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Letters


Readers please note it is essential that all letters to the Editor carry the full name and address of the writer, even if it has to appear under a pseudonym. This applies to all email letters as well.

 

Religion and punishment
- A response

The Nation in its edition of September 6, 2009, carried a letter from one Libran on ‘Religion and punishment’ seeking certain clarifications.
Many matters have been raised. Brief responses are difficult. I hope the Editor of the esteemed weekly, conscious as I am, of space constraints would bear with me. However, I am not claiming any expertise in attempting to clarify the issues raised.
Libran begins by saying all laws should apply equally to males and females. The Holy Quran and the Sunnahs (sayings and practices) of the Holy Prophet of Islam support this position as a universal principle, recognising, however, the biological and other inherent differences that do exist between the two sexes which require distinctive treatment.

The universality of equality in Islam applies not only between males and females but also amongst all males and amongst all females. This is underscored by recognising only one single qualification for superiority, namely, virtue. A virtuous person alone in the eyes of Almighty Allah gain superiority over all others. That is why there is no priesthood in Islam or any need for females to confess their ‘sins’ to male priests. There are no male priests to the exclusion of female priests in Islam. Man and woman are equals in the eyes of Allah with whom he or she can deal directly through five time prayers, fasting, performing Haj, etc.
Prophets, who came as Messengers of Allah, were all virtuous personalities who were exalted persons in the eyes of Allah. The Quran declares Mary or Maryam, the respected and most pure mother of Prophet Jesus as an ‘exalted’ person (Holy Quran 3:42). They were exalted because they were virtuous. They were virtuous because they never indulged in dishonourable conduct. Excepting the virtuous, all are equal before Allah. When the Almighty treats everyone as equals, man cannot treat a woman as unequal or a woman cannot treat a man as an unequal, except to the extent permitted biologically and inherently.

The Holy Quran in Sura 3:195 states, “And their Lord had heard them (and He said): Lo! I suffer not the work of any worker, male or female, to be lost. Ye proceed from one another!” The translator of the Holy Quran into English Dr Marmaduke Pickthall, commenting on the expression, ‘Ye proceed from one another’ states that, ‘This expression, which recurs in the Quran, is a reminder to men that women are of the same human status as themselves!
Some try to argue for equal rights between man and woman in the absolute sense, without recognising inherent differences. Does equal opportunity mean that a woman should have the right to use jointly with any man the very same public toilets used by men? Or for men to demand that they also be granted maternity leave?

It is not merely equality that Islam talks of but also the dignity of persons. You give women equal rights and dignity by giving her separate public toilets with facilities more appropriate for women and those under monthly cycles. Providing for separate public transport for single women, without compelling them to, is to give them equal rights and to give them dignified atmosphere. Advancing persons disadvantaged on account of sex, religion or ethnicity are well known legally recognised principles, upon which Courts of Law grant temporary advantages for the disadvantaged groups to equalise themselves with others.
Islam must be looked at as a complete way of life. You cannot take out some aspects of it only, in isolation of this complete scheme and seek clarifications.

Unfortunately, the exceptions to the general rule of equality are highlighted by critics in isolation of this totality. Though both sexes are equal in the eyes of the Almighty, men are more equal in certain respects and women are more equal than men in certain other respects, within this overall scheme.


For instance, a wife has no obligation to earn and be employed for that purpose. That is a major responsibility cast on the husband. She is on a higher status than the man, in this respect. However, both are responsible for bringing up the family. There are exceptions to these within the system. She is equally obliged to fulfill her obligations in this world, so that she will be rewarded in the hereafter.

Man is entitled to twice the inheritance of a female in certain circumstances, inter-alia because it is his primary responsibility to earn and jointly care for the family. For a God fearing man, there is a greater responsibility that he needs to discharge, by inheriting twice that of the female.

There are many other exceptions to the general rule of equality that exist in modern societies as well as in Islam. However, we can write pages on how women are exploited and stand degraded in the name of freedom and equal rights in some of the so called civilised societies, where hundreds of women, in the name of freedom, stand in disgrace in street corners waiting to sell their bodies. This is so even in rich and developed countries, where women have no choice but to earn for themselves!
It is incorrect for Libran to state that Muslim women are subject to severe obligations and restrictions according to Islamic law. Obligations and restrictions under Islam apply not only to Muslim women but also to Muslim men. It is not only Islam, but also all other religions that impose obligations and restrictions, though often observed in the breach. In fact, every law passed by Parliaments or by rulers the world over is invariably restrictive/impose obligations, unlike perhaps in the world of animals. Dictators and kings, even in Muslim countries are much more restrictive and authoritarian.

