“There is nothing like returning to a place unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have changed.” Nelson Mandela
Tasneem rubs her tired eyes with the calloused hands of a much older woman. The smoke billows from the smouldering charcoal-lit stove, adding yet another layer of soot on the blackened walls of her humble dwelling. It will be dawn soon and her young ones will be anxiously waiting for their roti before they leave, walking, on their way to school. Tasneem looks at the small pile of aata she is kneading, and after a quick calculation, determines that the only way to ensure each of her five children get a roti each, is if she forsakes her share. Her maternal instincts overpower the burning hunger eating away at her insides. After all, how many days has she gone without one? She’s lost count. As she places the aato on the tawa, her blistered fingers turn the flattened clump of dough, cooking each side evenly. She quietly beckons the smoke out from the small opening which serves as the single source of light and air in her tiny home, so that the children lying asleep in the other corner are not awakened. As she does, her gaze follows the contours of her brood, as they wistfully sleep, their chests rising and falling with each breath. She looks up. Hanging from one rusty nail, a thin wooden frame holds a picture. A picture of hope. Her eyes lock with the eyes in the photo. Her heart misses a beat, as she sees that it is not she who is seeing, it is the person in the picture whose gaze is on her. The warmth of the benevolent countenance radiates towards her. Her eyes glisten with tears, not from pain or self pity, although barely a moment of her life passes without hardship, but from a deep, inner peace. An unvoiced conversation, between Moula and mumin. “I see you and I am there for you”. She smiles. She looks back to her stove and places another roti on it. She has purpose. Her life is not without meaning. A guardian angel is watching.
This is one of the countless untold stories of so many women. Unknown, unwanted, unappreciated. Yet, it is precisely these people, these silent heroes, who hold a special place in the heart of Mufaddal Moula. Not too soon after Nass, someone once said of Mufaddal Moula, “He is the champion of the nobodies”. He looks beyond the glitz and the glamour of the prominent and privileged and holds up a lamp to the unlit corners of our community. He does not enquire about the millions generated from the enterprises of industrial magnates. His concern reaches beyond the triviality of commercial pursuits. Rather, he is far more concerned with how, these unsung heroes of their homes, these simple women, live each day from making and selling rotis.
A few days ago when several hundred such women gathered in Raudat Tahera, we witnessed Moula doing what they do every day, picking up the roller and rolling the dough for a roti. He came down to their level, removing the barriers in between. The significance of this single act cannot be understated. He touched the hearts of all them, all of us. The magnanimity of his status, is not measured by the dictatorial demands which plague many a world leader, but his humanity; his unparalleled compassion, his empathy for those who are far, far, far below his exalted office; his ability to reach down, hold out his hand and uplift them. If love, with all its nuances and connotations, could be defined or personified, it would be Mufaddal Moula.
As we bid Sherullah farewell with heavy hearts, Eid dawns upon us. Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid as they see fit, as they understand it. So be it. But what does Eid hold for a mumin? The word Eid is pregnant with meaning. Its etymology can be traced back to the word ‘Aa-da’, which means ‘to return, to go back’ in Arabic.
In the past twelve months since last Eid, Moula has been urging us to ‘return, to go back’ to a time and place where our lives were simpler, happier. ‘Contentment’ has been a buzzword in his discourses. As fashion designers flaunt their latest creations on the catwalk and change their style with every season, Moula has urged muminaat to go back to wearing the ‘original’ rida. As societal pressures coerce women into demeaning the virtues of focusing on home and hearth, Moula has encouraged all women, mothers, daughters, sisters, to rediscover the joy and satisfaction of making a roti with their own hands, as they used to, before their kitchens became cluttered with appliances aimed to simplify our life, yet inevitably complicated them. As our kids get sucked into the digital void of Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo games, he’s suggesting children go back to when they actually went out in the playground and physically ran around, getting mud on their shoes, sweating it out; it’s far healthier, for both mind and body.
He’s pressing pause on the tape of our hurried and crazy lives. In fact, he wants us to rewind and wind down, to go back to basics – “Ghar nu kaam pehla”, he said. Sometimes to move forward, we have to go back.
Let’s take a moment and think about the one single defining characteristic of every waaz he delivers. It’s the retelling of history, of events which happened back in time. In fact, there are a couple of stories which he keeps going back to every time, gleaning new meaning from them time and time again, Bani Riyah na ghulaam and Ziyaad onil Aswad, are classic examples. What place do these tales of a time long gone by have in our ‘modern’ 21st century world? After all, a glance through the latest edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul will offer far more contemporary stories for inspiration. There are many answers, but one is a call to return to those values, that way of life which is quintessential to our faith, irrespective of time and place.
This year marks the Eid e Zahabi of Aqa Moula. Fifty years have passed since Moula became Dai. Fifty years, which we are being reminded through the intellectual discourses of the learned among us (refer to 68th verse in this year’s Munajaat), hark back to another Eid e Zahabi, that of Syedna Taher Saifuddin. These two fifty year periods, span a century of such social, political, cultural upheaval, that the history of the human race has never witnessed a more tumultuous period in its evolution. Yet, Aqa Moula’s leadership and vision throughout his fifty years, are a reflection of the previous fifty. As the son became the father, the concept of ‘Ana’ – the latter being the former, was cemented in his emulating every action and every decision his father took. Moula went back to everything which Syedna Taher Saifuddin taught him. Every step was homage to his father. No son was ever born more faithful.
There are many things which we can reflect on as we look back on the past fifty years. However, the undeniably, single most defining moment was at the turn of the century, in 1400H, when Moula restored Al Jame ul Anwar. That day was no less an Eid. It was Eid in every sense. Moula’s single proclamation on that day, summed up the transformation of the entire community where the future became the past and gave birth to the present. ‘Rajana kama kharajna’ – ‘We have returned as once we had left’. This was the Fatemi Dai in Fatemi Cairo in Fatemi Anwar, bringing together the people of this Dawat, across the ages, transcending all temporal and spatial confines and turning every moment of every Mumin’s life into Eid. Moula is the one constant in this chaotic existence and it is to him we keep returning and shall ultimate return.
In this sense, Eid ul Fitr and Eid Zahabi, conjoin in their substance. True Eid for a mumin, is a journey back in time; reverting to a previous state of simplicity and contentment; a return to the things which really matter. Let’s rediscover our roots, revisit the legacy of our ancestors, reconcile our present with our past so that we may have a bright future…..so that we may return, one day, to where we came from.
Abde Syedna wa Mansoosehi TUS