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Sweet memories of divine feelings

It is midnight but the bumpy road to my residence is illuminated with decoration lights, green flags, frivolous banners and chanting of a recent naat, played loudly with a filmi tone in the background. It is Rabi-ul-Awwal, the holy month of the Islamic calendar in which we celebrate the birth of our beloved last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Most roads and neighbourhoods are decorated, and some are occasionally blocked too, to celebrate the holy month and arrange Mahafil-e-Milad at massive level to commemorate his teachings.

I also remember the good old childhood days when Jashan-e-Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi was celebrated with much spirit but less ostentation. The days when we, as children, were excited to gather with our family members and friends in the lounge or drawing room of one of the house in neighbourhood, on white sheets with pillows placed purposefully to pay homage to the holy prophet (peace be upon him), his family and the Creator with respect. The divine feeling that filled the atmosphere, the scented agarbatti’s fragrance and the home-made cuisine and sweets to treat the guests and distribute among the participants still fill my heart with nostalgia and serenity.

There was a rare concept of professional naat-khawans in those golden days. In the ladies milad, girls and women of the house recited Quranic verses and naats, mostly in the chorus, sometimes solo too, and read zikr and riwayats at their best to pay tribute to the holy prophet (peace be upon him). All the participants, including little girls, contributed humbly in chorus and durod-o-salam which also served as a training institution for future naat-khawans.

In main milad event, same practice followed by the male members of the house. My mother’s grandfather belonged to Lucknow (an Indian city) and he and his five sons with all grandsons, uncles and son-in-laws learnt and followed grandpa (dada) in reciting naats, durud, salaam and presenting riwayat in its true spirit and soul. I miss those divine celebrations of Eid-e-Milad which used to continue throughout the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal and afterwards, at one house or the other with family, friends and in neighborhoods.

It is not just out of nostalgia, but also due to the fact that I find most modern day’s Milads extravagant and spiritless. I often miss the respect and the fervour with which we ourselves made arrangements, updated our diaries containing dozens of hamds, naats, zikr and that precious new additions which we endeavoured to find, practice and add, on our credit. I miss the aroma of those homemade treats and fragrant flowers with scented cotton buds that are meant for distribution among the guests and the drizzling rosewater during salaam. What I miss most is the close bond and spiritual feelings that we experienced in those gatherings with our family members, friends and neighbours, as little spirits (children).

Unfortunately, I am unable to transfer the same feelings to my children, despite all the decoration, firework and month-long celebrations arranged at massive level in the modern times. There are evidently professional naat-khawans, sophisticated sound system and elaborate gatherings, both in homes, schools and in mosques. Almost every TV channel telecast special Rabi-ul-Awwal transmission too. However, the celebrations of modern times often lack the respect, zeal and closeness which we learnt in the modest and sanctified gatherings of our childhood.

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