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As long as one of us suffers, all of us suffer

Muslims perform an Eid al-Fitr prayer, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, at historical Badshahi mosque, in Lahore, Pakistan, on Saturday (Photograph by K.M. Chaudary/AP)

Just like there is a Christmas message each year, for Muslims there ought to be an Eid al-Fitr message at the ending of Ramadan, which in a diverse world should be equally regarded. Almost 1,500 years ago, a message reappeared on the planet; reappeared because it was not new, but the same message given and repeated to humanity by many of its most venerated persons.

It would be then when the Eid would be first celebrated by what was known as an umma — community of believers. No, they did not call themselves Muslims then; they were simply referred to as believers.

Interestingly, the believers that made up its community called Umma comprised Christians, Jews, Sabaeans, followers of Muhammad and persons of the old Arabic religions, who agreed with the principle of oneness — tawhid — and more particularly bonded to form an alliance where there was no compulsion in belief but accepted the collective responsibility of being a community that, under the leadership of the Prophet, protected the poor and indigent, affirmed the good, rejected evil and through mutual consultation arrived at a reasonable position.

At a quick glance, that may sound like the recipe for what happened in 1776 when the idea of the United States of America was born. If truth were ever to be told, that is precisely what was a budding potential trying to be expressed 1,500 years ago. What emerged in the centuries beyond its inception was indeed anything but that, and in fact nothing resembling its potential except in limited areas and for limited times.

What eventually presented itself to the world was a body of persons that became known as Muslims, a distinct and separate community called the umma — Muslim brotherhood — and a canonisation of thought as the definition and label for a religion called Islam, which was observed as a separate and distinct faith. I dare say that was not what can be historically observed as the absolute beginning of a thought to unite all humanity.

It is often difficult in a lifetime, more specifically in 23 years, to establish an everlasting system or idea. What usually occurs is that an idea emerges and then, from its chief axiom, thought develops. In this case, many thoughts developed. Unlike what some contend today, there were in fact many different thoughts; not simply one idea. As usual, imperialism, power and politics all have an impact on what finally comes to be known as the truth or prevailing ideology.

One could say, “well, that’s not what happened 1,500 years ago, so it can’t be true”. In 1776, the American Constitution clearly stated, “All men are created equal that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights”. One of the men whose signature bears witness to that was the second-largest enslaver. Almost 250 years later, the descendants of enslaved people are still struggling to be treated as equals. So it’s not what happens; it’s the revealed words the idea is based on. In these two instances, the US Constitution and the other is the revealed word, which says for example, “Let there be no compulsion in belief”. What subsequent generations did does not change the principle.

I remember the call of Abraham (Ibrahim), who said to “all” of humanity, “come visit the old house of God” — labbaik allahuma labbaik. There were no distinctions expressed except that all humanity was invited. Today, in contradiction to that call, all are not invited and it is blatantly obvious and intentional.

It is during moments like Ramadan that we are meant to reflect on things such as that. Our humanity is one, and as long as one of us is suffering, all of us suffer. It is not possible to heal the wounds and contradictions in the world of humans without having a place where their sanctity is respected and they can assemble together in safety. The question, is where is that Mecca today?

We have grown as a human society to have realised that our environment is one; we breathe the same air and have a common responsibility to protect the environment for all to enjoy now and for future generations. If we as a multicultural and diverse society can act together in one accord to establish justice and fairness for all the people on the planet, so as to mutually enjoy the bounties of the universe, we would indeed fulfil the unfulfilled intent of the umma of 1,500 years ago.

We have now the collective experience as a repository. Yesterday is gone and will never return; however, we have now to make tomorrow whatever we deem as best. We are not beholden to the past, but we can take whatever lessons there are to make tomorrow the best world that has ever been.

So my remarks for this Eid are simple for Bermuda. If Bermuda as a small island of 65,000 can come together on the single thought of our one humanity, and if there can be a “house of God” that focuses on bringing together that reality, then that is where the spirit of truth resides.

Eid Mubarak.

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Published April 25, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated April 25, 2023 at 7:58 am)

As long as one of us suffers, all of us suffer

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