THE WAY IT WAS: ‘Does the fire hurt’

Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan

Is winning important? I think that perhaps it is, when humans are deprived and denied even those needs which separate them from animals. When the rulers are callous about the needs of their own countrymen

It is amazing how images, words, appropriate phrases cease to easily usher themselves to the mind when a person ascends from the debris of lost memories and feelings into actual life. Actual life is the fountainhead of all thought and sensations, and action. But the burden and ordeals of living, the annoyance of trying to live up to polished ideals and rusted values upheld by the society and the state, are other matters.

Each belief or value is propounded majestically more righteous than the other, but in the end does it really matter? What is right or wrong, who is more virtuous or where lays the distinction between good and evil remains a matter of personal bias or conjecture? In the end the victor takes all. Finally does it really matter how? I recall that once during a visit to Lawrence College Ghora Gali I saw written on a wooden board displayed in one of the halls, “They will not write against your name/whether you did win or lose/ but that you played the game.” An elegant elegy to those who played the game fairly but lost. An opiate to ensure their surrender to the devious and the mean, determined to win at any cost by any means. I am not too sure if with the passage of time the college has not replaced the old line with something more appropriate to the present times.

But is winning all that important? I think that perhaps it is, when humans are deprived and denied even those needs which separate them from animals. When the rulers perpetually lie and are callous about the needs of their own countrymen. When the state has become a tool of repression. It is time to win at all costs. Hell to morals and values. They can be set aside to adorn our walls to be used in better and more just times. Let those who can afford them, have them. Let no one ever be crucified again. Let no one ever forgive or ask forgiveness. Jesus prayed on the cross and said, “Lord forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Jesus Christ was a prophet whereas we are just humans. We should hope that Allah would forgive us if women and we common men were determined not to forgive. We are determined to create a better and more humane world for all those who spurn forgiveness and are bent upon winning.

In the recent national elections there was a Maulana who promised the heaven in exchange for a vote. No one voted for him because every one believes in Allah’s generosity and hopes all would be accommodated in the heavens. All those who doubt His generosity will doubtless go to hell. The question is not whether we will go to heaven or hell. We came from heaven and will surely return there at the expiry of our visa. The challenge to man, which has been set by the Lord, is not how many “marlas” an individual can acquire for himself in heaven against the goodness he earns on Earth. I know of many that give charity not to benefit the needy but to earn goodness, which can be cashed later on. The real challenge lies in how many “marlas” can a person retrieve for his Lord and His creatures from this beautiful Earth, that is being devastated by demented men hungered by greed and power.

I have a feeling that we humans would be better off if we concerned ourselves with our own living domain i.e. the Earth. Let us leave matters concerning heaven and hell to Allah. Let us not upset our children about matters, which lie beyond even adult imaginative faculties. Why not provide all our children with opportunities to enjoy better health and education to enable them to grow into responsible caring citizens? Why burden ourselves with matters of transcendental concern when there is so much to be done on this sordid Earth?

I cannot comprehend why my five-year-old grandson Mustafa should be burdened by his friend’s pious young mother with issues that are beyond even her own small human comprehension. Let me verbatim report what he had to say on the subject to his mother, “Why doesn’t Allah let us take anything from this world to “Jannat”? I want to take my drawings to “Jannat”. I don’t want to leave them behind.

“Mama will the fire hurt? Mama I don’t want to go to Jannat, I want to stay here with you.”

Prof Ijaz-ul-Hassan is Pakistan’s leading painter. He is a teacher, art critic and political activist. He was awarded the “President’s Pride of Performance” in 1992. He is currently the president of the PPP Punjab’s Policy Planning Committee and Chairman of the party’s Manifesto Committee