[In Christendom and elsewhere, the nearest equivalent to ‘7th Heaven’ would be ‘Cloud Nine:’ the highest Heaven portrayed in ‘Dante’s Paradise’ by Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). Its inhabitants were most blissful, being nearest to God! But, no matter...].
For me, what matter are the messages conveyed in the articles regarding the 2012 Easter Festival... And, rightly so, too — from the timing: that day was ‘Easter Sunday!’ The leader (pg4) called for ‘tranquility to reign during Easter.’
On a balance of probabilities, that’s what happened... Apart from the deaths of three-or-four retired top brass military and police officers — and Steven Kanumba, an entertainer who rose from Zero to Hero, only to die at the tender age of 28 — there wasn’t much of civil or other strife across the country that seriously endangered life, limb or property during the setimental Easter festivities!
On pg5, columnists Amby Lusekelo and Tony Zakaria (named strictly in alphabetical order, not on any other merit!) held sway, penning pieces on the Easter. Amby wished us all a ‘Happy Easter’ — noting that it’s well-deserved after 40 Lent days (and nights) of fasting, meditation and penitence counting from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Fair enough... But, what caught my interest the most was Tony Zakaria’s piece, titled ‘Muslims, Christians clash despite common God and Prophets.’ Boy!
“Islam’s Prophet Muhammad recognized Christians as one of the ‘People of the Book,’” Tony noted. “He respected and assured them the freedom to practise their faith under Islamic law. When a large delegation of Christians from Najran visited the Prophet in Medina, it stayed at his Mosque...” Not only that. The Prophet also put his Mosque at the disposal of the Christians to conduct their religious services — instead of them having to trek out to Churches elsewhere! So far, so good.
At first take, this’d seem odd: the Number One Muslim of All Time having Christians trampling all over his Mosque performing Christian chants and other rituals? Tony ‘admits’ that he has “trouble picturing a modern-day (Muslim) Sheikh offering Christian evangelicals the use of his Mosque for an Easter Crusade.
As it happens, what Prophet Muhammad did more than a millennium ago is being replicated in some parts of the world even today. I’ve a living example of this. A Mosque in Sacramento, USA, “broke religious barriers when, for the first time, it allowed a Christian congregation inside to hold Easter Services. The (Christian) Spiritual Life Centre lost its lease in early April, leaving its parishioners without a place to worship for Easter.
That was when the (Muslim) Salam Community Centre on College Oak Drive offered its mosque to the Christian church…!” [CBS13: April 8, 2012]. That was on Easter Sunday, the same day I read Tony’s article in the Sunday News! ‘Traditionally, non-Muslim churches aren’t allowed to hold meetings inside mosques,’ the Sacramento report pontificates. But then, traditions are there to be broken for the sake of progress… As the Mosque’s spokesman Adnan Syed said, “people came from all over the place to witness this one-of-a-kind event. And we’re happy to be a part of it…!
“This has happened in a lot of Mosques up and down the country for many years; it just hasn’t made news. I guess ‘nice Muslims’ just don’t make headlines!” Another commentator simply said: “bravo; a church or mosque’s just a building; God’s in your heart!” Can we then say this sort of thing doesn’t happen in places like Tanzania and Africa, where organized ‘Western’ religion’s still alien, having been ‘imported’ two centuries ago by derring-do Missionaries with indeterminate motives?
I don’t know! In his letter of 628CE to Christian monks, Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah formally recognized Christians as “my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. Muslims’re to fight for them. Their churches’re to be respected. They’re neither to be prevented from repairing them, nor the sacredness of their covenants. No-one is to destroy or damage a house of their religion, or to carry anything from it to Muslim houses.
If a female Christian marries a Muslim, it isn’t to take place without her approval. She’s not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray...” [Source: The Greek Orthodox Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai]. Oh, there’s a lot of similar sentiments elsewhere in the public domain, including the Internet… For example, go to the Fethullah Gülen website (<fgulen.com>) for ‘Muslim-Christian Relations: Reinventing the Common Ground to Sustain Peaceful Coexistence in the Global Era…’ That’s the politics of religion for you... Cheers!