*The statements written here are not intended to be offensive to anyone. I’m mostly ranting about the depiction of muslims. Kindly excuse *
I saw the movie “OMG: Oh My God” this weekend. It was a rather enjoyable watch as it made a strong case against unnecessary rituals and customs but not faith. Faith is unique, it is personal and it is within us. Hunting for it outside is a lack of conviction in the faith itself. The arguments in favor of blind faith were very powerful and I’m really hoping that people watch this movie with an open mind. Watch it and understand that God does not need our delicacies and fruits and jewellery. People who offer all these to idols of God, are doing what exactly?? I cringe each time I see milk being poured over idols . I’m sure many people who have seen the film would question the validity of their rituals. One friend at work had once narrated an incident where a ‘pujari’ refused to perform certain rituals for the friend’s house-warming ceremony. His words were, “There is no need. The process of following certain age-old rituals is equivalent to carrying the corpse of your ancestors. It serves no purpose but weighs you down unnecessarily”. We were mighty impressed by this, mainly because it came from a priest, people who are themselves sticklers for rituals !
Anyhow, I digress.
The bone of contention that I had to pick, was that like every other Hindi movie, this one too was highly inaccurate about the Muslim way of belief. As always, I shook my head in dismay at the wrongful depiction of Islam and its rituals. How difficult is it really, to get hold of a regular muslim and just ‘ask’ him about the religion?
I think the earliest perpetrator of fueling misconceptions was that sorry tale of a romance, wedding and divorce, called “Nikaah”. For years I’ve been fending off remarks on how muslims either live in mansions or in shanties. Sorry, but there is a HUGE population which lives in between the two levels.
For years I wasted efforts in telling friends that saying “Talak, Talak, Talak” three times in a row does not qualify a divorce. The method of claiming Talak (according to Quran) takes months!! Each utterance of ‘talak’ should be separated by a period of one month, during which the families have to try and reconcile the two parties. The ‘talak’ should be uttered in the presence of witnesses and religious priests. Also, if the priests or family elders believe that the warring couples can be reconciled, given time, then a divorce proceeding may be extended by a few more months. Lastly, the most important part, women have an equal authority to demand a talak, only that, in their case, the word is ‘Khulla’. Irrespective of who asks for the divorce first, the woman is entitled to alimony/maintenance and Mehr (if she has children) or just mehr (if she doesn’t have kids).
There were plenty of ignorant muslims who used the movie as an example to obtain a quick divorce. There were variations, wherein coward men sent across their intentions via the phone/internet. The worst part was that many other ignoramuses fell for the ruse and didn’t bother to check if the other party was following the correct Islamic practice.
There are plenty of fools in every religion and I guess we have our fair share too
But it isn’t just about “Nikaah”. Even new-age movies like “Dilli-6″ go wrong. In one of the songs, Abhishek Bachchan is shown kneeling down for a Sajda. Shooting in the Jama Masjid, how long does it take to observe the hundreds of muslims praying there to check for the correct posture, method? So Abhishek bows down and touches his forehead to the ground, where everyone else around him touches the nose along with the forehead, which is the correct method. It might seem like a trivial matter, but really, it peeves me to no end!! And No, we do NOT pray with the Quran in front of us. Karan Johar, you got it all wrong in KKHH !
Coming back to OMG, I couldn’t help but agree with movie “OMG”, mostly because this is exactly what Islam preaches – do away with irrelevant rituals, customs. Allah just needs your love and faith. As long as we have the love of Allah in our hearts, we don’t need to do anything else. What is namaz, if not the interaction between us and the Lord above?? You directly pray to him, without the constraints of a third party, without the barriers of barricades without the worries of monetary payments! The only reason muslim men go to the Masjid (a simple room with bare walls) for prayers is because the Quran directs men to pray as a group, though each one’s prayer is his own.
When Paresh Rawal’s character questions the beliefs of the religious heads, regarding Islam, he questions the faith of ‘chadar chadhana’ at dargahs. Well, you know what?? A LOT of muslims worry about the ‘chadar chadhana’ ritual ourselves! It amuses us to see people of other faiths coming to the dargah to ask for the pir/baba’s blessings, whereas us muslims go to the dargah to pray for the pir/baba! To beg Allah to shower all his mercies and benevolence on the person who came this far east to spread the message of Islam. To thank Allah for sending the messenger our way (A lot of my friends believe that Islam was brought to India by the Mughals, which is equal to believing that Chinese food was brought to India by Chinese, when in actual, it was brought to India by Tibetans and Nepalis. There is a difference there. I hope my analogy makes sense . Mughals were responsible for very few conversions. Its is people like Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia, Delhi, and Khwaja Gareeb Nawaz, Ajmer who had better success in preaching about Islam. The earliest converts were people from lower strata of the society, who were tempted at the security of equality and brotherhood as a way of life).
I bet this is one fact you didn’t know, right?? Not many people do
We don’t ask the pir/baba to help us. He cannot, since he was a mortal human himself. The only one who may fulfill our wishes/prayers is the one God above.
The other kind of muslim stereotyping is with the clothes we wear. For years, movies showed muslim women wearing shararas(one piece lehenga) and ghararas(divided lehenga) at home!! Get real people!! Muslim women wear shalwar-kameez or Saris at home. Even the rich ones! And no, pathanis are not the sworn dress code for men. Sure it looks good, but most muslim men would wear a pathani only on a Friday for the afternoon prayers (which are similar to Christian’s Sunday mass – prayers followed by sermon). The rest of the time, they wear regular clothes, you know, the trousers and denim kind. Surma is mostly used on special occasions, like Eid, except for women, who may apply it whenever (like me, who uses is every single day!).
There are a few exceptions though, like the movie Aamir, where the lead was from a regular muslim family, whose sister and brother wore regular college attire – jeans and t-shirts and whose mother was in sari. They didn’t need to display superficial visual aids which screamed out “MUSLIMS”.
Anyhow, I think if I linger any longer, I’ll get on a tangential train of thought. So for now, I’ll just wrap up by saying that Hindi movies, in general, do a lot of disservice to muslims. But then, they do a whole lot more damage to the other kinds, Sikhs, Parsis, South Indians….which is really a pity . I’ve lived in Punjab for three years and I know that very few Punjabis are loud and boisterous. The people I’d met were mostly pleasant and dignified. They are colourful, yes
On an aside, we had a discussion at home once, on how the muslim community started celebrating the ‘Urs’ or death anniversary of a religious saint when such acts are prohibited in the Quran. The FIL said that a long time ago, when Islam was still new and muslims were spread far and wide, the Urs was a means of having a social gathering…..of having like-minded people come together, share knowledge, learn Arabic, teach the Quran. Slowly, over the decades, it turned into a circus. Though some muslims in India still celebrate the Urs in Ajmer with great fanfare, it is an activity which is mostly looked down upon by muslims around the world. Why? Because the Urs allows baseless rituals, like carrying a plate of goodies or flowers on your head for the Khwaja to fulfill your mannat. This is exactly what Islam is against
There!! I went on a tangent again. So I better stop now. Else there will be no end to this post.
Once again, this post isn’t meant to offend anyone, but in case some statements have inadvertently done so, then I forward my humble apologies.
Be at peace