Religion is linked to and associated with the constant mobility of inner life. Both pass through the state to state, complement each other and bring salient changes in outer behavior. It is the order of existence, powerful and long lasting. It carries the essence of culture that links man to conformity with a frame of reference in history. The man with all his deficiencies and faults is meant to be the representative of God on earth but at the same time remains the trustee of his free personality that swings between good and bad. To remove contaminates in behavior, faith comes handy with techniques for rectification and saving the dignity of human race, it provides a chance for redemption and salvation.
All was set to experience a surreal moment in Masjid-e-Nabvi as I was breaking my fast first time in a highly sacred place. Nothing on earth can beat breakfast ceremony in Medina Munawar. People sit together with strangers and feel connected. They belong to different nationalities, are from different cultural background, speak different languages yet talk to each other, using signs and facial expression as tools for communication. It was a scene with the novelty of experience. I selected a corner, nearer to the inner wall to gain solace. Rows and rows of women were reciting Quran. Gates were open and with exhilaration; people were carrying tea and gahwa kettles, dates, yoghurt and juices and a special kind of bread peculiar to that culture. As the sunset approached, silence gradually sat- in, deep in devotion, people started turning to God in supplication as all believed that prayers were best answered at the time of breaking the fast. Pouring heart through tears, everybody became humble and soft, more because the splendid month of Ramadan was coming to an end and people had already started missing the spiritual reflections and self-discipline experienced during the month.
The process for iftar looked more a mechanized activity, with remarkably fast and accurate procedure, table clothes were laid. Putting cups and glasses, distributing edibles, serving tea and juices, offering breakfast to thousands of people in a limited time without any confusion and chaos were beautiful scenes, amazingly heart- warming. Everybody got enough share from God's bounty. With happiness pouring in we broke our fast. Surprisingly, the team of ladies wound up the whole event with same quickness and efficiency and within minutes enabled all to stand up for Maghreb prayers. The experience provided an unusual feeling, the feeling of unity and oneness; it got transfixed as a desire to be one with the power of integrity. On that day, God seemed kind enough to tie me up with Medina, gracious enough to make a strong connectivity bond that with the passage of time became an ultimate link, strong enough to pull me back, often.
Living in Riyadh, it had become a routine to spend last four- five days of Ramadan in Makah and Medina. It would make us happy for the next year. We would often travel by road to enjoy the essence of Arab culture that looked entirely strange and unfamiliar as for as its rules for socialization were concerned. It was fun to explore 'a cultural island' that had its own distinct way of life, tightly closed- up civilization carried a strange ethnic aroma of crushed cardamom, roasted coffee beans mingled with Oudh and Arab perfumes. Maximum young expatriates along with their families would travel together to reach the destination, stopping at places to enjoy tea session in between driving, refresh, pray and continue to drive to destination. The magnificent roads would become over busy during the month of Ramadan, taking natives to spend holidays in Makah and Medina. Although, we did not relate much with the local crowd, amazingly, while praying in roadside mosques, religion would come to glue us together with a universal identity as Muslims. Starting from Riyadh, we had two options for traveling; we would select the route that suited all according to job requirements, time and needs. Traveling via Gassim, we would first touch Medina and then go to Makah. Taking a route via Taif would take us to Makah first. For us Zigzag Al Hada road carried an extra attraction, it looked less a part of hot and sandy Saudi Arabia and more like a road in Kashmir, it carried breathtaking foggy, cloudy scenic ecstasy that soothed nerves and mood like back in home. The hill road reminded us of Srinagar- Jammu High Way; it was equally dangerous but looked highly adventurous. Cautiously driving, enjoying stunning view from higher altitude, we could feel cool breeze touching and passing through us and feel ourselves in Kashmir
Ramadan is celebrated more than Eid in Saudi Arabia, during Ramadan nights turn into days. Fasting from dawn to sunset, people enjoy tremendous festivity in between fasting and prayer. They shop around with enthusiasm, decorate their homes, buy clothes and jewelry, change home furnishings, carpets, upholstery and buy gifts for relatives; spare enough money for charity to earn God's favor. Morning of Eid-ul-Fitr in Medina and Makah is the most soulful event. After Fajr, the whole area resonates with Takbeer Eid-ul-Fitr:
Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbur Allahu Akbar La
-ilaha Illallah Wallahu Akbar Allahu Akbar Wa-lil-lahil hamud.