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     Volume 4 Issue 18 | October 22, 2004 |

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The way of Life

Elita Karim

My maternal grandmother would never be seen without her prayer beads. As soon as she reached a certain age, for some reason she would always look at the sky and probably count the number of days she had on this earth. Sometimes, I would catch her smiling to herself and nod up at the heavens, oblivious to everything and everyone else around her. I guess I was too young to understand it then and had assumed her actions to be just another sign of old age. But now, I sometimes think that maybe she had reached a phase in life, where she felt a firm attachment to her religion and God. According to family members, it seems that the last thing that granny did right before she breathed her last was look up at the sky and mumble quick prayers, moving her lips, weary with age.

My grandmother's approach to religion is probably not a very uncommon scene in Bangladesh or elsewhere. Once people reach their prime age, somehow the universal concept of mortality hits them and they realise the significance of religion in their lives. They let in a sudden rush of changes in their lives, starting from the way they dress, how they eat and how they behave in front of other people, to how they move their eyes, speak and express themselves. Women suddenly become adorned in black and white, complementing their grey hair and wrinkled hands. Men suddenly have new sets of panjabis and a permanent embellishment of their heads with various kinds of prayer caps.

The younger ones, in turn, 'wait' for this age to hit them, so as to transform themselves into this pious version. 'Why demolish your life now and trap yourself into the claws of religion?'

they say. 'We'll have nothing to do when we are 60 anyway, so why not preoccupy ourselves with religion then?' In some ways, maybe the youngsters are right, and I guess the senior citizens' actions and attitudes towards Islam can also be justified.

But I sometimes wonder if religion can be viewed in yet another way. I wonder if I can claim Islam to be a cool religion. It might take a while to wipe out the relation certain people have created between terrorism and Islam, but I still wonder if the whole concept can be approached in another way.

A great scholar had once said that 'Islam is for those who are educated, for those who want to accept changes in life for the better and appreciate the creations of God with a clean heart and a sound mind.'

Recently I found out that the idea of praying five times a day is really not all that complicated as many make it out to be. It's as simple as brushing your teeth every day, a habit without which a day would never begin and as necessary as taking your daily bath.

In fact, now I don't see why certain people flaunt and make a big deal out of praying and have to miss out on the many fun times life can offer by merely 'getting into the clutches of religion'.

Islam is really not the end of everything. It does not define not going to the movies in the weekends, eating sandwiches at get-togethers and chatting online with your old friends until 3 in the morning. Islam does not stop you from appreciating a good piece of art, tapping along with your favourite tune or simply smiling at someone you think you might like once you get to know him. It is just another way of life. It might strengthen your belief in yourself and probably put a little bit of faith in you to have in the people around. It might just give you more self-confidence to go out and face the world all by yourself. It might give you courage when you feel all left out and helpless and drive you to reach your destination in life, when quitting becomes a better option.



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