Auckland, April 14, 2021
Today, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, is the first day of the Holy Month of Ramadan.
We offer our greetings to our Muslim brothers and sisters- Ramadan Mubarak.
A Muslim leader in the Arab world told me more than 45 years ago: “The spirit of oneness is evident during Ramadan; that is the only time when modern Muslims get together, forgetting their differences, at least overtly, and forge social and domestic ties.”
The political characteristics of the Muslim world would remain as steadfast as that of the West and yet sport a paradox: lock horns on religious issues but seek the protection of the latter to protect its territorial integrity.
But the Holy Month of Ramadan is something else.
I have never seen Muslims in the worst of their moods during the day and the best of their spirits after dusk as I have during Ramadan. The former would reflect the harshness of the hot weather in the Arab Gulf (when the Holy Month falls between June and October) and the stringent rule that a fasting Muslim shall not even sip water between dawn and dusk; and the latter would radiate the fraternal love and kinship.
Best time of the year
Most Muslims in the Arab Gulf consider the Holy Month as the best time of the year, because, apart from bringing together families and friends for Iftar (the evening meal that break’s the day’s fasting) it also provides them an opportunity to attend programmes that encourage the spirit of sacrifice, giving alms and promotion of social and community welfare.
“This is my favourite time of the year,” I have heard many Muslims tell me, and they meant it. For, although the Holy Quran (the most sacred book in Islam) carried an injunction to let nothing, neither food, water nor smoke, pass the lips in daylight hours is taken seriously by most, so too is the celebration that accompanies the breaking of the fast at dusk.
Having spent more than half of my working life in the Islamic world, I have had opportunities to learn of this great religion and what it means to almost a billion people practicing its tenets.
It unfortunate that some have strayed away from its teachings, propagating evil and perpetuating acts that are antithetical to Islam and its Greatest Messenger, Mohammed the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).
To be a true Muslim is to respect all other religions and those practice them, which in essence is being a true human being.
I have had countless occasions to discuss with scholars and ordinary people, the significance of the Islamic religion, its teachings and what it means to humanity.
A Religion of Peace
All of them have held a single view: That Islam is a religion of peace, not war; a promoter of harmony, not discord; a preacher of tolerance, not belligerence; and an embodiment of goodwill, not evil.
The three decades that I spent in Bahrain, travelling to other parts of the Arab and Islamic world were the best part of my career, in age and substance.
I learnt the real meaning of a religion that has been so openly abused and ill-used, not just by terrorists of late but by a number of others who claim to have converted to Islam, attracted by its principles and teachings.
In my view, they do more harm to this great religion than its external antagonists.
More than 15 years ago, I attended the lecture of a visiting Islamist, who claimed to have discarded Christianity for its ‘decadent values.’
Although not a Christian, I was extremely offended by his remarks.
His comments at the open meeting on Christianity were so inflammatory and derogatory that it made many members of the Muslim community flinch.
Some turned away in disgust, asking why such a meeting was organised at a time when people of the faith the world over were being humiliated and physically and verbally abused, triggered by terrorist attacks that kill thousands of people, misusing the name of Islam.
Like me, most of them believed that those who misinterpret Islam and mislead people should be sidelined.
Partners in progress
For all the disparaging remarks that they have suffered over the years, Muslims in New Zealand are among those who have contributed significantly to economic growth and social development of New Zealand.
Among them are lawyers, solicitors, accountants, scholars, teachers, engineers, businesspersons, traders and a host of other professionals who have done the country proud through their fortitude and hard work.
Some of them made New Zealand their home several decades ago, and like most others, early settlers in the community had to battle a series of challenges and odds to move forward in life.
They decorate the country with dignity and honour.
Indian Newslink has always been close to the communities it serves and as such, reported on the problems and successes that Muslims have confronted and achieved, especially over the past ten years.
Muslims have shown solidarity and a spirit of understanding in mobilising support to the victims of natural disasters throughout the world and have worked together with other New Zealanders in dispatching aid to the victims.