By Imam Dr Rashied Omar
There are moments in our lives when we pause to celebrate and give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. Eid-al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, is such a time of celebration, expression of great joy and thanksgiving.
Eid-al-Fitr is not only a time to bid farewell to Ramadan, but it is also an occasion to celebrate our spiritual accomplishments and moral lessons learnt during the past month of Ramadan. It is through imbibing the critical lessons of Ramadan that we can display true gratitude and thanks to our Lord and Sustainer.
One of the important lessons that the South African Muslim community has learnt from Ramadan 2018 is that we need to work harder at promoting intra-faith tolerance and adab al-ikhtilaf – an ethics of disagreement.
Just prior to the start of Ramadan, we witnessed the horrific attack on the Imam Husayni Shi`a Masjid in Durban on Thursday 10 May 2018, where the assailants slit the throat of one person, stabbed to death another and set the masjid on fire. This tragic incident has spurred South African Muslims to redouble their efforts at promoting tolerance and co-operation among diverse Muslim institutions and leaders.
The birth of a document called the Cape Accord has provided the South African Muslim community with the ideal platform to launch such a grassroots movement. The Cape Accord calls on Communities to Unite Against Hate Speech and Discord, and to promote intra-Muslim tolerance and cooperation.
The Cape Accord represents a strategic alliance of Muslim organizations to combat the growing threat of sectarianism and intra-faith intolerance in South Africa. The Accord calls for intra-Muslim differences to be handled with wisdom and respectful engagement. The Cape Accord embraces the spirit of the Amman Message signed in 2005 by more than 500 leading Muslim scholars worldwide, which aimed to capture Islam’s core values of compassion, mutual respect, tolerance, acceptance and freedom of religion.
On 18th day of Ramadan, corresponding to 3 June 2018, the founding members of the Cape Accord convened a successful meeting at one of the largest masjids in the Western Cape, the Al-Quds Masjid in Gatesville, where a clarion call was made to embrace the Cape Accord. Since then the Cape Accord has been embraced and endorsed by a number of Muslim organizations and leaders. It is, however, critical that this document, and the sentiments that it holds, needs to be widely circulated and popularised in our local communities. Ordinary Muslims need to familiarise themselves with the content of the Cape Accord and the direction it offers towards greater tolerance and good-neighbourliness amongst and between differing Muslim groups. We need to mobilise a grassroots Muslim movement promoting intra-Muslim love, compassion and tolerance.
In the aftermath of the Imam Husyan masjid attack in Durban, there were malicious rumours that Egyptians had orchestrated the attacks, and this later changed to Iranians. We must therefore also not be naïve to the possibilities of outside forces intent on sowing discord amongst Muslims by exploiting the vulnerabilities of people’s sectarian views. The source of these rumours should therefore form part of the investigation to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice. We also note with concern that it has been more than three weeks since the attack on the Imam Husayni Masjid in Durban and the perpetrators are still at large. We once again call on the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Hawks to intensify investigations, apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
In conclusion, at this joyous time of Eid al-Fitr we give thanks, that our revitalized moral resources nurtured by a month-long period of daylight fasting has inculcated in us a deep sense of solidarity and ukhuwwa islamiyya – love and affection with our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. We pray and make du`a that this wonderful spirit of solidarity and love that was nurtured through this past Ramadan will continue to gather momentum during the rest of the year. The blessed day of Eid al-Fitr is a wonderful opportunity to consolidate and celebrate our revitalized brotherhood and sisterhood. At this sacred time of the Eid al-Fitr service we implore Allah, the Most Compassionate, to inspire us and to provide us with the courage to open up our hearts to also embrace those of our relatives and friends with whom our bonds of kinship and relationships need to be healed.
Eid Sa`id wa Mubarak.
Kullu `Am wa Antum Bi Khayrin Ma`assalamah was Sihhah.
May the entire year be filled with goodness, health and peace. Wishing everyone a blessed and joyous Eid Mubarak.