Thoughts on Shab-e-Barat

The mosques in the country were seen overflowing with people on Monday night while observing the Holy Shab-e-Barat. They prayed long into the night in huge number on the occasion in the expectation that their sins would be forgiven and for good luck in their activities in the following year. This night of significance in the Islamic calendar called Shab-e-Barat meaning the night when a person’s destiny is written for the year is an occasion of fervent religious observance in Bangladesh where some 90 per cent of its over 150 million people adhere to the faith of Islam.
There are things beyond the control of humans that affect their daily life. Birth, growth, death and all other phases of human existence are, no doubt, controlled and influenced in large measure by the concepts of fate or destiny and the same are then understood to be in line with the wishes of the Almighty Creator. Incidents that profoundly affect the lives of individuals and nations are believed to be the works of the All Poweful ; the same is described as ‘fate’ or predetermined events or developments that may determine considerably the present and future of individuals and states.
Thus, orthodox religious thinking stresses the significance of the powerlessness of humans in the scheme of Divinity But the Holy Koran also emphasized that humans are also responsible in large measure for the shaping of their lives whether they would be successful or not, what they would accomplish for themselves and their families and the country. A verse in the Holy Koran underlines that a people cannot be assured of Allah’s help notwithstanding that they are the followers of Islam. They must toil hard to change their own life for the better and, in that case only, they may hope to be blessed also by Divine assistance in their efforts.
Another verse in the Holy Koran says that people get the kind of leaders they deserve. There is also great underlying meaning in this verse. It is really a suggestion to people to choose their leaders correctly. For example, in the recently concluded municipal election, the voters were swayed by the propaganda and campaign of the opposition into voting against candidates who in the last couple of years worked hard and well for development and welfare in the city corporation areas. Thus, the voters may have to pay a price later on in terms of not getting the expected development works done in the future from selecting their leaders unwisely.
The scientific outlook is that nothing happens without some form of initiative. This outlook is also an integral part of Islam though some traditional Islamists are prone to over emphasizing the inevitability or supremacy of a predetermined destiny. But the reality is just like the individual person, a community or nation will collectively transform their material existence for the better only if they are work-oriented enough and not pathetically resigned to a concept of fate over which they have seemingly no control. Clearly, such a mentality of humans shaping their own fate and destiny by dint of their enterprising abilities is fully consistent with the relevant Koranic verses.
Nations such as Japan and South Korea in Asia turned into developed countries in the last century. Many factors are involved in the spectacular successes of the Japanese people in the last century. But the greatest of their qualities appears to be their industriousness, their unceasing efforts at different levels to bring about forward moving changes for the betterment of life and living in their country.
Shab-e-Barat is an occasion for Bangladeshis to remind them about the inalienable duty to turn to Almighty Allah most humbly and seek His forgiveness for their lapses and His assistance for all their strivings. But the same also need to be backed up by hard work and good planning at the individual and the national level from the realization that a better future is an outcome that depends so much on their own initiatives also.