Thursday, November 30, 2006

Giving One's Life in the Holy Land

I am not big on reading newspapers (though not for the same reasons as you-know-who), and newspapers from societies where the press does not operate very independently are even further down on my list. But following a link from something else, I happened to run into this story (click on the graphic to see a clearer version of the graphic if the one on this page is blurry):

[I am not sure if the story is still available online, but click here to check, if you want to.]

Now I was in a rather odd mood when I first to saw this story, because I have to admit that on the one hand, it is a very, very sad, depressing almost, thing to read. But on the other hand, an couple of couplets from a "naat", a peaen to The Prophet, very popular in Urdu-speaking communities came to mind and wouldn't go away for quite a while. Of course, from just a short newspaper story, I don't know what the real particulars of the case are, but the spirit of these lines echos through my mind; it evokes a kind of religious, or spiritual fervour that is very, very different from the kind that is so common today. It evokes a gentler, deeper, more spiritual attachment to things we hold holy than the type of car-burning, Kalashnikov-toting one so often in the news today. Here are the lines I am talking about:
hum madinay main tanha nikal jayaingay
aur galiyon main qasdhan b-hatak jay'eingay

hum wahaan jaa kay waapas naheen aayaingay
d-hoondthay d-hoondthay loag th-hak ja'eingay
in quick-and-dirty translation:
we will venture out into The City (of Madina) all alone
and lose our way in the streets, on purpose

we go to that land, and will not return
try and try as they might, folks will tire of trying to find us
That spirit of unselfishly loving something, even the very dirt of a a place you hold holy, with all one's spirit, and of not wanting or expecting anything in return--no virgins or Houris, no looking forward to rivers of honey, no glory for one self or one's community, no status as a martyr or a Shaikh--seems so far from the folks so often associated with faith today, be it Muslim militants, telegenic Shaikhs and Imams, evangelical pastors, or Bible, Qur'an and Geeta-spouting politicians and pundits.

Like I said, I don't know the particulars of this case; but I'd like to think that if something like this happens, it is in this spirit...

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