This series is an attempt to explore how Ramadan is undermined and its spirit demonstrated, through the diaries of a typical Nigerian Muslim. It may apply to other Muslims too. Read the previous posts in the series here.
Fourth day of Ramadan…
I would say today’s fast was moderately difficult. That is I can go for two more hours after the time for breaking, before it breaks me. Trust me, I know. People can be smart in four ways: Book Smart, Skill Smart, Street Smart and Ramadan Smart. I am Ramadan Smart.
We have just “broke” our fast. That reminds me, words of wisdom I should remember to quote during a Ramadan conversation: Break your fast before it breaks you. You have to be Ramadan Smart to know that there is a deeper meaning to my wise saying beyond appearances, which is that Ramadan can make you go broke especially when you host guests for Iftar (fast-breaking). There is a lot of heavenly reward at stake, but being Ramadan Smart also means knowing if you have the capital to venture into that kind of earthly investment with overwhelming heavenly rewards, in multiples!
So, my focus will be on praying a lot instead. And I am utilizing this weekend to offer myself invitation (and acceptance) to Iftars at my friends’ places. That way I save expenses, but I’ll pray more than most of my friends, in Ramadan. That makes us even. If Kenny Rogers was Muslim he would be singing (A Ramadan version of The Gambler):
You never count your Ajar, [Ajar is heavenly rewards]
When you still in Ramada-an,
There’ll be time enough for counting,
When the month is up.
– Muslim Kenny Rogers
Seventh day of Ramadan…
I have accepted another invitation to break fast today, even though it is not a weekend.
I didn’t want to say this yesterday but my theory has been confirmed. I am now more knowledgable in this Ramadan Science. One needs to limit their intake of food at the time of breaking fast, before the 30-60mins prayer (which starts an hour after break-of-fast). That way one may not feel heavy and sleepy, or even sweaty, during the stands and movements. I found out today that you can get mildly sweaty when praying.
Alhamdulillah! I have enjoyed the meal, though not quite full. I need the free space for now, and I’ll get back to my vacant stomach after the long prayer session. We have four Rak’ahs (units) for Isha’, ten for Tarweeh, three for Shaf’/Wutr; therefore we have 4+10+3 = 17 units (Rak’ahs) of prayer. Lets get it on.
We got my friend to lead us; hosts typically lead guests. It’s one thing that gets violated in Ramadan but not today. All that were present voted him to lead. They have a surprising confidence in him.
Talk about speed… I have never prayed this fast, since I was a “whiz kid” whizing my way through my self-led prayers in good time to return to Cartoon Network. The Imam would recite the seven verses of the opening chapter (of Quran)… in a single breath! WhatTheHell! Does he even know what he is reciting?! I can pick out a few words here and there but he sounds like he is chanting rather than reciting. Well may be it doesn’t sound beautiful but we cover more prayer units in less time. And we know, thanks to Ramadan Smart-ness, that a unit of prayer is a unit of prayer, whether it takes an hour or two minutes. It makes for easier calculation of my heavenly rewards because I can multiply my rewards by the number of prayer units (Rak’ahs). And that is subjected to Ramadan’s “multiplier effect”! Ooooo! Talk about making the best of your time.
Until today, when Muslims say performing prayers improves physical fitness, I had thought as in the case of Yoga; you are not really working out, but you are stretching and flexing, and you can later brag that you do exercise. But at today’s speed, it was like aerobics! Its like the difference between going out for a walk and power-walking.
Time doesn’t fly in Ramadan, but prayers certainly do.
This series is an attempt to explore how Ramadan is undermined and its spirit demonstrated, through the diaries of a typical Nigerian Muslim. It may apply to other Muslims too.
A week to Ramadan…
At the mosque. A break from office. The sermon reminded us about the blessings of Ramadan. We were encouraged to become better Muslims, FOR Ramadan. More than half the year is gone, but I haven’t paid the Mosque-dues we (are supposed to) pay monthly. Something has gotten into me, I feel the urge to pay all the months I have missed beFORe Ramadan. I could just pay next week, no harm done; FOR Ramadan. Sizzling with generosity and benevolence I think I will pay for the entire year in advance, next week; FOR Ramadan. That way I get the reward of paying mosque-dues in Ramadan, while others spread their payment through the year, as agreed by mosque officials. Yea right, I guess others weren’t as far-seeing as me; i delay my payment FOR Ramadan
Two days to Ramadan…
The Mosque is such a sanctuary. No noise, no clutter, the only thing missing is breeze of fresh air. We were again reminded of the “bonuses” that come with Ramadan and its “multiplier effect”. Every good deed done is multiplied a thousand times in heavenly reward; during Ramadan. Unfortunately every bad deed is also multiplied in punishment. That reminds me, I need to finish watching my un-watched TV series tonight because with some of these series, you never know when you’ll be ambushed with a sex scene. So I can’t afford to be doing that; during Ramadan. Perhaps I can, I just need to not-watch it during the day, that is before breaking of the fast. Regarding whether I can watch series after break-of-fast, I will enquire if the “multiplier effect” is in effect after break-of-fast. But I won’t ask my Mallam because he’ll know where I’m headed to, and may create an awkward situation. So I guess this is one of those times I will have to search the internet for answers to “Islamic” questions.
