Picture this. You are walking by the roadside, with a cow’s leash in your hand and the car that is driving past you rolls down its windows and asks: “Bhai, koto?” (Brother, how much?) Sound familiar?
Most of you must have noticed the changing trend in Eid celebrations these days, especially amongst Dhaka-ites. While the first Eid is all about hanging out at the newly acclaimed ice-cream parlours, the other is about whose cow is the most expensive; it’s a generation, a culture – or more like an entire country – trying to show off their wallets, pretending to be something they are not.
The irony of the situation is most of us forget that the sole purpose of Eid-ul-Azha is that it is about sacrifice, not posting photos of your purchased goru (cow), which is a fact lost on most. Not just that, one needs to form some sort of emotional tie with the to-be-sacrificed, to look after it, feed it, so that during the slaughter one feels pain.
True, it’s all too inhumane for some, for me even, but that after all is the entire purpose of kurbani. Take it or leave it; don’t be an in-betweener! It's not a contest about whose goru is the most pricey anyway! Every year that we celebrate Kurbani Eid, we leave behind us the originality that this celebration started off with and thus become pawns at the hands of tradition.
Kurbani Eid, much like many other celebrations, have become a part of our custom, something we ought to do because every other person is doing the same, not because we believe in it or because religion demands us to do it.
A far more interesting time for me is Eid-ul-Fitr. Everyone becomes a tad bit religious, and brings out their pious side. Everyone prays – or at least tries to pray – five times a day, wakes up for sehri, and finally after Fajr prayers, goes to sleep.
Not only do people fast during the entire month of Ramadan, they refrain from all sorts of bad habits: back biting, cursing, some from brushing their teeth even (apparently its makru!). But as soon as Eid comes knocking on their doors (or the night before, for the dedicated few who happen to celebrate Chaandraat much bigger than Eid itself), they take out the bottles they had shoved to the back of their closets at the end of the previous month and start pouring their wine glasses.
Some celebrate all of Eid day tucked under their blankets, watching the latest flicks that they had also refrained from during Ramadan. Now I am no expert, but if I had to take a wild guess I would say that the entire purpose of abstaining from such activities was surely not to stupor oneself with liquor the day after one breaks a month-long fast!
An even more interesting time of the year is Shab-e-Barat, a celebration no one seems to shy away from in our country. Now if you ask anyone who has read the religious books, they will tell you that such a day does not exist.
While the fifteen days right before Ramadan are considered holy, there is no individual day in which people are asked to pray all night long, or asked to make halwa-ruti and distribute amongst neighbours. What’s more, this day is only celebrated in South Asia (and maybe a few other countries), but Shab-e-Barat does not even exist in Saudi Arabia, which as we know is the birthplace of Islam.
Like I said, I am no expert on religion, nor is the point of this piece to ridicule one’s belief in it. And of course, things change with time, people derive their own meanings and enhance that in their daily lives. But according to me, religion is more of a do or die situation.
You can’t be religious one month and choose to ignore it in the rest of the eleven months. You can’t cover your hair on a particular day and drop your hijab the next. More importantly, you can’t pick and choose, or even interpret things your own way.
Either you do it the right way, or you don’t. Learning to behave righteously and refraining from these negative traits, perhaps may be a start for us. Before we set forth in the just path of religion, we need to know if this journey is one we are willing to take wholeheartedly.