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Surah Yusuf – The Best of Stories – Reflections

Surah Yusuf, Chapter 12 of the Quran, is the most engaging, timeless, and complete story ever. It was relevant back then and it is relevant today.

Prophet Yusuf (as), known for his miraculously good looks, was beautiful both inside out. Often people advise pregnant women to recite it to have a beautiful baby. This tradition is not proven by any verse of the Quran or hadith. This is also is certainly not what the Surah is meant to be used for.

The real impact of this Surah is how it helps beautify relationships, and teaches invaluable lessons in times of difficulty and ease.

The Quran itself calls the true story of Prophet (Yusuf) “the best of stories”. It is the story of the life of Yusuf (as). Here are a few reflections on this Surah:

·         There are disadvantages of announcing your plans and showing off blessings – the evil eye (Nazr-e-Bad) and jealousy. Do not share plans till they materialize. For example initial pregnancy, intent to marry someone, the initial job interview that went well. Don’t also announce good dreams. (12:5)

·         Three elements of Sabrun Jameel (beautiful patience): Don’t announce your suffering all the time. Don’t complain to everyone. And don’t imply that you are perfect and free of faults. (12:18)

·         Maturity does not come without having gone through difficult times. Tough times have a way of making us stronger and hopefully wiser. (12:21)

·         The credit goes to Allah if we do something good and are able to ward off a temptation. The biggest temptation is narcissism and vanity. (12:24)

·         People don’t listen to our tableegh if we have not developed a relationship with them. See the example of Yusuf (as). He had developed a bond with the other inmates in jail. That is why they listened to him. Point: Work on relationships with sincerity.

·         Effects of your a’amaal (deeds) reflect on your face – both good and bad. In a world where you have to keep marketing yourself, humility becomes difficult. But it is important for tazkiyah (purification) of the nafs (self) to not announce your achievements all the time. However, undue humility can hamper you getting the deserved position. Therefore, maintain a balance. Tell when necessary & offer your services where needed. Undue modesty will stop you from doing the duty Allah assigned you. Be like Yousuf (as) – humble yet confident, but giving Allah credit for everything good. (Reflection of qualities of Yousuf {as})

·         To be a ‘mohsin’ – one with a beautiful attitude and nature – Sabr (patience) is inevitable. A reactive, inflammable personality cannot be a mohsin. (12:56)

·         In the era of Facebook and Instagram where we share every joy and share every plan with hundreds, we need to remind ourselves that Nazar-e-Bad [evil eye] is a reality. Safeguard yourself against it with prayers, especially the last 2 chapters of the Quran. Also do not announce your plans and every achievement and joy. (12:67)

·         “Do not grieve yourself over what they did” – Beautiful advice Yousuf (as) gave to his brother Bin Yameen. Reminder to self: Stop focusing on the few people who are a test for us and bother/hurt us. Instead, focus on those who are the coolness of your eyes, and are good to you. Ramadan is the best time to let go of this baggage of “I am hurt by him/her”. (12:69)

·         There is someone more knowledgeable than you, always. There is always someone who is better than you even in the things that you are good at. And the most Knowing and Perfect is Allah. So stay humble. You are not the ultimate. Never. (12:76)

·         Allah Knows the reality of people’s intentions and situations. Therefore stop judging people. You do not know their journey. You have not traveled their path. (12:77)

·         A sure shot test of whether you are a “mohsin” or not – check your behaviour with those who are under you or you have power over them. As a parent, as a senior at work, as a ruler, as someone who has house help. How are you with those who don’t have power over you? (12:78)

·         There is patience. And then there is what the Quran calls “Beautiful Patience” – Sabrun Jameel. Another sign of beautiful patience is that you stop assuming things about others and control your habit of judging others and commenting on them. (12:83)

·         Complain of your pain, heartache, and hurt others cause only to Allah. Allah can help. Those whom you gossip to cannot help. (12:86)

·         Give people the benefit of doubt. And at times even if you know they intended to harm you, do not announce in front of them that you know. Sometimes it is wiser to hold your peace. (12:89)

