Mania of Ramadan shows: Sanctity or stupidity?

In this photograph taken on August 1, 2013 Pakistani television show host (the late) Junaid Jamsheed presents an Islamic quiz show Shan-e-Ramadan in Karachi. In the battle for TV ratings, Pakistan’s top channels are making money out of Ramadan by broadcasting round-the-clock chat shows mixing prizes, charity and prayer. AFP PHOTO / ASIF HASSAN

Fasting is not peculiar to Muslims; the Jews, Christians, Hindus and people of other faiths also fast. Nevertheless there have been some gradual changes in the practices of other religions. Muslims celebrate the month of Ramadan with sanctity and enthusiasm by fasting and other acts of worship such as prayer, reciting the Holy Quran and by doing charity.
Ramadan is the month of blessings and mercy. Television has always put on a special transmission for Ramadan. But these days all the channels do is broadcast commercialized and money-centric shows that have become de rigueur for ratings. It used to be that only one channel had a monopoly. But now all of them have followed suit.
No stone is left unturned to enthrall the viewers and defeat other channels. Actors, singers, models and journalists also long to become hosts of shows that will capture the attention of the masses, as they hope they will ultimately open up lucrative opportunities for them. Shows are a commercial success for channels and generate profits.
This mania distracts the general public from worship and concentration on other religious and social activities that were performed solemnly in the past. It is also disturbing that the shows bring out the worst in people by throwing products at the audience, already exacerbating the rich-poor divide. It is humiliating in a way. The audience yells, nags, begs for gifts. Viewers at home are dying to be there. And the poorer the people in the audience who get the gifts the more charitable the host is assumed to be. Hosts and celebrity guests shed tears even though they aren’t paying attention to them the rest of the year.
These shows have cooking segments as if the Ehtaram-e-Ramzan Ordinance doesn’t apply to them. Scholars from all sects are invited with the excuse that they are trying to create harmony among them. Instead, however, they start quarreling and their squabbling adds masala to the programs. Instead of doing away with sectarian bias among Muslims such shows rather worsen these grudges. Sehri transmissions is a must-watch and in the evening viewers are too mesmerized to even hear the Azan-e Maghrib to break their fasts. It is woeful when nightlong prayer is put off to watch TV.
It is imperative to make the public realize that the hosts do all of this for ratings. Secondly, not all information is authentic and needs to be verified before people act on it. And lastly watching such shows do not qualify as worship and don’t have any religious significance.

The writer is a lecturer at the University of Sindh Badin Campus


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