jeudi 13 septembre 2007
And here comes Ramadan. Or rather it’ll start tomorrow. So we are cleaning our homes. I mean we clean what’s inside the house. No problem if the street outside is dirty. The street doesn’t belong to us. The strangers who visit us will judge us only by the inside of our house, and sometimes by the façade. This is what the strangers see. Anyone who doesn’t live with us is a stranger, not only distant family and the neighbours, but even our siblings and offspring who live in other places. So we must care about them all. We must show them that we are clean, that we belong to the world of today, since we have a good television set, a new refrigerator––in sum, all that important, respectable families should have. Those strangers don’t see beyond our appearances. They just see the floors, the walls, the furniture, the crockery, the television etc, etc, etc. They don’t see what’s in our minds and hearts. So we don’t care much about cleansing our hearts and minds. If we smile at our guests, that’s all they expect from us. We hide our problems as best we can until the strangers are gone.
And then, we can shout at one another, we can insult one another, we can invoke all kinds of evil on one another’s head, because we are used to that throughout the year. What’s the difference between Ramadan and the rest of the year? The only difference is that in Ramadan we spend more than usual, because we eat more than usual. But we remain the same people in the house. So someone has to assert his/her authority over the others.
And, in the evening, you know, we “all” gather round the table. We sit at the table while watching TV. And we should be careful while eating, because we laugh a lot. Our TV brings us the best comedians with their latest, and so we have a good laugh. We forget our problems. We feel that we are like the others. Because we see and hear the same thing as the whole country and we laugh at the same thing. And that’s the happiness that Ramadan brings us.
And after dinner, you know, our girls and boys will go downtown to enjoy themselves until midnight. Yes, our girls, too. What’s wrong with it? Everybody’s doing that. Why should a brother ask his sister where she’s going? Why should even her father ask her where she’s going or where she has been? We don’t live in the past. We should behave just like the other people in the world of today.
See, how times have changed?
Many, many years ago, you know, a friend told me this story:
“I met a European couple, who said to me, ‘When we wanted to come to Morocco as tourists we gave our bathing costume and trunks to our friends back there, because we assumed that we wouldn’t need them once we got into Morocco, which is a Muslim state. But as we arrived in Tangiers we were floored. We saw Moroccans in their bathing trunks at Tangiers beach!’”
Also in Tangiers, when I was a student there, I once got into my school library and found an American woman in her early thirties dressed in a Moroccan jellaba and head-scarf. She was sitting at a table and reading the Holy Koran. Around her were Moroccan female students in t-shirts and tight jeans!
samedi 15 septembre 2007
Our Ramadan is beautiful, though, Why shouldn’t it be since our hearts are still alive despite all that’s happened since your time? Yes, it’s true we’re no longer the lords of the world. Yes, it’s true we are scattered into over fifty different countries. But our hearts are one because our God is One.
Unfortunately, we no longer speak the same tongue, the beautiful Arabic in which you spoke with your family and with your lover. We now use that Arabic –that we call Classical Arabic– only at school, at mosque and in the Administration. Even in the media people do not always speak in that beautiful Arabic. In my country, Morocco, there’s at least a magazine fully published in Moroccan Arabic. And you have Algerian Arabic, Libyan Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, Syrian Arabic, Iraqi Arabic, Yemeni Arabic, and everybody has his own Arabic. If only we all knew the original Arabic in which the Koran was revealed! You needn’t wonder at it, since most of us have never been to school, for only at school can one learn the Arabic which you learnt at home as your mother-tongue. Now that Arabic is nobody’s mother-tongue anymore. That’s why most of us simply don’t know the Koran. And most of those of us who do read the Koran don’t understand it the way you and your people did. So the Koran has had little impact on our lives for a long time now. Even now we only know some of it through our centuries-long customs and traditions. And that’s one of the two most salient causes of our decline.
Yet, this tenuous connection with the Koran is far from being the only cause of our decline. The second biggest cause, you know, is the struggle for power. Iraq, and you know what Iraq was like, is now in a mess because people there are still fighting each other for power. It’s the same old greed for authority, the same old love of the throne, the same old craziness for worldly glory. Now we are so many countries because of that craziness. Each country has its own Arabic, its own “caliph”, its own army, its own frontiers.
And yet we are all one because God is One. We all read the same Koran. We go to mosque. We fast and break the fast with the same pleasure.
dimanche 16 septembre 2007
One of the beautiful things about our Ramadan is that it is celebrated all over the world: from Malmö in the North to Johansberg in the South, from Tokyo in the East to San Fransisco in the West. In Baghdad and Islamabad, in Kabul and Istanbul, in Washington and Wellington, in Nablus and Los Angeles, in Cairo and Ontario, in Warsaw and Arkansas, in Mecca and Dakka, in Izmir and Tangier, in Aukland and Portland, in Berlin and Beijing, everywhere you go you’ll find people –no matter how many they are– fasting from dawn to dusk, asking Allah’s forgiveness. They remind the world that it’s Allah Who is the Lord of the World, not America or NATO. Anyone can fast Ramadan. Even Christians join their Muslim neighbours in the fast of Ramadan in some parts of the world just as Muslims share with them Christmas and any other celebrations. They don’t care of those who kill each other in the name of God, be they in the right or in the wrong. They only care about pleasing God, Who, they know, does not want them to starve themselves for the sake of starving, but to educate them, to make them feel hungry and thirsty so that they realize how much God is bountiful towards man by providing him with all kinds of food and drink, which he tends to take for granted, and therefore they should give thanks to the One Who made them and provided them with all means of subsistence. By feeling hungry and thirsty themselves, those who fast would remember that while they are expecting to eat and drink at iftar at dusk, many people just won’t have anything to eat that day or won’t be able to eat every day, and they would realize that water, which is taken for granted in many countries, is a scarce commodity in many others. By fasting, those who fast remember God for hours and days, Him Who always remembers the faithful. And many, many people come to Allah during Ramadan. At no other time of year are mosques more full and lively than in Ramadan. At no other time of year is the Holy Koran more read than in Ramadan. At no other time of year are the poor, the homeless, the orphans remembered and cared for than in Ramadan. In Ramadan mercy and compassion descend upon the Earth. In Ramadan curiosity arises among those who believe in Scientology or those who believe they descended from a monkey, or those who believe the World was made by chance, or those who believe there’s just no God and no life after death.
In Ramadan, many “Muslims” don’t fast––not because they are ill, but simply because they believe they are free. They don’t care about God. They don’t care about Heaven and Hell. They believe they are free to do whatever they wish. And yet God will give them a chance. They are “free” to try whatever they like––as long as they are alive. And if they repent in time, they will find God the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. If they remain obstinate, they will see what happens after death. God is not in need of anybody worshipping Him or fasting for the sake of Him. But God is happy to see people from all races and colours, from all walks of life, wake up before dawn to have their souhour, and then at sunrise they go to their work in Casablanca, in Cairo, in Kwalalumpur, in Paris, in Kanu, in Haidarabad, in New York or in any other part of the world, and they keep fasting during their working hours, and then they come back home and sit with family and wait for the dusk prayer, and then have iftar together, and then go to taraweeh prayers and ask Allah the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate, for forgiveness and for a place in Heaven.
See, our Ramadan is lovely, too, isn’t it?