Ramzaan Mubarak ya Ramadan Kareem?

Lata Jain

Besides the many attractive billboards with the Katrinas and the Deepikas and Karishma selling consumer items, a billboard caught my fancy. It had dates, a tasbeeh, a woman’s hands outstretched in earnest prayer, and gigantic letters in both English and Arabic saying “Ramadan Kareem”.

lata jain

Lata Jain

This is the holy month of Ramzan and social media is full of arguments whether to wish friends Ramzan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem. The Ramadan Kareem trend has caught on, yes. It is the “in” thing, the somewhat cooler way of greeting each other on the start of this most amazing of months for a Muslim. Facebook status updates are full of it. And it’s not just Ramadan Kareem. The hard-core pro-Arabic group will not like it when you say Ramazan Mubarak; they will insist on using the more Arabic counterpart, and quizzically look at you as if asking, “Are you stuck in the ‘60s or what? Ramazan Mubarak? Who says that anymore?”

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 –

South Asian Muslims have always referred to it as Ramzan, but now, more people are using the term Ramadan, which critics say is impacting the centuries-old Persian culture of the region.

Irrespective of the different languages they speak across the subcontinent, Muslims in India have almost always referred to the holy month by its Persian name Ramzan.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, used it when he sent out his greetings to the Muslim community as the holy month began. But increasingly, more people in India are beginning to call it by its Arabic name Ramadan.

Since Quran was revealed in Arabic language, it is written as Ramadan. So the basic word you can say is Ramadan,” Said  Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, a council member of The All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

Some historians believe the sudden spurt in the use of the word ‘Ramadan’ is an attempt to influence the ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity of South Asia.

“We got our Islam here from the Persian tradition and that Persian tradition we have certain cultural and linguistic heritage,” said Professor S Irfan Habib, a historian. “Now there’s a campaign, a concerted campaign by the Saudi regime particularly, which I call as Saudi cultural imperialism, which is trying to homogenize Islam.”

I think we as a society have become increasingly focused on rituals and outward acts. Anything Arabic, which is an outward expression, gives us a sense of inner religiosity. An Arabic greeting does not make us a better says Maulana Habib, a clergy.

Until about 10 years ago “Khuda hafiz”, which means “God protect you”, was the phrase commonly used to say goodbye. But, in the past decade, “Khuda hafiz” began to be overtaken by a new term “Allah hafiz.

In a country with much bigger issues to worry about, this issue can further widen the gulf and create yet another sub-division in the ideological groups we are getting divided into. When our energies are spent into non-issues, the importance of the real issues is diluted. It is time we start looking for common grounds. With that I say, “Ramadan Kareem and Khuda Hafiz”.

Those on the right argue in favour of using Arabic words to maintain their ‘proper’ religious linguistics or to hold on to Pakistan’s Islamic heritage; they are even found ‘correcting’ peoples’ usage of the word ‘Ramzan’ to what they believe is more appropriate – ‘Ramadan’

 We asked some of our readers as to what would be the appropriate word and here is the response:

Here are a few tweets regarding this matter:

Beena Sarwar: @beenasarwar

You can call the holy month what you want. I’ll use Ramzan, rather than the corporatised, commercialised, Arabised, westernised Ramadan.

Fazeelat Aslam: @FazeelatAslam

If you’re Pakistani say Ramzan. If you enjoy continuing Zia’s mission and being a lemming, please say Ramadan. #lemmings

AM: @delhisultan

Today we say use Ramzan, not Ramadan. Tomorrow it will be something else. Where will these social dictates take us? @bdutt

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