·         If someone hurt you a long time ago – it could even be a parent, a sibling, a friend – don’t think to yourself ‘I can never forget/forgive what he/she did’. Let go! Forgiving is healing for yourself more than anyone else. (12:92)

·         Sometimes grief leads to happiness, and failure leads to success, in the long run. Sometimes the very person that caused you great distress will become the cause of happiness. The situation will get better. Hang in there. (12:96)

·         Your company leads you to become the person you are. Therefore choose your company carefully. Good company in this world will lead us to be in the company of the righteous in the Hereafter. Choose wisely. (12:101)

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Did Yasra Rizvi deserve to be trolled for her unconventional mehr?

Published: January 7, 2017

Yasra’s unconventional mehr was something many had not heard of. PHOTO: FACEBOOK.

When actress Yasra Rizvi set out to marry Abdul Hadi, little did she know that her claim to fame will be that she married a man 10 years younger and her mehr, which her husband agreed to, is Fajr prayer (obligatory morning prayers for Muslims). The couple was scrutinised harshly through the lens of a magnifying glass, and was trolled on social media for one simple reason – they dared to do something against the norm. And nothing scares us like what we do not understand.

People are still familiar with the older-woman-weds-younger-man scenario, even though they see it as abominable, even those who harp on about how important following the example of the Prophet (pbuh) is, forget that it is also his Sunnah that he married a woman 15 years his senior at the prime of his youth.

But Yasra’s unconventional mehr was something many had not heard of. We, as a nation, have common misconceptions about this Islamic tenet, stemming from a lack of awareness. Yasra, thank you! You taking this step out of the norm may just have triggered a debate that could result in some authentic information regarding the concept of mehr trickling into our collective narrative.

Here are just a few very basic facts about the concept of mehr. While these are just a few pointers, I hope this will encourage us to talk about mehr and help expose some myths:

Mehr (also called haq mehr) is a mandatory payment of tangible assets, currency, property or an intangible, conditional commitment or understanding that both parties agree upon.

Yes, a mehr can be intangible, as is in Yasra Rizvi’s case. The best example of an intangible mehr comes from the Sahabiya Umm Sulaym Bint Milhan al-Ansarriyah (ra) who agreed to marry Abu Talha (ra), and the mehr was him accepting Islam.

Islam has not fixed an upper or lower limit of mehr. It will depend upon the financial standing of both the man and the woman.

While no amount or limit has been prescribed, it shouldn’t be an amount so extravagant that the man cannot afford to pay (and is just fixed to portray financial or social standing). Nor should it be so miniscule that the tenet appears to have been taken lightly. However, once again, no sum or limit has been set, neither upper nor lower.

The amount is to be decided upon after mutual consultation between the man and the woman tying the knot. This is one more reason why the couple entering into the contract read through and understand the clauses of the nikkah nama, and the terms are mutually agreed upon. If elders of the family help with the consultation, it should be made sure that the man and the woman are on the same page and are aware of the agreement.

Mehr is an absolutely obligatory clause of the contract of marriage for Muslims, no matter how big or small the amount.

Mehr is designed as a means of security and protection for the woman. It will be the sole property of the woman and she will have discretion over how and when to spend it. It is therefore a part of the nikkah, and its payment is not conditional with or tied to the incidence of talaaq (divorce). It is therefore strongly recommended that it is paid at the time of the nikkah. However, if there is a genuine reason why it cannot be paid at that time, mawajjal/muakhhar (deferred/promised) rather than mo’ajjal/muqaddam (immediate/prompt), then it should be paid as soon as the man can afford to pay it. Till such time that he pays it to her, it is considered a kind of debt that he owes to his wife. Islam makes clear that if he cannot pay it at that given time, he should intend on paying it at the earliest.

Upon a man’s death, all that he leaves behind as inheritance for his heirs may not be distributed among the inheritors until all payments or debts he owes to anyone are paid off, which includes the mehr.

