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The Arrival of Ramadan

The Quran says: ‘Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness.’ (Quran 2:183)

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. … In addition to abstaining from eating and drinking during this time, Muslims abstain from sinful relations, speech and behaviour. As a saying that I read elsewhere: By experiencing the absence of pleasure, we are able to experience the pleasure of absence.

The month of Ramadan has arrived and Muslims the world over will be looking forward to the ‘month of spiritual infusion’ that allows us to change our lifestyles and to build that spiritual character within us.

The truth is before every Ramadan, many of us think about the long days ahead. Some of us are ‘absolutely’ terrified. Then it arrives…Bam! It hits us, and the strange thing is…we survive every time.

So it is with so many of life’s trials. The anticipation is the worst part. Many of us have come to terms with Ramadan being ‘difficult’; it can be in the beginning, it is supposed to be while the body gets used to the ‘change’. Without doubt Ramadan takes a physical and emotional toll on many of us. It is supposed to. If it was plain sailing, why would Allah give it His personal recompense, as He declares, “The fast is for Me, so I will give the reward for it.”

Life is full of trials and tests, and like all tribulations, there is hardship and ease. Ramadan comes, and then goes. Unlike other trials however, when it leaves, it may sound odd but there is a sense of regret and sadness, for whilst Ramadan may well be demanding, its blessings are plentiful, particularly in this modern age.

Whilst we may try to avoid its impact, so much of our existence revolves around entertainment. Movies on TV, advertising, computer games, even our newspapers are filled with the escapism of the Hollywood/Bollywood story line and the title-tattle of wags and celebrities. We can suspend our reality and live in the world of ‘reality TV’.

We can escape to fantasy, and leave our own often mundane chores, often troublesome, lives behind. Then Ramadan comes along and gives us a huge dose of reality in one swift shot: the reality of hunger and thirst, which tries one’s patience. The month asks us not to escape from reality, but to escape into reality—to focus on the travails of life. The month asks us to see and feel the daily lives of the world’s poor for whom hunger and thirst is a daily routine.

In addition, unless we are up all night playing computer games and watching movies, Ramadan should also give us a much-needed detox from the grip of our regular entertainment. Ramadan allows us to free our over-bombarded senses, and instead ‘feed’ them with a sense of wonder and humility.

By depriving our bodies of food and drink, we heighten our sense of being. By depriving our ears and eyes of the constant over-stimulation, we allow ourselves to experience the natural world. By experiencing the absence of pleasure, we are able to experience the pleasure of absence.

Ramadan, by putting a physical strain on the body and mind, requires us to slow down. By embracing each moment at a slower pace, we are able to absorb much more of the detail. In a speeding train, all you see is a blurred scene. But when it slows down, the view becomes clear; you see the detail, the beauty and the variations of the landscape you are passing by.

So much of our lifestyles in this modern world is about the destination, about getting there, that we forget the journey itself, and forgo the potential to enjoy and learn. There is a period of development and change in everything, and we twist and alter it at our own risk.

Into this chaotic world comes Ramadan, and asks us to assert and take control over ourselves, to regulate our desires and improper conduct and instincts, and to conquer them. By doing so, we are better able to know ourselves, and our relationships—with people, with our society and our environment. We have a clearer insight, a deeper understanding, and a broader and wider view and outlook.

Of course, we can miss all of this. We can sleep through the day, and party at night. We can go shopping, watch films, play games, chat with friends, eat, and smoke shisha. Do this all night long, and then sleep during the day—basically inverting the normal routine. And all we will gain from fasting, as the Prophet Muhammad warned, is “hunger and thirst”.

A successful system and routine of physical fitness requires endurance. Ask an Olympic athlete—they have been in training for months already. Likewise, for our souls to be enriched, they too must endure. Ramadan is a test. For me, it is a giant test that many of us ‘fear’ every year.

Yet, once it is here, I believe the more we embrace it, the more we will grow; and surely that is the point of our existence, “Consider the human self, and how it is formed in accordance with what it is meant to be, and how it is imbued with moral failings as well as with consciousness of God! To a happy state shall indeed attain he who causes this self to grow in purity, and truly lost is he who buries it in darkness.” (Qur’an 91:7-10)

And so, despite our fears and our trepidation, with Allah’s Grace and with His Help, I pray Ramadan comes into our lives again this year. I pray that we are able to fast for Him, to take time to reflect on Him, to experience fully the presence of the Merciful in our daily life; and to be thankful that every year we have this opportunity to grow and build our spirits a true follower of Islam.

I wish all the Muslims Ramadan Mubarak and that we all look forward to changing our inner selves so that we turn to our Lord and Creator in sincerity.

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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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