Welcoming Ramadan in the West Indies:
Some Ideas and Practices
Drs. Firdaus and Judy Kamalodeen
Muslims in other countries are welcome to use our ideas to convey the message of Islam to the rest of the world.
Everyone everywhere is preparing to welcome Ramadan 1437 (2016). And everyone is doing it their own way.
Excitement and expectation fill the world.
In Trinidad, West Indies, we do it the Trini Way: our own very special way of saying “Welcome!” to this most noble and blessed month of Ramadan 1437-2016 that God Almighty sends down every year to fill his earth with mercy and love.
Now who in the world has not heard of the West Indies? Especially those whose hearts are filled with the love of the sport of cricket?
How the love of sports relates to the love of God, we do not know. Maybe it is all part of the same general equation of love for God on the one hand and love for the creation of God on the other hand that God Almighty has planted in the hearts of so many of the followers of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
As for Trinidad, who among cricket lovers –around the world has not seen or heard of those towering sixes rain down from the sky in the World T20 Cricket Final against England in Kolkata, India? It is fair to say that in each of those towering sixes that filled the final over, the ball seemed to fly skywards in all directions and almost never really seemed to return to the field?
Needless to say those sixes sent a stunned England Captain Ben Stokes and his team of Englishmen pulped and packing, after they had, and everyone else had, expected to win and clinch the trophy.
But that, in a sense, is West Indies for you. And that also is Trinidad – a place and people that do things their own way. A most beautiful place on God’s most beautiful earth.
Allah has blessed this land with Islam – and a Muslim presence that dates back who knows how far back in history.
So, here, in no particular order, are some of the items on our Ramadan Agenda for Trinidad – and for the rest of the world: a summary of tasks to keep the focus on Ramadan and role and duty of Muslims vis-à-vis Islam as it were.
Heading the list is our ongoing concern with printed media material to support our book distribution and display efforts.
Some of the suggestions that came up in our meetings are here.
We in Trinidad always do things the democratic way, which means endless meetings and discussions, a bad habit we picked up from our British Colonial past. And, frankly, how we wish the rest of the Muslim world would share the blessings of democracy, debate and meetings with us, even though most Muslims somehow seem to share with us the pain of a fairly brutal Colonial past.
So some of the suggestions are:
- Setting up portable Book stands and portable shelving.
- Setting up mobile poster stands.
- Setting up retractable banner stands.
- Setting up six-foot printed banners and signage.
Let us at this stage be clear in our mind that we need to keep “Items for Discussion” distinct and separate from “Items for Action and Implementation.”
With regard to Action Items, we will have to discuss them further and agree on when and how to pursue them in practice.
(A) We are busily working on setting up the Twitter Account for IslamicSolutions.Com. May Allah help us and make it easy for us.
(B) Alhamdulillah, we were able to have a Qur’an Reading Session at our colleagues’ home. This program was no different from our standard Qur’an Camps, except that it was of a shorter duration – two hours or so.
We tried this “Qur’an Reading” formula in order to gain access to “new” people locally who are more familiar with this terminology, as it is quite commonly used by local Muslims.
Muslims in Trinidad are like Muslims everywhere else. They are basically “Muslim” – and like all or most other Muslims around the world, they are quite busily occupied these days doing all the things that Muslims do. That means there are lots of different activities to which Muslims of Trinidad have a greater loyalty.
And a lot of those come down to this: All sorts of excuses are used to not attend programs that have the word “Qur’an” attached to their name. That more or less is the long and short of the story.
But part of the problem is indeed the multitude of cultural, fundraising and entertainment activities that mainly serve to distract from our programs. One can come up with myriad things to account for what is happening with the Muslim community locally. But it seems clear that a lot of it is some kind of a direct or indirect attempt to nullify or impede the Qur’an Campaign.
“Anything-but-Qur’an” is how it all seems to work. In that regard, nothing seems to have changed over the years. Or should we say, over decades and centuries, if we want to include in this the general Muslim Community around the world.
But we must not be disheartened; nor should we become frustrated. That does not help. And it does not behoove a Believer.
Let us not forget that this is still Allah’s world. And Allah runs it how he wants.
And the work we are doing, the work of inviting people to Allah – the work of taking the Qur’an to every home and hear that needs it – is not really about “Them” – about other people.
This work is about “Us” – each one of us.
So, every moment we need to be fully mindful of what we do, how we do it and the frequency with which we do it.
And, at the same time, let us not take our eyes off our motives and intentions. Because they are the key to the whole thing.
Just like the Hadith notes:
Innamal A’maalu Binniyyaat!
So, while it may appear that others are not rushing to join our work in droves, each one of us needs to be very, very grateful that we have been selected by God – such as we are – to be part of his work.
And through all these ups and downs, our job remains the same: Getting our literature out to as many people as we can.
So let me return to Item C in this list.
(C) At our meeting yesterday, we discussed the following for Ramadan:
- Reaching out and literature distribution to the general public through Weekly Mall Visits.