No man who wishes to marry a woman is exempt from mehr. Thus, the custom of asking the wife to “forgive him the mehr” is not in line with Islamic tenets.

Knowledge gives one the power to make informed decisions. Yasra used that power. Instead of wasting time judging her decision, it’s best to learn more so that we, too, can make informed decisions.

Information shared in this write-up is based on authentic Islamic traditions.

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz is a writer and editor, and has worked as the Features Editor with The Express Tribune. Her focus is human-centric feature stories. She now writes as a freelancer, and works in the field of marketing and corporate communications. She loves literature and traveling. She tweets on @FarahnazZahidi. Her work can be seen at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/44707/did-yasra-rizvi-deserve-to-be-trolled-for-her-unconventional-mehr/

Day 20, 21, 22, 23 #Ramadan #Quran #ConflictResolution #CallTowardsAllah #Good #Evil

Day 20, 21, 22, 23 – CALL TOWARDS ALLAH, RESOLVE DIFFERENCES WITH GOODNESS & PATIENCE,

& SEEK REFUGE IN ALLAH

And who speaks better than he who calls to Allah while he himself does good, and says: I am surely of those who submit?

And the good deed and the bad deed are not equal. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is good; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was an intimate friend.

And none are made to receive it but those who are patient, and none are made to receive it but those who have a mighty good fortune.

And if an evil whisper from Shaitan (Satan) tries to turn you away (O Muhammad, upon him be peace) (from doing good), then seek refuge in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.

Verses 33 to 36 –  Surah Fussilat:

Verse 41:33 – In a world full of words, talks and conversations, there is so much noise and too much info. Analyze the words we utter, speak, write, share. So many are undesirable – they may hurt others or be in-factual or exaggerated, or simply useless. But you can be sure that the most beautiful are the words that help others connect with Allah. Here, the act of dawah (calling towards Allah and towards Islam) is being called the best speech. But conditionally – the person doing so must couple it with righteous actions, and reaffirm his/her own faith. Needless to say that the act of dawah cannot be done effectively with hikmah (wisdom), rifq (gentleness), ‘ijz (humility) and naseeha (sincerity). yet, some from among believers must continue doing it, and the reward is multi-fold in an era where people are not ready to listen. Like today. That is precisely when it is most needed.

Narrated `Uthman:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The best among you (Muslims) are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it.” (Bukhari)

Verse 41:34 – We lose it sometimes. We say things that cause friction and rifts, and cause fights and disagreements. We have falling outs of friends and break ups of spouses. Sometimes we feel it is just too late to say sorry or to make up. And sometimes, it is truly the fault of the other person. In either case, the casualty is the relationship. Here, the Quran says something beautiful: Good and bad behaviour are not the same and therefore yield different results. And if at all you make a mistake of hurting someone or souring a relationship, act toward that person with kindness, sincerity and affection. The golden rule here is that good repels evil, just like clean water washes away dirt. So even of your behaviour is faulty and full of mistakes, keep doing good deeds to makeup for your mistakes. Exceptions will always be there, but as a general rule, loving and kind behavior can makes friends out of foes and can rejoin broken ties.

Verse 41:35 – But to be nice to someone with whom you have had an unpleasant episode is not easy. Imagine having to say sorry after a fight. Imagine being kind and gentle to someone who was rude to you. This might be the path to rejoining relations, but its not easy. Yet, to crush one’s ego and take that first step, according to the Quran, is something also those with patience can do, and in the sight of Allah only the lucky ones get to do it.

Verse 41:36 – Remember when you contemplated being the first one to say Salam or say sorry or extend the hand of friendship after a fight? Shaitan will dfinitely whisper to you that it makes you look small, and remind you that you are not in fault, and plant in your mind the question “Why should I do it?” Because the reward of doing the right thing is so much, seek protection in Allah from such misleading whispers of Shaitan, and do the right thing anyways.

