Molvi Gullo, as I remember him, was quite old then with white beard and would carry a stick when walking. Each night, prior to the last prayers, he would visit a house in village and collect his meals for the day, for him and his old wife. Both of his sons had grown now and were doing jobs in some far off city. They urged him a lot to move to one of them but he won’t agree. He had developed a certain association with the village and the people around.
He was a simple man, simpler than anyone. When he bought a bicycle and did not know how to ride it, he would simply ‘walk’ 3 miles dragging the bicycle and his two sons laden over it to the only high school in the area. The bicycle had no lock on its own. For security, he would have one of his cot’s leg adjusted in center of bicycle while he slept until it was stolen one day while he slept soundly with all those security measures. The ‘simple thief’ perhaps did not knew himself how to ride a bicycle there were clear evidences of him training himself in the school ground and around. People often talked about Molvi Gullo’s prayers that were rewarded in the same world. The village had a concrete road passing through, houses had ‘lamps’ lit by electricity, the villagers had good yield and happier times. Police never entered the village during his time and until a couple of years after him, and lastly, no imam would persist in the mosque for more than a year or so. That was too weird for me to think of but I had seen this last phenomenon happen over the years.
Soon after Molvi Gullo, the villagers had a young and active school-going boy as imam. He studied in 9th grade then. He took over all the responsibilities related to mosque. Children were very obedient to his stick. The villagers were happy until when one day his connections to an extremist sect made the villagers grew against him and he had to leave the village. What followed was an onslaught of arrivals and departures of imams each with own unique story.
One Ramazan , the Taraveeh prayers were offered regularly and almost whole Quran had been recited. It was around 25th day of Fasting when someone had devastatingly simple question to ask. Why had the imam not offered ‘Sajdhas’ - a component of marking Muslims bow to Allah with their heads on ground – on particular verses in Quran as is obligatory. The imam just befuddled and in confusing tones replied as if the people could also do it own their own. He did not even seem to know how many ‘Sajdhas’ were there and how many he had left to offer. That was a big blow on the face of villagers. Eid was his last prayer as an Imam. He had to pack up for being deceitful about the Holy Book.
The village had an ‘imam’ who would fully utilize mosque’s loud speakers to rant about the devastations of television and would read Fatwas for the dish-antenna owners. Someone’s little son had taken a meal to Hafiz’s house and returned quite late saying he was watching ‘Ainak wala Jin’ at hafiz’s house. More children had casted such doubts of presence of a television set in hafiz’s house, however, all of them were reciprocally doubted by many had been slapped for lying so brutally about such a pious and TV-hating hafiz. Ultimately, the suspicious teens had the proof, each evening after Maghrib an antenna would rise amongst the dense leaves of the ‘neem’ tree in the yard aside the mosque and would be lowered before Fajr prayer. Villagers had never been mocked like this in religious affaris.
I had always been reported as an obedient student especially with the present imam who heard me recite the whole Quran for the second time in parallel with at least four or more friends /children around. We believed he would never let us skip with a mistake though. We would happily or at least obediently carry many of his household tasks. We would bring groceries; many a times get the fodder for his cow, get the woods chopped, and bring fresh water from the canal or the water-supply tank. In Ramzan and on other occasions, we would accompany to recite Holy Quran at people’s homes and we would often be amazed at the speed of our teacher – after all, he was a hafiz. Mom would warn me against over-involvement with hafiz. Most of my age-mates were only in 2nd or 3rd grade while I was in 9th grade had to give more times to studies than my friends in the village. I knew mom was right but Baba Ji was happy over this and I had more time with friends on such pretexts; after all how could I say no to hafiz Ji.
On that day, we wished we never see the face of hafiz again. I tried to falsely calm my friends but they just beat grinded me to ground and took some sort of oath in name of Allah. We were only two and it was impossible to recite whole Quran. At 30 minutes per para- division, we had recited 10 paras and while fasting, we could not go further. Hafiz just remarked, “Okay, do some more. Well, skip one page and read the other. Okay, get this little one to just recite Bismillah over each line.” That was it, all the respect for hafiz had gone. The other two were furious. We came back to our homes and never listened to any calling from mosque or hafiz. But we had to accompany him on the funeral of his father after all.
That Ramazan, the whole Quran could not be recited fully in Taraveeh prayers. Someone said according to his idea, hafiz ji was reciting with errors and skipping ayahs. It was suggested another hafiz be brought as a listener for somedays. It was just the notion of bringing a listener to test hafiz ji’s memory that he sought out a way to handle it. That day, as I passed through the yard besides the mosque, the barber was massaging a bald head. As I drew myself nearer, I found it was Hafiz Ji. He declared Holy Quran had, all of sudden been washed from his memory. Alas..!!!
During all these years, there was just one hafiz ji who left respectfully and still visits the village. He left to move to city for he could earn more there with his tailoring skills.
Too much of everything is bad and in our case having too many imams was more of imam-less-ness. I feel like similar is the case with our country or the institutions in the country. Whether you are shocked or amazed or surprised or bored, I have a rather weird question in mind over the years: Why has not our village produced any doctor to date? We have a few graduates to name along with two engineers but why not a doctor? Has this if anything to do with imam-less-ness? What if I we see imam-less-ness in context of Pakistan.