Thursday, 9 September 2010


Happy Eid? Not for everyone!

  • Thursday, 9 September 2010
  • Fouad GM
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  • Happy Eid, Eid Mubakar, Bayram Mübarek, Eid Sa'id, Yen`ad el-Eid ... Innumerable are the ways and languages in which Muslims wish one another a happy Eid. Almost as innumerable as the ways in which their communities mark the Eid of the month-long fasting month of Ramadan.

    But is Eid, or even Ramadan for that matter, a happy occasion for everyone? For the religious, perhaps. For the spiritual, definitely. For the rich, probably... But for the poor? Not necessarily... One account of a not-so-happy Eid is that depicted by Bengal's rebel poet and outstanding beacon of global belonging, Kazi Nazrul Islam.

    This year, Ramadan in Pakistan was far from a happy occasion for the millions displaced by floods

    Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899 – 1976) is known as Bidrohi Kobi - The Rebel Poet of Bengal, The National Poet of Bangladesh, and more truly a World Poet. Nazrul said, "Even though I was born in this country (Bengal), in this society, I don't belong to just this country, this society. I belong to the world." [Nazrul Rochonaboli, Bangla Academy, Vol. 4, p. 91].

    Nazrul known as the ‘Rebel’ poet in Bengali literature and the ‘Bulbul’ or Nightingale of Bengali music, was one of the most colorful personalities of undivided Bengal. He may be considered a pioneer of post-Tagore modernity in Bengali poetry. The new kind of poetry that he wrote made possible the emergence of modernity in Bengali poetry during the 1920s and 1930s. His poems, songs, novels, short stories, plays and political activities expressed strong protest against various forms of oppression - slavery, communalism, feudalism and colonialism - and forced the British government not only to ban many of his books but also to put him in prison. While in prison, Kazi Nazrul lslam once fasted for 40 days to protest against the tyranny of the then British government. [biography: Nazrul Islam]

    Here's Kazi Nazrul Islam's poetic depiction of a Peasant's Eid.

    Peasant's Eid!
    Kazi Nazrul Islam

    Belal! O Belal! The crescent (helal) shines in the western horizon!
    Seeing what is going on, are you hiding in shame in some desert-grave's prison?
    Look at those Peasants, bound for the prayer-venue, like the skeleton of a mummy,
    Have you seen going toward the slaughter-house the little-fed cattle with sunken tummy?
    They broke their fast with the sherbet made of tears,
    Is your voice choking, Belal, giving the call for prayers?
    Mortgaging the plates, bowls and water-jars, these wretcheds are marching toward the prayer-venue,
    with heart broken and head with bandana of indebtedness, offering God's due is still on their life's menu.

    Those whose lives are continuous fasting, and can't sleep due to hunger's pain
    To visit these moribund Peasants today, has the auspicious Eid come again?
    Crying for another droplet of milk, the baby that died in life's cruel descent,
    Has the rib-bone of that baby appeared now as the beautiful crescent?
    Piercing through screen of black shroud that is spread sky-wide,
    The slice of the moon shines like that baby's tender lips' divide.
    Peasant's Eid! He marches to the prayer venue for his baby's funeral,
    The more he hears Takbir-chanting, his heart tears asunder with the rush from the adrenal.
    The boy has died, the daughter is dying; at his door the flood of death keeps knocking,
    while around Makkah and the mosques the band of Yazid keeps flocking.

    Where is the Imam? Today, which sermon will he recite?
    All around lie corpses; but even worse is in sight!
    The wealthy people have gathered here with attires of golden laces
    You are the Imam here? Are you then the leader of those privileged faces?
    You have imbibed from the Koran, hadith, and fiqah, but ever in the mouth of these dead,
    have you offered ambrosia, can you swear to that? At least, try - go ahead!
    You have prayed, recited the Koran, you also fasted I know these good deeds are on the list,
    Alas, just a parrot! Have you ever given them any hope, courage or strength in the least?
    You have carried fruits, but never tasted the nectar - the wretched fruit-basket!
    Pebbles never imbibe anything, while remaining a thousand years in the fountain-bed's casket..

    Divine knowledge - what do you know about the Omnipotent Lord?
    How can one be a believer who is never attached to life's power-cord?
    Iman! Faith! You repeat day and night, but is Iman so easy?
    In carrying the load of Satan, does ever a believer remain busy?
    Listen liars! Those who are real believers in this world,
    the power of their simple wish can shake and get the canvas of sky furled.
    You simply chant the name of Allah, but never knew or understood Him,
    those who themselves are blind, how can they show others the heavenly beam?
    Those who themselves are chained, how can they bring to others liberation?
    How can they deliver honey to others, when their own soul-hive is empty of life's vibration?.

    Where is that true Imam, at the strike of whose feeble feet,
    the power-fountain of Zamzam starts flowing forever to flood life's dry and barren street?
    Those who are wimps themselves, having no strength or power,
    it is sad that we have to listen to them giving sermons from the prayer-tower.
    Those who would enliven and wake up these hapless destitutes in every nest,
    where is that noble and inspiring leader who again will restore true Eid in its full zest?
    He will bring back from the depth of space the smile of Eid's crescent - like a delightful regale,
    the smile and joy that will never end, and it never would go pale or stale.
    At the graveyard, full of corpse, I am waiting when will he arrive at this congregation?
    Fast and breakfast, we will do together, then it will be Eid - really a celebration.

    *** *** ***

    Notes and annotations: To understand the context of this poem, one needs to understand the socio-economic reality of peasants' life in the Indian subcontinent as well as in many other less developed parts of the world.
    BELAL: A prominent companion of the Prophet (p) of humble Abyssinian origin. He was a slave when joining Islam. Later, after great persecution, was freed by fellow Muslims. He was poor all throughout his life, but earned prominence as the primary announcer of prayer (Mu'azzin) during the Prophet's time.
    YAZID: The ruler of the Muslim world who usurped power and also in the hand of whose soldiers the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hussain along with several family members, was brutally murdered.
    FIQAH: (or Fiqh) The body of Islamic law and jurisprudence.
    ZAMZAM: The miraculous water-fountain in the valley of Makkah that Allah provided as the infant Ismail, the son of the Prophet Ibrahim, was dying of thirst, and his mother, Hajjar, was desperately searching for water to save the child.
    IMAM: Leader; commonly, prayer leader.
    EID: celebration; festivity

    Translation provided by the Kazi Nazrul Islam website.

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