I thought I would base this post around my experiences and lessons from Hajj, of which there were many. However, I've decided to change the subject of this post, not only because the lessons of Hajj has been covered by many other 'Bloggers', but also because my visit to Pakistan has really stuck a a chord in my heart.
Its been almost four years since I visited Karachi, a time period within which I have changed quite substantially as a person. I was sure that it too would have changed from when I'd last visited the city.
The first thing that struck me as I entered the city was the vast improvement of the roads. Karachi has become a city of flyovers galore, which seems to have eased its traffic problems somewhat. Upon seeing this, I remember feeling a tinge of optimism in my heart that perhaps things in Karachi aren't as bad as the media hypes them up to be.
Some things, however, have remained exactly the same as they always have been such as the endless amounts of unnecessary bureaucracy, the harshness and impatience that exists within the Karachiite and of course, the obsession with eating in the 'hip' places in ones finest garments.
However my true insight into Pakistan came after meeting one of my fathers cousins, a man who is probably in his 80s. He began telling me his story of migration to Pakistan during the time of the partition, as many other Muslims in India did in 1947. As he was from Bihar he initially moved to East Pakistan, what is now known as Bangladesh. For them, Pakistan seemed to be a place where Muslims could obtain peace from the clashes with Hindus. Furthermore, they perceived it to be a land of hope and prosperity, a place where they would have the freedom to practice the Deen of Allah. However in 1970 when Bangladesh was formed, he made the arduous journey to West Pakistan, as he feared for his safety and well being in Bangladesh, having been labelled as an 'Urdu-Speaking' individual. Forty years on from then, he is still subject to bloodshed; be it Sunni versus Shia, Punjabi versus 'Urdu-Speaking' or Sindhi versus Non-Sindhi.
Throughout his entire life he has been in pursuit of safety and security. More importantly, he had a desire to be around people who live and breathe the true essence of Islam, but alas, as he enters the latter part of his innings he is yet to find that, and now he wonders whether it was worth it in the first place. Indeed, his parting statement to me was:
'Staying in India would probably have been better for me. Coming to Pakistan was a huge mistake.'
After meeting more of my fathers relatives, I began getting a picture of a people who have lost hope. Every one of them seems to be toiling under extreme conditions to provide for their families, whilst having the constant fear of being looted at gun-point or being caught in the middle of a bomb-blast. Even amongst the aristocracy of Karachi, although they live a life of great comfort within their homes, they are all targets amongst the highway robbers of Karachi. Every person they meet could be a potential vulture for their wealth, and thus they are in a continuous state of panic.
I then wanted an answer to the million dollar question, how has a country which initially gave people so much hope ended up like this?
Most people start off by pointing fingers at the rulers and government officers, complaining of their intense corruption and injustice to the people of Pakistan. Switch on the news channels of Geo and ARY, and you will see hours and hours of people discussing and arguing this very point. Such discussions are pre-occupying the minds of people from the real problem within Pakistan.
I remember being out shopping in a mall with my wife, and we heard the call for 'Asr prayer. To my amazement it seemed as if people could not hear the beautiful words which our Prophet (SAW) instructed Bilal to chant. They continued bargaining and bantering with shopkeepers, and shopkeepers seemed more worried about their sales than the time for prayer. When I asked someone whether there was a mosque within the mall, to my amazement he replied that their once was but as it wasn't being used, they turned it into a shop.
I also witnessed a phenomenon I had never seen or heard before. Numerous mosques do a 'pre-call' to the official call to prayer where they seem to be 'calling out' to the soul of the Prophet Muhammed, as if to welcome him to the mosque. Such practice is certainly pure innovation, and I would challenge any of these people to prove to me whether the companions of the prophet ever did such a thing. In addition, people still seem to be visiting 'Mazaars' or tombs in droves for spiritual reasons. Once again, these are all newly invented matters in the deen on Islam, something which the Prophet always feared for his Ummah.
My final experience of amazement came when I went to pray the evening prayer. We had a servant in out flat, and I asked him to join me. He returned an embarrassing smile to me, which I interpreted as him being shy to pray alongside me. I told him that although he was a servant, we are both brothers in Islam, and we should offer the prayer in congregation. He then told me quietly that had never been taught to pray. He didn't even know Surah Al-Fatihah in its entirety. I only had a few more hours left in Pakistan, hardly enough time to teach him how to pray. I told him about the importance of prayer and stressed to him that he must learn it. I pray to Allah that he guides this young boy towards the prayer. Ameen.
Whilst our leaders and government officers may be corrupt and unjust, in my opinion the people have none other but themselves to blame. They all seem to be awaiting a person who can fix all their problems for them, but they are not ready to fix themselves first. Although high profile personalities such as Saeed Anwar and Junaid Jamshed have come towards the Deen, ask the people to describe their mental image of Islam and they will tell you about some uneducated Mullah screaming and shouting his head off in public about the 'message' of our Prophet (SAW). They will go on to describe your typical member of the Taliban, dressed in a dusty shalwar kameez and turban and armed with an AK-47. It is for this reason why they continue to shop at the time of prayer and why they choose to wine, dine and dance the night away at mehndi parties, because the type of religion in their mind is something they do not want to be part of.
For the unlettered person, his priority is to earn a living for his family from when he is able to so. He thus sacrifices his education, and even sacrifices learning the basic aspects of his Deen for the sake of work.