One more thing to note is my BlackBerry network. So much goes on behind my phone’s locked screen; clicking my keyboard all the way. Let us just keep locked screens locked, and mouths shut. It suffice to say that unlocking my phone, while subscribing to my Blackberry service, would be like unlocking Pandora’s box, with never ending stream of demons. Anyway flirting and gossiping are simply accusations because how can anyone really prove I do any of that, beyond reasonable doubt.
Second day of Ramadan…
WHAT! The mosque is filled to the brim. The mosque is no more a sanctuary, rowdy as a market. Peering over shoulders, I can see Hassan’s head towards the front row; when did Hassan start praying in the mosque?!
Stop musing… Crowded mosque. No space… Oh there is a space in that rear corner I could squeeze in. I’ll get in there even though it’s a hassle… Shoot! Someone just raced me to it. I guess I’ll pray outside even though this is not a Friday prayer; you don’t want to joke with the “multiplied” rewards of Ramadan, for praying in the mosque which is itself a “multiplied” single-prayer reward. Wow! multiple of multiple, imagine that! How rare! I am packing big this Ramadan.
Its the end of the prayer and the Imam has one or two sermons to share. I would go back to send that important mail but I need to “milk” this Ramadan even more so I’ll stick around for five minutes. The Imam is going on first about administration of the mosque… did I hear him well?! He just said that over 100 members of the mosque paid their dues yesterday. Are you kidding me?! They all waited for first day of Ramadan?! Members are quite smart afterall. The race for gathering heavenly reward is on! I think I’ll stay for the sermon 10 more minutes.
[To be continued]
I am proud of her. On second thought, should I be? She lamented about the state of affairs, in her school that is. How could the school authority demand that of them, where is the justice?! They (her classmates and her) had nothing to do with the event, yet they are paying for it. In a year, she would be happy to pay, but not now, its too soon. “It’s so unfair!” she made her point in that punchline. She is nine years old and in primary five. She is my sister; the same one I made weep in a previous post.
Their school had asked them to pay N3,000 for the coming graduation ceremony but she is not graduating, until next year. The graduands were asked to pay N12,000… but paying one-third the graduands’ was still not justice enough. She felt that the school authority was not just. To buttress her point, she added that the school, with the kind of money it gets from school fees and payments like this one, ought to have more than one school bus, yet it has only one! Moreover, they had paid school fees, haven’t they? Why then all these hidden charges. At this point I suspected it wasn’t her perception that made her articulate the “injustices” surrounding her life. It is more likely she overheard someone senior (likely adults) making similar complaints and then she agreed with them. My proof is that before long she started including vocabulary like “investment” and “profit” and “made their money back”.
I had just read the two-part article by Ibraheem A. Waziri on the “Public Intellectual”. In the first part, he reflected on the meaning and identity of the public intellectual, before and after the European Enlightenment. He argued that the Enlightenment has weaken the standards of the (intellectual) requirements needed to become a public intellectual; prior to which existed a social class of Public Intellectuals who underwent rigorous training. He concluded observing the way so called (Nigerian) Public Intellectual dabbles in their murky understanding of different disciplines to come up with invalid conclusions, which lack a clear goal (e.g. national interest). The result is a confused citizenry. He gives example of “Boko Haram” ideology as a manifestation of this confusion. Thus there is a heavy burden on the Public intellectual.
In the second part he explored the concept of truth, the importance of truth in giving meaning to life of citizens, and those responsible for identifying the truth which may be difficult to extract by the untrained mind. The article concludes with an invitation to establishing a standard for the role of Public Intellectual. In other words, the critical privilege of Public Intellectual should be earned, rather than simply being equipped with “control of words”.
Now, back to my sister. What I was observing were two things happening simultaneously: the nine year old has been influenced by an uncritical public intellectual (the adults she agreed with); and she was another public intellectual in the making. According to her, school fees cover ALL costs that may come up, so they were simply paying double for participating in that graduation ceremony. How was she becoming a Public Intellectual? There were adults (as I was) at the scene of this articulate manifesto, and they agreed with her, (as we say) hundred percent! She has gotten positive feedback from the authorities in the world (the adults present) and she may be on the roll to being an addition to pile of uncritical “Public Intellectuals” who propound populist ideas, and who’s survival depends on the narcotic praises they get from a crowd eager to blame and complain, without necessarily providing insight into the state of affairs.
A nine year old being political and self-righteous is cute, but can have ugly manifestations if adult intellectuals think at this level. It makes you wonder if some Public Intellectuals are not really only nine years old, intellectually. It is not bad to be nine years old intellectually, some say it is even blissful, the only demand that comes with this bliss is to please not be another “Public Intellectual”, at least not yet.
PS: The case of school fees is obviously a simplification of the real issue, as example.