Of Boys Becoming Men

My baby just came home from a school trip – he wasn’t a baby when he left. But he’s come back a young man. Alhamdulillah. He just unpacked his suitcase as I sat on his bed watching him. Everything came out neatly folded up, compact. He knew which clothes needed washing and which were okay to be used again. He packed his shoes into plastic bags, just as I had shown him to, before he put them between the layers of clothes. The last to come out was his swim towel. He said he used it to pray on, the few times he managed to. I am so thankful to Allah.

His hair is longer and messier than it has been, ever, I think. I’m definitely having it shorn off tomorrow I have told him. He made minimal protest because he promised to let me when he returned. His voice is scratched, too many activities that began with songs of bravado chanted at the start, he tells me. Plus a night or two of singing around a camp fire, at the top of their voices. He tells me the breakfast was ‘unvaried’, the bread untoasted, not much more than butter provided with it. On the days that they got cooked breakfast, he says toast qualified as ‘cooked’, but he was lucky to get hash browns. He doesn’t seem to have missed the sausages. He is happy with the vegetarian food choices he was given, though he has decided basmati rice is best. He says he didn’t much want the hot chocolate their groups were offered each night, though he had it once or twice. The only meat he had, he tells me, was fish, when they were given fish and chips.

Of course the burning question that had been preying on my mind was whether or not he was able to hold on to the bottle I gave him to wash himself with in the toilet. Throughout the week he was away, I agonised secretly over whether he would be too embarrassed to use the bottle, whether he was keeping himself clean, whether he was able to follow all that I have taught him over the last ten years. Because a Muslim mother doesn’t just hope that her child is happy and leave it at that – she also hopes fervently that amidst all the hullabaloo of children from varied backgrounds and belief systems thrown together on a school trip, her child will be able to plod solidly on the path she has shown him. She hopes he will make an effort to pray, at least at the two ends of each day. She hopes he will not eat anything that is not halal. And, perhaps as a consequence of all these idiosyncrasies, she hopes her baby will not stand out as an anomaly, an easy target for the viciousness that young boys are perfectly capable of inflicting upon one another.

But Zazi has returned happy, confident, yearning to tell us everything he did, all the jokes they had, show us the thigh-slapping, hand-clapping dance the Y6s prepared to show the parents upon their arrival at the airport. I am so grateful ya Allah. So grateful.

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A favourite tale

My French teacher and I keep falling into long discussions on life – in French, believe it or not. We have discussed politics, religion, adult acne, colonialism and families among other things. She has a singularly sunny disposition and it doesn’t matter to me whether she has these long-winded discussions with me merely to indulge my (non)budding (non)proficiency at French or because she genuinely finds talking to me enjoyable. On more than one occasion though, she has overstayed the length of her appointed lesson by an hour or more, so I do secretly believe we might be embarking on something resembling a friendship.

This Friday, we began talking about mothers. She told me about her parents going their separate ways when she was a little girl. I began talking about how mine came together. And it struck me again that the story I had managed to condense into fifteen minutes for her, was really quite a remarkable one. Can you imagine an eleven-year old girl willingly swathing herself in a burqa to be allowed to continue going to school? That is what Ammi, my mother, did. My grandmother told her and my aunt, two years older than Ammi, quite unceremoniously, that it was either the burqa or the end of school for the two of them when they were eleven and thirteen years old respectively. Khala, my aunt, bid a hasty farewell to school and happily settled back into what I know was a very conservative lifestyle. Ammi, ever the eager, starry-eyed little girl, didn’t allow a burqa to get in the way of her ambition. She continued school, and went on to St. Joseph’s College, back then, one of the most fashionable and prestigious institutions for young ladies in Karachi.

Nani, my grandmother, indulged her. I think she must have believed that her daughter would get through an Intermediate level of education at college and then consent to getting married. Instead, by the time Ammi finished her Inter’, she was ready to pursue a graduate degree. Moreover, she seemed to be getting into a habit of steadily declining the proposals for marriage that came her way through her parents. The ladies of the community, who came to ascertain her suitability for their sons, began to find in her evidence of something insuperable and unknown. On the other hand, Ammi found whatever she learned of their sons to be far from interesting and in fact, suffocating and typical.

