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The month of joy

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

As approach the mid-point of our fasting early next week, Muslims need to take time out to reflect upon the Blessings and joys of fasting.   

For the Muslim, Ramadan is a time for reflection for us to sort out the priorities in our lives. It is a time to make a new start and to take one’s religion seriously, to be faithful to prayers, to recite the entire Qur’an during this month, more than once if they can, in an effort to give thanks at all times to Allah for His goodness. For the sincere person this brings happiness and comfort to the soul because it helps reign in our passions, brings in and builds the basis for self-control.

For those who are not Muslims may not understand the joy that many of us Muslims feel during the month of fasting (Ramadan). It is somewhat difficult to put into words. One may rightfully ask how is it that people look forward to going without food and drink between dawn and sunset for a whole month because to many it must seem like a severe diet that lasts for a month.  And yet, that is what Muslims do every year during this auspicious month. They have looked forward all year to this one special month in the calendar. Muslims have prepared themselves for the fast, and now Ramadan is half way through and it has entered into mind, body and soul.

Why fast? This is a common but interesting question which a child may ask his/her parents. Non-Muslims may also pose it to Muslims. Here are some of the reasons why Muslims observe a one-month fasting during Ramadan. The main reason for it is simple, to obey Allah's injunction: They have been commanded by Allah Almighty to do so.  “O ye who believe, Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may gain God consciousness.” (Quran 2: 183)

The bottom line is that sincere Muslims must believe in, obey and implement, all the words of Allah contained in the Holy Quran. These injunctions of Allah are regarded as blessings and a mercy. Every Muslim must obey Allah’s injunctions; this is a necessary precondition for being a Muslim and this is one of the true meanings of ISLAM – “submission”


Fasting is compulsory for all able-bodied Muslims who are free from any compelling reasons not to do so. Whoever deliberately forgoes fasting in Ramadan, should know that they have disobeyed Allah’s injunction. As the Quran says: ‘…. whoever of you, who witnesses this month, it is obligatory on him to fast it. But whoever is ill or traveling let him fast the same number of other days; (Make up for it later) God desires ease for you and not hardship, and He desires that you complete the ordained period and glorify God for His guidance to you, that you may be grateful".

(Quran: 2: 185)

As previously mentioned, fasting is not something new; it is, indeed, as old as Adam, who was the first to be created and the first to submit to only one Allah. The fact is that virtually every major religion be it Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Bahaism, Buddhism and all the others have fasting as one of the basic beliefs and practice. The Holy Quran mentions that Prophet Musa (Moses) fasted for 40 days and Prophet Muhammad said that Dawood (David) used to fast every alternate day throughout the year.

Also, Prophet 'Issa (Jesus) used to fast for 40 days. (May Peace and Blessings be upon them all).  There are verses can in the Bible that confirm this, a sample of them:  ‘And they said unto him. Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers….’ (Luke 5: 33). ‘Then was Jesus was led up of the Spirit…..and when he had fasted for forty days and forty nights…. (Matthew 4: 1-2)

Since these Prophets had submitted to and followed the commands of the Almighty, it can be seen that by asking Muslims via the Quranic verses to fast, Allah intends to draw their attention to the practice and tradition of those pious prophets and predecessors who attained piety through fasting. Therefore, fasting in Ramadan should be seen as upholding and propagating the tradition approved by Allah for all those who submit to Him.


Let us be honest, by nature all human beings are vulnerable to sin and transgression of Allah's guidance and limits. Generally, Muslims are prohibited from many things but amongst other ‘smaller’ things such as from vain and idle talk like gossiping, backbiting, slandering, hypocrisy, lying, cheating, grudges, etc. as these actions and vices oppose the teachings of the Holy Quran. But Muslims like all human beings err, thus they need to be reminded and coached against these types of social vices from time to time.

Thus Ramadan is the training period which helps Muslims to ‘service’ their minds and bodies to learn to refrain from these vices, and embody those virtues and get closer to Allah. Literally, it is a time to spring-clean one’s spiritual house and invite Allah into every room in that house. 
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) states: "… whoever fasts during Ramadan with sincere faith and hoping for his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven."  Therefore, fasting in Ramadan brings hope for Muslims to attain forgiveness of their past sins from Allah Almighty

When we break our fast and have eaten each day there is a sense of joy and fulfilment. For millions of others the world over, the call to the evening prayer the end of their thirst, nor will it give them an opportunity to eat food, but serves as a reminder as we begin to realize that there are lessons to be learnt. By fasting Muslims are reminded, that as they rejoice and celebrate the end of each day with food and water, they must remember that there are many thousands of poor and needy people in the world that face starvation and even death because they have neither food nor water.

As we learn once more about the countless blessings that Allah showers upon us in Ramadan, we are reminded not to forget our brothers and sisters without food or drink and even those with very little or no possessions. We take many things for granted, like food and drink, like the love of our wives and children, our homes, our material possessions, we live in a peaceful land, we don’t face the war and killings that we see in other countries, etc. This is the opportunity to be grateful every day — not only in Ramadan — for all the good things of this life that Allah has bestowed upon us.

Therefore, Muslims love this month, which is one of endless benefits and blessings. Indeed, no amount of words can truly describe this great month.

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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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