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Ramadan – An opportunity for change

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDIG ISLAM

One may ask, why fast? The Quran says: ‘O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn self-restraint’. (Quran 2: 183). We fast in order to fulfil the Command of our Lord. For Muslims the Holy month of Ramadan has arrived – depending on the sighting of the new moon we should have started our fasting around the 18th June.

This is a month in which on a material level we refrain from all food, drink, smoking and fulfilling our marital carnal desires from sunrise to sunset. In addition on a behavioural level we refrain from bad vices like jealousy, vain talk, anger, gossip, and other everyday human traits.


Whilst some people may see this as a very difficult challenge, most Muslims see this month as a period of special religious significance and activity wherein they can fulfil their obligations to their Lord and Creator and at the same time to purge and cleanse the mind, the body and souls of the bad vices they have succumbed to.


Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: ‘Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah's rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.’


Fasting is not only limited to Islam but also is a practice common to many other religions, maybe not as pronounced and specified as in Islam, but it is there in the Scriptures and teachings. The Bible refers to fasting in a number of instances.  


Among the verses in the Bible: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights….. (Matthew 4: 1-4). And: “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1: 4)


For Muslims this month also has a great significance: ‘Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was revealed as a guide to mankind and as a clear evidence for guidance and judgement between right and wrong. So whoever among you witnesses this month, let him spend it in fasting….’ (Quran 2: 183 – 185)


For all Muslims from the age of puberty upwards the month long fasting is obligatory and it includes intensive devotional activities. However if one is ill, on a journey or for some reason unable to fast during this month, they can make up for it later. For those who cannot do so for other reasons for example, the regular intake of medicines, they have to make penance or make up for it by feeding the indigent and needy.


Fasting constitutes the third obligatory pillar of faith and worship in Islam and the first lesson fasting brings to us, is that of obedience: we have to learn to cultivate obedience to the orders of Allah. Without this obedience there is little hope of ever changing our inner self to gain piety. This is not about picking and choosing, not about what to obey and what to leave out, but about total submission to Allah. Islam is to submit.


Neither is it only about ‘starvation’ from all food and drink throughout the daylight hours, but it is more than this. With the intensity of the fasting it brings about the opportunity to take stock of our lives, to reflect on what we have been, what we are doing, and what we should have been doing. This should bring into focus an inner reflection of the conduct of our lives.


Muslims also engage in increased devotional activities during this month; in addition to the five times daily prayers, additional prayers are added to the evening prayer. During these additional congregational prayers, the Imaam leads them by reciting (from memory) the entire Quran, from beginning to end, spaced over the month. In addition to this many Muslims increase their devotional activities even by reading / reciting the entire Quran at home on their own.  


These actions teach us self-discipline, self-control, steadfastness and resilience as they train us to be flexible and adaptable in our habits and thus capable of enduring hardships. For example, throughout the year we can eat and drink anytime all day long but not so during the fasting month.

During our fasting month we cannot do so from sunrise to sunset, so we begin to realise that indeed food and drink are precious gifts not to be taken for granted. This in turn brings about a consciousness of the plight of the poor and needy who constantly experience this state of hunger, from this we learn to appreciate the daily bounties from our Lord that we usually take for granted. This brings about active compassion and the spirit of charity towards the poor and needy.


The intensity of our devotional activities during this month should trigger off in us a deep reflection and a soul searching to identify those weak spots in our spiritual goals and values. This then becomes a unique opportunity to utilize to move and devote ourselves to our spiritual development.

As mentioned earlier amongst other things we should avoid vain talk, gossip, learn to control our temper; Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting)".

Further:  'Five things break a man's Fast: lying, backbiting, gossiping, perjury and a lustful gaze’. And: “Fasting is a shield; so when one of you is fasting he should neither indulge in obscene language nor should he raise his voice in anger. If someone attacks him or insults him, let him say: "I am fasting!"

 
On another note, throughout the year many of us fall into such bad habits as gorging down our food and overeating thus stressing out our bodies and internal systems. Fasting gives the body that much needed chance and time to reinvigorate and cleanse itself. Doctors are now discovering the physical benefits of fasting have a wonderful cleansing effect on the body. Many impurities are burned up within the body, thus clearing, cleansing and healing the body.


So, this is the month for Muslims to abandon their bad habits and turn around their lives – as the saying goes; ‘We first make our habits, and then our habits make us’. This is an opportune time to work towards bringing the good habits and practices back into our lives.


To Muslims the world over the message is, Ramadan Mubarak and may you gain the maximum benefits from your actions during this auspicious month.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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