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Hajj a Religious Pilgrimage

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

Within the next few days Muslims from across the globe will be converging on the Holy City of Makkah, in Saudi Arabia in order to fulfil the Hajj (Pilgrimage) during a six day period in the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar. The Hajj has been ordained by Allah Almighty in the Quran: “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).  

Hajj is a religious high point in a Muslim’s life and it is something that a Muslim dreams of fulfilling. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and the major if not the most significant expression of Islamic faith and unity. Undertaking the Hajj at least once in a life time is a duty for all Muslims who are physically and financially capable to make the journey to Makkah.  The emphasis on financial ability is meant to ensure that a one takes care of his family first and has sufficient means for the actual journey. The requirement that one must be healthy and physically capable of undertaking the Hajj is intended to exempt those who cannot endure the rigors of extended travel.

The Ka’ba was built when the great prophet Abraham (pbuh) was instructed by Allah to build the structure of the Holy Ka’ba 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.

The Almighty commanded Prophet Abraham (pbuh) to build the structure – He fulfilled the command and when he had completed building, Allah commanded him to call the people (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.

Abraham (pbuh) then climbed Mount Arafah and called out in as loud a voice as he could, “O people! Verily Allah has prescribed upon you the Hajj, so perform the Hajj”. Allah Almighty records this in the Qur’an “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… ‘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).

To this day, every year, millions upon millions of Muslims continue to answer the call of The Almighty made through His Messenger and Prophet – Abraham (pbuh). The journey of Hajj is not meant for any personal ends rather it is undertaken with the sole intention of pleasing Allah and the fulfilment of the duty prescribed by Him. The love of our Creator is heightened as one starts preparing for the pilgrimage journey. With the heart longing to reach that goal, we try to become purer in thought and deed. We repent for past sins, seek forgiveness from people whom we might have wronged, and all that is necessary to get the prayers of others so as not to go to Allah’s court burdened with injustices that may have be done to fellow human beings.

Performing the Hajj is the spiritual high point of the Muslims life. ‘And complete the Hajj in the service of Allah’ (Quran 2: 196). It also brings about on a Muslim the assurance that he has performed the fifth pillar of Islam by following in the footsteps of both Prophet Abraham and Prophet Muhammed (pbut), but also the realisation that he is part of an Islamic Ummah (nation) that is over a billion strong across the globe.

A striking aspect of this occasion is that the Hajj is a demonstration of the universality of Islam and the brotherhood and equality of Muslims. The pilgrims wear the same unstitched pieces of cloth during the Hajj, whereby each male pilgrim wears two white seamless pieces of cloth. The white cloth is symbolic of innocence, piety and cleanliness of body and soul. This white cloth shows that there is no distinction whatsoever between the poor and the rich, the young and the old, colour, race, nationality and language they gather together at the same place and at the same time, for the same purpose. Hajj is, most definitely, the largest single gathering of people in one place, at one time, for one purpose – to show their allegiance to Allah.

Hajj brings into focus and makes people realise our daily evil misdeeds and mistakes, which are as a result of either our weakness of faith, lack of consciousness of God Almighty and the general neglect of His commands and the way of life taught by His Messengers. A Muslim does not earn an acceptable Pilgrimage except by casting away our sinful behaviour.

While falling into sin is prohibited at all times, Allah gives a specific order to the pilgrims to abstain from all forms of wrong doing and sins. “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). This verse emphasises the sacredness of the occasion and greatness of the place.

When performed in the correct prescribed manner it 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.”
To mark the end of the Hajj, Muslims celebrate the day of Eid-ul-Adha, the Day of Sacrifice. This is to commemorate the sacrifice offered by the Prophet Abraham (pbuh) when he, in pursuance to a command of Allah conveyed to him in a dream, in which he was asked to slaughter his son, Ismail.

He actually prepared to slaughter his beloved son, Ismail, in pursuance of that dream. But the Almighty, after testing his total submission, sent down a sheep and saved his son from the fate of slaughter. Those who have undertaken the Hajj and also those who have remained at home will slaughter an animal. It is from that incident that the sacrifice of an animal became an obligatory duty to be performed by every Muslim who has the means to do it. The meat is distributed to family, friends and to the poor.

"It is not their meat, nor their blood that reaches Allah, it is your piety that reaches Him. Indeed He has subjected them (animals) to you so that you may glorify Allah for guiding you, and give glad tidings to those who excel in good." (Quran-22:37) There are many blessings of Hajj; in the Holy Quran where Allah Almighty instructs Prophet Abraham (pbuh) to invite mankind to come to Hajj, He summarises the matter by declaring: “So that they may witness the numerous benefits for themselves”. (Quran 22: 28).

Hence, the real blessings of Hajj can only be experienced by those who actually perform it. From the time of deciding and preparing to go for Hajj to the time of returning home, a tremendous impact is made on the hearts and minds of pilgrims. Going for Hajj entails sacrifice of time, sacrifice of money, sacrifice of comfort, and sacrifice of many physical desires and pleasures and all this simply for the sake of Allah Almighty, with no worldly or selfish motive. Thus the entire journey 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
FATED “JIHADI” JOHN

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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