Sunday, November 7, 2010

Birthday Boohoo

Surprises of surprises. This week, I am in an especially cowed down mood, and my hatred for nerds has once again taken a backseat. However, something came up, and while I usually don't blog if I don't have to talk about samosas, nerds, and uber-nerds, I felt it imperative to write about this.

The only other most talked about word, apart from 'recession' and 'Megan Fox' lately has been the word 'extremist. Let's not call them that-  like one would call the physically handicapped 'disabled', for want of a better word- rather, they shall be addressed as the over-zealously religious ones. An image that pops up in my mind is of shuttlecock burqa clad women skirting about nervously and bearded men wielding Klashnikovs. But many of them breed among us. They sprout up as if from cracks in the pavement and become part of the milling crowd. They attend elite institutes and compete with the not-so-religious ones. They believe that there is no point in studying since it is the Hereafter that matters. And yes, some of them, in their disdain for all things Western/Indian, heretical and irreligious, denounce the celebration of birthdays.

A friend of mine had her birthday today. Since it was Facebook, and everyone out there usually strives to come up with the wittiest status updates and garner the maximum number of 'likes', this one came as a surprise. It said that she was sad because the birthday meant that her life had become a year shorter.

I think the post was pessimistic, to say the least. Nothing extremist, so far. What followed was an unprecedented flurry of messages- the religious ones immediately sought to capitalize on this opportunity and swooped down like eagles on fresh carcasses. The initial ones were a bit solemn, reflecting upon the impermanence of life. Nothing Keats or Shelley wouldn't have said.

But then there were others, that were obviously riled up by the ones pacifying the aggrieved birthday girl and wishing her a happy birthday. They promptly unleashed words of vengeance on the infidels (us, I believe) and copy pasted a number of Quranic verse translations in the comment box. This certainly impresses me in two ways- their ability to get worked up by something as innocent as a status update, and their ability to copy paste stuff from Google in a matter of minutes.

Please note that the birthday girl applauded one of those who had posted an extremist comment.

A friend of mine, who had been emphasizing on being positive, politely backed out of the convo. But I picked up where she'd left. My little brother passed by my computer screen and admired how there were already a number of likes on my short comments, while the dude with the quotations had none. 'Kisi nae itna lamba parha bhi nahin ho ga (No one must've bothered to read such a lengthy post),' he told me decidedly.

Before you guys start rolling your eyes and prepare yourself for an anti-religious sermon, let me clarify- I don't remember quotations from the Quran, so I'm not going to type out any verses indicating the incurrence of Allah's wrath on those who celebrated birthdays. And I don't remember any evidence of the Holy Prophet admonishing anyone that a gazillion years from now on, birthday celebrations will be rampant and should be regarded as the work of Satan.

I remember watching this movie called Khuda Kae Liye, and this one scene where Shan tells someone that that's all extremists do- brand every fun activity as un-Islamic. Back to the birthday status- someone commented 'What is there to celebrate?'

Isn't the enjoyment of life, i.e. a gift from Allah, something to be celebrated and cherished? I believe that rather than sit down and lament over the loss of a year of life, we should reflect upon it and cherish the fond memories it has generated. I believe that only those who have spent all their life fretting about enjoying what Allah has generously given us are the only ones who would have no reason to be happy. And even then, wouldn't someone be happy to come to the end of such a miserable existence? The blowing out of candles on a cake seems to be symbolic of the snuffing out of one's flame of existence. How morbid could one be?

No one is telling you to go and get drunk or get high just because it's your birthday. But it makes no sense that the Almighty would want you to be unhappy over something you have no control over- the inevitable passing of time.

And indeed, if death only brings us closer to Allah, that very aspect is meant to be celebrated.


Mehtaz Sultan Khan said...

Bla bla! I need a holy clown on my bday yo! XD

Palwasha N. Minhas said...

I love love love this!

Kanwalful said...

Maryam, for once, I beg to differ. I honestly believe that the word extremist or overly zealous religiosity does not exist. At least not for me. Everyone is passionate about different things - I am about my blog - so what if certain people are passionate about their religion. To put them down or THEIR beliefs is just plain wrong. If that girl is sad about the fact that her life shortened by a year on the particular day i.e. her birthday SO BE IT. What ever happened to live and let live?

I think this aspect of society is what continues to bog us down - clambering on each others backs hoping to put each other down. I know you would feel bad if someone told you NOT to celebrate your birthday, similarly I am sure the girl you have written about would feel bad if she found out you are challenging her beliefs.

I believe that you as a writer can do way better by writing things that are plaguing society much more harmfully, than silly debates over celebrating birthdays and deaths. So use your gift tastefully yo.

For the record, I absolutely love your blog and I literally wait for the time you write a new post so this is not out of dislike for your blog or you. Nor am I posting anonymously because I know our understanding is way stronger than us getting offended by each others honest advice. ;)

Maryam said...

Palwasha: Thank you :)

Kanwal: Yes, maybe I did come across as too opinionated. But I won't feel offended if people disagree with what I say or believe in. Just for clarification, the bday girl said that this was just one of the aspects that was bothering her. But the issue at hand was how it was blown out of proportion by a number of people who want to start arguments just for the sake of it.

Also, extremist does not denote someone passionate about religion, just one who imposes his/her religious beliefs on someone else.

Kanwalful said...

I still don't see how the birthday girl was imposing her belief on anyone but her own self... And being opinionated is one thing I stand up for. But there is a difference between being opinionated and putting someone else's beliefs down especially if they are not tampering with your life.

