Just as the Keeper of the Royal Seal announced the arrival of Ramadhan last week, the first thud of a falling durian was heard at the western end of the farm. Great, I said, perfect timing. What are we going to do with those fruits during a month when nobody (Muslims, that is) eats during the day. Of course we can try finishing them off upon the breaking of fast. That we did for the first 2 days, but a bout of sore throat, cough and high body temperatures finally convinced us that durians and fasting do not get along well together. So now we just watch as the deers, goats, horses and chicken helped themselves to the durians.
Yes, all these animals eat durians in their own fashion. The bigger ones like the deer and horses would break them with their hooves or horns and the smaller ones like goats, dogs and chicken would help themselves to the leftovers. The deers were particularly enamored by the durians, refusing to get in the pen for the night, feasting on durians all night long. But its been one week since and even they have had their fill. Too much of a good thing is not that good afterall. Even the squirrels who have been cheekily dropping off unripe fruits earlier in the season have got tired and moved elsewhere.
We also had a long forgotten visitor. At first we thought it was just our speculation, but a chance conversation with the neighboring farm confirmed that a clouded leopard had been making its durian rounds early last week, something we have not seen for at least 10 years. You see, the big cats, tigers and leopards, also love durians. It is easy to recognize their handiwork. Using their long and sharp claws they would prize open the durian into a perfect petal formation. They would then lick the flesh clean off the seeds. But nothing to worry about, our seven dogs made sure the leopard did not overstay. One to one, even the strongest of dogs is no match for a leopard, but seven dogs is something else. A leopard being wild is certainly fitter then a domesticated dog, pound for pound. Have you even seen how a cornered cat, fights off a dog even though the outcome is predictable, so what more a full grown leopard.
Anyway, this must be my 50th year of fasting. Quite funny when you look at it that way. That makes it about 1500 days, if I had not missed any day (of course I did), or about 4 years. That's helluva (oops) long time.
Just the other day I saw this caption on a news article, "During Ramadhan, the gates of heaven are opened and the gates of hell are closed, whilst satan is being bound (unable to do any mischief)". I smiled as my old cheeky questions automatically popped up in my mind;
1. I thought the gates of heaven and hell are only opened up on the day of judgement
2. if satan is bound up during fasting month, how come the crime rate did not drop to zero during fasting month.
My smile slowly turned to horror as I realize that my 3 year old granddaughter, Nur Iman Sofia would soon be popping these same cheeky questions to me, followed by her cousin, Idris and her sister, Nureen Farhah. I better find the right answers fast lest they become "bad" Muslims and I would have failed as a grandfather, a "badder" Muslim.
Soon enough my panic subsided and I marveled at this thing called age. With age you tend to see things in a different perspective, provided you have seen and done the things I have. With age too you a a special license, but that's another story.
I figured out that the meaning is not literal but metaphorical and is personal to holder, meaning to say, a person who fasts properly, i.e. with his mouth and his heart, would have the gates of heaven opened for him and the gates of hell closed to him when Judgement Day arrives. And if he continues on this discipline for the rest of the year until the next Ramadhan, he would have ensured that he lives a good and righteous life, whose reward could only be heaven and hell barred for him.
As for satan being bound, again that is personal to holder. The Prophet, peace be upon him, did say that satan assigned one of his minions to every human being, whose sole mission is to destroy his humanity, through his ceaseless whisperings and persuasions. Herein lies the catch. Satan only does the whisperings, the choice is still ours to make, to succumb or ignore. So we cannot get away with the argument; "the devil made me do it", as some guys discovered to their surprised disappointment in the human court, what more in the Celestial Court.
So anyway, here we have satan going about his assigned duty to persuade humanity to do his biddings, but when the one assigned to a properly fasting person practices his careless whispers, the fasting person ignores him. So satan is powerless against such a person. His hands, his powers are bound, so to speak. But then again there are people during Ramadhan who do not fast or whose fasting is not as it should be. Hence the still positive reading on the crime index.
So the opening of the gates of heaven and the closing of the gates of hell and the bounding of Satan is not global, but personal to holder. It is not literal but metaphorical. God knows best.
Talking about the license of age, I cannot remember whether it was Abraham or Moses , may peace be upon them, who asked God about the grey streaks they found in the beard. They ask God, "what is this my Lord". God answered that is was wisdom and they said "give me more". Contrast that some of us who feverishly dye the grey streaks in our crowing glory.
Well my license was not that glamorous. It is just that at this age you get away with almost everything, except murder. I once went to see a friend in a very posh private hospital who had a heart attack. Coming strait from the farm I had my usual kampong adidas (rubber shoes) on, not that it mattered to me. At the reception the security guard gave me a thorough run down, paying special attention to my kampong adidas. Noting his interest I gave him a full rundown of its specs, attributes, special qualities (waterproof), price and where to get them. I even offered to get them for him if only he would give me his shoe size and RM8-50. Not that I don't trust him, but I don't. For some strange reason he refused my offer and ushered me in rather hastily. There were some strange chuckles at the back of me.
Or the other time when we bought a simple phone, to replace the one which had gone swimming in the river. We managed to bargain from RM130-00 to RM90-00 and spent the next hour persuading the sales person to also include a memory chip, camera plus a 5 year warranty. Of course we did not get any of that but it made the trip to town, through all that jam, well worth it.
I sometimes wonder why the sales person in some of our usual shopping outlets tend to look very busy or elsewhere whenever they see the strange old man with his cowboy hat and kampong adidas strolled in to their shops.
Anyway, have a blessed Ramadhan and may our endeavors be accepted, worthy of our intentions. May peace and goodwill take roots and prevail among all mankind in these trying times.