- The majority of the population of Pakistan is illiterate
Ramzan is over. Eid Mubarak everyone, although Eid too is over by this time. But not before the usual inter-beardal warfare conducted from atop a tower. Really, that warfare has become as much part of Eid as shir qorma, only without the shir. Would the Muslim world know itself if some day by some miracle sanity prevailed?
There are quarters where sanity already prevails, most visibly in the person of Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, may God bless him. It is Ghamidi sahib who explained the issue best:
You know it is time for prayers by looking at your watch now, he says, and no longer at the sun. You check the position of the sun only if a watch is not available.
So how do you know if it is Eid tomorrow? You look at a lunar calendar, which has been compiled using a telescope and mathematics, and it is now possible to compile a lunar calendar until the end of whenever.
The ones on the tower do not agree with this rational approach, because if they did, they would be deprived of their bi-yearly moment of glory. What is deeply mystifying is, why, if they must sight the moon with their biological eye, they use the metallic version as well?
Meantime, there is the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto, in Canada. The mission statement of this cultural centre, loosely quoted here, states that it is a place where Muslims can come together regardless of sect, ethnicity or gender; where the diversity of the Muslim world is viewed as a source of beauty, not division.
This is not just doom and gloom and negative speak. Pakistan is faced with an emergency right now, very much in reality, an emergency that is already impacting every single person in this country
At this centre the Quranic injunctions of learning and reflection are upheld as universally and eternally applicable, encouraging an intellectually vibrant community unfettered by ignorance, prejudice and bigotry, and understanding is fostered between people through discourse and discovery.
At this cultural centre Muslims and people of other faiths can find the means to “know one another” (Quran: 49.13)
Eid prayers are held at this cultural centre and this year a woman gave the Eid qutba. I am not aware if this was a first or if a woman gives the khutba every year.
The khutba was an intelligent discourse about environmental issues today, and our place as Muslims in a world dominated by these issues.
An approach such as this may be the only way to deal with the environmental disaster that Pakistan is well on its way to facing.
Every year, farmers in Pakistan and India burn the stubble of the previous crop before they plant the next one. The haze of carbon hangs over the region, adding to the other pollution the people of these countries live with.
Pakistan is a beautiful country, blessed with spectacular mountains, streams, deserts and beaches. While the last three are accessible and have been almost destroyed, along with forests, you’d think that the mountains, being mountainous, would be out reach. But they are not.
According to an AFP report, Mount Everest now has the distinction of being the world’s highest rubbish dump, with ‘climbers paying little attention to the ugly footprint they leave behind.’ Environmentalists are concerned that the pollution on the mountains will affect the water down below in the valleys.
Since climbers are not exclusively but more often from other countries, this goes to show that where there is no enforcement of standards, and no provision of facilities, few persons, whether from here or there, will go the extra mile to pick up after themselves.
Of course, Everest is not in Pakistan but Nanga Parbat and K2 are, and the situation could not be any different here.
Among the many ways of destroying the environment, there is the pollution of rivers. According to a United Nations report earlier this month, nearly 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year of which eight million tons is dumped into rivers which flow down into the oceans. Just ten of these rivers carry as much as 90pc of plastic rubbish. The majority is carried by the Yangtze river in China, and the second highest quantity of rubbish by the Indus in Pakistan.
Water is threatening to become scarce in Pakistan, and underground water in Pakistan already contains dangerous heavy metal contaminants. Yet the population of the country is growing so that it is likely to double by 2025. This will be unsustainable unless there are some serious changes made.
Also, despite this scarcity, farmers are growing water intensive crops such as sugarcane and rice, and exporting them. It takes 2500 litres of water to grow 1kg of rice. which translates into exporting water itself. Yet how are farmers to know otherwise without education, guidelines or encouragement to change their strategies.
This is not just doom and gloom and negative speak. Pakistan is faced with an emergency right now, very much in reality, an emergency that is already impacting every single person in this country. What’s more it is an emergency that will not disappear by means of supplications. We are supposed to understand these issues and change the misconceptions within ourselves so we can deal with them. The Quran says: “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” Quran 13:11
This is where places such as the cultural centre in Toronto come in.
The majority of the population of Pakistan is illiterate. The majority of the population of Pakistan also calls itself Muslim. Therefore, the forum most readily available to the people is that provided by the mosque. This where people can be educated about the hereafter, but also about the right now. The persons speaking from this vantage point must be educated, must themselves be aware of environmental issues, and they must impart this information to the people who come to listen to them in an informed, inclusive, interesting manner.