Ramzan: a month of television ratings
In the light of this indecency and non-stop artificial religiosity, even God is going to celebrate Eid with the poor Pakistanis this year
As soon as the official announcement about the commencement of Ramzan is made, people joyously start congratulating each other and the whole environment in Pakistan, without any exaggeration, is spiritually invigorated. Genuinely exhilarated with the news, a smile runs across their faces and their eyes twinkle with optimism. They call their friends, update their Facebook statuses, tweet their followers on twitter or send group text messages on mobile phones. For them, a month of prayers, recitation, charity and good deeds has just begun with the sight of that thin, red crescent, encouraging them to connect with their Creator once again. In large numbers, they flock to the mosques, assemble shoulder to shoulder in long rows to express their gratitude, kneel to demonstrate their indebtedness in front of the most Merciful, prostrate to ask for His forgiveness and raise their arms together for the betterment of the country. Young and old, short and tall, rich and poor, white and black, everyone is found there supplicating for His blessings.
During Ramzan, the rich identify with the poor. Being hungry all day, unable to eat or drink, they realise the hardships in the lives of their less fortunate fellow beings. The poor, at the same time, appreciate the efforts of the affluent to understand the distress and the uncertainty of their impoverished lives. People invite their relatives and friends for Iftar dinners to share the blessings of the month and augment our culture of hospitality. They eat, drink and pray together, imploring the Almighty not only for the betterment of their own families and close associates but generally the nation at large. In short, the whole month of Ramzan is celebrated in most of the Muslim countries with a special religious fervour that culminates in the celebration of Eid, the first day after the month when we are allowed to eat during the daytime, an occasion that can easily be compared with Christmas in the western world when friends reunite and families get together.
While all these festivities are going on, we also believe that the devil is incarcerated in a prison, staying lonely and limited in his activities in Ramzan. For a long time, we used to think that the place God has chosen for him is an isolated dark cubicle from where he was not able to communicate with the rest of the world. We also supposed that his detention was the reason for most people to refrain from their common misdeeds and minor transgressions during the month. However, since the electronic media policy has been relaxed in Pakistan, that small black cubicle, a box where the devil was thought to be enclosed, has entered everyone’s house. With that assertion, indeed I am alluding to the Sehri and Iftar transmissions of all private channels during Ramzan.
I am in no way arguing that watching television is un-Islamic; that is neither my intention nor my area of expertise or my personal belief. I leave that decision to be made by the experts in Islamic jurisprudence. My intentions are to point out the phony culture that is propagated through these long spiritless, mindless, careless and hopeless transmissions.
For all those who fast know very well that being hungry in this simmering heat is hard, and is even harder to be thirsty. Naturally, they are going to be much more credulous in those times, more tolerant towards unintelligent babbling, occupied with their craving to eat and unwilling to flip the channels. Improvident and inconsiderate private channels recognise their sentiments very well, and just like a hawk attacking its prey, they are more than willing to exploit them to the fullest in a fiercely competitive environment for better ratings. They also have got themselves involved in a rat race between themselves. But unfortunately, the race is more to make these programmes worse and instead of contending with each other on higher quality, they have left the viewers with only three choices this year: bad, worse or the worst of all ever. Similarly, these programmes had three major objectives to achieve and none of them had anything to do with Iftar, Ramzan, fasting or religion. These objectives are self-explanatory and can be enumerated as money, money and more money. Their mission statement is also ‘shamefully’ simple: we do not believe in morality if it is not profitable. Therefore, irrespective of the quality of content, by hook or by crook, Iftar transmissions need to be financially rewarding to the owners even if it means a Hollywood celebrity is to be invited as the chief guest in the show.
In the light of this indecency and non-stop artificial religiosity, even God is going to celebrate Eid with the poor Pakistanis this year. The reason for his exultation, I am sure, is not only because He believes it is the end of Ramzan and people are allowed to eat again or the poor are going to be fed again or the homeless are going to be helped again, but because with the beginning of the new month of Shawal, He knows that nobody is going to torture them through these traumatic and disgraceful Iftar transmissions on television anymore, at least for one year.
The writer is a US-based freelance columnist. He tweets at @KaamranHashmi and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org