By the time Ammi finished her B.A., she no longer met the standards of the Delhiwalla community. At twenty, she seemed to have become far too old to be considered a suitable match for any of the small businessmen or shopkeepers whose mothers had been erstwhile frequenters of Nani’s house. Although Ammi did not consider this to be a loss, Nani and Nana, my grandparents, began feeling concerned about the wisdom of their decision in having let Ammi have the dominant say about the direction her life took. A year went by during which Ammi tried, through all possible means, to obtain her parents’ permission to join the Karachi University and pursue a Masters degree. Nana and Nani, who were already regretting their decision to allow Ammi to obtain a graduate degree, felt certain that a Masters degree would stamp finality over Ammi’s spinsterhood. Where would they find her a man to marry who would accept a wife as educated and self-willed as her? They preferred to wait and pray fervently for a proposal to miraculously appear on the horizon.

But only a few proposals trickled in – all of them appeared unsuitable, even to Nana and Nani’s more forgiving eye. After a year of staying home, Ammi was allowed the privilege of getting admission into a Masters programme. She was overjoyed at the opportunity, even if it meant being accompanied to and from the university by her old ayah and having a burqa on the entire day.

When Abbu’s proposal was accepted after Ammi finished her Masters, Nana and Nani felt certain this was the only choice for their over-educated, independent-minded daughter. Ammi has always said she was twenty-five at the time of her marriage. I have calculated she must have been twenty-seven. Cecilia, my French teacher found it adorable that Ammi should feel the need to shave off two years – as if after having proven herself in all the most awesome ways she could, she still needed to fit into an elusive social category of acceptability.

Still, Nana harboured an unmitigated hope for a proposal for his daughter’s hand in marriage, from within his community, at the last minute. He secretly vowed that if there was to be one, he would not waste a moment in accepting it, breaking off the marriage he had agreed to between his daughter and a boy from quite another background altogether.

Thank God no such proposal ever came. God has His ways of tying things up. Ammi, individualistic, self-directed, poetic and artistic, would have been smothered in a classic Delhiwalla set-up of subservience to the husband and a blind acceptance of established mores. Abbu’s family was one where women were not only valued, their voices, their views were important. The women in this family were poets, my grandfather was a philosopher of Realism.

When my sister was awarded a scholarship to study in Oxford, Ammi and Abbu did not hesitate for a moment in letting her go. But always, for each one of her three daughters, Ammi’s sixth sense would begin tingling as soon as the age of twenty-one was reached. She never made the mistake of letting her daughters get too old to be considered suitable for marriage in a fickle society she had come to know only too well. The three of us were married off with clockwork punctuality in our early twenties.

 

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Strawberry Jam

Nothing beats home-made strawberry jam with croissants, hot from the oven, on a Sunday morning. Croissants, bien sûr, are way out of my repertoire, but here I’d like to share a fantastic recipe for strawberry jam. It is ridiculously simple and gorgeous to look at. It is a huge ego-booster – you can scarcely believe you have actually managed to produce a jam better than Bonne Maman in your own kitchen! So get yourselves some strawberries and get started.

Strawberry Jam

You will need:

  • Ripe strawberries – 1 kg.
  • Sugar – 750 g.
  • Lemon – 1 (roughly three ‘neebu’ or limes if you are in Pakistan and cannot get your hands on a lemon)

Hull the strawberries. If they are huge, like the beauties above, chop them in half length-wise. Put them in a pan with all the juice from the lemon and cook on medium heat, stirring almost constantly. The strawberries will begin to sweat and break down. Add sugar to them when a lumpy residue is left and stir constantly till it dissolves. Boil the jam on medium heat till it thickens slightly. Test its consistency by dropping a little on a cool saucer and tilting the saucer to see how quickly it runs. Much of the moisture from the jam should evaporate and the strawberries should break down completely to reach a desirable consistency. Remember that the jam will appear thicker when completely cool.

Remove the pan from the heat. Gently remove the scum from the surface. Leave the jam to cool till a thin skin forms on its surface. This should take about twenty minutes. The jam can now be poured into clean, dry jars. It will keep happily for a couple of months in your fridge.

Now wasn’t that easy?

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I recently posted an article on Facebook about Dr. Ruth Pfau, a German missionary who has been working against leprosy in Pakistan for the past fifty years. She established the Marie Adelaide centre to treat leprosy in Karachi and made its eradication her life’s work. Her story was truly inspirational to me – she managed to eradicate leprosy almost completely from Pakistan by 1996. She also extended whole-hearted support whenever Pakistan was beset by tragedies, such as the earthquake and the floods that hit us with unforeseen ferocity in 2005 and 2010. As a young woman, she left her home, her family, and the man she loved, in Germany, to take on the menace of leprosy in Karachi.

