After a year and a half of not being able to see my parents, I finally flew to see them. It was a gift to get time with them, and it’s a miracle my father survived COVID-19 with late-stage dementia and daily dialysis treatment.
I have a long-simmering feud with my mother over salafi-vangelist Zakir Naik, who radicalized her (and me) in the past and ruined many families’ lives. This tension was inevitably going to come up during my visit, and I was desperate to find a way to finally get through to Ami’s (mother in Urdu) rational mind.
While dad rested in bed, my mother and I sipped freshly brewed Lipton Chai and enjoyed our favorite biscuits. Conversation soon drifted towards the horrors of Covid in Ami’s birth county of India. Since cremation wood for Hindu funerary pyres is expensive so, poor people have started drowning their dead in the sacred Ganges River. But her genuine sadness over this life loss quickly turned to anger.
“Isn’t it strange, for a country struggling with poverty and disease, that cremation needs Ghee (expensive clarified butter)!” she exclaimed. “Worship requires tons of milk be spilled, and they think cows’ urine is good for health!” Here my mom was drifting into the age-old feud between Hindu and Muslims, each demeaning the other’s faith. She must have heard this from some Pakistani mullah on YouTube.
I tried to deflect her: “Ami, some Arab Salafi preachers too consider drinking camel’s urine good for health. They claim it’s a Hadith of Rasul Allah.” My mother was disgusted and thought I was mocking her.
“There is no way, something as disgusting as this could be in the holy Hadith” she replied angrily.
“So you don’t believe that there could be such a thing as Muslims collecting camel urine and selling it in the market in packaged bottles?” I retorted gingerly.
“Impossible” she said.
Here was my chance. On my phone I showed her Zakir Naik’s YouTube video on camel’s Urine. In it Naik responds to angry Muslims who objected to drinking camel urine, insisting Muslims MUST always put our supposed religious tradition above science and logic. Then he instructs Muslims not to bash Hindus for drinking cow urine even though it has no health benefits. He implies that Hindus are stupid for drinking cow urine as opposed to camel urine – which, he claims, has scientific benefits.
Usually, when mom listens to Zakir Naik’s talks she is elated by the breadth of his Islamic knowledge and command over the Hadith. But not even Zakir Naik could make my mother believe that camel urine could be holy. Her faith in Naik shaken, she quickly asked me to shut off the video.