opinionBy Jaffar Mjasiri
YOU might be wondering what festivities are ahead, when you see decorations and special lights on the streets and buildings in some streets of Dar es Salaam and other regions for nearly a month now.
Today is Maulid Day. Tanzanian Muslims joined their brethren from around the world to celebrate the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). According to the National Muslim Council of Tanzania (Bakwata), tonight the Maulid celebrations will be held in Kilosa district, Morogoro region.
Muslim historians wrote that Mohammad (PBUH) was born in Mecca in 570. The year which the Prophet was born is known as the year of the Elephant, in which Mecca was miraculously saved from a fleet of elephants who were going to attack it. Now painting a picture of this year's celebrations, we have seen several Islamic organizations, as well as individuals in the country, spending hours at late night in the streets to try and decorate the cities, so as to make an impression of the importance of this birthday.
For example, for nearly two months now Muslims in Dar es Salaam had mobilized themselves to put flags in all the city centre streets in commemoration of the Prophet's birthday. This is not an easy task so to say. It requires some resources and dedication to go about it.
Most of these activities to decorate the city were taking place after midnight to avoid traffic movement. The idea of decorating the city is based on the philosophy of beautifying the environment, or in today's expression decoration, to give the cities a facelift from a visual point of view. They also decorate the city to convey the dearest love for the Prophet.
But it is not easy for the majority of the residents of Dar to realize how strenuous this activity is, when they wake up in the morning only to find a new perspective and looks of the city, where every inch you go there is a green flag inscribed in it the holy Quran and accolades for the prophet flying high above the poles. Also the number of building are decorated with twinkling lights that keep reminding the faithful on the importance of the day Muhammad (PBUH) was born.
Even those who want to indulge in vices when they look at the lights and flags bearing the name of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the divine message he carried to humankind, are reminded to abstain from all forms of religious violations. We believe those who defy the highest orders by committing any kind of vices just do it in arrogance, but the message is clear that compliance is inevitable.
There is also a very interesting move by some Muslims who use their savings collected throughout the year to help destitute, orphans and the needy. Speaking to some community members who participate in charity work during the Islamic festivities such as Maulid, Hassan Juma, who hails in Kariakoo told me that it was very helpful to have these special days designated for mankind. It is possible through the remembrance of Allah that people can reflect on humankind and think in terms of pleasing Allah.
For example, Aisha Mahmoud of Kurasini told me that when she starts seeing the flags and decorations on various buildings in downtown it sends a clear message that she should allocate part of her income for the marginalized groups. "If I did not have this wakeup call that the time for remembrance of the Holy prophet is around the corner I would be taken by surprise," she said.
I remember the common expression in the developed world where people talk of gifts as a thought rather than the gift itself.
It is clear that always the thought behind the gift draws a person's attention, that in-due-course creates an ever lasting impression to its recipient. When in this week I was reading about the importance of charity, especially in this month of commemorating the birth of the prophet, I was able to reflect on the work of charity that is done by the members of Muslim community. I started looking at the decorations and went further to establish what is beyond. It did not take me too much time to establish that the people who decorate our streets for Maulid celebrations also embark on extensive feeding the poor programmes in the city.
All this is done in an informal setting. As defined in the Islamic virtue school of thought, it is all about the various ways, big and small, people give back to their communities. Distilled to its most basic form, one wishes that the sort of human kindness we herald would come naturally, like breathing or yawning, but we understand how difficult it can be to give a damn. If caring about the poor, destitute and orphans were easy, there wouldn't be an entire nonprofit sector designed to winning your money and consideration.
I think it was worth reminding those who are not ready to succumb even in these festivals to give in charity to consider that selfishness is what they suffer from. Owing to this internal struggle between selflessness and selfishness, we would recommend that everyone of us should help his brother or sister to snap him or her out of the selfish habits into which we all sometimes fall prey.
The Maulid commemoration should be a moment of reforming and redemption to make you a great Muslim who will be exemplary to other citizens in the course of giving in charity. Each month, we can adjust to doing a different task in our role as representatives of Allah on this earth. It could be something as simple as feeding street kids, orphans, destitute and the poor. But if one can remember the birthday of the prophet as a launching pad for humanitarian course, he or she will not stop there.
What if a person has Zakat or Alms which he or she is duty bound to distribute to the poor, how can he or she make a difference.
I think it can start by supporting poor people who we can establish that they are talented to do some business. We could give them capital so that they can create an activity to generate some income.
Some of these women and men in the street have genuine concerns and supporting them will be in fulfilling our role as viceroys. If Maulid has impact in our lives we will go beyond just uttering those praises to prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and make enormous contributions to humankind to reflect the teachings of the prophet in relation to compassion to human beings.