There is something singular about people such as these. They are not like you and me. They seem to have no fear of loneliness. They see human suffering in a wholly different light from the rest of us – life beckons to them for their help and they are not afraid to stand up and be counted.

Whenever I read a story such as this, it forces me to think about my own life. My existence appears to be just that, pygmoid in comparison. I happened to say as much on Facebook. The resulting backlash from  Pakistanis such as myself, resident safely away from the everyday tyrannies of life in Pakistan was surprising. The general consensus seemed to suggest that Dr. Pfau found the prospect of fighting leprosy from a little room in a hospital in Pakistan so ‘exotic’, ‘new’ and ‘different’ that she has stayed there well into her eighties doing just that. No selflessness to be found in forsaking her family, her country, no sir. It is just an obscene need to ‘conquer the unfamiliar’ that drives her choices in life.

Well, today I came across another article detailing one man’s struggle to make sanitary napkins widely available to the poorest of women in India in an effort to improve their reproductive health. And he happened to hit the nail on the head as he explained his journey to where he finds himself today. He said, ‘Luckily I’m not educated. If you act like an illiterate man, your learning will never stop… Being uneducated, you have no fear of the future.’ His wife added to this idea saying, ‘If he had completed his education, he would be like any other guy, who works for someone else, who gets a daily wage.’

This is what I have been thinking about recently. The ‘brain drain’ everyone has been bemoaning in Pakistan since the eighties might be precisely because our Western education and sensibilities render us useless for anything more than ‘drawing room discussions.’ These discussions have now made their way onto national TV and Facebook. Everyone is an intellectual. Everyone has an opinion. And that opinion and the underlying intellect it is meant to affirm seems to be an end in itself. We are unable to shake ourselves into action the way Kailash Satyarthi of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan in India has, or the way Arunachalam Muruganantham, also in India has. Our imagination is trapped, fettered by our own daily struggles, our homes, our clothes, our children, our possessions. Practically, we are incapable of the vision that propelled Edhi to lay the world’s largest ambulance network in our very own Pakistan, though if you engage us in a philosophical discussion over it, we will have innumerable pearls of wisdom to contribute. We refuse to rise above ourselves as some people in Pakistan continue to do even today – Arshad Abdullah, Imran Khan, Shehzad Roy, Abrar-ul-Haq are our most recent well-known philanthropists. But there are many, many more that I have had the honour of coming to know, who work on a much smaller scale, endlessly, fearlessly and cheerfully. And these people are most definitely in a different league from the rest of us. As we catch seasonal sales, TV shows, value professional success as the ultimate good, build cosier nests for ourselves to retire to at the ends of our days, we cannot pretend there isn’t something at least a little special about them. Even if Dr. Pfau, Major Geoffrey Langlands and Norman Wray originally journeyed towards us because it was exotic and exciting, the reality of what they encountered was anything but. Yet they stayed. They made a difference. They continue to make a difference. And this is what sets them apart from us.

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What I Have Learnt

There is a packet of blackhead-removing nose strips in the top rack of the door of my parents’ fridge. The fridge also holds batteries in a ziplock bag, medicines, lipsticks, Belladonna plaster sheets for stubborn sprains, vinegar and vanilla essence. I am about to ask about the Belladonna plaster and the nose strips but I won’t. Though I am not the perfect adult child, I have learnt the following things in the last few years:

No ‘Whys?’ – A ‘Why’, more often than not, leads to irritation and can sometimes escalate to an argument. To my parents, it feels like a combination of criticism, condescension and interrogation. I have no power over how they feel, even if I do not intend to criticise, condescend or interrogate. The scrutiny I put them through makes them feel all these emotions. I have learnt that usually they will have, what they consider to be a logical reason for my ‘Why?’ And if they don’t, I have no right to question their decision because I flew the nest a long time ago. It is their house – I hate having my decisions questioned by my children, my husband or my parents. My parents have similar rights.