- Sending letters to the editors of the dailies asking them to publish selected Ramadan messages from islamicSolutions.com.
- Sending letters to Radio and Television Stations asking them to broadcast selected Ramadan messages from islamicSolutions.com.
- Taking up the offer made by The National Library to speak at the function they are holding and to organize a display of our literature on their premises.
- Actively promoting “World Day of Fasting” at all events locally and nationally, including arranging for paid advertorial to be done if necessary.
- Use of Social Media to promote the “World Day of Fasting.”
- Arranging for “Eid Mubarak” Sweets Distribution to the general public – Muslim and non-Muslim – at the various malls around the nation after Eid-ul-Fitr prayers.
We need to keep our focus on these tasks.
At the same time, we also need to start mobilizing all those people who have been associated with us in the past in one form or another to get them to assist us in getting these things done.
(D) We are going to say that Ramadan is a time of heightened consciousness, among both Muslims and non-Muslims. That means we must plan a course of action for reaching out to as many people – both Muslim and non-Muslim – as we can during this period.
Here are some more ideas for us to discuss and to implement in this regard:
- Should we be creating a Ramadan window or page or box or whatever on the home screen of IslamicSolutions.com and bring forward all Ramadan-related articles and quotes that Dr. Pasha has done over the years – followed by material concerning Reading the Qur’an, Zakah and Eid?
- Should we adopt a similar approach for our new Facebook Page and Twitter Account?
Until a few years ago, all we had available to us as English speakers, was translations of books written originally in Arabic or Urdu, and written decades or even centuries ago, and many of them not even very good translations at that.
Only recently, I – meaning Firdaus – prayed Salaatul Jum'ah at Regents Street Masjid in Central London and visited their bookshop. There, I saw a lot of English books: a large majority of them translations. Almost nothing but translations, I am tempted to say.
It seems more and more translations are being done these days, as the need for English literature on Islam continues to grow.
Allah bless Dr. Pasha and his family, as he stepped forwarded at this critical juncture and proceeded to provide us with material written for and to us, and especially in the English language to which “most” of the world adopts today.
It is English literature written in English language with the main purpose of meeting the needs of native English speakers in the West, and elsewhere around the world.
Our job now is to use this material that Dr. Pasha has produced and try to give access to it to as many people around the world as possible, using all available means and methods.
So even as we target book distribution efforts locally and internationally, website development, Facebook page, Twitter account, one-on-one reaching out, study circles, and all that, the question that should always be active in our minds is how do we marshal the material to teach and train others. Or do we just hope that exposure to the material would be enough all by itself?
We have been reviewing the content of IslamicSolutions.com and it would seem to us that we have material there for several courses to teach and a host of ideas on how to train people about Islam and about being Muslim. However, because of the sheer volume of the material that is out there, there may be times when we may feel overwhelmed.
So should we be thinking of creating online courses on Islam and on being Muslim by grouping articles and quotes and audio and other material from IslamicSolutions.Com to teach and train people systematically?
The perennial refrain from people when you try to contact and motivate them to attend our study circles, camps and other programs is that the timing is inconvenient for them. So should we now make “online courses” available on our website?
While these courses will be free of charge, it is only natural to expect participants to do the following:
- Register for whatever course that may be available at the time.
- Read the selected material.
- Provide feedback on the selected material through traditional evaluation methods or others which we could develop eventually.
- Undertake and complete all “projects” and “practicals” associated with the courses in a timely fashion.
- And do whatever else is developed down the road as part of the requirements of these courses.
Other details on logistics and operations will obviously have to be developed, but these courses can be interactive, and this way we will be able to interact with the participants on a regular basis.
We have among us people with tremendous experience in teaching. We also have several university professors. These individuals can work together to do this job – in addition, of course, to the myriad things they are currently doing. We are, of course, by no means excluding ourselves from this work. We are in – as much as anyone else, and hopefully, Inshallah, before anyone else.
In terms of “curriculum,” we could start with the “curriculum” which Dr. Pasha has outlined previously for our study circles. What we seek to do presently is to “sort" the material to be used in these courses and group it in a systematic manner.
Courses can include:
(a) Introduction to Islam. In this, we look at the contents of “Islam a Quick Introduction” and we group articles and audio clips related to each subheading.
(b) Still Working for Allah. We already have a book by Dr. Pasha for this. We supplement with other articles that Dr. Pasha has done since this book.
(c) Islam, Muslims and the World: - I, II, III etc. In this course, we would build on the Introduction to Islam course and address further details on the state of the world and the role and place of Muslims.
In this regard, Islam New Frontiers and Quote-Unquote come to mind. But we will have to group them in “doses” as it were, and somewhat on a “thematic” basis maybe?
The world is changing rapidly through the use of technology and while our mission and job – “Taking the Qur’an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It” – remains unchanged, and will never change, we have to constantly review our methods and approaches and see how we could broaden and deepen our reach.
Hopefully, the ideas we have expressed above will help.