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Pilgrimage To Mecca

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

This past Thursday, Muslims celebrated the Eid festival of Eid – ul – Adah. This is a day that commemorates the end of the annual Hajj, the sacred pilgrimage to the holy city Mecca. The Eid is also known as the Festival of Sacrifice as this day commemorates Prophet Abraham's unselfish act of willingness to sacrificing his own son Ishmael, in a test of his obedience to the commands of God.


Embarking on the pilgrimage of Hajj is an undertaking that every Muslim dreams of fulfilling. This is because the Hajj is an obligation for every able Muslim to undertake at least once in their lifetime in order to make their faith complete, as prescribed in the Five Pillars of Islam.   


The Hajj has been ordained by Allah Almighty in the Holy Quran: “Pilgrimage to the House (of Allah) is a duty which men owe to Allah, (that is) those who can afford the journey; but if they deny faith, Allah stands not in need (of the services) of any of His creatures”. (Quran 3: 96 – 97).


In an earlier article it was explained that the Hajj is a religious high point in a Muslim’s life and it is an event that a Muslim dreams of undertaking. Every Muslim who is financially and physically able must make the pilgrimage to Mecca once in his or her lifetime during the Hajj season which occurs in the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar.


Hajj is a journey into the spiritual realm and it is a reminder that we are on a journey through this world. The Ka’ba was rebuilt when the great prophet Abraham (pbuh) was instructed by Allah to build the structure of the Holy Ka’ba in the valley of Bakkah (now known as Mecca). The Ka’ba is a small rectangular stone structure which stands in the compound of the Sacred Mosque is the first house dedicated to the worship of Allah.


‘We gave the site of the Sacred House to Abraham, saying: do not associate anything with Me in worship and sanctify My House for those who encompass it, or stand up or bow, or prostrate themselves in prayer. And, proclaim the Pilgrimage to humankind’ (Quran 22:26-27)


When he had completed building, Abraham (pbuh) pleaded “O Allah! How shall my voice reach all the people (all over the world)? Allah told him that his duty was to make the call and it was Allah Almighty who would make it reach the people. Abraham then climbed Mount Arafah (in the sacred precincts of the House of Allah) and called out in as loud a voice as he could, “O people! Verily Allah has prescribed upon you the Hajj, so perform the Hajj”.


Over the centuries countless millions of Muslims have fulfilled this obligation and currently it is the largest human assembly on earth. This year over three million believers from across the globe will have visited the Holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia where they performed the age old rites of the Haj.


Because of its unique significance as the first house of worship of Allah, Muslims the world over face the direction of the Ka’ba (also known as the Qibla) when they perform their five times daily prayers. This represents the focal point and also a symbol of their unity as one community submitting to and in the worship of One Allah. ‘Turn then your face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque. Wherever you are, turn your faces in that direction’. (Quran 2:144)


Haj is a turning point in the spiritual development of a believer because it is full of submission and universal prayer, where we shed our normal dress and the pilgrims wear the same unstitched pieces of cloth during the Hajj, whereby male pilgrims wear two white seamless pieces of cloth.

This dress called the ‘ihram’ reminds us of the burial shroud. This demonstrates the concept of equality of mankind and the message is that there is no superiority on the basis of race, gender or social status. The only preference in the eyes of Allah is piety as stated in the Quran: "The best amongst you in the eyes of Allah is most righteous."


During the Hajj pilgrims leave all their worldly concerns and comforts behind, visiting holy places and performing age-old observances. Pilgrims earnestly pray for forgiveness for all their past sins and to pray to their Lord for their heartfelt and innermost desires. They observe the same rituals say the same prayers at the same time in the same manner, for the same end. There is no royalty, aristocracy, colour, creed, race or any other human made divisions, only prayer, humility and devotion.


Among the rites of Hajj include circling the Ka’ba seven times, chanting prayers and asking Allah for forgiveness. ‘Our Lord give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the fire……….celebrate the praises of Allah during the appointed days’ (Quran: 2: 201 – 203)


Among the rites is the walking between two hillocks of Safa and Marwah, re-enacting the search for water by Hagar, the wife of Abraham for her baby son Ishmael. Hagar ran seven times back and forth between the two hills, looking for water. Getting thirstier the baby Ismail scraped the ground with his feet, where suddenly water started oozing out. Allah provided them with water via a spring that flows to this day. Millions of pilgrims still drink water from this well called Zam Zam.


Another of the rites is the symbolic ‘stoning’ of Satan by throwing, seven pebbles, symbolising the number of times Abraham resisted the temptations of Satan, when he was asked by Allah Almighty to sacrifice his son Ishmael.


The end of the Hajj is symbolised by every pilgrim and that includes Muslims the world over to arrange for the slaughter (Qurbani) of a sheep, goat, cow to emulate that of Prophet Abraham who showed his readiness to sacrifice his only son, in obedience to God’s command, at which point he was told to sacrifice a ram instead. This meat is distributed to family, friends and to the poor.


Words cannot adequately describe the overwhelming experience, the spiritual essence and meaning of this once in a lifetime journey that Muslims dream of undertaking.


Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said, “Whoever performs Hajj and does not indulge in any obscenity or transgression he returns free from all sins as the day his mother bore him”. We pray that those who have been to Hajj have had their Hajj and prayers accepted and achieved their desired goal.

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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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