot camp Ramadan. It is in the form of a qawwali rendered by the famed singer and qawwal Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Dayaare ishq mein apna muqaam paida kar
Naya zamana, nayay subha sham paida kar
In the realm of passion establish your special place
Create new mornings and new evenings (for your destiny)
May the blessings of change visit us this Ramadan in answer to our prayers.
Azher Quader
Executive Director,
Community Builders
July 10, 2013

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