Eid a good time to con­sider ex­trem­ism and its lack of virtue

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OPINION - IMRAAN BUCCUS

TODAY and tomorrow, al­most 2.1 billion Mus­lims world­wide cel­e­brate Eid-ul-Fitr – a third from Africa – to mark the end of the month-long fast­ing of Ramadaan.

De­pend­ing on the sight­ing of the new moon that ush­ers in the Islamic lu­nar month of Shawaal, Mus­lims in South Africa cel­e­brate Eid today or tomorrow. Eid sig­ni­fies the end of Ramadaan, the month-long fast­ing pe­riod in which Mus­lims fast from dawn to dusk. The time is de­voted to in­creased prayer, char­ity and the avoid­ance of im­moral ac­tiv­i­ties.

The day of Eid starts early in the morn­ing, with prayer gath­er­ings at open grounds and at mosques across the coun­try. Af­ter­wards, fam­i­lies visit and em­brace each other, sig­ni­fy­ing unity and brother­hood. Gifts are ex­changed in a fes­tive mood. Then fam­i­lies sit down to en­joy a feast to­gether.

Over and above the nor­mal char­ity given in Ramadaan, Mus­lims have to en­sure the needy join in the cel­e­bra­tions. A spe­cial con­tri­bu­tion in cash or food parcels is col­lected by char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tions well in ad­vance and dis­trib­uted.

In Dur­ban, Mus­lim char­i­ta­ble bod­ies feed tens of thou­sands, Mus­lims and non-Mus­lims alike, on Eid day at sev­eral town­ships.

In all Mus­lim coun­tries, Eid is a three-day pub­lic hol­i­day. This in­cludes the Mus­lim-dominant coun­tries of North Africa, such as Egypt, Western Sa­hara, Tu­nisia, Al­ge­ria, Egypt and Morocco. In East and West Africa, pre­dom­i­nantly Islamic coun­tries which would ob­serve a three-day hol­i­day in­clude Dji­bouti, Su­dan, Gam­bia, Guinea, Mali, Mau­ri­ta­nia, Niger, Sene­gal, So­ma­lia and Zanz­ibar.

South Africa has a sig­nif­i­cant Mus­lim im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion. Ab­dulla Saeed, 27, from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo, said he had come to South Africa look­ing for a bet­ter life. He lives in Dur­ban and ekes out a liv­ing sell­ing cell­phone ac­ces­sories.

“I am look­ing for­ward to Eid, but it will also be sad be­cause I can­not spend this spe­cial time with my el­derly par­ents and the rest of my fam­ily. For­tu­nately, I have Con­golese Mus­lim friends here, which will help me cope with the lone­li­ness.”

This Ramadaan has been a painful time for Mus­lims. In Bagh­dad, 38 peo­ple were killed on the fourth day of Ramadaan. A day later, a bomb in Afghanistan killed 90 peo­ple and knife at­tacks in Lon­don claimed the lives of seven and wounded al­most 50.

On the day of Eid, Mus­lims will also re­flect on how the ex­trem­ist mad­ness needs to stop. Th­ese acts of wan­ton vi­o­lence and bar­barism are con­trary to the teach­ings of Is­lam.

Lead­ing South African Mus­lim schol­ars such as Dr Rashied Omar have re­minded us that re­li­gious ex­trem­ism has no virtue in Is­lam.

It is un­equiv­o­cally con­demned by the Prophet of Is­lam (Peace be upon Him), who is re­ported, in a tra­di­tion, to have de­clared thrice: “The ex­trem­ists shall per­ish.”

It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that only a tiny mi­nor­ity of Mus­lims in the world are ex­trem­ists.

Ex­trem­ism grew in re­sponse to the US in­va­sion of Iraq and Afghanistan and the bru­tal­ity of th­ese armies in Mus­lim coun­tries. All this points us to a need for an un­der­stand­ing of Is­lam, per­haps a “pro­gres­sive Is­lam”, in which ex­trem­ism has no place.

The over­whelm­ing num­ber of victims in the ter­ror at­tacks dur­ing Ramadaan were Mus­lims. The over­whelm­ingly ma­jor­ity of Mus­lims re­ject ex­trem­ism and con­trib­ute in mean­ing­ful ways to the so­ci­eties in which they live.

Key to their un­der­stand­ing is the recog­ni­tion that they live in a plu­ral con­text and that har­mo­nious co-ex­is­tence, de­spite the world’s com­plex di­ver­sity, is pos­si­ble. While en­joy­ing the fes­tiv­i­ties of Eid, this re­flec­tion will be im­por­tant.

Buccus is a se­nior re­search as­so­ciate at the Auwal So­cioE­co­nomic Re­search In­sti­tute, a re­search fel­low in UKZN’s School of Sci­ences and the aca­demic di­rec­tor of a univer­sity study abroad pro­gramme on po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion.

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