Language barriers

Yesterday, as I wandered through the graveyard on my way home from Friday prayer, a fellow visiting his father’s grave decided to share his interesting insights with me.

“You are not alone in not being able to understand the imam,” he said. Apart from a handful of old men, nobody can understand the imam! If he momentarily skips into Punjabi, then there is hope for the second generation, now in their 40s and 50s. But the Urdu flies over their heads. As for anyone under 30: they understand a little of the mother tongue, but are too embarrassed to speak in the language, their grasp of it too broken.

In short, the imam is a leader of men who cannot understand him. In this, we are all in the same boat. There may have been a conclusion to follow, but alas our conversation ended there, for he arrived at his father’s grave and we went our separate ways.

I took his words as encouragement: chin up, perhaps. Or: you’re not alone.

One thought on “Language barriers

  1. “Understanding” is not what the imams/priests of our generation require from us. They demand blind obedience. As Oppenheimer would say, they have become the ‘church,’ the destroyer of faith.

    Their congregation is just as much to blame. They have given them their power, not realizing that the “imams” of Islam, were never meant to be professional priests. Abu Bakr was not a “priest,” neither was Umar, Usman or Ali. Aren’t they supposed to be the model of our “imams”?

    They were bureaucratic leaders of a technocratic Quranic State. And the “prayer” which they led, was the “Nizaam-as-Salaat,” a state-led vehicle, a regular community meeting of citizens, a sort of “town hall” concept. It was not a mindless passive activity where you just sit silently for a while, meditating like a Buddhist, and then part ways and recede back into individuality. This “Nizaam”/System was the active binding agent of a Quranic Social-Welfare society.

    This is what we have lost. And until we realize what we have lost, we will not begin to recover it.


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