At the dawn of my career, I worked for Kumudini as their communication Officer, knowing photography was an added skill I could dispense for my work. In 2010, I was assigned to cover the Durga puja that is an ancient practice for Kumudini. So I went to Mirzapur at the hub of Kumudini. Upon my arrival, I was assisted by someone who was giving me all the details about the Puja held at Kumudini. For the first time in my life, I came to know intricate details of Puja. That day too, was a Nobomi day. I was taken to the mondop early on the day. Honestly, I did not know about the almost seven days' puja names and significance until then. I still can re-live the entire day in my senses. I practically learnt what is "Pujor Gondho". I watched the smoke covering the mondop when the "Aroti" was done. I saw an entire process of thanking God for the food they have been blessed with and present offerings to the "Debi" -a detailed account of which is called "Bhog" (Pardon me if I'm wrong somewehere). I watched devotion and Hindu prayers from inches apart. I watched the gleaming happiness at the face of worshipers at the sound of "Dhak" during "Debi-dorshon". I was witnessing the details through my lenses, taking notes of what I had to include in my news report. Now imagine this, A hijabi Muslim girl watching the Hindu prayers up-close, capturing it all in her camera, and more so, she was welcomed. I did not face a single moment of unease during my work. In fact, I clearly remember how nice and lovely the Purohit was and that he was interacting with me with a smile on his face, asking me to step in the line even if I needed a close picture. I could; I could have easily stepped inside the line that is restricted for the limited persons only. But I did not. I did not cross the line keeping the respect towards their belief.
Durga puja is certainly one of the biggest festivals for Bengalis. It is highly likely to admire the sensory experience that comes with the season. It is completely natural to adore how beautiful the Bengali women look in their traditional attire, how elegant men look in their Bengali dhuti panjabis, how colourful the surrounding looks even if you are not a Hindu. I don't see any harm in people walking in the streets with happy faces, families getting together to warm up their bonds, my neighbours cooking delicious dishes for their meal spreads even if I am a Muslim.
Muslims must never take part in other religious rituals and festivals, just as it is applicable for other believers too. If you consider Muslims point of view, it is "haram" to participate in other religious practices. If you say from a Hindu's point of view, it is surely going to become "O-pobirtro" for them to do so as well. What do we read in SURAH AL-KAFIROON , "Qul ya-ayu-hell kaa-fi-roon (Say, "O disbelievers,), "La a’-bu-du ma ta’-bu-doon" (I do not worship what you worship.), "Wa la an-tum' aa-bi-doona ma a’-bud" (Nor are you worshippers of what I worship.), "Wa la ana' aa-bi-dum-ma' a-but-toom" (Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship.), "Wa la an-tum' aa-bi-doona ma a’-bud" (Nor will you be worshippers of what I worship.), "La-kum dee-nu-koom wa lee-ya deen" (For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.) We often recite this last line and refer to it that clearly says, "for you is your religion, and for me is my religion".
Dear Muslim brothers and sisters, let's again focus on how non-muslims were treated by our Prophet. Let's look at this example once again of Syeda Zainab Radiallahu Anha, the eldest daughter of our Prophet (PBUH). We all know that when Zainab accepted Islam, her husband Abul-As did not. There was a lot of external pressure from the non-muslims on Abul-As to leave his wife, but he did not. However, there was no pressure on him to convert to Islam from Zainab or our Prophet. The story is long; however, let's take a note of how they lived as a happy family, even not sharing the same faith continuing with their own beliefs and practices. This example teaches us that showing a little respect doesn't cost you anything. There are many many more examples like this that narrate kindness and co-existence from our Prophet's time.
A lot of people are not certain how to behave when the festive seasons come. When everyone and everything around is adorned in colours of the season, it is hard to ignore. However, let's just remember that while showing respect and maintaining a good space is important, it doesn't necessarily require anyone to misbehave with others as well. We must recall how compassionate our Prophet was with those who were not Muslims under his reign. So, let's not show violence in this regard, let's also not show hatred, let's also not bully. Just remember, showing a little bit of compassion and sharing cultural affinity isn't going to harm anyone.
Lastly, best wishes to my friends, colleagues, students, neighbours who are amidst the festivity now. Honestly, it is the happy faces that brighten up everything, no matter what religion you are following.