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Iqbal Ebrahim

Many non-Muslims will be surprised to learn that Mary, the mother of Jesus (pbuh) is a much respected figure in Islam. The Qur’an honours her with an entire chapter titled: Surah Mariam.

Both Christ and his mother are highly revered in Islam. Jesus (pbuh) is considered one of the five greatest prophets sent to mankind.  The Muslims’ knowledge about Jesus (Isa) is based on the two main sources: the Quran and Hadeeth (prophetic sayings).  Jesus is referred to as Isa ibn Mariam, or Jesus, the son of Mariam (Mary) (pbut).  

Her story is spoken with reverence in the Quran, for she is a woman like no other. Mary was born to the pious household of the family of Imran. The story starts with the mother of Mary who when expecting a baby, hoping for a boy child, planned on devoting him to the priesthood made an appeal to the Lord: ‘O my Lord! I do dedicate unto you what is in my womb for your special service.’ (Quran 3:35).

But instead she gave birth to the girl, Mary, knowing that she could not take up priesthood, she prayed thus to the Lord: ‘………..when she delivered a female, she said “I have named her Mary and I commend her and her offspring to your protection from the evil one”……Right graciously did her Lord accept her; He made her grow in purity and beauty’ (Quran 3: 35-37)  

Afterwards the honour and responsibility of taking care of and raising the child Mary was given to an elderly and childless couple, Zachariah and his wife. ‘She was assigned to the care of Zakariya’. (Quran 3: 37). He noticed that the young Mary was a unique and special girl. This uniqueness was also relayed to her by the angels: “And [mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed God has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of all nations.  O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow down in prayer with those who bow down …… (Quran 3:42)

The Quran holds the Virgin Mary as an example of what the virtuousness and the chastity of all believers should be. ‘And Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into her body of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations—and was one of the truly devout’ (66:12).

Zachariah noticed that Mary always had provisions provided for, when he asked her how she came by the food and she answered: ‘It is from Allah.  Indeed, Allah provides sustenance to who He pleases without measure. (Quran 3:37)

As she grew into womanhood she became a well-respected and much loved person in the community. Allah sent to her the Angel Gibraeel (Gabriel) with a message.  He said, ‘I am the messenger of your Lord to give you news of a pure boy (son)’.  She said, ‘How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?’  He said, so it will be, for God creates what he wants. When he decides something He only says to it ‘Be’ and ‘it is’ and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us.  And it is a matter already decreed.’” 

So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place.” (Quran 19:16–22) And also in an earlier verse: ’Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him; his name shall be Christ Jesus…held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of the company of those nearest to Allah. He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be of the company of the righteous’ (Qur’an 3:42-45)

From the Quranic description we deduce that Mary spent most of her pregnancy alone and in seclusion. The Quran picks up the story at the time that Mary goes into labour.

“And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of palm tree.  She said, ‘Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.’  But a voice cried to her from beneath the palm tree, ‘Do not grieve; your Lord has provided you with a stream……And shake toward yourself the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates…… So eat and drink and be contented. (Quran 19: 23 -26)  

After the baby Jesus had been born Mary faced another difficult and terrifying task: Because her character was impeccable she was worried about having to face the shock and disgust of the community with accusations and maligning of her character of being single mother. God further guided her how to deal with the situation: ‘….. A voice cried out to her…… and if you see any person, say ‘I have vowed to fast to Allah Most Gracious, and this day I will not enter into any talk with any human being’. (Quran 19:26).

When she brought out the baby Jesus to her people, they were very perturbed that she had had a child out of wedlock and they started questioning her. They said, ‘O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented.  O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.’  Instead of responding to them she just pointed to the baby Jesus.  ‘They said, ‘How can we speak to one who is a child in the cradle?’ (Quran 19: 28-29).

Much to their surprise the baby Jesus miraculously defended his mother from accusations of adultery and sin, and in a nutshell, explained who he was and why he was sent by God. ‘He said, I am indeed a servant of Allah; He has given me Revelation and made me a Prophet; and He has made Blessed where so ever I be and has enjoined on me Prayer and charity as long as I live. He has made me kind to my mother and not overbearing or miserable…….so peace is on me the day I was born and the day that I die…..’ (Quran 19: 30 – 33)

So is the story of the miraculous birth of one of the greatest Prophets, Jesus (Isa) (pbuh) described in the Quran. We can see that Mary was an amazing woman and she did it with grace, faith and a fortitude that would shame even the staunchest of believers, thus our faith calls upon us to honour her in the most reverent way possible.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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