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Hajj Pilgrimage – Part 2


The last article mentioned the importance of performing of Hajj in the life of a Muslim and also mentioned some of the religious observances and rites – added herewith are others.  

Among the rites is one of walking between two hillocks of Safa and Marwa, re-enacting the search for water by Hagar (Hajira), the wife of Abraham for her baby son. She ran seven times back and forth between the two hills, looking for water. It is recorded that when she ran out of water for her and her young son, Hagar went searching for water, prayed to the Almighty. Her prayers were answered when miraculously water was provided via a spring where the baby 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.

The Bible also records this incident: ‘And the water was spent in the bottle…. and God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the bottle with water and gave the lad drink’ (Genesis 21: 15 – 19)  Each year at the end of the Hajj is also the celebration of Eid-ul Ad’haa, (Festival of Sacrifice). Muslims the world over, commemorate the ‘Sacrifice’ of one of the Great Messengers of Allah – Abraham (pbuh).

Abraham (pbuh) was put through various tests and trials by Allah Almighty and he proved to be most dedicated, sincere and steadfast in all cases and at all times. He was chosen and selected by The Almighty yet he was put to a severe test. Through his determination and courage he remained steadfast and took things in his stride. The greatest off all these trials was when he was instructed by Allah Almighty to sacrifice his most beloved son Ismail (pbuh), for the sake of the Almighty. The Qur’anic version, is different from the version in others scriptures, because it records that Abraham (pbuh) had a dream in which he saw himself slaughtering his son Ishmael. He believed the dream as being from Allah.

Then on his way to tell his son of the dream, he was confronted by the devil who tried to convince him that he should not sacrifice his son. But Prophet Abraham remained steadfast and was convinced that he had this command from the Almighty. The then took stones and threw them at the ‘devil’ and went on his way. This gives rise to another practice / ritual that all those who go for Hajj undertake, the symbolic ‘pelting of Satan’, which symbolises the resisting of the temptations that Satan put upon Abraham, but also unto us in our daily lives to disobey Allah.

Prophet Abraham decided not to disobey Allah and continued on his way to tell his son. The Quran says: “……. he said ‘O my son. I see in vision that I offer you in sacrifice. Now see what is your view‘. (The son) said ‘O my father. Do as you have been commanded. You will find me, if Allah wills, to be of those who are patient‘. So when they both submitted their wills to Allah and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead for sacrifice We called out to him ‘O Ibraheem (Abraham)’ you already have fulfilled the vision. Thus indeed we reward those who do right. So this was obviously a trial, then we ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice …….and We left this blessing among the generations to come in later times”.  (Quran 37: 102-108)

We have been taught that as Abraham was just about to sacrifice his son, the Lord called out to him and a ram was presented for slaughter. This is also in the Bible: ‘Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son…the Angel called out…..seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son…….Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw a ram…..took the ram and offered  it up for sacrifice’ (Genesis 10 – 13)

At the end of the Hajj, this is symbolised by each pilgrim arranging for the slaughter (Qurbani) of a sheep, goat, cow in commemoration of Prophet Abraham who showed his readiness to sacrifice his son, in obedience to God’s command. Even those who have not undertaken the Hajj slaughter an animal and the meat is distributed between themselves, their family and friends and to the needy. This can give rise to some misconceptions and misunderstanding in the minds of some non-Muslims who may unwittingly misinterpret the significance and wisdom behind such a ‘sacrificial act’ of worship in Islam.

The sacrifice of an animal is not a pillar of Islam. Allah says: “It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, it is your piety that reaches Him. He has thus made them (animals) subject to you that you may glorify Allah for His guidance to you and proclaim the good news to all who do right. (Quran 22: 37) There are many blessings in the performance of Hajj in the Quran Allah instructs Prophet Abraham (pbuh) to invite mankind to come to Hajj and the Quran summarises this by the Almighty declaring:  “So that they may witness the numerous benefits for themselves”. (Quran 22: 28).  Therefore, the real blessings of Hajj can only be experienced by those who actually perform it.

