Before anything, here is a small story.
A man invented a special camera. This camera captured not just the physicality of its object, but also the mind. The man landed in a Muslim society, and talked about his invention. This sounded like a blasphemous note to anyone he came across. “Do you know it is God alone who is in our mind. How can you picture Him.” Depressed, he went to an old wise man.
He found some sense, finally. “Just go ahead, and start taking pictures. I’m here, just in case some trouble follows you,” the old man breathed some confidence into the depressed soul. The man took out his camera, and started shooting. In the evening he returned to his lab. Happy he could try his invention, but anxious about what would it bring to him next morning. One by one he developed the snaps. Each one of the pictures showed the face of the person captured. There was no God. Did the invention fail! He went to the wise old man in the morning again, and expressed his bewilderment. “Don’t be surprised”, the old man responded. “Our hearts are full of ourselves. The object of our desire is us, not God.”
How I wish some one with this camera visited us this Ramazan; no judgment, just a wish.
With the arrival of the month of fasting, Ramazan, Muslim society undergoes a sudden change in its exterior. Mosques are full, all the five times. People recite the Holy Qura’n, at home, in mosques, and even at work places, whenever they get time. Some of us stand all night, or at least a good portion of it, to pray. Some do good charity. All this is because here is a month that brings us closer to God.
But do we really get closer to God? This is a question no one can answer, except for himself, or herself. We don’t have the camera with us. But what depresses is the garish display of religiosity in our society. When we walk towards mosques, we miss the grace. When we call for prayers, our sound on the loudspeakers rips through the air only to create extra decibels. A slew of mosques in the same neighbourhood call for prayers almost the same time, each one trying to be louder than the other; as if there is a competition for whose cry goes how far. Would that please our God who wants us to be graceful even in the most intimate conversations with Him – Dua. And each time, before and after prayers, we recite words using this modern sound system to the hilt. This ceaseless production of noise all through this month must be driving the angles out from our neighbourhood.
By hurting others, our acts of worship turn into acts of crime. What makes me cringe with shame each time I encounter this blaring of sounds from mosques, is how an average non-Muslim must be thinking of us, and of the religion we profess. When have we given burial to decency, grace, and common sense. Piety, is a thing far superior.
The way we generally conduct ourselves this month reminds me of the penetrating words of our prophet Jesus. His sermon on the Mount is something we all need to read each day of this month. That would capture the picture of us, for ourselves. That is the camera.
Listen to these words of Jesus, in the solitude of your self, and then look around to fathom the degree of degeneration.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”
Here is more of the sermon:
“ When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”
The spirit of worship is how it removes everything between God and the worshipper. The sound and fury that accompany our acts of worship are the barriers between us and Him. God consciousness – Taqwa- the lone end of fasting, ultimately reflects in the beauty of our character; how we relate to God and his creation.
This is the month of Quran, and here is a verse from this book.
“True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west – but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day, and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance – however much he himself may cherish it – upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, who are conscious of God.” (2:177)
This month is the time to cultivate this character, not to display religion to the peril of an innocent outsider. What hurts His people can never make Him happy. If you want to pray, silence is the best sound. Don’t cry your lungs out. God has no PR department that you can impress by advertising your worship.