I have arrived at our mosque a few minutes late for the Asr salah……….. A spur of the moment feeling of homesickness made me stop for sweets to take to the mosque.
In a few hours the 12th of Rabi ul Awwal will be ushered in with the setting of the sun. It holds in our collective memories the day when he who is described as a Mercy to Mankind came into this world and also the day he departed.
Random people in the mosque foyer expound on reasons why Prophet Muhammad pbuh birthday should not be celebrated and that it should be treated like any other day etc etc.
I look at the sweets I brought and think to myself, I am going to follow the sunnah of our beloved Prophet pbuh of sharing food with fellow Muslims especially today as I am thinking of him every moment as the sun dips towards the west.
Abu Huraira RA said and I paraphrase “I have seen two days in Medina, the day the Prophet came to Medina and people were ecstatic with joy and the day he died when the bottom fell out”
He had been too young and thus did not mention the day when Bibi Amina felt a light illuminate her womb and she knew then that this light would illuminate the world.
So…….. Looking at the people around me in the mosque I realize that each one of us perhaps gives more importance to the birth of our child and its subsequent birthdays, than we are giving to the day of birth of someone who came as a Mercy for All of Mankind.
In my dialogue with myself I wonder who is more important in the wider realm of being? Our child, who will never be on any consequence in the larger realm of the universe, or our beloved Prophet pbuh who came as a Mercy to Mankind and brought sanctuary and respect to women in a manner never dreamed of before his time.
I find that most people from the Middle East in the States (sorry for the generalization) do not express the deep devotion and intensity of love for Prophet Muhammad pbuh as those living in the subcontinent of India and Pakistan, who sometimes take this love to the extreme.
Suddenly I am homesick…………..for people who love the Prophet and do not stand around in the Masjed and expound how his (pbuh) birthday is of no importance.
I am homesick for the streets of Lahore where I once saw the glory and genuineness of the intense love for the Prophet illuminated in a thousand candles:
I am transported back to an evening in Lahore…………
I am in my early teens and I am visiting my grandparents in Lahore. A city girl (Karachi ite) visiting a relatively smaller city (Lahore) with not quite as much “polish” as Karachi. Obviously a totally subjective view of a teenager (me) from Karachi.
We are going for tea to the home of some extended family. We are riding in the car on Mall road, flanked by trees, wide, beautiful, green and clean. Not at all dusty like Karachi. My Aunt leans over the back of the drivers seat and gives directions to the driver. He makes a sudden turn and weaves in and out and turns into a street, where I am spell bound with the exotic flavor of the place. I feel I am in another city.
The road is narrow, flanked by three story buildings with flats above and shops below.
As the car meanders through the bazaar, I am entranced. In all my protected life in Karachi I have never witnessed an exotic scene, such as is unraveling right in front of my eyes.
The side streets are filled with people, shops are busy, roadside cafes (not like the sterile ones in Paris) are cooking purrees and halwa, and other fragrant savory things that I don’t know the names of. The aromas of which is filling the streets with a mouth-watering fragrance. I want to stop and get off the car, but you do not do that as a young girl in Lahore.
We reach the house and on alighting from the car, the driver disappears with the car as there is no parking space in sight.
The tea is long and boring, but I entertain myself by asking the hostess about the shops I had seen, especially the roadside cafes.
Being the good eastern girl, I cannot ask her if I could go down walk through the streets and sample the goodies being cooked while they had tea.
Patiently I wait and the sun begins to dip when suddenly our hostess turns to me and says “ Aap ney chiragha dekhna hay” Would you like to go see the lights?
Does a bear want honey? I jump to it, “absolutely!” I say, ignoring the warning glance from the matriarch.
Next thing I know is, that our maid, a remote family relative and me are hailing down a Tonga negotiating the fare and off we are clippety clop into the glorious city of joy. The sun has sunk and Maghrib has come and gone, leaving behind an air soaked with spirituality.
As the rhythmic feel of the hooves on the pavement wraps into my psyche. The night falls with a polite cloak of darkness.
Meanwhile the gas fires of the stoves, hiss and the huge circular deghs, (pans) cooking halwa, are stirred constantly with a long spoon by a guy wiping his brow with the turban end. He appears so comfortable with his task that it seems that the long spoon is a permanent extension of his arm.
Every house and shop is lit with candles in the windows; the government buildings wear garlands of sparkling lights.
In the square and places where people can sit they are reciting the durrood in a singsong manner.
I growing up in Karachi have never seen such a sight! There is a subdued respectful joy in the air.
The Tonga wala dons the role of a sightseeing guide: “The lights are lit to celebrate Huzoor salal lahu alayhe wasalams birthday, we are deeply grateful to Allah Subhanawataala that he was born and brought us the message of light”. “You know we are all His Ummah,” he says turning to me as if to open the gates of Hospitality to this deprived citified teenager who is gawking like a villager. Lahore dressed like a bride in lights is out tonight for the pleasure of everyone who can see, smell and feel the joy.
I feel I have missed out on the deep and abiding love that these simple folk in the streets of Lahore have for Prophet Muhammad pbuh, with no if and or buts…………
I miss that level of sincerity and genuine love for our Rasool pbuh here in the diverse population of the Muslims in USA. They speak of Him pbuh in a tone of familiarity as if he was the Joe next door.
Meanwhile in our mosque far away from home, one of the people when told that the sweets are to commemorate the Prophet pbuh’s birthday says, “ oh…is it today?” I am stunned by the lack of interest in one who brought dignity to the lives of human beings.
The sheer lack of affection for someone who brought peace, civilization, respect and Mercy to not only Arabia but all of Mankind………..makes me homesick for my summer in Lahore.
Lahore, where people in the street could not read but could see the light of Prophet hood and were deeply respectful and happy to be illuminated by its message.