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Pilgrimage – The Jouney Of A Lifetime

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

The time for “Hajj” has arrived. This is one of the five pillars of faith and for all Muslims it is the obligation to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime. The Hajj is the pilgrimage is to the Holy City of Makkah, in Saudi Arabia and is compulsory upon those who are physically, financially and mentally capable of carrying it out –  must do so at least once in their life time.

Currently millions of Muslims from across the globe are converging there in order to fulfil their obligation. During Hajj a believer journeys to the place where Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), was born, grew up, received Divine revelation and began calling others to Islam. Therein is the Holy Ka’ba, the first house of worship that the great prophet Abraham (pbuh) was instructed by Allah to rebuild the structure 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 Prophet Abraham (pbuh) had fulfilled the command and completed building, Allah told him to invite mankind to observe pilgrimage to it. 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. “And proclaim the Hajj among mankind. They will come to thee on foot and on every lean mount (or some mode of transport) through deep and distant mountain high-ways…” (Quran 22: 28)

To this very day, each year, millions of Muslims continue to answer the call of The Almighty made through His Great Messengers Prophets Muhammed and Abraham (peace and blessings be upon them). “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: 97).

The pilgrimage is the religious duty in a Muslim’s life and an event that every Muslim dreams of undertaking as it the spiritual high point of the Muslims life, one that provides builds a strong relationship with our Creator –Allah Almighty. 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 Hajj. It is, most definitely, the largest single gathering of people in one place, at one time, for one purpose – to show their allegiance to Allah.

Many people may have wondered why Muslims the world over face a ‘certain’ direction when they offer their five times daily prayers. The reason is that because of its unique significance as the first house of worship of Allah, hence, Muslims in every corner of the world will face the direction of the Ka’ba (also known as the Qibla). 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)    

The occasion of Hajj is also a demonstration of the universality of Islam and the brotherhood and equality of Muslims. During performing the Hajj we shed our normal dress and all pilgrims wear the same unstitched pieces of cloth; these are two white seamless pieces of cloth wrapped around the body. This is a physical and practical demonstration of equality, brotherhood and unity.  The message is that there is no superiority on the basis of wealth, 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."
 

The white cloth is also symbolic of innocence, piety and cleanliness of body and soul. But it also reminds us of the burial shroud that Muslims are wrapped and buried in. This is also a reminder that there is no distinction whatsoever between royalty and aristocracy or any other human divisions such as the poor and the rich, the young and the old, regardless of colour, race, nationality and language they gather together at the same place and at the same time, for the same purpose: everyone is equal, no differences can be seen between rich and poor, everyone prays side by side, all equal before God.
 

Haj becomes a turning point in the spiritual development of a believer because it is full of universal submission and prayer. During the Hajj pilgrims leave all their worldly concerns and comforts behind, visiting holy places and performing age-old observances and rites. 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, show the same humility and devotion at the same time in the same manner, for the same end.
 

Apart from the daily five times a day prayers, the rites of Hajj include circling the Ka’ba seven times, offering their prayers and supplications, 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)

Another high point of the Hajj is when the vast crowd of Muslims gather at the plains of Mount Arafat. This is the place where Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave his Farewell Sermon – which announced the completion of his mission and the proclamation of Allah: "This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam (submission to Allah) as your religion" (Quran 5:3). Standing and praying on the plains of Arafat is said to be a life changing experience because despite the masses of people around us all, these act as a stark reminder and make us realize our many regular sins and mistakes, which are the results of weakness of faith, lack of consciousness of God Almighty and our neglect of His commands and the way of life of His Great Messengers.

At the Plain of Arafat one will standing shoulder to shoulder surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people each one reciting prayers pleading and sincerely asking for forgiveness; It also serves as a stark reminder of that Grand Assembly of The Day of Judgement when we all will stand equal gathered before our Creator to be called to account for our actions in this world, waiting for our final destiny.

To be continued

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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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