Muslim men and women observe certain obligations and restrictions because they believe it will help them to lead a good, dignified and contended life, so that they would be good models for their children and society and earn a happy life in the hereafter. How do those restrictions affect others? Do not those restrictions benefit others as well? We know there are many well meaning persons in every society. I am sure they could spend their spare time caring for the needy and the suffering who are in abundance in every society.

Observance of most these obligations and restrictions are voluntary because the Quran in verse 2:256 states, “there is no compulsion in religion”, in 2:272 Allah tells the Holy Prophet of Islam “the guiding of them is not thy duty (O’ Muhammed), but Allah guideth whom He will”, in 3:20 “If they surrender, then truly they are rightly guided, and if they turn away, then it is thy duty only to convey the message (unto them)”. In 36:17: “And our duty is but plain conveyance (of the Message).” It is best that the above verses are read several times to be best understood.

When the Holy Prophet had been restrained from going beyond conveying the message and the Prophet is clearly told that Allah will guideth whom He will and that is ‘not your duty’, every Muslim is obliged to convey the message and acceptance by others, including one’s own family is a voluntary act. Those who accept will be rewarded and those who reject will face punishment in the world hereafter. The voluntary nature of acceptance of the message of Islam remains until he/she volunteers to accept Islam and become a member thereof and to be bound thereafter by all the obligations and restrictions imposed by Islam.

The Quran no doubt provides for crime and punishment in a duly constituted Islamic state but no one need to look to Somalia, Malaysia or any other state as Libran has brought out, as none of them could claim true status of an Islamic state though some of them are perfectly good countries. There are, of course, many Muslim countries which use ‘Islam’ to control and rule over the freedoms that their citizens are entitled to in Islam. Some of these rulers are themselves poor examples of Islam.
Allah the Almighty had advised the most exalted Prophet Mohammed (On Whom Be Peace) on how to convey the message and there is no room for lesser mortals including kings and presidents to compel anyone beyond conveying the message.
It must not be misunderstood that the obligation of a Muslim is over with the conveyance of the message. The point that is being made here is that no one can compel another to accept the message. Even when the message is accepted, no one can compel by the use of force, to observe the religion, which according to the Quran is a voluntary act. However, the Quran identifies punishments for certain crimes and obliges punishment in this world, while most of the punishments are reserved for the hereafter. Good attire and good social conduct must be voluntarily encouraged and are not treated as crimes which are clearly identified in the Holy Quran.

For the same reason, it is not possible for a Muslim to induce anyone else to convert to Islam by corruptive means such as offering jobs or rewards. A convert must accept Islam only on its merits and if only he is sincerely convinced.
Libran has asked whether a Muslim can change his religion.

The Holy Quran in verse 4:115 says
“He that opposes the Apostle after the Guidance has been made to him most clear And follows other than the faithful’s way, we’ll let him on his chosen road to steer, and let him end in Hell, A homecoming most evil!”
In verse 3:90
“But those who disbelieve after believing, And plunge deeper into non-faith, From them repentance shall not be accepted, They’ve gone too far away from Truth.”

In verse 3:91
“If it were possible to take a ransom, And if any of those who disbelieved and died in disbelief, would offer The whole earth filled with gold, it would indeed be not accepted, they shall have to suffer a woeful torment, and no helper would ever come to them.”
In verse 4:137
“Never will God forgive the people who embrace the Faith and then renounce it, and again embrace their faith, but once again renounce it, then increase in disbelief nor does He show them any Guidance.”
M.M.Zuhair (The writer can be contacted at mm_zuhair@yahoo.com)

****

Semi-luxury buses

Recently I was waiting for a Colombo bound bus at a Avissawella bus halt. A Colombo bound bus from Badulla with a semi-luxury board pulled up followed by a Colombo bound air-conditioned bus.
The bus conductor of the semi-luxury bus shouted “Come Come”, “Normal Normal”. I boarded the bus along with some other passengers. I was charged one and half the normal fare. I kept mum. Strange thing happened at Pannipitiya. Two men in grey uniform got into the bus and they wanted to check our bus tickets.

