A Simple Thought – Friday, 18th June 2021

Talk is cheap

I look around and see that a lot has changed, but then this is not something new.  Those before me have always said that relative to their life’s moments.  Many years ago, in addressing a prevalent social malaise of that time, I had coined the term ‘digital barazas’.  This was in the early 2000s when my immediate environment had just about begun to appreciate what was later to become our new soulmate – the internet.  It is hard to say, what may have been the turning point in history, but what changed noticeably was hospitality into estrangement, care into assault, and action into words.  Talk became cheap as not only those hitherto disqualified to speak on account of their ignorance, were blabbering concepts, but also those that used to do, now suddenly became those who told others to do.

A self-serving, self-appeasing and self-gloating society, that has broken all bounds and barriers of respect, values and culture, is the bi-product of our inability to spot the difference (using a popular catch-phrase).  When I used to render services within the community, I used to be taught lessons of tolerance for the sake of unity, as opposed to boldly solving issues that were ever evolving.  Then when I stopped being the insider, I heard tremendous volumes of advise from people who thought they had the moral right to admonish and to preach.  For years, the pulpits stagnated as their only prime focus remained the animosity we ought to have with other Muslims, obviously an export from their own sub continental issues that emerged as nonstop rage.  The consequences of economic liberalisation highlighted the clamour for amassing wealth and attention.  Riyaa, or show-off, is now more a norm than the exception, and is very much acceptable. 

The very set of parents who used to brighten up at the high performance of their children in their teenage days, shifted goalposts overnight in applauding wealth by any means, as a true mark of success.  And while the elderly stuck their noses deep into the muddy waters of contentious issues such as hindi movies are haraam and hijaab of this kind and that, and partitioning of the genders, a polar life emerged at the other end of the spectrum.  So what do we have today? That wealth is a sign you are smart and successful and so to get that smartness and success, we must be out there at all costs.  It is not uncommon today to see our youths on open group dates, nor is it a strange site to see both parents, helping themselves to routine doses of friend outings, and encouraging their children to be out as well, declaring that the home is only for a bite and a nap (and a shower and all that in between).  Lame talk as to which restaurant offers the best food as home kitchens recede into oblivion or takeover by paid staff.  Theft, oh my God, theft.  We are not just talking about theft of intellectual property, even if unpatented, but theft of merchandise by the very people whose names should evoke an emotional remembrance of the holy five.  Theft of ideas and cutting off others.  Then there is the baraza, of course.  A friend sits with you and talks, then he or she carries your bit to another friend, who then multiply into further friends.  All in the name of gathering and networking.  In fact, it is so hard nowadays to be part of groups because they are either just talking about he events in others’ lives, assessing the fortunes of others or acting the devil’s advocates at worst.

Those who are rich and blessed, as they keep ranting on social media (as though all others are not, and by extension that Allah is unfair, astaghfirullah), are happy to expose their wealth and talk of their fortunes as long as it buys them fan following, but fail to act as emissaries of the Lord in truly relieving the issues of their very nearby brothers and sisters in faith.  The soap opera for them continues, unabashed.

Then I wonder, what is the life I am looking at in the days to come? And I shudder to forecast more alienation, further discrimination, intense hatred and harm, as knowledge and enlightenment will now be used to advance personal gain, and not he pleasure of Allah (SWT).  Bahlool’s stories were not mere premonitions, they were telling us about the psychology of the rich and the blessed, and of the evil elements of society, but besides the hearty laughter, what did we really learn? That talk is cheap?

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About the author

Mohamedarif is a marketing professional and educationalist with a penchant for writing as a hobby since childhood. As he experimented writing about sporting events at first and then current affairs, he quickly developed a skill for observation of his environment and began to write on reform topics, especially in connection with the community. To further feed his pursuit of writing, he founded several newsletters and bulletins at his school and at the Husayni Madrasah in the 1980's, all the time learning from others already in the field not just about writing, but also about pre-press and production processes. He was also the editor-in-chief of the Knowledge Magazine in 1995–1996. A decade later, importing a flurry of ideas into his new home, Nairobi, he first founded a two page community newspaper then became a regular writer of the Friday Faculty before establishing the Community on Friday, a fully fledged Madrasah magazine in 1996. And while his writing at the community continued, he simultaneously started writing for a business weekly, pairing in with his newfound role as a marketing professional. During his time in Nairobi, he wrote several speeches for sitting chairmen and presidents while also giving some himself, developing his concurrent role as a public speaker and trainer.

With changing times and a decrease in advertising sponsorship, as well as a fall in overall readership, Mohamedarif transformed this publication into an electronic blog. Thus was born the Community on Friday in its present format.
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