An Even Tone – When my adolescent child speaks to me in an irritated voice, I make it very clear that I do not appreciate being spoken to this way. He, bless him, apologises immediately and makes it possible for us to continue with our conversation once more. When either one of my parents cannot hear what I have said and I have to repeat it, I get irritated beyond the very first time. Usually, my parents put up with me! They do not reprimand me. I do not apologise. This is abominable. I know that my parents pine for me to visit them, they pine for the company of their grandchildren. They take out their best towels, their softest blankets. They plan trips around the city to shops and restaurants they know all of us like visiting. They pick up on irritability in my voice as quickly as I pick it up in my son’s. But they feel more hurt because they do not have the luxury of telling themselves that I am a hormonal adolescent. I am a full-grown adult. If I cannot speak calmly to them even now, they know they are doomed to walking on egg-shells around me for the rest of their lives.

The Passage of Time – Every time I visit my parents, I realise there are a lot of things that are now physically tiring for them to do. Yet they are doing them as best they can. During the past two trips here, I have seen my mother develop crippling muscular sprains. They happen all of a sudden and don’t ease up for long periods of time. My father confessed, possibly for the first time, as we were climbing the stairs to their apartment on our way home from the airport, how grateful he is for the presence of their driver, finding it impossible to bring luggage up the stairs. He went as far as to say that even grocery bags are too much for him to bring upstairs now. When I was little, I was convinced of his superpowers in the face of all evil, which I usually imagined as a gigantic serpent with its fangs ajar slithering towards me. I never doubted his physical strength, his presence was the greatest source of strength and vitality to me even as a young adult. I have learnt that it is now my turn to be all of those things to him and to my mother. It is my turn to worry, to show my concern, to call, to visit.

I hope my parents can feel a similar sense of dependability in me. I hope somehow, I have conveyed to them how deeply I love them, how I worry for their continued happiness, their health. I hope they know how important they are to my children, how thankful I am to them both for the love they have showered on us all, continually, all our lives.

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Home

After we got married, I moved to Karachi. We spent two weeks with our families in the Punjab, getting married, going for some sightseeing in the mountains by ourselves and just getting to know one another in the context of our families. But then it was time to go to Karachi. And for BH to go back to work.

I remember the first evening that he returned home from work – he took off his shoes at the entrance. We came into the lounge and I returned to the hob where I was putting the finishing touches to our dinner. He stood quietly, watching me with a faint smile on his face. Then he walked the length and breadth of our apartment, smiling quietly throughout. I lay the dinner out on the table. He freshened up and sat down. He said, ‘How peaceful this is…’ He didn’t need to say more. I knew what he meant.

For one of BH’s abiding memories from his childhood is returning from school to an immaculate home with curtains drawn in the afternoon to keep the midday heat out. It is a memory I share with him from my own childhood. In the afternoon, be it winter or summer, when we returned home, my mother’s room would be a wondrous oasis of peace. The curtains would be drawn to keep out the sun. The bed would be made to perfection, sheets pulled taut against its surface. Every object in her room would be in order. She would lie exhausted in her bed for a short siesta after a hard day teaching at school. This was home.

In a way, this is the home I strive to provide for my family. When BH and the children return home, I want it to be perfectly ordered. I want the bathrooms spotless, the beds made, everything tidied away, something delicious warming itself on the hob. And alhamdulillah, most of the time, this is the way it is. When we walk in, Myna sniffs the air and declares, everyday, without fail, ‘I love the smell of our house!’ It is usually the aroma of shorba or rice for their dinner.

My mother was fanatical about the cleanliness of our house. I remember, growing up in our home, the newspapers had to be lined up on the coffee table just so, and the socks and underwear had to be folded a specific way, beds had to be made till there was not a fold to be seen, the pillows and the mattress beaten daily to send invisible specks of dust flying. Our clothes had to be tidied away as soon as they came off our bodies, whether they had to be taken to be washed or folded away. Our kitchen counters were not only spotless, they were ordered in a particular way, with this canister behind that one, the toaster in line with the kettle and the food-processor, each one covered prudishly with an embroidered coverlet hand-made by my mother in her days of maidenhood. The sponge to wash our dishes went, in those days, when most people would be content to just leave it on the counter next to the sink, into a little saucer next to the kitchen sink. We would cover our drying rack full of washed dishes with a dish-cloth before we left the kitchen. Ammi would go about the house folding the ends of carpets and then whipping them open to get all the strings on the edges to line up perfectly. She would straighten pictures on the walls, sometimes even in other people’s homes. She would move ornaments on shelves a few millimetres this way or that to line them perfectly. In the evening, after we finished our tea, she would ask one of us to put away the tea things and tidy up. It was understood that tidying up included plumping up the cushions, scouring the carpet for any crumbs from our tea-time snack and giving the coffee table a wipe.