I overheard them inquiring from the conductor whether the fare he charged was normal, luxury or semi-luxury. To which he replied normal fare in low voice. Then I protested to the checkers that the conductor charged me not normal but one and half the fare, to which the so called checkers wanted the bus conductor to return the excess fare. Apparently the checking men finished their job and left. Thus ended the funny episode.

I wish to know from the Transport Commission why these long distance buses are allowed to display semi-luxury boards and charge one and half the normal fare. These buses are neither luxury nor semi-luxury. They are like any other normal bus overloaded except for some window curtains.

Dr N. G. D. Karandana
Dehiwala

****

Resume Indo-Lanka ferry service

Indo-Lanka ferry service was suspended about 16 years ago due to communal disturbances. It was the worst period of LTTE threats and attacks. After 30 years, LTTE terrorism has been completely suppressed and defeated, now the government should restore normalcy of public life.

Today a good opportunity has arisen to resume the Indo-Lanka ferry service again as a silky way to the peace process.
Early days this Talaimannar and Rameshwaram ferry service was started in order to repatriate the Indian estate workers. Subsequently it boosted tourism and transportation too. By this ferry service both countries earned a sizable income.
In the past, while our low income Tamil workers used this service to visit their relatives in India, Sri Lankan Buddhists devotees went on pilgrimage in the same vessel to see Buddhist religious places.

The Minister of Tourism must draw his attention to restart this Rameshwaram ferry service as a means to built friendship and solidarity between the two countries and to promote tourism.

C. M. Kamburawala
Payagala

****

Energy saving or energy wasting

When I was passing a showroom displaying a range of CFL bulbs located down Jetawana Road, Colombo 14 around 11.00am last Poya day, I noticed that the showroom was closed but the all the lights on display were on. This company also markets a well known brand of car and the office is somewhat opposite the showroom. It is ironical that whilst promoting energy serving lights, the company is wasting quite a lot of electricity in keeping all the lights on at daytime even during holidays. When I inquired from a person attached to this showroom recently, he informed me that the lights are on from early morning until late into the night everyday. Hope, the management of the company which wants to promote energy saving bulbs will switch off all the lights during holidays at daytime or keep only a very few bulbs lit, to save on electricity.

Mohamed Zahran
Colombo 3

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 APPRECIATION

Abdul Majeed Mohamed Rajabdeen 1909-2009

Held in high esteem amongst merchant fraternity

Abdul Majeed Mohamed Rajabdeen was born into a middle class family whose father Abdul Majeed hailed from Mattakkuliya and mother Mariam was from Panendam Kanthoori Qotar of Grandpass.
Being the only child who lost his mother when he was hardly two-months-old, he was cared for by his paternal aunt Mathugan Natchiya and later by his maternal uncle Abdul Majeed of Grandpass.

His childhood days were spent in the loving care of his uncles and aunts and as a youth ventured out to Negombo and was employed by his uncle in Negombo in the medicinal shop of Aliya Marikar and Sons for a short period of time. Being adventurous and enterprising he was employed in a hardware store in the Pettah by a leading trader, Abdur Rahman of 3rd Cross Street, Pettah.

In the year 1935 with a minimum capital and an abundance of goodwill he embarked on to start a small-time hardware store in Pettah. He was helped immensely by the leading merchants of that time based on his enthusiasm, integrity and his dedication. He built up a wide customer network and gradually expanded into the estate supply sector in which he was immensely successful. The war years boosted his fortunes still further and in 1940 expanded further by adding another shop at 72, Third Cross Street which served as a godown at that time and later became his head office.

In the year of 1936 he married Noor Nizara, daughter of Abdul Hameed and Ummu Habeeba of Temple Road, Maradana and settled down in Dematagoda where he was born. Allah not only blessed him with a large family but showered him with greater wealth thereafter. He was, by the end of the war years, a leading merchant and a landed proprietor. Of the many children he was blessed with, some are now resident abroad and those that are presently in Colombo have their offspring domiciled overseas.

He was actively engaged in the Zaviya Movement in Colombo as his father and grandfather before him were leading members of the Shazuliya Tareeka. Being a very devout and practising Mussalman he was often seen trudging for his daily prayers to the Mosque at Dematagoda. The Thakkiya at Dematagoda too was his favourite place of prayer and being desirous to live beside the mosque he purchased a property adjoining the mosque which is now proposed to be given to a Madrasa run by the mosque.
Being the founder of A. M. M. Rajabdeen, a sole proprietorship at that time he made his business, now a partnership together with his three sons under the name and style of A. M. M. Rajabdeen & Sons. Today it is upon this solid foundation that Rajabdeen & Sons Ltd stands which is now based at 192, Nawala Road, Colombo.

