Published: 334 days ago
" Canadian Muslims, like their brethren the world over, are welcoming Ramadan with awe, gratitude and heavy hearts. Preparations for Ramadan have been in full swing. Imams and scholars have emphasized its sanctity. Stores have stocked up supplies. The welcome mat is out for Ramadan.
By Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan
Canadian Muslims, like their brethren the world over, are welcoming Ramadan with awe, gratitude and heavy hearts.
They are overjoyed that in the sacred month the doors of mercy and forgiveness will swing open and man will get a chance to harvest a bounty of blessings from His Creator.
They'll thank the Creator for His favors. One of them is that Muslims enjoy peace, security, relative prosperity, freedom, democracy and harmony with their fellow Canadians.
They gather in their mosques and homes and live without fear. They don't worry about their safety. They know that their governments and most of their neighbors, co-workers and countrymen respect their beliefs.
They also don't lose sleep about their next meal. While there is hunger in Canada, most Canadians are able to feed their families.
Preparations for Ramadan have been in full swing. Imams and scholars have emphasized its sanctity. Stores have stocked up supplies. The welcome mat is out for Ramadan.
There was a time when Ramadan was low-key. It was in 1854 that Canada's first Muslim child was born -- of Scottish parents. Nearly a century later, in 1938, Canada's first mosque was built in Edmonton, Alberta.
When we came to Ottawa in 1965, the nation's capital had no mosque, Friday prayers or taraveeh in congregation. Muslims numbered just a few. On special occasions we prayed in churches, embassies or rented halls. We bought kosher meat because no one sold halal meat.
Now the prime minister (often) sends greetings to Canada's one million Muslims. The capital city has a half a dozen mosques, including those being built. People also pray in work places, schools and other areas. When I worked in an open office in government my superiors provided screens to enable me to pray in privacy.
You can buy almost anything now, from Saudi Arabia's Al-Shifa honey -- my favorite -- to Saudi dates, sweets, samosas, pakoras, clothing, books and disks. You can enjoy radio or TV programs and even follow the taraweeh prayers in Mecca. We are truly blessed in Canada.
But when Muslims numbered only a few in Ottawa some decades ago it was a beautiful community too.
Everybody knew everybody else, life moved at a gentle pace and we were a close family.
Now the community is much bigger, but divided. They sometimes start fasting or celebrate Eid on different days in the same city creating disruption and confusion.
The youth of yesterday are now senior citizens, or are gone. Their children are struggling in an increasingly competitive world. A few have no interest in religion while some have turned to drugs, violence, alcohol or extremism that flouts Islam's teachings in the name of Islam itself. In Ottawa's detention centre a third of the detainees are Muslims, though Muslims number 65,000 to 75,000 in a population of roughly 800,000.
Muslims are building mosques and organizations. But they are unwilling to work together constructively, patiently and with wisdom to effectively serve their community and their country.
Islamophobia looms over their lives. It intrudes a bit in relationships, job search, and even in academic institutions. Just recently a Muslim girl in Quebec was ousted from a soccer team because she wears the hijab. Though some media are fair, much of the media promotes distortion and falsehoods against Muslims and Islam, including by people who claim to be Muslims.
Some Muslims also assume that they have to be regular in prayers, charity, and good deeds in Ramadan only. They forget that Ramadan, however sacred, is just a month. The teachings of the Creator and His prophets remain compelling throughout life and are not confined just to Ramadan.
Muslims during Ramadan are also saddened by events abroad. These days their hearts are bleeding over the terror unleashed on the Syrian people by their own government. Gaza, the West Bank, Kashmir, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Iran, Bahrain, Sudan, Somalia, Chechnya, Burma and some other areas also sadden Canadian Muslims. Brutal repression, suicide bombings, killings or persecution of innocent people of any faith defy Islamic teachings and lessen our humanity.
So Muslims here will pray not only for themselves but for justice, freedom, prosperity, dignity and equality for all people, wherever they are. They will remember that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent as a mercy to all living beings and that the Creator loves all those whom He created.
My thoughts also turn to my childhood when I lived in Bhopal, India. My parents were devout Muslims. We prayed and fasted. But my father said that we must also look after the poor, neighbors and relatives, that we have to be honest and hard-working, that we have to be optimistic, pleasant, constructive and compassionate.
I had Christian, Hindu and Muslim teachers and servants. We respected each other and recognized that whatever our differences we were created by the same loving God and were one family.
That was true in Bhopal before Partition. It remains true in Canada today.
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian newspaperman, civil servant, refugee judge and community activist. He has received the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal (on June 18) and the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal as well as awards from local and national Muslim organizations for his work as a journalist, leadership of Muslims in Ottawa and promoting better understanding between Canadians of different backgrounds.
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