It is not only the theological and doctrinal aspects of Islam that are problematic; the way of life it imposes on the faithful is also challenging
I visited my mechanic last week for a dent that my car had suffered recently. It was evening, but still very hot, as the sun had been unrelenting throughout the day.
The mechanic offered me a bottle of water, complaining about the heat. I politely declined. He drank avidly and said, “I’ve just come from the Iftaar. Very difficult without water in the summer.”
“You didn’t drink water during the day?” I asked.
“No. It’s not allowed.”
“But aren’t there exemptions?” I asked. I had heard that certain classes of people such as the sick and pregnant women may avoid fasting in Ramazan, the month-long long torment followed by Eid al-Fitr. I was under the impression that those involved in physical labor were allowed to skip rozas.
“[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]W[/dropcap]hat exemptions?” he retorted. “If you are a Muslim, you have to carry out your religious duty.” There was pride in his intonation and demeanor, the pride of having carried out the onerous duty of rozas, especially of having endured the torture of waterless day.
Among the Hindus, observing fasts, visiting pilgrimages, etc., are regarded as desirable virtues rather than essential features of the faith
It must have been very difficult for him, I thought. Rozas may be an inconvenience for the white-collar people; but for a mechanic, for anybody involved in physical labor, it must be a torture. And there are millions of them, not just in India but all over the world undergoing the torment of Ramazan—voluntarily, indeed zealously and happily.
Believers of other religions also have fasts and the rigmaroles of self-purification, but nowhere else a faith demands so much from so many; nowhere else is shame associated with non-observance of religious practices. As a Hindu, I know that my community or its religious leaders don’t thrust a behavioral pattern on me. In fact, they don’t even impose a dogma whose acceptance is essential for my being a Hindu—and whose rejection may spell trouble for me. There are Hindus who worship gods and goddesses, observe fasts, participate in elaborate rituals, and visit pilgrimages; and there are Hindus who are agnostics (like me) and even atheists.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap]mong the Hindus, observing fasts, visiting pilgrimages, etc., are regarded as desirable virtues rather than essential features of the faith which have to be followed in letter and spirit.
In Islam, agnosticism and atheism are regarded as grave sins; this is the reason that atheist bloggers get slaughtered by Muslims in Bangladesh. Apostasy is equally frowned upon; the prescribed punishment is death; the same penalty is for blasphemy.
But the point I am trying to drive is that it is not only the theological and doctrinal aspects of Islam that are problematic; the way of life it imposes on the faithful is also challenging. Come to think of it, Islam was not born in, say, Sweden, where one can easily go without water for a day. It came into being in Arabia where daytime temperatures above 40-degree centigrade are normal, often touching 50 degrees. To stipulate that the faithful go waterless in such a climate, and that too for an entire month, was extreme. This, along with prayers five times a day, was indeed intended to keep the faithful constantly and relentlessly in the yoke of the dogmas and diktats of the religion.
And then there is Bakra Eid or Eid-ul-Azha in which millions of animals are slaughtered, bloodying the surroundings, encouraging gluttony (effort is on to eat as much meat as possible), and offending sensibilities. In an article ‘10 things I hate about Bakri Eid,’ the journalist Saad Zuberi wrote in the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune (November 6, 2011), “Call me an infidel, but I just can’t bring myself to make merry at the idea of mass murdering a few hundred thousand cute, furry, unsuspecting farm animals in a span of 72 hours … and that too publically, in front of a sadistically gleeful audience.”
The impact of ubiquitous bloodshed is deleterious on children. As a blogger Mariam Magsi wrote in Dawn on November 05, 2011, “On the morning of Eid-ul-Azha we said our final goodbyes to the unsuspecting animals, all fattened up and healthy. I shed buckets of tears with sad thoughts about the two precious pets I had lost. Believe it or not, Eid-ul-Azha has a very traumatic and psychologically disturbing affect (sic) on the children who are exposed to the sacrificial animals. I hated the holiday as a child, wishing I had never seen the goats. Dinner consisted of all kinds of curries, swimming around sacrificed meat and I could not force a morsel down my throat. No amount of spice could eliminate the images of the poor animals being led to their deaths.”
“Call me an infidel, but I just can’t bring myself to make merry at the idea of mass murdering a few hundred thousand cute, furry, unsuspecting farm animals in a span of 72 hours
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]his is one reason Zuberi hates Eid-ul-Azha: “How some parents think watching Jackie Chan act like a nincompoop in a movie is a bad influence for their kids, but watching four blood-soaked men brutally attack, slaughter, skin and butcher an 800-pound cow—live—is healthy entertainment.”
It appears to me that the Islamic way of life is intended to prepare soldiers—toughening the faithful physically and mentally, deadening sensibilities and sympathies, burdening them with the edicts all the time (thus decreasing, if not eliminating, the possibilities of other influences). For the Allah-ordained goal: Islamic supremacy over the world.
Make no mistake about it: all Muslims are soldiers of the faith. A few of them are openly waging war against infidels—in India, the US, the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Scandinavia, the Middle East—everywhere. Many educated, ‘moderate’ Muslims, along with Left-liberals, are helping them by maligning those fighting jihadists. Many, many more—the vast masses of Muslims all over the world—are decent, good people. Like Ali, my mechanic, who offers me water on a summer evening. But they also constitute the reserves, available whenever the leaders of the faith have any need of them.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.