 

Day 18. Day 19 #Ramadan #Quran #Verseoftheday #HumanLifeIsSacred #ValueOfLife

Day 18 – VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE

Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had killed the entire mankind. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved the emtire mankind. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.

This is verse 32 from  Sūrat al-Māidah, Chapter 5, of the Quran.

The words are powerful and clear. While the contextual address is to the Bani Israel, all of humanity, and every witness and reader of the Quran is addressed here. Allah (swt) who loves each human, His unique creation, more than the love of 70 mothers put together, is reminding us what each life means to him.  Prophet Muhammad (saw), in his last Sermon on the sacred day of Hajj, the 9th day of Dhul al Hijjah, 10th year after Hijrah, in the ‘Uranah valley of Mount Arafat, said these words that remain etched in history:

O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust.

This verse 5:32 needs to be read and re-read, in our hearts, from our lips, in private and in public, to remind us of the value of the life of each person in the sight of Allah.

The same message is repeated in Verse 17:33 of Surah Bani Israel (Chapter 17):

And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right. And whoever is killed unjustly – We have given his heir authority, but let him not exceed limits in [the matter of] taking life. Indeed, he has been supported [by the law].

Saving a single life, by any means, whether medical treatment, charity, and service of humanity, wins us limitless reward. The opposite will have the opposite results. These verses remind us yet again – each life matters.

 

 

 

 

