Astargfirullah Hal Azeem! Redeem Me

Astargfirullah Hal Azeem! Noor cried out after having been shown a horrendous video of a traffic pile-up involving countless semi-trailers rear-ending passenger cars and bursting into flames inside a tunnel in Japan. Astargfirullah Hal Azeem!
Muslims are inclined to utter this exclamation, asking for forgiveness for their own sins and those involved in any mishap. It is a teaching in their religion whenever there is a calamity resulting in loss of life and/or property to ask Allah for forgiveness. It is a lovely practice when in times of trouble, we naturally pray not just for one’s own redemption but also for those we do not even know.

“Astaghfirullah Hal Azeem al-lazi la ilaha illa Huwal-Hayyul-Qayyum wa atubu ilaih ”

“I seek the forgiveness of Allah the Mighty, Whom there is none worthy of worship except Him, The Living, The Eternal, and I repent unto Him”..… even if one has committed sins as much as the the foam of an ocean, still one will be forgiven. [Abu Dawud- 2:85/ Tirmidhi 5:569]

They say “distant relationships” do not work out. I have met Noor for maybe five times in the ten years I have known him. Yet, he remains a dear friend of mine. A special human being. A friend for life, I hope. That would be a privilege. Inappropriately, I write about him in a blog about urghhlings. My blogs are usually about the ugliness of Earthlings. Humans are mostly ugly, not all the time, but their selfish genes raise their ugly heads too frequently. So do their vengeful wicked genes. At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, we read about Chinese nationals being arrested for defying orders to wear masks – a social responsibility to reduce the spread of the virus at the epicentre of the contagion. CCTV cameras in lifts showed people spitting onto the buttons and smearing their spit on the doors. There was the case of the American woman on the balcony of the Diamond Princess defying the quarantine order, openly socialising with her neighbour in the next balcony not quite a meter away. Similarly, the Oregon man, comedian Frank King who sneaked out of the cruise ship Holland America during his 14-day quarantine. He finally got the whole world laughing at him. The World Health Organisation reported yesterday there are 76,785 cases now with 2,249 deaths. Many more will be reported for awhile yet, whilst people continue to be reckless and selfish. Urghhlings also too often reveal their greedy genes. JP Morgan’s own economists reported that our planet is on an unsustainable trajectory, heading for ecological oblivion from the climate crisis. “We cannot rule out catastrophic outcomes where human life as we know it is threatened”, notes the paper, dated 14 January. JP Morgan are one of the world’s premier financier of carbon-intensive industries such as oil and gas. They will continue to fund climate-destroying endeavours whilst there are massive profits to be made. In university, I was taught capitalism works well because we have (almost) perfect markets. The sharemarket and foreign exchange market are commonly thought of as having perfect information and therefore perfect pricing. Yet, this is obviously false as the cost of damages to the planet are not charged to the users and producers of CO2 emissions.

My good friend, Noor

When we meet someone, it is normal for that person to break into a smile. But Noor doesn’t, because the smile is a permanent feature of his face. He perpetually flashes his snow white teeth, maybe the white is enhanced by his dark skin. I imagine he smiles whilst he sleeps but without exposing his teeth – that would be too scary! Noor’s kindness and calm persona is reflected in his face and in his voice. His father left India as a 12 year old, and later married a Singaporean whose parents were Pakistanis. Noor is therefore part Indian and part Pakistani. But he is not a product of the India-Pakistan conflict. If only the two nations could learn from Noor’s parents – love their common traits rather than hate their perceived differences. Undoubtedly, it was easier for Noor’s parents, they were both Muslims, whereas predominantly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan faced turmoil and suffered bloodshed from their separation. Pakistan was an Indo-Greek kingdom from 155 BC for about 200 years, thus early artworks had Greco-Buddhist influences. For most of its early history, Pakistan was ruled by Hindu empires. Islam arrived in 711 AD, 79 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad. India’s documented history goes back to the Mauryan Empire when in the third and fourth centuries, Chandragupta Maurya ruled all of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Indian sub-continent. The next 1,500 years were the Golden Age of India where much of Indian business, civic systems, culture, Hindu religion and Buddhist philosophy spread to many parts of Asia. They were ruled by the Turks (14-15th century) who introduced Islam to them and later by the Mongols (16-18th century) during which the Mughal Empire was the largest empire the world had ever known. When the British controlled the sub-continent, India was called British Raj or British India. After 89 years, the British left in 1947, partitioning the land into secular (mainly Hindu) India and Islamic Pakistan. The partition saw the biggest mass migration in history, some 14 million displaced and over a million deaths. Divided by religion, there have been many skirmishes and four wars between the two countries since independence. Astargfirullah Hal Azeem! May the Brits be redeemed for meddling in affairs they had no right to be interfering in. Delineating land based on religion brings more division and less diversity. More conflict and less security.

Noor is a private man. Wise, circumspect and prudent, he has been a well of advice and fatherly support for my son in Singapore. Thank you Noor for being that bottomless source of friendship and good tidings. Thank you for showing the beauty that’s still around in this increasingly ugly world. Thank you for praying for others when others pray for only themselves.

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