Remembering Ramadan – Sadaqah Spirit Soars, Hope Floats

بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Ramadan in the city of Karachi, Pakistan this year has been marked with a unique spirit of giving, as flood victims in the local province poured into the city, and individuals and organizations continued the aid work that they had commenced for the affected millions up North since August. As we all know by now, Pakistan is currently experiencing the worst natural disaster in its history, the 2010 floods. It is a disaster that has had, and will continue to have, record-breaking repercussions. May Allah help the afflicted and ease their suffering and despair. Ameen.

As always, Ramadan changes the schedule of the populace on an individual and collective level every year. Offices and schools get off earlier, and shops stay closed until 2 p.m. The streets wear a deserted look early in the mornings, with the roads occupied only by the school vans and mothers doing the daily school run. Tempers are markedly short and the slightest provocation can spark an altercation.

Afternoon sees the shops open up with a yawn and stretch. As the hours wear on towards sundown, the aroma of frying samosas, pakoras, jalebis and other traditional, Pakistani tea-time snack fare starts wafting up from the streets. Business for food shops, grocery stores, restaurants, fruit vendors and bakeries reaches its peak during the last hour of the fast. Traffic becomes – no exaggeration – very vicious, and car accidents during Ramadan are common, especially just before iftar, when people are rushing home. Ironically, though, just a few minutes before the sun sets, the streets actually depict a completely contrasting, ghost-like, deserted look. Not a single person is visible, except perhaps the odd pedestrian, or the driver of a speeding car who is late in getting home for iftar.

The good thing about experiencing Ramadan in a Muslim-majority country is the communal spirit of fasting and praying together – a spirit that makes all the wonderful difference in the practical, day-to-day life of any Muslim. The loud siren sounds just as the clock ticks the exact minute of maghrib, which is followed by a cacophony of melodious adhaans that start simultaneously from all the local masajid. Within the hour, traffic is back on the roads and the hustle and bustle of outdoor night life really begins. People gradually emerge to shop, eat out and socialize with friends and family.

Alhamdulillah, scores also emerge with admirable fervor to attend congregational taraweeh prayers that are convened every year in the masajid and in the spacious lawns of private homes with zeal. It is heartening to note that a large number of them are women:

Nothing beats driving through the streets of Karachi during Ramadan nights and hearing the sounds of varying forms of loud Quran recitation at intervals, blared by the congregations’ speakers. Even on sides of busy roads and thoroughfares, amidst the markets’ hustle and bustle, small taraweeh congregations are zealously underway.

When I spot things like these, I thank my Lord even more that I live in a Muslim majority country/city! 🙂

As I said before, the flood victims’ plight has been on the minds and hearts of all locals this year, even more so since the commencement of Ramadan – the month of wholehearted giving and donating. The spirit of giving has been heartening to witness. Here on main Zamzama in Defence phase 5, my neighborhood, just before sunset, the poor line the deserted commercial streets as they are donated free iftar by some better off, large-hearted Muslims.

The spirit of giving has soared this Ramadan, which is nearing its culmination today. Hope is slowly being restored, thanks to the selfless efforts of those people who are rushing to the aide of the ones devastated by the floods. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. If this disastrous natural calamity occurred just before Ramadan, there could very well be a Divine reason for it.

For most, though, only the apparent aspect of the destruction, loss and despair occupies their minds and perhaps makes them feel angry and rebellious about the depressing situation. For the wiser ones and especially for those who ponder on the Quran, the answer to the question, "But WHY did this happen? Isn’t Allah merciful? Why did He do this to them?" is actually quite clear. This is not the first time a nation or people became victims of a debilitating, crippling and mind-boggling natural catastrophe that wiped away their livelihoods and possessions in a matter of days. 

As we struggle to pick up the pieces, and pray and hope for restoration, rehabilitation, repair, relief and recovery, we see a side of people we never knew existed: the large-hearted, selfless, empathetic, sensitive, humanitarian philanthropist, who thinks of others besides his or her own self.

Perhaps for the first time in decades, we will celebrate Eid as it should be celebrated – remembering those less fortunate than ourselves in our prayers, thinking less about our own selfish desires, being grateful for even the trivial and ‘normal’ good things in our lives, and giving to them wholeheartedly from the superfluous wealth that Allah has blessed us with.

Eid Mubarak, even if it is with a heavy heart and a subdued spirit. However, hope floats (pun not intended)! After every ‘night’, dawn breaks, the sun shines through, and Allah’s help comes, for He is the Best of Helpers.

‎ وَلاَ تَيْأَسُواْ مِن رَّوْحِ اللّهِ إِنَّهُ لاَ يَيْأَسُ مِن رَّوْحِ اللّهِ إِلاَّ الْقَوْمُ الْكَافِرُونَ

"And do not despair of the life-giving mercy of Allah. Indeed no one despairs of the mercy of Allah except the people who disbelieve.." [Quran:12:87]

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