By Maliha Rehman
About three years ago, in the month of Ramzan, Zahid Ahmed made a pact to pray more and become a better practicing Muslim. A ‘hypocrisy’ that he ‘felt inside’ had been making him restless.
“I felt a constant restlessness inside and I would try to remove it through momentary, fleeting pleasures. But then, I would be restless again and I would be looking for my next fix,” recalls the actor. “I had reached the last breaking point of ignoring this unrest inside. I needed to handle my life and turn it towards prayer.”
“I had so much; a career that I was passionate about, money, fame, a beautiful family – but what was I teaching my children, what lessons was I implementing in my home? I realized that my pursuits needed to be in accordance with some measure so that I set aside enough time for my family. I felt a need to look inwards.”
Zahid continues, “It is said in the Quran that Allah is the Owner of Hearts and Turner of Hearts. When you wilfully turn towards Allah, you start tilting away from other things.”
It’s a transformation in his life that the actor has been very vocal about, discussing it at length on his YouTube channel last year. “It isn’t always easy to try to stay on a single path,” says Zahid, “there are tests that come.”
Career-wise, Zahid has been following a constant upward trajectory. His acting is exceptional and he has an immense fan following. He’s also been winning constant accolades over the past few years, including the coveted Best Actor trophy at last year’s Lux Style Awards. And yet, the actor admits that it is his turn towards religion that has given him greater peace. Now, he hopes to be more selective about the work that he takes on.
“Four of my dramas released last year simply because it was in my mind that I had to hit a certain benchmark. Over these past few years, I have been working breakneck but in the course of this, sometimes I wouldn’t spend enough time at home. What was my son’s fault if his father wasn’t around during his childhood?”
With this in mind, Zahid has decided to streamline his work schedule. For the month of Ramzan this year, he particularly didn’t want to spend entire days shooting. “I safeguarded my dates and except for some spillover work that has to be wrapped up, I didn’t want to be working long hours. I want to make use of my time by meditating more, knowing myself more and to know Allah more.”
He talks about improving his Taqwa, or level of piety. “I want to reach the point where even when temptation crosses my path, I am not tempted.”
Isn’t it difficult to follow his religious inclinations while working as an actor in an industry which is innately rife with insecurities, the quest for fame and the constant pressure to network? “I have never really been interested in the networking and the parties but yes, it is the most difficult profession to have while also trying to follow the path of Allah,” confesses Zahid. “More than anything else, the fundamental basics of the craft push you towards wanting fame and glory. It is important to stay well-known and to constantly have your work noticed and appreciated.”
“The trick, though, is to reach a point where you may be in the game for fame but you’re not yearning for it. You shouldn’t be obsessing over it. It shouldn’t be the reason behind doing all that you do.”
“There are far better reasons and goals that one could aim for,” Zahid asserts.
There certainly are. It’s an inspirational thought, to carry through during the month of Ramzan and then beyond, all through life.