ALL is well that ends well. That is an expression that I am delighted to apply not long after the climax of the Holy Month of Ramadan, the highlight of which is a month long dawn-to-dusk fasting by the Islamic faithful.
Up to when I was penning down these thoughts, I hadn’t heard of nasty incidents related directly to the revered ‘mfungo’ period. That’s something to immensely thank the Almighty God for, since the tranquil atmosphere that prevails in Tanzania during and beyond major religious events isn’t replicated in much of the rest of the world.
Peace-wise, we, Tanzanians, are in the top league of the Creator’s most pampered creations. During the latest Ramadan, as was the case in several previous ones, I bore witness to many non-Muslims relaying ‘mfungomwema’ (best fasting season wishes) to their relatives and friends who subscribe to the religion that is among the world’s leading and highly respected.
Among my sweetest boyhood recollections are the highly delicious meals that my siblings and I savoured in the Bukoba town residence of our very loving maternal grandmother. On many fasting seasons over the years, I have both eagerly looked forward to, and immensely enjoyed sipping the sweet, scented porridge offered by workstation colleagues and residential neighbours.
That, itself, demonstrates the cross-cutting nature of Islam; of hosting some family members and acquaintances who are associated with other faiths. The climax, Idd-el-Fitr, is characterised, in considerably big measure, by merry-making in which the participation of very excited non-Muslims is considerable.
On the fasting aspect, I know of Christian friends who regularly fast in an informal context during Ramadan. It is either in solidarity with Muslims with whom they are closely endeared, or out of the realisation upon experimenting with the process, that it is pretty much energising.
On that account, the bit about Islam being a religion anchored on cultivating and consolidating peace, is manifested in part by uplifting the spirits of non-Muslims who join them in the fast as well as fast-breaking.
This reminds us that whereas religions differ on some spiritual aspects, they are primarily geared at fortifying solidarity amongst God’s children. It is extremely sad, though, that peaceful co-existence amongst subscribers to different religions isn’t all-round.
To return to my ‘All is well that ends well’ opener, I was deeply horrified by a news item highlighted on an international television channel during the latest ‘mfungo’. In a certain middle eastern country, security personnel moved around a residential neighbourhood at midnight, loudly issuing warnings through loud hailers, that those who would disturb the peace of neighbours seeking sound sleep, would be sanctioned.
The ‘disturbance’ in question was the drumbeats sounded by groups of Islamic faithful who moved around to awaken fellow worshippers, to get set for eating ‘daku’, as a pre-dawn curtain raiser for the fasting process.
It struck me as absolutely heartless for one group of people in a community to get worked up over the sound of drumbeats that aren’t even ear-splitting, which are associated with a religion with which their neighbours are linked!
But worse, to threaten the presumed noise-makers with punishment that could probably include fines or imprisonment. That scenario smacks of hostile neighbourliness as the antithesis of good neighbourliness !
Mercifully, we are spared of such inhumane tendencies. In times delightful and sad, represented by marriages and funerals, for instance, neighbours join forces as a participatory family. No given spiritual constituency mocks another, but assigns it, instead, utmost respect.
We have a situation, moreover, especially in urban centres, whereby neighbourhood-sharing Muslims and Christians are terrorised by near all-night-long music from non-sound proof night clubs. It would thus be unfair for a Christian to brand as noise polluters, drummer boys on a month-long; once-a-year dakuannouncement rounds.
The same would apply to a Muslim who would feel agitated by occasional Christian prayer (mkesha) sessions in the neighbourhood. As I sketched earlier, Tanzanians are a generally peace-cherishing people who are conscious that they would be the losers if they were to wreck it.
But so long as some of our compatriots are a disruptive lot, the peace-consolidation; antipeace wrecking campaign must be sustained. Factored there-in was the recent call in Dar es Salaam by President John Magufuli, to avoid mixing politics with religion.
The mixture is for energising presumably hidden but in reality naked opportunistic agendas.