Come the holy month of Ramzan and social media is full of arguments whether to wish friends Ramzan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem?
The very spirit of the month which is self- restraint, piety, introspection gets lost in the din of following the Arab pronunciation and denying our Perso-Urdu roots. This month is not about semantics but ‘niyyat’ or intention.
However, let’s discuss whether using the word Ramzan is right or wrong.
We in the sub-continent are blessed with a 800 odd years of a Perso-Urdu legacy. The language we all speak is Urdu which is derived from amalgamation of the local languages with Persian, Turkish, Arabic.
Persian was the court language and so the most popular.
Urdu follows the Persian script as opposed to the Arabic script.
The Persian Script
The Arabic Script
In Persian the letter “ض ” is pronounced as Zu’aad while in Arabic it is pronounced as D’aad. The Makhraj of ض is pronounced with the sides of the tongue touching the gums close to the upper molars (white teeth in the picture)*.
This letter is used in Ramzan ‘رمضان ‘
From childhood I have heard people using word Ramzan and keeping rozas. Of late it has become Ramadan. The object of my blog is to trace how this happened and whether we can still use Ramzan.
In Surah Baqarah, the second Surah of the Quran e Majeed, comes the command from Allah for the believers to fast.
The first verse on this 2:183 talks of what is required and the word mentioned is ‘assiyamu’ fasting , the word for fast in Arabic Sawm (Arabic: صوم, plural: Siyam)
[Yusufali 2:183] O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint,-
In the next ayat or verse the rules are prescribed for fasting and word saum is implied but not used.
In ayat 2:185 the word Ramadan is used and the blessings of the month are described .
[Yusufali 2:185] Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.
I am quoting this for the benefit of friends who said but we must pronounce it the way it is given in the Quran e Majeed. The Quran is written in Arabic and it is prescribed upon us to read it as such. We have to recite our prayers in Arabic but we are permitted to make our niyyat ( intention ) in our own mother tongue and supplicate in our own mother tongue , why on earth would we wish someone in a foreign language? ( English / Urdu / Hindi are now our mother tongues but Arabic is not)
When we went for Hajj we had hired a muallim (someone well versed in how to perform it correctly). He guided us on all the prescribed procedures and told us which Ayats to recite at which step , but when it came to supplication he advised us to do it in the language we are most comfortable with.
“Dil se jo baat nikalti hai asar rakhti hai,” (whatever pours froth from the heart has effect).
When one is writing/ talking to one’s parents, friends, children we use the language we can express ourselves best in, so why would we not supplicate God in same too and why would we wish someone in anything else too.
This is nothing but the hardening of religious stances syndrome. The difference from my childhood to now is that , now with petro dollars flowing in we want to emulate the Arabs too.
It is this syndrome which says that saying Khuda hafiz is wrong, it should be Allah hafiz. We try to bring God down to our own narrow, petty level. Will HE not protect me if I call him Khuda, instead of Allah?
Will he not accept my ‘ rozas’ kept in the month of ‘Ramzan’ as opposed to those who keep ‘sawm’ in Ramadan’?
I recite my ‘ namaz’ in Arabic as prescribed and supplicate Him for my needs in Urdu. Arabic speaking people recite salaat’ and supplicate in Arabic because that is what they are comfortable with. But He is not limited by narrow confines of language. He sees what is in our hearts. He is not us, so let’s not confuse Him with our own petty selves.
( Namaz is Persian and salaat Arabic for the prescribed Muslim prayers)
True we are now exposed to Arabic in a way we were not in my childhood. But we are also getting exposed to bigotry which we were not exposed to in my childhood.
We can’t give up the Persian influence in our lives, heritage and language just because of modern geo-politics.
We forget one of the first lessons in Islam taught us by the Prophet pbuh by appointing an Abyssinian slave as Islam’s first muezzin (the one who recites azaan and calls the faithful to Prayer).
Hazrat Bilal had a lisp. It is reported he couldn’t differentiate between ‘س ‘ (seen) and ‘ش ‘ (sheen) and the very important “Ashhadu an la ilaha illa Allah” ( I bear witness that there is no god except the One God) would not come as it should.
The qawwali “ Bhar de Jholi “ immortalises an episode where some companions complained to the prophet pbuh and he asked Hazrat not to give the azaan but that day . But that day even after the azaan the sun didn’t rise as normal. So they went to Prophet pbuh , who told that Allah had sent a message via Jibraeel that the sun not to rise until Bilal gives the Call to Adhan.
Whether this episode is factual or not it to me epitomises the spirit of Islam’s inclusiveness, equality and brotherhood.
Today we may be learning correct pronunciations but we are forgetting the spirit.
This article was first published in Tehelka blogs