The blessed month of Rajab is here. There is a deluge of Facebook posts, WhatsApp forwards, and emails extolling me to become more pious and Allah-conscious this month. Our respected and revered aalims, too, are all fired up – recite this and that dua they extoll in sermons, recite ziyaarats, pray these many sets of salaats, fast for the whole month, perhaps every Thursday if the whole month is not possible, but at least one-day minimum, give alms, etc, etc. Haazar. Chashm. Agreed. I accept. Who would not want to get intimate with Allah (s) and His mercy and blessings? Except I feel these traits and actions are what I should be doing every day of my life and not only in the month of Rajab or any particular month. But that’s me, who am I to second guess the respected and revered aalims? But there are so many duas and salaats and ziyaarats, my head whirls after a while. I’ll have to forgo so many other daily activities to achieve the lofty position these guys advise. Mai ither jaau ya uther jaau.
Here in Dar es Salaam, at the Khoja Jamaat, our resident aalim gives us a short lecture between magrebein. As if all the lectures on Fridays, all the lectures in Ramadhan, Muharram, wiladats, shahadats, etc., are not adequate. Haazar. Chashm. Agreed. I accept. I would be a fool to squander any opportunity to learn more about my religion anytime, anyplace. Except when these ‘short’ lectures began about a couple of months ago, he promised he’d take no more than two minutes of our time. The good man, for operational reasons, of course, has rarely kept that promise and broken the self-imposed time limit ninety-plus percent of the time. Yes, yes, I have kept a log.
So, the good man tells us, on the first day of Rajab, fasting is almost waajib, very highly recommended. This makes sense since the holy Prophet (s) did the very same thing in his lifetime. And amaals on the first Thursday of Rajab is also highly recommended between maghrebein. Haazar. Chashm. Agreed. Amaals are good, beneficial for my soul, and a way towards pleasing Allah (s). But, he continues, there is no record of our aimaas (a) ever performing this particular amaal – called Lailatul Raghaib. They are highly recommended, he says, but does not mention by whom. Hmm. That is kinda contradictory, no? If they were not practiced by the Aimaas (a), why try and outsmart them, I ask myself? Why not, I shout at the shaitan devil in me. There is nothing wrong in glorifying Allah (s) is there? Haazar. Chashm. Agreed. I slap myself and tell myself to shut up. Who am I to challenge these well-respected aalims who have the resources and took pains to research the authenticity of all the recommended mustahabaats we do?
My friend, Murtaza Bhimani, and I are traveling to Bukoba tomorrow, to commission a beautiful flagship school sponsored by Comfort Aid International (USA) donors. This will be CAI’s 80th worldwide school (2 more nearing completion) opening and I am super ecstatic about it. This is a mighty blessing, for about 700 students will have a spanking modern facility to study in, including the three science labs, a library, and a computer lab.
The Bukoba Jamaat, in honor of this event, has arranged a dinner and then thereafter a Rajab sufro in honor of Imam Sadiq (a) the next day. Dang! I’ll miss it since I’m headed back the very next day after the school opening. My good friend Murtaza tells me there’ll be sweet kheer (thankfully, without the silly ritual of hiding a silver finger ring in the kheer practiced ago, capable of choking someone unaware), fluffy oily pooris, chatpatta chana, and a main entree loaded with succulent pieces of masaladar mutton. I am instantly reminded of the pranks we used to do as a child in Tanga. I used to get annoyed because the ring always eluded me. So, one day, my friends distracted the head volunteer, and I dipped my (probably dirty) finger in as many bowls of kheer until I finally struck gold. I remember brandishing the shiny ring in school for days afterward. My mind reels with this excess and I want to rebel at something so lavish served to an already over-healthy Khoja community. Based on some ancient folklore and nothing that the poor Imam (a) asked of us. But since this is in honor of an Aimaa (a), I shut up. Haazar. Chashm. Agreed. Who am I to object? Perhaps we should assign a day of feasting sufro a month for each of our other Imams (a)?
So, happy Rajab to y’all. May y’all have a prosperous, blessed month that prepares us for Shaban and Ramadhan.
I urge you to click here to view some wonderful photos of the Jaffery School opening in Bukoba, Tanzania on January 27, 2023.