We should advocate for a renewed normal instead

We should advocate for a renewed normal instead

Tarikh : 27 May 2020

Dilaporkan Oleh : Roslan Bin Rusly

Kategori : News


By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak - - 

NOW that Ramadan has left us, we only have the lessons learned to live by. It was certainly an unusual, indeed rare occurrence to be fasting under the shadow of a dangerous virus.

Initially, one was not sure how it would turn out, or even imagined a fasting month without the much-awaited Ramadan bazaar with the wide array of mouth-watering food on display, the jostling for one's favourite before it runs out, and the bustling crowd making physical distancing near impossible!

What about the mad search for the closest parking lot? It is a challenge in a month that emphasises restraint, patience, simplicity and most of all the intention to carry out the fast as sanctioned. That is, cleansing the body and spirit at every moment of Ramadan.

This ties closely with the more serious practice of cleansing the mind, heart and soul. This includes additional prayers and contemplation by members of the congregation at local mosques and surau. It is also time to enhance bonding, socialise and catch up with current events sans gossiping or politicking.

Following the prayers come more food — usually donated by Good Samaritans, almost daily. The donations are part of another cleansing — to share with others. All these have somewhat hardened into rituals of sorts, until recently when Covid-19 called all of them into question. And surprisingly, with several pleasant outcomes.

Overall, Ramadan was more calm and relaxing — physically, mentally and emotionally. No rush, no being spoilt for choice and no distractions. Life was more moderate and balanced, and there was less wastage — material, effort, time and utterance. The environment began to breathe again, and animals made walkabouts like never before.

In short, we have moved Ramadan closer to its true meaning and purpose. A change that is difficult to envisage without the Covid-19 pandemic.

But must it be only in the face of a life-threatening time that things can be translated in a meaningful way?

This is the question that will linger post-Ramadan. That is, for as long as the coronavirus remains in our midst. The ultimate one would be, do we really need the virus to keep us disciplined? What happens to the collective resolve in bringing back the essence of Ramadan? And the alleged unhappiness about not being able to congregate at mosques and surau for prayers?

Except, of late, limited to the invited few. But it can be argued that this restriction is temporary, to prioritise life and health ahead of convention.

After all prayers can be conducted anywhere. Some would argue given the context that it is in fact mandatory. Indeed, the entire world is a "mosque" if not for the desecration of the environment by humans.

Simply put, unlike the Ramadan bazaar, there will be no permanent lockdown as such. This is the main thing that many fail to appreciate in advocating for the so-called "new normal" instead of the "renewed" version.

One can sense that the talk about the new normal is confusing enough. This is in respect of the Eid prayers around the world. While Malaysia is doing it differently with the practice of physical distancing, this is not the case in the Holy Mosque of Makkah, and the al-Aqsa in Jerusalem.

In other words, the "old" normal is still the norm to most. And it raises a pertinent question as to whether the purported new normal would end up redefining what houses of worship are all about. Will there come a time when their functions are modified in the obsessive search for the new normal?

Or will there be a renewed normal instead? How this question is answered will no doubt determine how much is understood from the Ramadan lessons in dealing with the pandemic.

The writer, an NST columnist for more than 20 years, is International Islamic University Malaysia rector