Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

November 2005
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Muslim Perspectives

Rush Hour in Ramadan
By M. Hanif Lakdawala

During Ramadan this year, Muslim mohallas transformed into boisterous melas till midnight.

Ramadan is the month of earning the pleasure of Allah. But looking at the Muslim mohallas, it seems that it is one of the most torturous month for all those who reside in Muslim mohallas or have to travel through the routes.

The Muslim mohalla, transforms into a boisterous mela every afternoon till midnight. For the local Muslim it’s a living hell, with hawkers hollering at the top of their voices disturbing the afternoon nap of the children and senior citizens.

The Muslim neighbourhood attracts a rather eclectic crowd. Shopkeepers and hawkers sell anything edible, from fruits to the most oily snacks. Above all it is as expensive as any decent restaurant fare.

Why is the community tolerating and keeping quiet about this? Shahab Bankoti, Trustee, Idara Dawat-e-Quran said, “It’s the question of Halal earning for these people. Why should any one take objection”? But is it as per the spirit of Islam? The Shafi Masjid Imam at Mohammed Ali Road opines that occupying the footpath space or public space is against Islamic teachings. “How can a Muslim be a source of nuisance to the neighbour or the public? Just because few hundred families earn a living, we cannot torture millions of citizens every day. Islam teaches us to be benefactors as Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) was, for the people”, he adds.

A random survey done by this correspondent of Islamic Voice revealed the following facts:

• The rich shopkeepers occupy the public place or footpath without contributing anything of value to the neighbourhood.

• Many hawkers are merely the operating face for the land mafia, local muscle men or tenants of the original encroacher.

• The quality of food served does not give value for money.

• The hygiene is totally absent.

• The cost to the neighbourhood is far greater than the benefit to few families earning a living.

• There is no civic sense or responsibility of those who sell their ware on the footpath.

• It not only creates noise pollution and traffic problems, but also health hazards to the neighbourhood.

The question is why the Muslim neighbourhood tolerates this “noise pollution” in the holy month of Ramadan? The argument in favour is ‘it’s the necessity’. ‘Where will people buy Iftar otherwise’? People also argue that it is part and parcel of the Muslim culture. The strongest argument is that ‘it is the source of decent living for thousands of families’, never mind even if it causes pain to the millions of law abiding people.

It is really strange that people think that in urban areas it will be a problem to get a decent Iftar for a fair price if the hawkers blocking the main arterial roads are removed. How can a civilised society allow a handful of people to block the traffic for an entire month? It is a torture to pass by any Muslim mohalla in the afternoon and evening as hawkers completely block the roads. Many roads become no entry zones for the entire month.

Under which Islamic principles or Prophet’s (Pbuh) sayings can we justify these month long blockades by a handful of hawkers. Is it creating a positive image about Islam and Muslims? It kills the very spirit of fasting and refraining ourselves from satisfying our taste buds.

Agreed that the issue of earning a decent living is a sensitive one. But these hawkers can be trained and also asked to occupy those areas which cause least trouble to the common people. Local Muslims must get themselves organised and debate the issue. What is needed is the identification of the areas where these hawkers sell their wares in Ramadan without causing problems to the neighbourhood. They must be educated about the importance of hygiene.

For the next Ramadan, the start can be made by preparing the list of areas where traffic jams are caused because of the hawkers, the enlisting of the hawkers can be done with their complete details and the planning be done for the next Ramadan.

Can we believe that Muslims spend their precious time shopping in the evening rather than spending time in Ibadaah? Why cannot Muslims finish their shopping before Ramadan? If we start thinking in this direction, millions of people will be spared from the torture of traffic jams, eve teasing and molestation.

Planning and changing the attitude of the Muslim will go a long way in saving lot of resources in terms of time, money, energy and most of all conserving our energy in pleasing Allah and spreading the word of Allah to those who are not aware of His message.

(The writer can be reached at [email protected])