Azan, shisha and convenient hypocrisy

Girls scramble to fix their dupattas, guys put down the shisha pipe and sit up straight - it’s Azan time.

Omer Kamal March 23, 2012
There is a cafe near my university which is frequently visited by students. It has groovy music and plenty of shisha. From the very visible public display of affection to the “immodest” dressing of students - it is a conservative’s nightmare. 

I am sure you can picture the place in your head by now. So one particular day while I was there with my friends, a waiter suddenly rushed towards the sound system and switched it off.  One of my friends joked that maybe the Taliban had finally heard of this place and attacked.

However, that concern was rapidly waived as girls sitting in the room scrambled to set their dupattas (head-scarves) straight and cover their heads while the more scantily clad ones looked around sheepishly. Even the guy sitting across from us, who was periodically making smoke circles, put down the shisha pipe and sat up attentively.

It was Azan time.

Within a matter of seconds, the general outlook of the room had changed, smokes were put out and girls were sharing dupattas to cover their hair.

Before calls are made for my head, I must say there is nothing wrong in showing reverence for the Azan, in fact that is what most of us have seen our parents do. However, somehow I am sure that when our mothers covered up for azan they weren’t sitting in a cafe smoking shisha and holding hands with their boyfriends.

I am all up for mixing modernity with religion and bringing religion up to par with modern standards, but what about mixing religion with culture and conditioning? For me, the putting out of cigarettes and covering up for Azan has more to do with tradition rather than religion itself. What about the fact that the Azan is just a call for prayer and the actual way of respecting it is by saying prayers and not by pushing the mute button on the remote control?

However I digress, and just so I am absolutely clear, whether you pray or not is completely your own business.

I am sure all of you would have noticed how during Ramazan our television show hosts turn into born again Muslims. There’s this great competition to prove who’s the holiest Muslim of all and the participants also include morning chefs, comedians and singers, all trying to wear their religion as overtly as possible.

Tolerating the likes of Amir Liaqat is hard enough on odd days but to see him hold our television hostage for an entire month while mixing ostensible peace messages with genuine hate speeches is strictly a regurgitating experience. The most ironic thing is how straight after iftari (breaking of fast at sunset) on chand raat (night before Eid) the prayer caps and the long white dupattas are magically transformed into revealing latest fashion trends.

Maybe the devil is really unleashed at the end of Ramazan - or is it just a Zionist conspiracy. I don’t know, you tell me?

The point that I am trying to make is that these little contradictions breed hypocrisy and can lead to an identity crisis. How can we forget the curious case of Ali Azmat, our lone true pop star, who jumps from jihad to Zionism to capitalism and finally to Sufi music all in one sentence.

The worrying thing is that this pattern is reminiscent of a significant portion of our youth. The youth that talks fondly about the likes of Mohammad bin Qasim and Che Guevara and thinks that a democratic caliphate will solve most of our problems as true democracy is just something that liberals talk about to tease Uncle Zaid Hamid.

The alarming thing is that it is in this confused youth that our revolutionary leaders find their greatest political capital. It is only because of this paradox that people like Imran Khan continue talking about nonsensical terms like an Islamic welfare state, and get applauded rather than being questioned as to the specifics of it.

Switching off music or saying "Allah Hafiz" instead of "Khuda Hafiz" is certainly not the disease, but only symptoms of one. The disease manifests itself when these little quirks turn into discrimination and prejudice.

Somehow, I am convinced that between a non Khuda Hafizian and an I-don’t-care-how-you-greet-me person, the journey towards bigotry is much convenient for the former as compared to the latter.

Read more by Omer .

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly cited Ali Zafar, where Ali Azmat was referred to.
Omer Kamal An economics student from Lahore with a keen interest in sports, theology, politics, and, anthropology.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Raz | 11 years ago | Reply Nice article. The people who have not grasp of the things mentioned may have weak perception quality of mind. Some deeper things are not for all. One have to hold a clear point of view to understand things. In simple words, which type of software have been loaded in your brain, that matters. Therefore, one has to be more perceptive and equipped with the right skills to understand things and most of all have the clarity of mind.
Serenity Pearls | 12 years ago | Reply I think I get the tone of this article... hypocrisy is there, that's what I used to reason when I would deliberately not put the dupatta on my head whenever adhaan was called. But later I realized hypocrisy of others is not a valid excuse for one's own actions. . These days you cannot really mix society with religion because our society is far on another end of the spectrum. And as far as mixing modernity with religion goes - well one must first define what modernity is? A person can follow Islam thorough and through and still be open-minded, tolerant and accepting of new knowledge and technology. . The only thing that differentiates a moderate muslim from a staunch muslim is that the latter is going to stop when his imaan is at cost, or where he has to give up his islamic values. He would have his priorities set straight: if he has to choose, he would choose prayer over other worldly mixing, modesty over shame, and honesty over cheating for a little amount of money. The moderate Muslim may not be able to draw this line. So while weighing others on our judgment scale, we should really ask ourselves: where do we fall?
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