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WHY FASTING?

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

Muslims throughout the world will have embarked on a personal ‘journey’ that is designed to lead them on to the path of self-cleansing. This journey will help create within us, a heightened awareness that should lead to a re-awakening and a mind-set change within our hearts, minds and souls. Ramadan offers Muslims the opportunity to bring changes to their habits, attitudes, behaviour, outlook and lifestyles. This opportunity comes during the yearly period of the Holy month of Ramadan in which Muslims have to undertake compulsory fasting.

‘Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear signs for guidance and judgement between right and wrong. So every one of you who is present at his home during that month shall spend it in fasting, but if any one of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. ’ (Quran 2: 185)

This month gives us that opportunity not only to control our intake of food and water but also learning to change our life and to take greater control of it. Therefore we must use this Holy month to change our ways, even if it is just this one element of our makeup.  

The basic purpose of fasting is to infuse into us the quality of Taqwa (piety). The term "taqwa" in the broader Islamic terminology means fear of Allah or God Consciousness and avoidance of our disobedience to Him. It also means total devotion. Thus, through this heightened consciousness, when we, the servants of Allah, submit ourselves to His will by carrying out all obligatory duties with which we have been commanded and abstain from that which Allah has prohibited to us, then those obedient actions have saved us from Allah's punishment.  

In our life’s journey through this world which has become increasingly amoral we need that moral reawakening so that we should shun and avoid those innumerable worldly temptations that come our way by sticking to the path of goodness and righteousness. Taqwa basically combines character development coupled with God-consciousness.

Ramadan is the month of heightened Allah-consciousness, of attaining taqwa (piety), of training ourselves to be the best we can be; a month to initiate improvement of our character and for the cultivation of good habits.

What is the purpose and how does fasting change our lives?

Fasting is not an easy act it because it needs a strong personality to instil and dictate self-control, self-discipline and self-restraint. Fasting develops self-control and helps Muslims overcome selfishness, greed, laziness and other of our daily faults. Therefore for Muslims it is an annual training program to refresh and strengthen our resolve in carrying out our duties towards Allah. The hardship of fasting brings the glad tidings that the fasting undertaken for the sole purpose of pleasing Allah is sure to be accepted by the Most Merciful Lord. A person, who can restrain himself, for the love and pleasure of Allah, without doubt such a person will surely be given paradise by Allah as a gift.

In doing it for the pleasure of Allah and to follow His Commands, it guides us in the following ways: It helps us seek Allah’s guidance; to seek deliverance and protection in order to overcome temptations and dedicate ourselves to Him; to strengthen our Faith; to express our love and Worship of Allah by humbling oneself before Him; it helps us become aware of the needs of others.

‘I am indeed close to them; I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me; let them also, with a will, listen to My call, and believe in Me; that they may walk in the right way.’ (Quran 2: 186)

The Bible also shows the value of fasting: “And, I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting……’ (Daniel 9: 3)

Once we learn to train ourselves to try our best to live by the highest values we will surely become people of principle, integrity and undoubtedly people with a moral conscience. What is morality though?

Morality describes the principles that govern our behaviour and relates to our behaviour at three levels…
How we as individuals ensure that we are honest, just and compassionate.
How we interact with and contribute to society, as asset or liability.
How conscious we are of our accountability to our Creator.

Once we have started on the road to behavioural change we will find piety beginning to set into our lifestyles. Thus we will begin to live with a heightened sense of discipline and consciousness of our obligations to, and to obey the Commands of Allah in carrying out His Laws.

The moral and spiritual climate of fasting during the month of Ramadan further helps the flourishing discipline and consciousness to set in, this in turn leads to a life of goodness, humility, righteousness, love for good and aversion for evil.

Fasting has been made obligatory on Muslims. Why? Allah does not need our hunger, but fasting helps us to develop and focus our minds on what is right and what is wrong, and heightens our sense of love and gratitude for our Creator. Importantly, we are made conscious about the needs and deprivation of those who are more in need than ourselves.

Ramadan also teaches us how to control our animal passions, how to bring them under discipline. Take this one for example, next time lust look around when some of us dish out food served buffet style. Many of us are at times guilty of greedily dishing out ‘more than we can chew’. Our plates will be filled to the brim or even overflowing with food – yet in the end, we will leave so many leftovers in the plate – enough to feed a starving person.

There are countless people around the world who are in dire need of help because they suffer from hunger. Thus a fasting person develops feelings of sympathy for the poor.

Fasting Muslims can really sympathize with the starving people everywhere in the world and see the hardship that they go through every day of their lives. The sense of compassion springs from the feeling of ‘hunger’ during the fasting.  Fasting is a practical means to develop that compassion for other people's sufferings.

I want to wish all Muslims well over the Ramadan fast and pray that this year will bring in positive changes to our lifestyles so that they are in congruence with what our Lord and Creator has Decreed for us. I want to invite my non-Muslim brothers and sisters to try to fast just for one day – go on give it a try, it may be tough but you can slake your hunger and thirst at sunset and get back to your normal routine. Any takers?.

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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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