Masjid el Hayy in Sanford is crowded and abuzz with eager Khojas waiting to know if we’ll be fasting from tomorrow, Monday, May 6. There would not ordinarily be such a large crowd, on a religious event-free day. A niyaaz dinner in honor of a just laid to rest prominent member of HIC does the trick. Perhaps? The outcome of the crescent is not confirmed until much later, being sighted somewhere in Texas.
And so, the holy month begins, with all its blessings and intended goodness and barakaat that comes with it. People who I usually do not see much during the rest of the year at the center, now show up. Many are attired in the expression of somber piety and virtue, ready to take advantage of the abundant and manifold rewards promised by none other than Allah Himself.
The pre and post iftaar programs by HIC on subsequent days start on the disciplined Khoja timetable as published. Most times. The recitation manager fumbles with the microphone, as if it is the most significant creation since WhatsApp or Twitter. No time is wasted, from the start of duas to azaan, every free second packed with dua/Quraan recitation, as if allowing some time for a breather and banter would invoke the damnation from heavens. The visiting aalim, the young Sh. Mohammed al Saadi’s lectures are good, if repetitive, but thankfully kept to a palatable 30 minutes attention span for an ordinary human like me. His jamaat salaats are precise, little unnecessary fluff. What a refreshing change from what we are routinely forced to put up with – undisciplined dudes with rambling, sleep inducing, repetitive monologs. The Sheykh has the courtesy to be at the helm of prayer hall before the call for prayers, something others who lead prayers can perhaps try and emulate? Alas, the individually homemade yummy variety of iftaar salads of yore made with love is substituted by a bland commercial grade this year. Bummer.
Facebook is both a curse and blessing, I tell ya! I keep in touch with the wider world and gain a bunch of information, useful sometimes but mostly bull. ‘Friends’, (most I do not know and have no clue how we got to be pals. Honestly!), post so many repetitive sayings and duas and advise for Ramadhan, I truly think I need deep additional therapy for redemption. The yummy food clips don’t help; it makes me yearn for the kinds of food I’ll never be able to partake. But FB does, most times, pass my time when I get tired or bored from my daily grind and seek silly entertainment. There are conspiracy theories posted about everything under Allah’s domain that are mighty doozies in imagination, but funny at times. Then, we have spouses pretending they love each other by professing their feelings to the world rather than to each other in the bedroom. And the exercise videos that promise to flatten my stomach in a week or some miracle concoction that is the answer to everything from a common cold to cancer. All bakwaas. However, as a social media tool to quickly propagate free CAI messages and or appeals, FB is unmatched.
I keep up my exercise routine this blessed month, for I have no choice if I want to remain alive and kicking. So, sweating about ninety minutes a day at the 24-hour Planet Fitness gym in Lake Mary is mandatory. Good thing it’s open 24 hours, since sleep in Ramadhan is in short supply and erratic, so I can go late night or anytime I want. I thought running under 8.7 minutes/mile for 6 plus miles without food and water would be mighty intolerable, but no, alhamd’Allah, it’s doable. It’s like the dread of fasting for 30 long days before Ramadhan actually starts. It’s all in the mind, no?
Daughter Maaha Zainab graduates magna cum laude from high school; aces all six subjects with A’s her last semester; I’m a mighty proud Papa. We have to drive a distance to a swarming, noisy arena in the middle of a saum to see my baby receive a piece of paper that says she is one smart gal. Eons ago, the only thing I got at my high school graduation was an earful that I’d amount to nothing more than a lousy barber as an adult with the grades I got. Hmmm, I don’t know. With what barbers charge these days…
The increasingly perplexing state of our dunia keeps on turning this Ramadhan – usual, same old, same old. Only, it’s more brutal and getting more insane by the day. Politicians blatantly lie and these falsehoods are accepted as Gospel. Truths are turned into lies and these too, are generally tolerable. This madness is apparent the world over, from the lying politicians who hoodwink the illiterate voters in the election-charged air over India to policymakers here at home, whose blatant lies, strangely, are digested by the somewhat more educated masses.
Gaza is pulverized, Yemen’s infants are starved, terrorized and blown apart without consequences while lawmakers in Alabama show inane concern about babies yet to be born, Iran and Venezuela gets squeezed, the Chinese put millions into concentration camps, stops them from praying and fasting, minorities in India get butchered for having mutton in their possession, accused by saffron-clad vigilantes of eating sacred (to many Hindus) beef, the police turn a blind eye, bombs kill hundreds in Sri Lanka, explosives kill and maim the fasting innocent in Pakistan and Afghanistan, hundreds drown trying to escape poverty in Africa… A never-ending saga of violence, death, destruction, incredible pain, helplessness, misery, and wretchedness. All this is, to me, so suffocating, I get naively impatient, perhaps, for the Imam (a) to make his promised reappearance and take over this teetering mess. When? When? When!
So it is to this Urdu sonnet I turn to whenever I feel overwhelmed; you too might find it calming, comforting. Perhaps?
CAI 50th Worldwide School – A Vision Within Grasp
There is no substitute to a dignified life other than a quality education. This is an undeniable fact that I have repeatedly witnessed all over our disproportioned world. Hence the importance of education in poor areas of the world that CAI gives opportunity and priority. Alhamd’Allah, the 46th CAI donor-sponsored school is identified and funds for construction allocated this holy month. It will be in a very remote village of Somb, 7 hours from Dakar, Senegal. 500 very poor, almost all barefoot, trek to a rickety unstable outdoor school, sit for hours on the dirt floor under a blazing sun for a chance to write and read some words.
They will, in a few months insha’Allah, be sitting on desks in a modern classroom, and hopefully become better and productive humans to their beings, their families, their nations and the wider world. I get no better feeling of gratitude and joy that Allah has granted CAI this wonderful opportunity to serve mankind.
Four more schools and my earnest prayers for 50 CAI sponsored worldwide schools in my lifetime will be fulfilled, insha’Allah. Statistically, this feat, if achieved insha’Allah, would be mind-blowing. Imagine, an average of 25,000 poor children would be attending a CAI donor-funded school every day. Even if 10% of these children make it to college or university and graduate, the possibilities of them leaving a positive footprint of their lives in this crazy dunia of ours would be a prayer come true. There is nothing that Allah would want more from us, would He? What bounties of Allah can we deny?
Click here to see the list of CAI donor-funded schools the world over.