Lessons at the cemetery

Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

How many of us really think about this stark and lurking reality called death? Perhaps most of us prefer to dismiss troubling thoughts that would sufficiently rob us of our restful night sleep although the mystery and the intrigue surrounding death remain in our shadows.

Death is considered a certainty, to the point that you would fail to find any rational person who would deny it. It is a common observation that every thing, whether it consists of life or not, is destined towards annihilation, writes a British scholar of Islam

Visiting the graveyards in itself is an action designed to stimulate those of our senses that compel us to constantly hide these feelings.  With time, and in the most unfortunate turn of events, the place of constant reminder of macabre has been hijacked by some otherwise well meaning individual who in their pursuit for aesthetics, or perhaps clean surroundings, may have gone too far in rendering the picture incomplete.

For us Khojas, the tantalising taste of tea served with tabarruk, while adding a dimension of social interaction at Kabrastan, has again wrongly converted the place into a get together hang out.  And in the turbulence of this social buzz, the terminal message calling out to us to transit into the next world, gets buried deep.

The concept of noise control was first studied during the Second World War in which motorised planes, cars and equipment, while preferring a cascading advantage to its users, antagonistically presented a heavy toll on communication processes as soldiers at war struggled to understand instructions through radio in the backdop of deafening and sustained high decibel sounds.

The American Speech and Hearing Association, in a journal published in 1950 entitled “Speech and hearing disorders” found through the study of several individuals, that while it was possible for a person to adapt to sounds upto a certain high level, progressive rises in sound levels can compulsorily cause physical and mental faculty damage.  Later on, several scholars have postulated that since noise is not restricted to sound alone, any form of abnormal and exaggerated distraction falls definitively inthe category of noise.  It is further argued that it is with this theory that contemporary rulers rule over their people.  By carefully crafting relevant noise in society – whether in the form of excessive lavishness and luxury, or by controlling people through robot-like lifestyles, or any other kind of systematic conditioning, people are rendered useless and irresponsive to any higher need in life.

If we continue to discard the original philosophy of the graveyard by an organised system of rituals surrounding say morning salaat or evening majlis, where in fact what literally happens is that fun and frolick and loose talk in the name of friendship overshadows the otherwise dulled sensation that the picture of death is to bring along.

A gaze at the sand and soil, a peep at the crawling insects, a reminder of the name on the tombstone and a recollection of the face that we once saw amongst us, is all that we need but for the profound distractions and disturbances around us.  This noise of social presence takes away the whole purpose of being there.

What an amusing incident happened at a funeral when n elderly man volunteers to calm a younger man who was bereaved on the material day.  So far, so good except that his style could not match his spirit as he kept using swear words in convincing the young man how important it was for him to overcome his grief as death was a part of life – subhanallah, but then comes the noise as the next advise was to enjoy his life and forget this loss.  Truly, how we sometimes mean to genuinely help but are completely incapable of so doing.

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