Day 11 to 17 #Ramadan #Quran #GoldenVerses #FormulaForSuccess

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ
Certainly will the believers have succeeded
ٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ فِى صَلَاتِهِمْ خَٰشِعُونَ
They who are during their prayer humbly submissive
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ ٱللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ
And they who turn away from ill speech
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِلزَّكَوٰةِ فَٰعِلُونَ
And they who are observant of zakah (obligatory charity)
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِفُرُوجِهِمْ حَٰفِظُونَ
And they who guard their private parts
إِلَّا عَلَىٰٓ أَزْوَٰجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَٰنُهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ غَيْرُ مَلُومِينَ
Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed
فَمَنِ ٱبْتَغَىٰ وَرَآءَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْعَادُونَ
But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِأَمَٰنَٰتِهِمْ وَعَهْدِهِمْ رَٰعُونَ
And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive
وَٱلَّذِينَ هُمْ عَلَىٰ صَلَوَٰتِهِمْ يُحَافِظُونَ
And they who carefully maintain their prayers
أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْوَٰرِثُونَ
Those are the inheritors
ٱلَّذِينَ يَرِثُونَ ٱلْفِرْدَوْسَ هُمْ فِيهَا خَٰلِدُونَ
Who will inherit al-Firdaus. They will abide therein eternally.
Beautiful, self-explanatory. Some of my personal favourite verses form the Quran. Ideal for those who want to do some hifz (memorization) and recite these verses in their namaz  after reflecting on their meaning.
These initial 11 verses from Surah al-Mu’minoon, Chapter 23, of the Quran, are one of those portions where a cluster, or a list as we may call it, of dos and don’ts, give us a short cap up of the basics. An example of similar clusters of these gems in the Quran are verses 63 to 76 of Chapter 25, Surah al-Furqan.
What is always unique in such certain key words in each verse.
The first 11 verses of this Surah have so many profound themes in them. The inter-relation of spiritual connection with Allah (swt) through ‘ibaadah (worship), and then social ethics, as well as inner purification and relationships with humans – what a complete eco-system of a good life!
The translations are pretty simple. I will just be going over some key terms.
Verse 1: The word “Aflah” from the root “fa-la-ha” denotes success that is complete, holistic and lasting. It is interesting to note that many words in Arabic that start with the sound “fa” give the meaning of something that is broken or split. “Fallah” in Arabic is a farmer – one who plants a seed, works on nurturing it, and the seed then splits, giving way to sapling and then a plant and then a crop, the benefits of which the farmer harvests. Likewise, a momin (believer), when working hard at pleasing good, avoids what Allah wants him/her to void, and does what Allah wants him/her to do, is traveling on a path that will ultimately lead to complete Falaah – success in both dunya and the Hereafter.
Verse 2: “Khaashi’oon” – The verse is not merely asking us to establish prayers, but goes a step further, and talks about what really makes an act of worship we perform 5 times a day worthy of Allah’s pleasure. To have Khushoo’ is to submit to God in complete humility, with acceptance of His Power, His Majesty and His Mercy. Thus, namaz (salaat) is not to be just a physical exercise but the heart must be involved.
Verse 3: “Laghw” – Speech that is useless, non-productive, evil (against one’s self or against another person), dirty – in short, all kinds of words and speech which Allah would disapprove of. Simply put, it displeases Allah (swt) when we misuse the beautiful gift of speech we have been given – cursing, profanity and expletives, backbiting, rumour mongering, verbal abuse, lying, and callous loose talk just for what everyone today calls shughal or fun. Not ok. Have to avoid consciously.
Verse 4: “Zakat” – Simply means purification. Notice how the verse literally says that the successful one’s are doers of purification. Obligatory charity is called Zakat because it purifies not just our wealth (from spending on wrong things, from over spending or from being stingy), but also purifies our heart from greed and selfishness. Tazkiyah – a word from the same root – is used for purification of the inner self from diseases of the soul like hate, jealousy, malice etc. This is a constant process Islam wants us to do till we are alive.
Verse 5:”Haafizoon” – Those who guard; here, guarding their chastity. A recurrent theme in the Quran is to not give in to physical lust or temptation. The pleasure one derives from that is temporary, but the guilt and consequences (in both this world and the next) are lasting.
Verse 6: “Ghaira Maloomeen” – Not blameworthy. The same act, in a relationship (marriage) prescribed by Allah, becomes an act of worship, for when a person fulfills one’s inherent physical desires in a relationship permitted by Allah, it becomes an act of obedience. Fidelity in marriage is important for a Muslim. Married or not, certain sins need to be kept at bay – “love” does not make it ok.
Verse 7: “‘Aadoon” – Those who transgress. Those who seek sexual fulfillment beyond the permissible, and insist on their sins, even though they have understood that this is forbidden, and feel no remorse, and have no intention of doing taubah (repenting).
Verse 8:”Raa’oon” – Beautiful word. Those who attentively guard. Two things to guard mentioned here: Amaanaat (trusts) – whatever Allah has entrusted you with (all the blessings and everything in your control which you could use or misuse to please or displease Him) and ‘Ahad – commitments, promises, pledges, whether you made these commitments to Allah or His creations. Islam does not take breaking of commitments lightly.
Verse 9:”Yuhafizoon” – Those who guard – here, referring to guarding their prayers. The daily obligatory prayers in particular are our constant connection with Allah. We may become wonderful human beings in other ways, but that does not make up for the required connection with Allah. Inner cleansing and spiritual connection with the Creator is not possible without regularity in namaz (salaat).
Verse 10: “Waarithoon”, some may pronounce it “Waarisoon” – the inheritors. Implying that they are deserving of what they will inherit in the Herefter – Paradise.
Verse 11: “Khaalidoon” – eternal. Jannah is worth struggling for because in this world, no pleasure is forever. Everything in this temporary world withers, changes and eventually ends, whether it is physical beauty or the joy of love or a moment of enjoyment. Imagine a world where joy, love, satisfaction, peace and happiness does not wither, change or end. That is what we should strive for.

Day 8, Day 9 & Day 10 #Ramadan #Quran #Verseoftheday #Paradise #Charity #AngerManagement #Forgive #Chastity

– Day 8, Day 9 & Day 10
Forgive and be Forgiven  

And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden as wide as the heavens and earth, prepared for the righteous.

Those who spend [in the cause of Allah] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good.

3_135

And those who, when they commit immorality or wrong themselves, remember Allah and seek forgiveness for their sins – and who can forgive sins except Allah? and (who) do not persist in what they have done knowingly.

How beautiful is Islam, full of hope, for the door to forgiveness is always open till the last breath.

