The Quality of Mercy

The Quality of Mercy

I have edited and rewritten a blog I wrote in Ramadan a few years ago. It still sounds so relevent for this month of mercy and forgiveness.

A Mufti in Saudi was brought to tears on a live TV program, when he received a question from Somalia.

Is my fast accepted if we have no Suhoor or Iftaar?”

It was on the 4th of Ramadan that I saw this tweet. The ensuing flood of emotions are difficult to describe. Not only did it bring tears to the eyes, but it made me immediately thank Allah, that I have the luxury to watch my calories and walk away from available food. It also set a train of confused thoughts, on the prevailing state of the world, which has culminated in this note.

Our own Prophet (saw) at one time broke his fast with salt and water, due to extreme lack of provisions, for three consecutive days. So I presume the distressed Somalian questioner, must have been duly answered. But the real issue is why was he in this sad situation at all. Is it not our responsibility to ensure people do not go hungry? And I divorce all religions and ethnicity in asking this. Should this not have been incumbent on us to help provide for this type of person. But here I am, sitting in my lounge, with ample food and maybe, a momentary bite of conscience! Soon, I will simply move on, till at some juncture a similar event will shake me up again – maybe another blog to salve the conscience. Sad!

Is this common throughout our human history? Unfortunately so! Man has been cruel to his fellow beings and if he wields power, he has been ever so nasty. We have seen events of mass exterminations, slavery, genocide, rape and pillage. Instances abound! Sacking of Rome; destruction of Baghdad; extermination in South America by the Conquistadores; the North American Indians; burning of Library of Alexandria; destruction of Delhi. The human race has taken its share with pride and paid in turn with sorrow.  Making a mockery of Shakespeare when he says,

The Quality of mercy is not strained

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

The more I see it, the more it becomes obvious that we do not really care. In the past, cataclysmic events were isolated. Their effects reached us through the long arm of history through generations.  And yes, they did change us in a slow meaningful way. We learned by simple paring away of our evils; that it is wrong to enslave, that it is evil to rape, that it is cruel to torture. Mankind realised after two world wars and a couple of bombs that there is a better way. We signed the Geneva Convention, we made the United Nations and we set up social services to help the downtrodden and needy.

Having done this some 70 years ago, we applauded that life is better. But then Korean, Vietnamese, Gulf Wars and Afghan conflicts have taken us back again, into the arms of darkness. I think the problem is in the rendering of awareness. We are too aware. So, as Aurora and James Holmes massacres happened, we were bombarded for days on all channels. Fifty years ago, when the Boston Strangler was going through his serial murders, we did not know about it. We read about it years later.

So, paradoxically, CNN, BBC, Twitter, FB, blogs are all contributing to this creation of awareness and desensitization. There is a burning platform every day and we the public have become immune. This immunity means, we do not really care. We have lost our soul! Corporations doing CSR do not care; politicians pay lip service; even social workers are so burdened, that passion morphs into the mundane.

I am not sure how to get out of here. The first LiveAid was an amazing and moving event. Thirty years later there has been too much starvation, too many reports and too many pictures for it to move my soul.  The bad news is that the frequency and intensity of these events is increasing day by day. Or maybe it’s the way the reporting is dramatized. Very soon we will be a race who walks past the needy of our kind, without a hint of sympathy. Even a lioness does not do that to a needy of its own kind.

We need to take stock, contemplate deep and get back that Quality of mercy. Without it, we will shred ourselves to pieces in the name of living in a news savvy world.

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