Friday, October 16, 2009

‘They have taken away all rewards’

“O, Prophet of Allah! The rich among us have taken away all the rewards,” complained the poor Companions. “They pray as we pray, they fast as we fast, but they also give wealth in charity (while we have no wealth to spend).” (Refer Imam Nawawi’s 40 Hadith for the full narration.)

The poor among the Ummah deserve a special mention because they are more often than not overlooked, their interests disregarded and their voices ignored. Throughout human history, they have always been the first to believe in the Messengers of Allah, and they will enter Jannah 500 years before everyone else.

During Ramadan last year, at the initiative of a friend, we stood at a traffic signal giving away dates, water and laban just before Iftar time for commuting people who may not have a chance otherwise to break their fast with food. We distributed all the food packs without realizing we had kept none for ourselves, which left us with no other option than breaking our fast at a masjid nearby. The adhan was called while we were heading to the masjid.

We joined the “banquet” of a people who would seldom – if ever – join ours. They were those whose names would never find place in the sprawling invitations we give out for our lavish feasts. Yes, they were all there – the African children and the Asian laborers.

Yet they welcomed us with a smile and made space for us. They shared their Iftar, which was no more than some dates, a piece of bread that they broke into half for us, and some drinks. Being used to excess, we couldn’t imagine how the already small meal would be sufficient for them if they divided between us.

The African children, stereotyped for crimes and what not, were wonderful. A boy turned to me and passed on his can of soft drink. What should I do? I refused. “Children they are after all, who not just love, but crave for sweet drinks,” I thought. He pushed the can towards me and gestured he would share his friend’s.

These are people who we don’t even say our salaams to. The Black women scavengers are seen all around the country. They stop with their trolleys and children at the time of Salah and pray on pavements. Nevertheless, we pass them by as if they don’t exist, as if they are excluded from the obligation of saying salaams to our fellow Muslims. For more read

Go earn it now, Mr. President

"Listen to this,” my boss said compulsively scanning his inseparable BlackBerry for a zillionth time. “Barack Obama gets the Nobel Peace Prize!”

I laughed out loud. He was obviously kidding me, once again mocking my exaltation of Obama.

We were standing at a traffic signal in front of the magnificent Town Hall building in Copenhagen. Along with us patiently waited dozens of Danes with their bicycles, an overwhelming majority of them women.

There was a pleasant, coquettish nip in the air. The breathtaking square in the Danish capital is not far from the hotel where Michelle and US President Barack Obama had flown in last week for a couple of hours to plead Chicago’s case for the 2016 Olympics. Chicago of course lost the race to Rio.

“No, seriously! Obama is this year’s winner of the peace Nobel,” he insisted shaking his head with his characteristic, bemused smirk in place. I was stunned — too stunned for words. Despite being one of the early faithful of the Obama phenomenon, the news came as a huge surprise to me. So has it, it seems, to the world at large.

Reactions from both those attacking him and hundreds of millions of ordinary folks like me, touched by Obama’s message of hope, have been both swift and vociferous.

The issue has come as a godsend to the self-righteous pundits weary of the Middle East, Iran’s nuclear hide-and-seek and the economy. Just about every wonk on both left and right is going for the president’s jugular as if it was entirely his fault being chosen for the Nobel after only 265 days in office. He had been in the White House barely two weeks before the Feb. 1 deadline for the Nobel nomination.

No wonder everyone is suitably surprised or shocked, according to his/her worldview or lack of it. A beloved friend of mine who tries to keep my missionary zeal in check from time to time called up angrily demanding, “What’s this? Some kind of joke?” as though I had been on the Nobel jury.

But no one has been as bewildered by the Nobel panel’s life-changing decision as the winner himself. The shock was writ large on his ashen face as Obama talked of being “humbled” by the honor. He wasn’t being polite in protesting he didn’t deserve the honor.

Every wonk worth his salt is rushing to point out that Obama has yet to deliver on his promises. He has, they argue, nothing to show for his 10 months in office except for his soaring, uplifting rhetoric. His friends and foes — whose ranks have multiplied over the past few months — seem to agree on one thing: That the Nobel has come too early for the first black man in the White House. Too much too soon!

My favorite Maureen Down of the New York Times got it perfect when she made a furious Bill Clinton blurt it out in her hilarious piece: “It’s a case of premature adulation!”

Then what is it that earned Obama the Nobel? The answer lies in this rather telling cartoon in the International Herald Tribune. The cartoon shows the Nobel panel chief making the much-awaited announcement as Alfred Nobel benignly smiled down on him: “The Nobel Peace Prize goes to Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts in not being George W. Bush”.

For more read here.