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FASTING IN RAMADAN

Iqbal Ebrahim
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

‘O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn self -restraint- Fasting for a fixed number of days; But if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number should be made up from days later, for those who can do it with hardship, is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will- It is better for him. And it is better for you that you fast if you only knew.’ (Quran 2: 183-184)

Fasting is the Third Pillar of Islam – Muslims look forward to the arrival of this Holy month. Fasting has already begun and many are getting used to the initial discomfort of from having no food, not even a sip of water, tea or coffee. When fasting, it means that from dawn until sunset, eating, drinking and sexual lusts are forbidden. It is also the month of building patience, a person who is ready not to eat while he is hungry, not to drink while he is thirsty, does not give in to his lusts, such a person is a noble individual indeed.

Fasting builds the strength to bear difficulties and hardship and instils in us the character of perseverance and discipline. The fasting person by depriving himself from food and drink, and other necessities of life becomes capable of controlling his everyday desires, whims, and temptations. The purpose of fasting is to enable a Muslim to control his passions, so that he becomes a person of good deeds and intentions.

Fasting builds Islamic values, such as compassion, discipline, cooperation, diligence, firmness, affection, fear of Allah, devotion and trust in Allah, and other such qualities. One may ask what does restraining ourselves from eating food have to do with our devotion to Allah. Simple, it means that we prefer Allah over our food. It is a demonstration that we prefer to obey and put into practice the commands of Allah over our need for food.

Therefore the purpose of fasting is not a mere physical training to endure hunger, thirst and exhaustion; rather, it is disciplining the ego to abandon the loved for the sake of the Beloved. The loved being our earthly desires of eating, drinking, and other activities, while the Beloved is Allah.

On another level fasting creates the sense of ‘equality’ amongst the rich and the poor. For those in poverty, it is compulsory to experience and feel the pangs of hunger, but for the better off these hunger pangs rarely exist; in that manner it makes us share the same feelings so we can relate to one another through the collective sense of ‘hunger’. The fasting person gets a first-hand experience of hunger and thirst and this instils a feeling of sympathy towards the less-fortunate and less-privileged members of community and society. Muslims learn to sympathize with the starving people anywhere in the world and experience the hardship that they go through every day of their lives. This in turn softens the heart of the fasting person making them more charitable in the cause of The Almighty.  

Besides the feeling of hunger and thirst, fasting helps us to build and nourish the soul. The fasting person further enriches his fasting by acts of worship which include, the remembrance of Allah, the recitation of the Qur'an, the additional nightly prayers, the distribution of our compulsory charity (Zakaat) , and the additional charity of Sadaqah, and also by refraining from sins and obscenity. The fasting person is also expected to supresses his desires, guard his tongue from vain talk and obscenities. Anger is a common human weakness it can also be brought under control by fasting. A Muslim should keep away from all bad actions during his fast. He should not lie, break a promise or do any deceitful act. Fasting in Ramadan helps one to develop good habits and suppress or eliminate bad habits

Take for example one of our basic normal everyday habits that we have become accustomed to; talking. Our tongues are constantly busy, from sweet talking, saying nice things, idle chatter, lying, gossiping, obscenity, rudeness, arguing, controversy and other gibberish. A fast in which the spirit of fasting is not observed is only an exercise in starvation but not really a fast at all. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) explained that " Whoever does not give up false speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)"

This means that Allah does not want us to abstain only from eating and drinking, rather, He wants us to refrain from evil deeds and vileness too. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) instructed that even if a fasting person is offended or abused by others, rather than argue or retaliate, he should say: “I am fasting”.  The message given is: "It is because I am fasting I do not return your abuses."

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "O people! The month of Ramadan has come with His mercy, blessing and forgiveness. Allah has decreed this month the best of all months. Its days are the best among days, its nights the best among nights, and its hours the best among hours. This is a month in which you have been invited by Him to fast and pray. Allah has honoured you in it. Every breath you take in this month has the reward of praise of Allah. Your good deeds are accepted and your invocations answered.”

Therefore we must invoke our Lord in earnest, with hearts that are free from sin and evil, and pray that Allah helps us fast, recite the Qur'an, give alms to the poor and the needy. Pay respect to our elders, have sympathy for our youngsters and be kind toward our relatives and kinsfolk. Guard our tongue against unworthy words, and protect our eyes and our ears from the evils that should not be seen or heard.

Ramadan is also the month in which the Qur'an was revealed. The moral and spiritual climate of Ramadan helps the Qur'anic message of goodness, humility, righteousness the love for good and aversion for evil to flourish within us. Thus fasting elevates us towards a higher spiritual level.

Fasting is not only limited to Muslims, the Bible also refers to fasting in the following verses:

“Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered” Psalm (35:13)

“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth”. (Daniel 9:3)

“After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:2)

“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” (Acts 14:23)

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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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