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Love and Light

Region 1 - Brixton Eid-ul-Fitr Celebration

On the 11th of August, the Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Brixton celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr. On that day, we were very blessed to be joined by around half-a-dozen of our Muslim brothers and sisters from the Hyderi Islamic School, a local madrassah (Islamic school), who were present throughout all the proceedings.

We started our group devotional singing as per normal with our multi-faith prayers, including al-Faatihah, the first verse of the Holy Koran in which we both praise God and ask him for His guidance on the right path.

We all sang multi-faith devotional songs, all referring to the name of Allah; and throughout felt Swaami's presence as well. Only recently, our Centre had introduced a system whereby all songs to be sung are decided in advance and listed on a board, with books available for all to follow if needed. We felt that Swaami had waited until we had introduced this so that we were then truly ready to welcome any visitors, for indeed our dear guests sat through the whole programme and were able to follow all the devotional songs using the books provided.

Following the aartee, we had the pleasure from two preachers from the madrassah. The first, Sister Rummana Kazmi, talked about the unity of faiths and how Islamic teachings on love and peace were similar to those in the Bhagavad Geetaa and the Mahaabhaarat. She also addressed the matter of the wearing of the headscarf by women and whether this was oppressive to women. She explained that wearing a headscarf signified both modesty and self-respect. She made the very astute observation that, in modern Western society, men are considered well-dressed when fully-clothed in elegant suits; whereas women are considered glamorous when wearing next-to-nothing! Considering the headscarf to be oppressive is therefore the opinion of a society that has its morals out of balance. She also made the point that Muslim men are – for their part – instructed to lower their gazes when encountering women; hearing this, we recalled how Swami instructed His students to do the same. There is therefore a responsibility on both genders to behave in an appropriate manner.

Sister Rummana also raised the subject of jihaad. Although a commonly-used term, it was not well understood: she explained the word means “struggle” and, here, the struggle is really an internal, spiritual one, not a “holy war”.

The second speaker, Dr. Muhammad Zakaria, talked about the spiritual side of Islam, narrating his own personal experience and what it means to him. There was a lot of overlap with what Swaami teaches us about respecting and loving everybody: he actually said if you are a Muslim, you should be a better Muslim; if you are a Hindu, you should be a better Hindu. Listening to him made us feel like we were listening to Swami Himself.

Afterwards, they were both very happy to answer any questions we had. One of the questions was why Muslim men are apparently allowed to have four wives. The answer was that Islam was founded in Arabia, at a time when the prevailing culture already allowed men to have a number of wives. Therefore, Prophet Mohammed allowed Muslim men to continue having four wives, in keeping with this culture, provided that there is justice. As was pointed out, it is often the case that true justice is difficult enough to exercise whilst having one wife, let alone four! Thus, whilst ostensibly having four wives is allowed, the reality is much different.

We also learned from Dr Zakaria that a shrine to Guru Naanak exists in Iraq, near one to Prophet Mohammed, showing that all religions are one. And, as Swaami says, there is only one religion, the religion of love.

After this, consecrated food was distributed. All were very happy to have been present to talk about Islam and witness the unity of faiths in action. Sister Rummana even took away a copy of our Centre’s devotional singing programme, containing all the prayers we regularly recite from various major world faiths.

We were truly blessed on that day, as we felt the happiness of sharing and love amongst everybody. The fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man were felt to be a reality during what was a very special and memorable programme.

Aum Jai Sai Ram