These verses from Surah Aal-e-Imran have multiple inter-related themes. Here I am, marveling at each verse and each word and each letter that is meaningful beyond comprehension. With gentle love and care, our Merciful Rabb shows us the path towards salvation, guiding us each step of the way, motivating us, telling us what to do.

The surface of the key subjects in these 3 verses can be at best barely touched upon as under:

  • Verse 133: Allah (swt) is using the word “Saa-ri-‘oo” – rush, hasten, run, compete towards Allah’s forgiveness. The word implies that we must not delay, for each moment is precious. Allah’s forgiveness is the only thing that can lead us to the unimaginable Paradise that He has lovingly prepared for the God-conscious. What fascinates me is the fact that the Quran recognizes that even the God-conscious or “Muttaqeen” who may eventually end up in Jannah with His Mercy, will make mistakes, but with effort and sincere intention to improve, they may attract Allah’s forgiveness. The people of Jannah are not perfect. But they accept their faults and strive to improve, and do good deeds that may wash away their sins. #Hope
  • Verse 134: SPEND – One of the sure shot ways to wash away your mistakes. And spending not conditionally only when you have lots to give, but spending in times of difficulty and financial restrain. Spending what we love. Spending even when we do not have a lot of “extra” to spend. Spend on those who live on earth, and He will forgive you and shower blessings on you from the heavens.
  • Verse 134: CONTROL ANGER – Anger in all its forms. Both inner and outer. Outer anger manifests itself as abuse, violence, taunts, sarcasm and harming the other. Inner anger manifests as grudges and ill feelings. The word “kaazimeen” is so apt – to suppress. Meaning the anger IS there, and in all probability is justified, and the person we are angry with may have hurt us or wronged us. Yet, true strength lies in controlling this negative emotion.
  • Verse 134: FORGIVE: Wow! So if we want Allah (swt) to forgive us, we have to forgive those who have harmed us. So many times, even if we are somehow able to suppress anger, the seething pain and the grudges towards those who have hurt us remain. They do not harm that person, mostly. These ill feelings damage the heart that is housing these ill feelings. Allah (swt) is telling us to let go of whatever it was. After all, if it is Allah (swt) on whom we have tawakkul (reliance), we have to trust that He Knows who hurt us and harmed us and scarred us. If we want to heal, this is the only path – forgetting may not be possible but forgiving (with a lot of hard work) is a possibility. So let go of that anger…..forgive…for inner peace. For Paradise will be home to those who have found inner peace 🙂
  • Verse 135: BEGGING FOR FORGIVENESS: Yes, even those who will eventually, InshaAllah, enter Paradise, make major mistakes and commit major sins….sins that come under immorality, indecency, and go against the command to guard their chastity. When they do so, they have wronged no one but themselves. The inner impressions such sins leave harm our soul, bit by bit. The verse addresses those who have harmed themselves. Recognizing that one has erred and accepting that it is we who harm ourselves is the first step towards forgiveness. When they ask Allah (swt) for forgiveness, Allah (swt) showers His forgiveness on His slaves. But the one condition this verse puts forth is this: Do not insist on repeating a sin when you realize it is a mistake. Strive and aim to ward it off, and ask Allah (swt) for the strength to be able to resist the temptations. And its beautiful when the verse says who can forgive but Allah (swt)? The piles and mountains of our sins can only find forgiveness in our Rabb, the Magnanimous and ever Merciful.

As the beautiful Hadeeth-e-Qudsi says:

On the authority of Anas, who said: I heard the messenger of Allah say:Allah the Almighty has said: “O son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as its.” (Tirmidhi)

In this most special of months, let us forgive and beg Allah for forgiveness.

Ramazan shows are like a slice of Pakistan: A bit of religion followed by a lot of gossip

Published: June 15, 2016

These shows are a reflection of what is going on in our society. These Ramazan shows are a slice of Pakistan today. A bit of religion followed by a bit of gossip and a bit of extravagance and a bit of unethical humiliation of someone who cannot stop us from doing so and a bit of retail therapy – all in a single breath.