And then there were other complications – hands soiled from touching the kitchen cleaning rag could not be touched to anything else before they had been washed. Soiled clothes had to be carried to the laundry basket well away from our person. So did garbage bags. Hands holding a dusting rag had to be washed before folding laundered clothes. Slippers were never, never to be worn onto the carpet. Leaning your whole body against the kitchen counter as you made the salad or washed the dishes was symptomatic of indolence.

I remember always being on my guard. When we had visitors, we, the children, were excessively aware of where our carpets had been trodden on with shoes. We never recovered from the sight of a cousin’s wife picking up her baby’s pacifier from the carpet, and wiping it in her own mouth before sticking it back into her baby’s. Ammi was one of the pioneering theorists on the subject of cooties and we never got over the germs that we could practically see crawling all over the pacifier going straight into this lady’s mouth.

My upbringing in the midst of my mother’s zealous house-keeping and germ-combatting left me completely unprepared for the first time that I saw BH sauntering into the bathroom barefoot. Oh the germs all over the bathroom floor! And the ‘napaaki’ of it! I managed to convince him of both through painstaking discussions on the subject. Or perhaps the poor man just gave in seeing his wife’s unshakeable conviction of it. I spent countless minutes going over, in what must be, agonising detail the concept of ‘paak’ and ‘napaak’ to each one of my children as I potty-trained them. I had no shame. I still don’t when it comes to the point I try to make with them during this most frustrating of times. Allah loves the ‘muttatahireen’. Leaving aside, for the moment, what this means for our minds and hearts, it is of the utmost importance for Muslims to be physically in a state of ‘taharah’ at all times as well.

But having made the first few years of motherhood miserable for myself and my son, I made a conscious effort to steer myself away from the manic need for neatness that had been instilled in my mind. Home must be a sanctuary. For all its inhabitants. It should be a haven for the children that live in it, the adults that live in it. It belongs not just to the woman who runs it, but to the man who provides for it and to the children who fill it with their peals of laughter. I still cringe and recoil inwardly when my daughter enters my room and instinctively flops on my bed. This was forbidden on my mother’s bed. She would go into a flurry of irritation and begin tugging at the corners to straighten it back to perfection. As a result we never did sit on her bed at a time out of the ordinary. But I have come to realise how I distance myself from my children if I choose to explode at the sight of a messy living room, or a creased bed-cover. Consider the name ‘living room’. This should be a place for my children to live. It should be a place where they can lie on a sofa to read, dream big and small dreams, play with their Lego, draw pictures. It should be a place where BH and I can crack open peanuts as we read our books or work on our laptops. It should be a place where cushions can be folded under our arms, or our heads. And when we are done doing all of this, we should emerge rejuvenated, re-energised. We should feel a deep sense of belonging and togetherness. This is home. This is what I want my children to remember. This is what I want their memory of peace to be – all of us together in the living room, each doing his own thing, without any pressure about a few crumbs on the carpet, or a jumble on the coffee table. Everything can be tidied up – and when I give a chance for happiness to pervade, I inadvertently garner their support for tidying up at the end too. Win-win!

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Complicating Christmas

We live in a time of great confusion. Small things, seemingly innocuous, appear to pose huge problems for the Ummah. And the Ummah doesn’t seem to care much. Here is the latest – to wish or not to wish Christian friends, colleagues and friends a ‘Merry Christmas’. The following has been sent to me by two people now – a cousin and an acquaintance. It is doing the rounds on Facebook as we speak. If you can get past the invitation to ‘Marry Christmas’, do let me know what your thoughts are.

Stay away from saying ”Merry Christmas”, but why? Here is why!It is not permissible to congratulate Non-Muslims on their false belief.We are Muslims, we believe in one God; Allaah (Subhana Wa Taala). We are monotheists. We don’t accept shirk! It’s the greatest sin! It’s injustice!Do you agree that Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) was born on the 25th of December?
Do you agree that Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) is the begotten son of God?
Do you agree that Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) is God?

If the answer is NO, and it should be NO, then why do you want to wish someone ”Merry Christmas”? This is what this Christmas is about. It means celebrating the day of “God’s” or ”Son of God’s” birth. It’s a concept absolutely abhorrent to Muslims and in direct contradiction to the Quran.

