Muharram Amongst The Doodoos
The solemn days of Muharram are fast closing in so I rush back home to Sanford, FL from Tanzania where I am for two weeks inspecting/auditing CAI projects. Why? So that I can avoid the crush of Khoja mourners making their way to Dar from all over the world. It is the only place in the world offering old-school nostalgic Khoja-style version of Muharram rituals, all Doodoo free. Insha’Allah. And with the sweat-seasoned pulau and kalio-pav to kick in after a strenuous azadaari, the twelve days will be, I suppose, worth the airfare and accommodation expenses.
We thrive on controversies and this Muharram is no different, although this year has a new, unpredictable twist. Up to Thursday, this year’s Ashura is to be commemorated universally, the world over, on Sunday, August 30. I sigh in relief. Unity, for once. Not so fast, however. The crescent is unexpectedly sighted in Houston and most US centers lurch forward by a day. Canadians up north will have none of it, however, and some in the US decide to follow suit. For some mysterious reasons that are a hard sell to a rational and educated mind, they choose to remain with the rest of the world. So, this subject is a tug of baraaza war chat – Ashura should be on Sat/Sun/Sat/Sun/Sat/Sun…our moonsighting rationale is as clear as mud.
Here in Sanford, arrangements at Masjid Al Hay are in full swing as well. We are going all hi-tech to ward off the accursed Doodoo. A massive blimp of a screen goes up at the ample parking lot and the lectures beamed there with a dedicated FM channel to tune in for the audio. There are teething problems at first, understandably, which the management need to nip in the bud, but don’t or can’t. Admittedly, pesky persistent Florida summer showers create all sorts of headaches for the volunteers. I laud their selfless efforts; they do a wonderful job with this first-time attempt to give the community first-class service in paying our respects to Imam Hussein(a)’s mission in a Doodoo infected environment. A drive-up point to collect a self-contained filling dinner-niyaaz consumed in the vehicle followed by a social-distanced congregational salaat, followed by a lackluster lecture. Bravo volunteers, you guys are awesome! Apart from the technical hiccups from the rains, a thoroughly professional job. Allah bless.
An inspiring and forward-thinking speaker always helps, otherwise its incessant yawning and urging the clock to hurry up and eat away the allocated hour so the same-old, same-old can end soon. Sadly, this is the case at Al-Hay this year. Again. The guy is super nice, super-intelligent, and all, but his delivery and the subject matter of lectures covered are as lively and interesting as the latest hairstyle on my very barren scalp. I realize it is a challenge finding articulate speakers, who can stimulate and inspire so I should not bellyache too much? Still…
An Opportunity For Reform?
Just like there are different schools of thought within Islam, there appears to be several within the community that patronizes the Masjid al Hay here in Sanford, FL. Khoob. That is fine, I respect all of them. It is our education, upbringing, akhlaaq, and paradigms that make us who we are as adults. To each their own, no?
However, let’s consider the following:
- Smoking kills – check. No ambiguity here, no argument.
- Second-hand smoke kills – check. No ambiguity here, no argument.
- It is haraam (according to a vast majority of ulemaas) to smoke. Some exceptions are for habitual smokers who find it unbearable not to. But never in public – check. No ambiguity here, no argument.
- It is haraam to smoke (or vape) in the presence of others, especially if they object – check. No ambiguity here, no argument.
- It is unforgivable to smoke at a masjid or any place where there are signs of Allah, or any place where the aemaas (a) are celebrated and or honored – check. No ambiguity here, no argument.
- It is illegal to smoke within 200 feet of a public building – check. No ambiguity, no argument.
Now, common sense says:
- I should not smoke, alone or in the presence of others, especially children – my health is a very important asset I have.
- I should follow my marja on this issue – my religion is the most important investment I should capitalize on.
- I should never defile a house of Allah and smoke anywhere near His house – His signs and houses are sacred.
- I should always be thankful to Allah for the gift of clean air to breathe – gifts, especially from Allah, must never be sullied.
- I should have good and clean morals – there is a reason my parents named me Yusufali, or Abbas, or Basheer, or Sajjad, or Hyder or Mustafa or Gulamabbas et al., so that I try and emulate these personalities that give weight to these names. Smoking or vaping in the vicinity of Allah’s home or in the presence of children is an insult to my parents.
- I should be an example to the children, who look up to me – exactly opposite of what they’ll think and act by imitating the abuse of tobacco or other drugs.
That’s Allah’s given common sense, to most of us. However, there are a few amongst us who think and act otherwise. They have a different set of values, exactly the opposite of what I have stated above. And that’s okay too, it’s a free Dunya, no? However, if they can’t wait to smoke at home, why is it an issue to simply walk fifty yards away so that they do not endanger others, especially children and the sick, the elderly?
I have always, fiercely, believed and maintained that the rituals we follow in remembrance of Imam Hussein’s (a) sacrifice should be for self-reformation and change – for the better. This is why the Imam (a) did what he had to and gave the ultimate and supreme sacrifice of his and his most dear ones. With their very lives. These commemorations and mourning rituals are an invaluable opportunity handed to our community on a silver platter that no other group is lucky to inherit.
Yet some of the knucklehead, kichwa maajis, choose to persist on getting their heads stuck in the sand and not grab the gift from the Imam (a). The tragedy is that it is these very nawhakhwans, individuals who sing the praise of the aemaas (a), make us cry and do maatam inside who are guilty of this repugnant practice outside. Is there a more supreme form of hypocrisy in their abhorrent behavior? Don’t these brilliant nincompoops, may Allah bless them, realize what mockery they are up to, and the insult they are hurling at the Imam (a).
All arguments aside, tell me, should we be so fortunate, and Imam Hussein (a) was to visit the baraza outside after the lectures. Would he be pleased or pained at what he finds and witnesses? Smoking? Merriment? Cussing? If the answer is former, I will assume they were dropped on their heads at birth, perhaps, and shut up. But if the later, I would beg them to pause and reflect. And grab the opportunity for immediate reform – in the hallowed name of Imam Hussein (a) and his family, jameean (a).
Let us not be the people Allah refers to in the following sura of the holy Quraan – Sura A’araaf – 7:179.
And surely, We have created many of the jinns and mankind for hell. They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones.
- The author is a profoundly repentant and inane ex-smoker.