For those of us who grew up watching PTV, religious shows were an integral and beneficial part of the daily routine. Anything that came on PTV, we watched. As a member of the PTV generation, I grew up watching the daily afternoon show where the recitation of the Holy Quran was taught, and I don’t recall missing Majlis-e-Shaam-e-Gharibaan on any tenth ofMuharram, even as a Sunni.

Religion, as presented on TV back then, was something to be respected and honoured on the media. I recall care being taken even about the kind of advertisements that were run between religious shows, if they were any at all.

But then the Aalim Online era begun. Make no mistake; as an objective bystander I appreciate the fact that Aalim Online was the first show that brought Islamic scholars of different schools of thought on the same podium, and acted as an interfaith forum of sorts. Many similar shows followed, providing useful information.

But then something dangerous happened. These shows started bringing in ratings. And advertisements. And money. Ramazan, followed by Eid is of course heyday for marketeers and consumerists. Therefore, religious shows were morphed into Ramazan religious shows – all in one type – with the azaan, religious scholars and verses of the Holy Quran in one hour and full throttle live entertainment show the next.

Every one followed this trend. Money kept rolling in. Ramazan’s spirit of giving was abused into marketing gimmickry. Thousands of motorbikes are given away to people who are willing to sacrifice their self-respect and let their humiliation be broadcasted for it. Karachi’s legendary killer motorbiker boys keep increasing on the streets of a city where 23 million or more reside, but there is no dependable public transport system.

Sadly enough, these shows are a reflection of what is going on in our society. These Ramazan shows are a slice of Pakistan today. A bit of religion followed by a bit of gossip and a bit of extravagance and a bit of unethical humiliation of someone who cannot stop us from doing so and a bit of retail therapy – all in a single breath. It may be very easy for the affluent upper tier Pakistanis to judge the people coming on these shows for that motorbike and say,

In kee koi izzat e nafs nahin?”

(Don’t they have any self-respect?)

But the reality is that in a society with such drastic socio-economic disparity, we often cannot relate to what winning a motorbike or a mobile-phone means to the masses. They struggle every day and pretend to be carrying on a comfortable life, but in reality are exhausted by financial crunches.

Here we are, witnessing the beautiful spirit of this month being hijacked by money making machines. These shows, for instance, Pak Ramzan Amir Liaquat Show and Jeeto Pakistanwith Fahad Mustafa, in the long run, will have disastrous and sustained effects on our social fabric. Some are beginning to show already. Thanks to the fact that gifts are given even if the person does not know the answer to “which are Pakistan’s neighbouring countries?” the bar for intelligent general knowledge quizzes is not just being lowered but has been smashed. Levels are also being lowered with regards to collective entertainment. Publicly ridiculing others is considered funny, or people pretend that it is funny because the host is often being praised collectively, so that s/he is happy with the audience and gives away a gift.

There is certain decorum – call it adab, if you may – that is required for religious and spiritual messages to permeate a heart. When that is absent, the soul does not absorb the beautiful messages Ramazan is transmitting to it. When a large part of our post-iftar eve is spent watching these shows even though we criticise them, something inside us dies.

What’s worse is that the few genuinely informative and interesting religious shows that are on television in Ramazan, such as Baran e Rehmat with Hamza Ali Abbasi, also lose their credibility due to the blanket assumption of viewers that all Ramazan special shows are just the same sub-standard offering. The genuine scholars are respected less due to those who have not yet embodied the beautiful spirit of Ramazan, and in fact of Islam. Thus, some genuinely good shows no longer get the recognition they deserve.

Do the hosts and producers of these shows realise what a powerful medium they have in their hands, and how productively this could be used to propagate the real ideals of Ramazan like charity, hospitality, simplicity, love and compassion?

Maybe it’s time to make it a regular dua in Ramazan that may Allah (SWT) guide those who have been given this power to use it responsibly.