It is important to note that a Muslim does not earn Hajj Mabroor (accepted Pilgrimage) except by casting away all sins. While falling into sin is prohibited at all times. In performing of Hajj (in the correct prescribed manner) washes away all the sins of a person. 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.” The Quran declares: “Hajj is (during) well known months, so whoever has decided to undertake the Hajj therein, there shall be (for him) no obscenity and no transgression and no disputing during Hajj”. (Quran 2: 197).

Hajj is one of the greatest deeds that one can accomplish in his or her lifetime and is something that a Muslim dreams of undertaking. The journey of Hajj is different in nature to any other journeys that we would normally undertake, for a holiday etc. because the entire journey constitutes an act of worship. It is not meant for any personal ends but rather it is undertaken solely to seek the Grace of the Almighty and the fulfilment of the duty prescribed to us by Him. Nobody can be prepared to undertake this journey until and unless he has true and deep love of his Creator in his heart, as well as fear of Him, and is convinced that Allah wants him to do what he is doing.

The love of Allah heightens as one starts preparing for the pilgrimage journey with the sole intention of pleasing Allah. With the heart longing to reach that goal, one becomes purer in thought and deed. One repents from past sins, seeks forgiveness from people whom he might have wronged, and tries to render that which is due to others including debt, where necessary, so as not burdened with injustices that we may have done to our fellow human beings. In general, the aim is to do good deeds and slowly the abhorrence of doing evil increases. This is a journey whereby a Muslim attains a purification of one’s inner self.

Thus the entire journey is one of the Pillars of Islam and constitutes an act of worship.

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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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The Era of “The Diplomat”

30th November 2020

Youngest Maccabees scion Jonathan takes over after Judas and leads for 18 years

Going hand-in-glove with the politics at play in Judea in the countdown to the AD era, General Atiku, was the contention for the priesthood. You will be aware, General, that politics and religion among the Jews interlocked. If there wasn’t a formal and sovereign Jewish King, there of necessity had to be a High Priest at any given point in time.

Initially, every High Priest was from the tribe of Levi as per the stipulation of the Torah. At some stage, however, colonisers of Judah imposed their own hand-picked High Priests who were not ethnic Levites. One such High Priest was Menelaus of the tribe of Benjamin.

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Land Board appointments of party activists is political corruption

30th November 2020

Parliament has rejected a motion by Leader of Opposition (LOO) calling for the reversing of the recent appointments of ruling party activists to various Land Boards across the country. The motion also called for the appointment of young and qualified Batswana with tertiary education qualifications.

The ruling party could not allow that motion to be adopted for many reasons discussed below. Why did the LOO table this motion? Why was it negated? Why are Land Boards so important that a ruling party felt compelled to deploy its functionaries to the leadership and membership positions?

Prior to the motion, there was a LOO parliamentary question on these appointments. The Speaker threw a spanner in the works by ruling that availing a list of applicants to determine who qualified and who didn’t would violate the rights of those citizens. This has completely obliterated oversight attempts by Parliament on the matter.

How can parliament ascertain the veracity of the claim without the names of applicants? The opposition seeks to challenge this decision in court.  It would also be difficult in the future for Ministers and government officials to obey instructions by investigative Parliamentary Committees to summon evidence which include list of persons. It would be a bad precedent if the decision is not reviewed and set aside by the Business Advisory Committee or a Court of law.

Prior to independence, Dikgosi allocated land for residential and agricultural purposes. At independence, land tenures in Botswana became freehold, state land and tribal land. Before 1968, tribal land, which is land belonging to different tribes, dating back to pre-independence, was allocated and administered by Dikgosi under Customary Law. Dikgosi are currently merely ‘land overseers’, a responsibility that can be delegated. Land overseers assist the Land Boards by confirming the vacancy or availability for occupation of land applied for.

Post-independence, the country was managed through modern law and customary law, a system developed during colonialism. Land was allocated for agricultural purposes such as ploughing and grazing and most importantly for residential use. Over time some land was allocated for commercial purpose. In terms of the law, sinking of boreholes and development of wells was permitted and farmers had some rights over such developed water resources.

