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     Volume 7 Issue 44 | November 7, 2008 |

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One Off

Sparrows in the
Golden Sun

Aly Zaker

I sit here in my study, early in the morning. For the first few minutes or even an hour I hardly do anything. I watch the sparrows full of life chirping, dancing and frolicking on and 'round my potted plants kept on the windowsill awashed by the golden sun of the dawn. I give them some grains now and then. They keep coming back every morning. Indeed they even wake me up at dawn just in case I make the mistake of sleeping beyond the time fixed by them! I see the mother sparrow feeding the baby sparrow. I see them fighting at times over the share of grain that belongs to one and is being eaten by the other. Unlike human beings, the usurper gives up and they become friends again.

I keep looking lest I can find the yellow-breasted sparrow that initiated Salim Ali to become a world-renowned ornithologist. But I haven't yet seen one. I think you need a pair of special eyes that Salim Ali was endowed with to see things that are difficult to see with plain eyes. His 'Fall of a Sparrow' is a book very close to my heart. Looking at the sparrows; at their freedom and life without fear; I feel a wee bit jealous. And for once I feel I have been unlucky to have been born a human being. Our lives are so full of strife, hatred, libel and selfishness that one feels really gagged, especially if one is a free thinker. Our minds are so full of ignorance that we cannot think rationally whereas, the students of logic amongst us cram lines like “man is a rational animal” during the course of their study. We, perhaps, are the most irrational of the living species. This irrationality is manifested in our everyday behaviour, especially whenever we can smell the possibility of a controversy. These controversies are usually mounted on the questions regarding interpretation of religion. And the issues are mostly abstract and woolly. The answers, generally given by bigots, are irrational.

That reminds me that this year, as is customary every year, there was a debate on the sighting of the moon before Eid. I was watching a programme in a private channel where two physicists were asked when they thought the moon for the Eid would be sighted. They said that, these days one need not guess when the moon would be sighted. One could calculate and say with accuracy that the moon would be sighted at a specific hour, specific minute and a specific second. They went on to say that the Eid moon would be sighted that same evening but remain visible in the skies of Dhaka for about 22 minutes. So the Eid should naturally be celebrated the following day. The channel then asked a religious leader about this. The gentleman said that according to the instructions of our Prophet under no circumstances Eid could ever be celebrated without sighting of the moon. This argument took me back to my childhood and I remembered having asked my father on a rainy Ramadan evening when and how there could be Eid if we could not see the moon? My father cut me short by saying that they had a special aircraft with which they could go above the cloud and see the moon. My juvenile mind accepted this idea without any further question. Coming back to the present; what the channel did not do is that they did not probe further on the subject. I thought the theologian should have been asked a very simple question. He should have been asked why every Muslim these days started their fast seeing the watch or the clock. They did not have to go out door to physically examine if the east was tinged with the light of the emerging sun. They broke their fast seeing the watch or hearing the azaan that was tuned to the watch. The time for both starting to fast and breaking it did change everyday as per scientific calculation of time. If these were acceptable to the 'keepers' of religion then why is it that there was so much fuss with the starting day of Ramadan or celebrating the Eid? The question still baffles me. This year we saw Ramadan beginning on different days in different places within the country and Eid celebrated on different days as well. Such confusion as mentioned above is the most common practice with a section of the people who ride on convenient interpretations of religion and try to fish in troubled water. Another case in point of this anarchy in the name of religion that comes to mind is the recent protest against the sculptures on the island in front of the Zia International Airport. A tremendous hullabaloo was created in the name of Islam that such sculptures embodying living beings in any form is tantamount to blasphemy. I don't want to get in to the argument of how far whatever is permissible according to Islam because that would augur in the question of interpretation of religious dictates. And interpretation of religious matters almost invariably are diverse and dicey because they are subjective and abstract. I would only point out the fact that in many of the Muslim countries of the world as Iran, Turkey, Jordan or Egypt, to name some, such sculptures peacefully co-exist with Islam. Yet some cry hoarse, some give fatwa and yet others threaten to take recourse to violence. I know that I can't do much except feel sad at such designs of the ignorant.

So I turn to my windows for solace. The sparrows keep dancing on the windowsill. The gold of the morning sun wash them with its goodness while we the hapless people keep drowning in the morass of darkness.


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