He inculcated the need to be honest, hardworking, dedicated and honourable in the trade and in our daily life. Amongst the merchant fraternity he was held in high esteem as a man of his word and having thus established his integrity and the leading banks of the day, Mercantile Bank Ltd., and National Bank of India spontaneously offered him facilities which he was graciously turned down due to the riba factor and often said that he could manage with his own finances. This religious outlook was the primary thing which resulted in the Blessings of Allah and the attendant success.

With all his fortunes earned single handedly he was of the utmost simplicity and never let conceit or haughtiness reside within him. He was the same person towards the end of his life as he was upon the beginning. He often quoted from various religious discourses “the trust of those under you, the orphans and young are inviolable”, “never to look down at the man who is walking when you are on horseback, for tomorrow the position may be reversed”, “Pay the workmen before the sweat from his brow dries up”, Success built upon trust will always stand the test of time and pride precedes a fall. How very true!

By example he taught us to care for the aged and elderly, righteousness, piety, simplicity and love for the relatives of both sides of the family, in this he was assisted in no small measure by his wife who was an epitome of grace, love, simplicity and a wonderfully devoted person to whom all her relatives were an integral part of her life and never ever differentiated between the rich or the poor.

As a father he was selflessly devoted to his children, being an only child he found love and comfort with all his children. Upon his advent to Mecca for Haj in the year 1960 he bequeathed the business to his sons without exception on an equal footing. Thus was his life manifested in the dispensation of the laws of Allah in the equal treatment of his sons. Never envious of the good fortune of others he wished for the children of others whatever he wished for his own. Lessons that have left an indelible impression on us all.

On January 14, 1970, he was laid to rest at the Maligawatte Muslim burial grounds amidst a large and diverse gathering, as a mark of respect the members of the Ceylon Hardware Merchants Association of which he was a founder member closed their establishments on this day.
May Allah in his infinite mercy grant him the highest abode in Jenna.

S. Rajabdeen

****

 APPRECIATION

Dr Breckenridge

His lectures were spellbinding

It is really saddening to imagine that ‘Dr Brek’ is no longer among the living. He represented many things and stood for many others but most of all was so approachable. A sort of ‘Pillar’ that was there, to comply with the many needs of his colleagues, friends and student population, be it a testimonial, certificate, some advice academic or otherwise or even just a few words of appreciation or encouragement. He never knew how to put on airs or make himself look pompous or important and remained his wonderful self right to the end.

Way back in 1968, when Dr Brek returned from Canada ‘Fresh & Crisp’ with his PhD, we were 2nd year undergrads in Peradeniya who were simply thrilled with his casual mannerisms and scholastic yet ‘boyish’ appearance. The manner in which he conducted himself through his lectures, kept us spellbound while all the animals he spoke of especially the Brittle stars and the tapeworms seemed to dance about in front of us.

Gradually we got to know him better and his subtle sense of humour and witty remarks were always a source of encouragement and gave us new vistas to the scientific world. I had the good fortune of working with him during my student days as well as later as we collaborated in a research paper on the nervous system of the ‘Common Garden Snail’. Those memories would run into pages! However, I was privileged to get a closer glimpse of a person with such simple and kindly ways, one who had a colossus of knowledge not only of his subject Zoology, but also in art, culture, music, drama and literature. He knew to appreciate the beauty of the universe, and wipe off the dust of unkindness and injustice without a ruffle.

As Dr Brek bows out of the world, would the curtain fall on an era of ‘Versatile University Dons’ I wonder. After retirement from the University of Peradeniya as Prof. and Head of Department of Zoology, he had a short stint as Principal, Trinity College, Kandy, his much loved Alma Mater.

As he spent the final lap of his life up, high up near the peak of Hantana, listening to the rustle of the hill tops in the light breeze and the songs of happy and carefree birds in the company of his wife, children, family and close friends he would have reminisced perhaps of all the blessings he received in different guises, and understood that life is ultimately nothing but loving, smiling and sharing.

Shall wind up with the following quote.....
“Life is eternal, and love is immortal. Yet death is only a horizon and a horizon is nothing but the limit of our sight.” - Rossiles Worthington
May his soul rest in peace!

Mrs. Delicia Tillekeratne

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