Land Boards were established under Section 3 of the Tribal Land Act of 1968 with the intention to improve tribal land administration. Whilst the law was enacted in 1968, Land Boards started operating around 1970 under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands which was renamed Ministry of Lands and Housing (MLH) in 1999. These statutory bodies were a mechanism to also prune the powers of Dikgosi over tribal land. Currently, land issues fall under the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services.

There are 12 Main Land Boards, namely Ngwato, Kgatleng, Tlokweng, Tati, Chobe, Tawana, Malete, Rolong, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kweneng and Ngwaketse Land Boards.  The Tribal Land Act of 1968 as amended in 1994 provides that the Land Boards have the powers to rescind the grant of any rights to use any land, impose restrictions on land usage and facilitate any transfer or change of use of land.

Some land administration powers have been decentralized to sub land boards. The devolved powers include inter alia common law and customary law water rights and land applications, mining, evictions and dispute resolution. However, decisions can be appealed to the land board or to the Minister who is at the apex.

So, land boards are very powerful entities in the country’s local government system. Membership to these institutions is important not only because of monetary benefits of allowances but also the power of these bodies. in terms of the law, candidates for appointment to Land Boards or Subs should be residents of the tribal areas where appointments are sought, be holders of at least Junior Certificate and not actively involved in politics.  The LOO contended that ruling party activists have been appointed in the recent appointments.

He argued that worse, some had no minimum qualifications required by the law and that some are not inhabitants of the tribal or sub tribal areas where they have been appointed. It was also pointed that some people appointed are septuagenarians and that younger qualified Batswana with degrees have been rejected.

Other arguments raised by the opposition in general were that the development was not unusual. That the ruling party is used to politically motivated appointments in parastatals, civil service, diplomatic missions, specially elected councilors and Members of Parliament (MPs), Bogosi and Land Boards. Usually these positions are distributed as patronage to activists in return for their support and loyalty to the political leadership and the party.

The ruling party contended that when the Minister or the Ministry intervened and ultimately appointed the Land Boards Chairpersons, Deputies and members , he didn’t have information, as this was not information required in the application, on who was politically active and for that reason he could not have known who to not appoint on that basis. They also argued that opposition activists have been appointed to positions in the government.

The counter argument was that there was a reason for the legal requirement of exclusion of political activists and that the government ought to have mechanisms to detect those. The whole argument of “‘we didn’t know who was politically active” was frivolous. The fact is that ruling party activists have been appointed. The opposition also argued that erstwhile activists from their ranks have been recruited through positions and that a few who are serving in public offices have either been bought or hold insignificant positions which they qualified for anyway.

Whilst people should not be excluded from public positions because of their political activism, the ruling party cannot hide the fact that they have used public positions to reward activists. Exclusion of political activists may be a violation of fundamental human or constitutional rights. But, the packing of Land Boards with the ruling party activists is clear political corruption. It seeks to sow divisions in communities and administer land in a politically biased manner.

It should be expected that the ruling party officials applying for land or change of land usage etcetera will be greatly assisted. Since land is wealth, the ruling party seeks to secure resources for its members and leaders. The appointments served to reward 2019 election primary and general elections losers and other activists who have shown loyalty to the leadership and the party.

Running a country like this has divided it in a way that may be difficult to undo. The next government may decide to reset the whole system by replacing many of government agencies leadership and management in a way that is political. In fact, it would be compelled to do so to cleanse the system.

The opposition is also pondering on approaching the courts for review of the decision to appoint party functionaries and the general violation of clearly stated terms of reference. If this can be established with evidence, the courts can set aside the decision on the basis that unqualified people have been appointed.

The political activism aspect may also not be difficult to prove as some of these people are known activists who are in party structures, at least at the time of appointment, and some were recently candidates. There is a needed for civil society organizations such as trade unions and political parties to fight some of these decisions through peaceful protests and courts.

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