”They have certainly disbelieved who say, ” Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary” [Quran 5:72]

”He neither begets nor is born” [Quran 112: 3]

Now let me make it perfectly clear that I understand Shirk as being the one sin Allah has vowed not to forgive. May He save all our souls and save us from this most abhorrent of sins. And I also understand that shirk creeps up on us in many unsuspecting ways. I have not wished anybody a ‘Merry Christmas’ for several years now. And I stopped because somewhere, I came across someone saying that to wish someone of another faith happiness on their day of festivity was to validate its existence and its supposed veracity. (Though as I write these lines, I feel I sound like one heck of a presumptuous and uptight moron.) As Muslims, we believe our religion to be the last word on Truth, the Last Message. It follows that the festivals it espouses are the ones acceptable to Allah. To therefore wish someone else well on their day of celebration is therefore to accept as valid their beliefs, and therefore their version of Truth and in so doing, reject our own, on some vague level.

This is why I stopped wishing people a merry christmas. Or a happy diwali. Or anything at all.

I remember my own parents giving chocolate and small gifts to the Christian staff who worked at my father’s office for Christmas when I was a child. It didn’t seem to diminish their Islam. Neither did it mean, to them or to us, or indeed to the Christian staff who joyfully accepted their gifts, that my parents had turned coat and changed their faith. I am confused. I see the reason in what I have written above. But it also makes me wonder how we can imagine our faith to be so easily sullied – two words, spoken in a spirit of friendship cannot possibly make me less of a Muslim. The Prophet said, ‘Innamal a’malu binniyat.’ ‘Actions are judged by intention.’ My intention is just to give another human being joy, just to show them that I am happy because they are happy. And who knows, perhaps my happiness for them may contribute one day to them feeling the pull of my faith. Maybe my pleasantness will be the da’wah that will call them to my faith. When I pass them by, straight-faced on their day of celebration, without a word of felicitation, I do not come across as a generous person, or one who wishes them well. How then can I hope to guide them to Islam, ever – which, I understand, to be my duty as a Muslim?

I am not celebrating Christmas. I do not put up a tree in my house. Many of my friends in Pakistan do. Many more in Canada and America do. The ones in other Canada and America call it ‘integration’. The ones in Pakistan call it ‘celebrating diversity.’ I belong to neither of these two groups. Then why am I being asked to dig deeper into the ground, make myself even more inexplicable, seemingly even more tragically twisted? And no, I do not agree that wishing someone a ‘Marry Christmas’ means all that Mr. Zakir Naik is making it out to. It does not mean that I agree that Jesus Christ was born on December 25th. Because I know that calculations made by Muslim scholars according to evidence in the Hadith and Quran points to the April-May period as more likely. And it certainly does not mean that I agree that he was the son of God. I know he wasn’t. From wishing someone a merry Christmas to agreeing that Jesus was the son of God, na’uzu’billah is a quantum leap, if ever there was one. I declare he wasn’t. He was a mortal man. So stop pinning so many things on me for saying two small words. I know who I am.

Having said all of this however, I just want to end with the following comment someone posted on Express Tribune’s Facebook exhortation to Pakistanis to celebrate Christmas. Fitting and poignant, I thought.

