This Ramadan has been subdued for me, to say the least. The offensive in Gaza, with all the requisite pictures of dead babies and videos of explosions scrolling across my feed, has invaded my mind to such an extent that it affects how I go about my day. In the broad sense, there is nothing wrong with that, because if we Muslims are not horrified and saddened by the plight of our brothers and sisters, then we really are missing the point of Ramadan. But it is really more than my brain can handle. I can’t look at scenes of death and devastation one minute and then share a tender moment with my kids or go about the routine task of chopping onions the next. I have to create a wall to separate me from my emotions so that I am not reduced to a quivering mass of empathetic misery. I unfollowed a dozen people who felt it was their God-given task to show the world pictures of infants and women with body parts blown off. I purposely unfocused my eyes while scrolling down my feed in order to avoid homing in on a disturbing image. I mentally checked out enough to be able to function in the world; to take my son to a doctor appointment; to help my daughter read a book, to feed the cat and get ready for our chickens to arrive.
I also saddened because it seems like last week’s disasters have totally disappeared off the radar, yet nothing has improved in other parts of the world. Can we not concentrate on more than one thing at a time? Am I being disloyal to Palestine if I remind people that the Rohingya Muslims in Burma are being ethnically cleansed, that Uighur Muslims in China are forbidden to fast, that believers in Central African Republic are being chopped up into bits, that ISIS is creating a bloodbath in Iraq and the surrounding areas, that Syria is still Syria, that Kashmir is still Kashmir, Sudan is still Sudan, and hey, here in the US, some of our brothers are being shot to death while working at their stores, and Muslim women are still being terrorized by their violent husbands. And do I only save my sympathy for Muslims, or am I allowed to decry the violence in Chicago and the tragedy of domestic violence among my fellow Americans of different faiths? How many profile pictures am I to have, and how do I rotate among them? Maybe I can create a photomosaic picture made up of thousands of smaller photos, each one representative of a crisis somewhere in the world. Unaccompanied children coming over the US border; families fleeing a wildfire in California; the sweeping aside of the destitute in Brazil to put a glittering face on the World Cup. There is oh so much to choose from, and I can’t just pick one and ignore the suffering of all the other human beings in the world.
Oh, Allah, I beg of you to relieve the suffering of the oppressed, to help the Muslims repent for our forgetfulness and guide us and help us to be strong believers and role models for humankind. I beg of you to stop the bombs, the machetes, the Ebola, the super typhoon, the guns, the RPGs, the IEDs, the kidnappings and the words of hate. You are capable of all this and more, if only we have the wisdom to ask and to submit to You. I ask this for all my brothers and sisters in humanity no matter where they are on this earth. I ask You not to take me to task for what I cannot do and bless me with the ability to do more. I ask this as a humble slave who is not deserving to be heard, but I know that You are the Most Forgiving, Most Merciful, and You hear the cry of the oppressed, even if I don’t put their pictures on my Facebook profile.