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To the Creator and the elderly

Building-BridgesA scholar of Islam visiting Barbados last week made it a point to go on his Facebook page to express his intense pleasure at what he has experienced here. Titled No Islamophobia In Barbados, he noted the hospitality not only of the Barbadian Muslims, but Barbadians of all walks of life.

He highly complimented Barbadians for their kindness, welcoming nature and willingness to engage in conversation.

His Facebook video post on Barbados has had over 32,000 views and over 800 shares to date. It has also attracted many positive comments from persons of all backgrounds supporting his review of Barbados.

Shaykh Hasan Ali is from North London and runs the Safar Academy there. The website of the academy gives an insight into what the institution is all about.

Noteworthy are the goals outlined on the website: “Safar Academy aims to provide a robust and comprehensive syllabus and teacher training programme that incorporates vital areas that children of all ages need to learn in order to equip them with the necessary knowledge to be model citizens, who have a deep rooted sense of faith and belief, guided by the Quran and Sunnah (teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him).

“Safar Academy not only teaches students their religion, but teaches them to live harmoniously in society. Embedded in the curriculum are the virtues of tolerance and respect for others (whether Muslim or non-Muslim), playing an active role in the community and promoting values of model citizens such as individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

“We teach students to be upright and distinguish right from wrong and to respect the law. We encourage students to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative and to understand how they can contribute positively to the lives of others in the community and society as a whole.”

It is important that insights into such institutions are highlighted because oft-times much suspicion is thrown on places that teach Islam. This suspicion is driven by a narrative that Islamic institutions have a curriculum that is counterproductive to many of the modern societies.

Shaykh Hasan Ali was in Barbados as a guest of the Al Falah School. In his discourses over the week he was here, he reminded listeners of their important role and place in the society in which they lived and the need to give back to the community. He also advised each and every one to ensure they constantly strove to rectify their own personal self.  The human being, he said, had the capacity to do good or do evil, and that this was a constant struggle in each and every person. If we give in to our base desires or our emotions, we run the risk of doing some extraordinary acts of unkindness and hatred.

If, on the other hand, we seek always to cultivate a stable mind, shunning evil thoughts, deeds and mannerisms, we will be on the right track to success. Having such positive characteristics only augurs well for the wider society.

Over the last few weeks, our society was riveted by some horrible revelations of abuse of the elderly. A video that went viral told the whole story. One would hope this is the exception rather than the rule. But it certainly opens up to the wider society the disgraceful and inhumane side of some human beings who give in to their evil character. Every sane human has the capacity to do good or
to do wrong. Inevitably, we choose which side we want.

If we incline towards wrong, then society, through its laws or its norms and practices, must ensure such actions are stopped or curtailed. Not recognizing you have done wrong is also very serious, for now such an individual has closed the door to rectification.

There are some practices which our society will tolerate and some we must never ever accept. Abuse of the elderly is one we must never ever accept –– whether this abuse is in the form we witnessed on that video, or is in the minor acts so many people tend to carry out when they have to deal with older folks.

Kindness and patience must be the hallmarks of dealing with older people. We have to strive hard to do so, regardless of whether we are inclined to do otherwise.

The visiting scholar of Islam reminded his audience at the mosque in Fontabelle last Thursday evening of a verse from the Quran that links obedience to the Creator and the treatment of older people:

And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them
[so much as] “uff”, and do not repel them, but speak to them a noble word.

Social media certainly brings a lot of the ugliness to the surface. It makes us aware of things happening, which perhaps have been around for a long time but were hidden away. Our response must not only be abhorrence, but a passionate and strong desire to correct the culture and attitude that makes such practices possible.

It must be for us, the viewers, the catalyst to cause us to speak and act to make our society free of such behaviour.

The more recent outrage to a piece carried in a gossip column in another media that seemingly sanctioned rape and ultimately caused that well-known media house to apologize is evidence of the power of people to effect responsible behaviour and character. We must see that potential in all of us in all forms and for all noble and just causes.    

(Suleiman Bulbulia, a Justice of the Peace, is secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI.

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