Maryam said...

I understand what you're getting at. And no, I'm not talking about the b'day girl doing that, rather others who commented on that status. I am not putting anyone's beliefs down, this is simply my take on the issue :)

H.G. said...

Nice new theme...
I do like some of the tidbits of pun but i disagree on some of the points... The last line however is epic.. ;)
Indeed, expressing grief over the usual-passing-of-time is harebrained...

p.s. wish her a Happy Birthday from my side... :-) ...kidding...


Anonymous said...


Maryam said...

H.G: Thanks, and yes I know that many would disagree with a lot of things I think, but this is just my opinion, open to criticism, subject to change.

Anonymous: Thank you, but do mention your name next time :)

Kiran Khan said...

Your blog post was a bit harsh Maryam (as in it hits me in the heart)...Since I know it's abt me!! First of all, I did not say I was sad! Sad ppl never achieve anything in life. I said that IT IS A REMINDER!!! which means tht it'll always be there in my conscience that my life is being shortened and tht I will VERY SOON meet Allah and give an account of my actions. After death, that IS IT. That is scary!! I DO NOT like the style with which you talk abt religion!! Religion is personal and u shouldn't talk like this! I'm generally a nice person so EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE MAKING FUN OF ME (or whatever your intention is), I don't mind!! =) =) I'm still your friend =) =)

Maryam said...

Kiran, I did not say that there was something wrong with you for putting that up as your status. What I was talking about was how your status was easily manipulated by people who just wanted to put forth some 'holier than thou' comments. I am not critizing you or putting you down, if you wish to see it that way then I guess that can't be helped.

'Religion is personal and I shouldn't be talking about this,' and you 'don't like the style in which I talk about it'? Guess what, you are perfectly justified in saying that, but then again, you come and write a comment on my blog- I am sure that you did not say that to people who commented on your status, agreeing with YOUR religious values (is it only personal when people disagree with you?)or the derogatory manner in which they addressed the people disagreeing with them.

I don't think there is anything wrong with the way I talk about religion- I for one am not saying that no one can disagree with me or disregard my blog post, which is an OPINION and not propaganda by some anti-religious faction. If you scroll up you can see that I do admit to some things Kanwal has pointed out.

Your last two lines don't make sense. If you're really that nice a person, I don't see why you want to be sarcastic about it (do your religious values let you do that?) and yes, after the way you cut me when I passed by you in the corridor today, I don't think you can vouch that you are all up for forgiveness and don't hold that against me.

Mary A. said...

In the US, our youth-obsessed culture makes us unhappy over birthdays because we are no longer young and beautiful. I may no longer be young, but my beauty was always in the eye of the beholder anyway!

Bring on the cake!

Kiran Khan said...

What is wrong with "holier than thou" comments! What I mean is tht if knowledge is being transmitted about religion, is tht a bad thing??
As for the 2nd thing you said, why did you dedicate an entire blog post to me using words such as "extremist", shuttlecock burqa clad women etc...
Plus, you present a narrow-minded approach to Deen whereas someone else who commented on tht blog cited a reference. You don't have references! How can I agree with you when you don't have references?!
When I saw you in the corridor this morning, I said Hi back when you said Hi because I hadn't read the blogpost. I had heard abt the "being made fun of" part but hadn't read the post!
Lastly, I don't even know why I am fighting!! this is getting me nowhere! everyone is entitled to their opinion...tht is fine I guess....but please don't dedicate a blogpost to me...In the end it boils down to tht...I have never said anything abt you or spread rumors abt you! I will still be your friend!! I don't feel tht I am being sarcastic while saying tht!

Maryam said...

Holier than thou implies that the person feels that he is superior to someone else simply because he considers himself to be more religious.

What you're doing right now is arguing against what I believe in, which is exactly what I have done. Isn't that hypocritical on your part? Also, the reference to burqa clad women is not related to you. Do you take a burqa? Until this morning, NO. Your heightened sensitivity exhibits insecurity.

Also, Kiran, nothing is dedicated to you at all. In fact, you are the only one who has brought yourself to light as the one who put up that status. Since you have not cited references yourself to disprove what I say, then your aggravation is misplaced. This post is an opinion, and that is pretty much it. You have the right to agree or disagree.

Maryam said...

Not agreeing or disagreeing, too lazy to have an opinion right now but I like this post. I like your blog, and I LOVE the title =D

Alpha Za said...

Haha, I enjoyed the comment thread almost as much as I enjoyed the post itself. I think you make very valid points, particularly towards the end when you argue for wanting to celebrate your birthday.

As far as I'm concerned, any one whose chooses to be passionate about their religion, is a good thing. However, attacking the views of others and showing a general lack of tolerance is misplaced, particularly when combined with a superiority complex which I find usually accompanies people our age who have a deep interest in faith.

@ Kiran Khan: I vote that you and Maryam Hug it Out. Bloggers write about things that interest them, it just so happened that your status interest her and a whole lot of other people, which gave rise to the sort of debate we should all be celebrating. Belated Happy Birthday.

Maryam said...

Maryam: Thanks :)

Alpha Za: Haha, Kiran and I have already 'kissed and made up', so yeah :P I knew that this post would invite a lot of criticism since it is NOT backed by religious quotations (since there aren't any) and would grieve a lot of people who disagree with me. Just making a point here that this is exactly how people like me feel when others act all self-righteous and authoritative