I anxiously wait for this time every year... flying to Qatar, visiting different hypermarkets and malls, shopping different brands for clothes, shoes and accessories, and enjoying delicious food from their food courts. My exhilaration was at its peak this time too as I always consider the trip to my second homeland as a reward of the hard work I do all year round.

The roads were full of cars and the shopping centres were full of people. It was my third day here when my family and I visited Villaggio, a renowned shopping mall in Doha. Though an expat, my proud stiff pompous gait dedifferentiated me from the wealthy nationals. Holding five tote bags and a glass of hand-scooped ice-cream shake, I was heading towards a grocery store when I saw a local, wearing a long white thobe and a headgear on a traditional square cotton scarf, sitting behind a desk that had a placard pinned to its front which said “Help Syrian refugees. Give to our disaster relief fund.”

I am still unable to recall what caused my feet to jam, but I do remember standing there and gaping at the poster for a very long time. With my eyes fixed at the dust-covered face of a toddler in the poster, I looked at him… I don’t know for how long. I envisaged the boy being recovered from the rubble and someone photographing the moment when the boy’s tears had reached his right cheek just over the cheekbone. Was the sole function of those tears to incite people for donating? Was the worth of these tears to be determined by the value of riyals dropped in the donation box? Did any passer-by have enough moral sense to feel the wetness of the boy’s eyes, or was everyone decently courageous, in point of fact sufficiently inconsiderate, to overlook the poster?

I could not sleep that night. I lay on my bed and thought of the rubble… this one boy being retrieved from it… and a hundred bodies buried under it. I looked at my ceiling and thought of thousands of wreckages which were once homes to living people, who are now entombed beneath the debris of those walls and roofs. Although it is not at all a valid excuse, but being in Pakistan completely absorbs you into the concerns pertaining to the country and the region. However, despite anything and everything to the contrary, even being in the Middle East did not wake me up. And to my surprise, it does not even bother the fellow denizens of the Arabian Peninsula. They travel in their GMCs, dine in the Al-Nahham Restaurant on Banana Island Resort, shop from Lagoona Mall, and none of the sufferings of the mortals of Palestine, Syria and Yemen has ever bothered them for a single moment. I am ashamed to say that it didn’t even inflict me before my encounter with the placard. For all of us, it is nearly mechanical to take out paper currency bearing single digits from our wallets and drop into donation boxes in the name of benefaction and almsgiving.

I got up and googled search strings such as ‘Gaza bombing 2016’, ‘Aleppo hospital bombed’ and ‘Saudi bombs Yemen’. Let it be the incident of Israeli children drawing smileys on the missiles to be bombed on Hamas, or the killing of patients and doctors in an airstrike in Aleppo, or the intervention of Saudi Arabia to influence the outcome of the Yemen Civil War that ultimately put thousands of people to death, the loss of innocent lives is something which is common in all these and it must not be simply barred from our attention and consideration. We cannot become deaf to their cries; we cannot zip our mouths and not utter a single word in the approbation of their sacrifices; we just cannot use our words to describe the festivities of Ramadan at the expense of the well-deserved poignant reporting of the pain and sufferings of these fellow Muslims who keep their fasts with a few drops of water and their open wounds break these on their behalf.

I am not criticising a single government or a country for its behaviour, perception and contribution towards this unrest. I am not here to vindicate any one pan of the balance with my support, facts and figures; there are many other people who are doing this job very well. This article has been written by me just in the wake of realisation of how ignorant I have been of the existence and expiration of millions of lives, including that of Alan Kurdi and Abdallah. There are several footages available all over the internet, which show traumatised Syrian migrants being shot or beaten to death while crossing borders, and an Israeli soldier brutally slaying an unarmed, wounded Palestinian girl. I am not here to tell you the difference between black and white. However, I am convinced it is time that we assign a priority to our inclinations and predilections as per the human instinct.

I switched on my television and tuned into a channel where an Imam was leading Fajr prayer. He was crying during the recitation of a few verses from the Nobel Qur’an. This reminded me of my beloved Prophet’s (PBUH) saying that the sanctity of a believer’s blood and property in the sight of Allah Almighty is greater than that of the Holy Ka’aba. We should wet our eyes while offering prayers and reciting portions of the Holy Book, but we must likewise shed tears for those millions of bodies which got reddened with blood, wrinkled in the sea, or plainly sooted with the remains of once-alive cities. After all, compassion is as much a necessity as donation.