 جارج کی عمر ۵۰ سال سے کچھ زیادہ ہے۔ وہ اپنی بیوی اور دو بچوں کے ساتھ واشنگٹن میں رہتا ہے۔
عید الاضحٰی قریب آ رہی تھی۔ جارج اور اسکے گھر والے ٹی وی، ریڈیو اور انٹرنیٹ پر دیکھ رہے تھے کہ عید کس تاریخ کو ہو گی۔ بچے روز اسلامی ویب سائٹس پر چیک کر رہے تھے۔ سب کو عید کا بےصبری سے انتظار تھا۔
جیسے ہی ذوالحجہ شروع ہوا، ان لوگوں نے عید کی تیاریاں شروع کر دیں۔ گھر کے قریب ہی ایک فارم ہاؤس تھا۔ وہاں سے ایک بھیڑ خریدی، جسکے چناؤ میں انھوں نے تمام اسلامی اصولوں کو مدنظر رکھا۔ بھیڑ کو گاڑی میں رکھا اور گھر کی راہ لی۔ بچوں کا خوشی کے مارے کوئی ٹھکانا نہ تھا۔ جارج کی بیوی، کیتھی نے گھر پہنچ کر اسکو بتایا کہ وہ اس بھیڑ کے تین حصے کریں گے۔ ایک حصہ غریبوں میں بانٹ دیں گے، ایک حصہ اپنے ہمسائیوں ڈیوڈ، لیزا، اور مارک کو بھیج دیں گے اور ایک حصہ اپنے استعمال کے لئے رکھیں گے۔ یہ تمام معلومات اسے اسلامی ویب سائٹس سے ملی تھیں۔
کتنے دن کے انتظار کے بعد عید کے دن آ ہی گیا۔ بچے خوشی خوشی صبح سویرے جاگے اور تیار ہو گئے۔ اب بھیڑ کو ذبح کرنے کامرحلہ آیا۔ انھیں قبلہ کی سمت کا نہیں پتہ تھا لیکن اندازاٴ مکہ کی طرف رخ کر کے جارج نے بھیڑ ذبح کر لی۔ کیتھی گوشت کو تین حصوں میں تقسیم کر رہی تھی کہ اچانک جارج کی نظر گھڑی پر پڑی۔ وہ کیتھی کی طرف منہ کر کے چلایا ”ہم چرچ کے لئے لیٹ ہو گئے۔ آج سنڈے ہے اور چرچ جانا تھا۔” جارج ہر اتوار باقائدگی سے اپنے بیوی بچوں کیساتھ چرچ جاتا تھا لیکن آج عید کے کاموں کی وجہ سے چرچ کا ٹائم نکل گیا۔یہاں تک بول کر ہادی چپ ہوگیا۔ ہال میں سب بہت غور سے اسکی بات سن رہے تھے۔ اسکے خاموش ہونے پر ایک بندہ بول اٹھا ”آپ نے ہمیں کنفیوز کر دیا ہے۔ جارج مسلمان ہے یا کرسچن؟”
ہادی نے جواب دیا: ”جارج کرسچن ہے۔ وہ اللہ کو نہیں مانتا، بلکہ حضرت عیسٰی علیہ السلام کو نعوذ باللہ اللہ کا بیٹا مانتا ہے۔”
یہ سن کر ہال میں چہ مگوئیاں شروع ہو گئیں۔ آخر ایک شخص کہنے لگا: ”ہادی! وہ کرسچن کیسے ہوسکتا ہے؟ اگر وہ کرسچن ہوتا تو مسلمانوں کا تہوار اتنے جوش اور عقیدت سے کیوں مناتا؟ عید کی تاریخ کا خیال رکھنا، پیسہ خرچ کر کے بھیڑ خریدنا، اسے اسلامی طریقے پر ذبح کرنا؟”
ہادی یہ سن کر مسکرایا اور بولا: میرے پیارے بھائیو! یہ کہانی آپکو اتنی ناقابل یقین کیوں لگ رہی ہے؟ آپکو یقین کیوں نہیں آ رھا کہ ایسی کرسچن فیملی موجود ہو سکتی ہے؟ کیا ہم مسلمانوں میں سے کبھی کوئی عبداللہ، کوئی خالد، کوئی خدیجہ، کوئی فاطمہ نہیں دیکھی جو کرسچن کے تہوار مناتے ہوں؟ اپنے مسلمان بہن بھائیوں کو نیو ائیر، ویلنٹائن، ہالووین، برتھ ڈیز وغیرہ مناتے نہیں دیکھا؟ اگر وہ سب حیران کن نہیں تو یہ بات آپکو حیران کیوں کر رہی ہے کہ غیرمسلم ہمارے تہوار منائیں؟
جارج کا کرسچن ہو کر عید منانا ہمیں عجیب لگ رہا ہے لیکن مسلمان تمام غیراسلامی تہواروں میں بڑھ چڑھ کر حصہ لیں تو کسی کو عجیب نہیں لگتا۔ بخدا! میں دس سال امریکہ میں رہا۔ کبھی کسی یہودی یا عیسائی کو مسلمانوں کا تہوار مناتے نہیں دیکھا، لیکن جب میں واپس اپنے مسلمان ملک آیا تو مسلمانوں کو انکے تہوار بیت جوش و خروش سے مناتے دیکھا۔ہال میں سب خاموش تھے۔ ہادی کی بات ایک کڑوی سچائی تھی۔
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