Verily, until we change our own selves
Today is the 8th of Ramadan and the first week of 1998. I hope and pray that this will be a blessed month for all of us. I also pray that the year 1998 will see the realization of some of our dreams.
But how can our dreams and goals be realized if we do not change ourselves? God says: "He will not change a nation unless they change themselves."
And this is particularly true of our people and their actions in Ramadan. Instead of taking the example of the holy Prophet Muhammad who was the most active of men in Ramadan we have become the laziest of people during this month. Our beloved prophet (peace be upon him) said: Fasting is a shield. It safeguards one from temptations of every kind, cleansing the soul in a way which no other form of worship can. During this month our young people should try to understand our religion in its proper perspective; they should not while away their valuable time in idleness.
I will be very frank and, no doubt, some will be angry at my statements, but I have never been afraid to tell an ogre that his eyes are red.
In Ramadan, the blessed month of fasting the spiritual renewal, night has become day and day has become night. You enter an office well after the start of work and you see sleepy, yawning employees strolling in. You ask them to help you and they glare at you. They ask you to come the next day despite your file's being before them. A friend of mine swears that he once went to process some papers a few years ago and found the employee sleeping under his desk. It was 2:00 in the afternoon.
I myself once phoned 905 (Directory Information) to get a telephone number. The operator remarked cynically over the phone: "Are you fasting?" I replied: "Yes; but there are still 39 minutes to go before Iftar". Apparently I disturbed his "siesta."
Then of course there are those who lose their tempers and blame it on Ramadan. "He is fasting", said a colleague once, about someone who become upset when asked why the job was not completed. "He is fasting" is not a reason for anger or intolerance. It should be the opposite.
It pains me as a Muslim to narrate all this but I am sure many readers have similar or even worse experiences to tell. It is good to talk about them so that we can highlight it and bring the point home that the month of Ramadan is one of worship and work. That is what we have to teach our society.
It is no surprise that President Nelson Mandela's job as head of the African National Congress has gone to Deputy President Thabo Mbeki. We must be prepared for surprises when the suave and secretive Mbeki begins to assert himself more than he has done so far, perhaps even showing a more dictatorial style than Mandela's.
In another development, snatching a publicity victory from the jaws of certain political defeat, Winnie Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela, withdrew from the race for the deputy presidency of the African National Congress (ANC), to the delight and relief of thousands of party members at their 50th national conference held last month.
In 1999, Mbeki is due to take over from Mandela as head of state. He will have difficult and challenging work to do, completing the job of changing South Africa's society which Mandela has only started. For the moment, Mbeki remains in the background and is even uneasy in the limelight, but that will change once he is at the center of the stage.
Whether Mbeki will sustain the democratic freedoms while carrying out tough reforms, or just holding the country together, is still to be seen.
In his retirement speech at the ANC sessions, Mandela spoke for five hours about his frustration over the black majority's failure to make much headway, after more than three years in power. By expressing such anger, Mandela is placing a heavy burden on Mbeki to carry out the reforms which he himself has not been able to launch.
Let us wait and see.
Jealousy and envy have become an unpleasant reality of life in our societies, be it in offices, homes or social gathering.
One notices people talking about others in a manner that is inappropriate and uttering remarks far from the truth.
Being a non-belote player I am fortunate that I don't have to listen to all this at the usual "card nights"; however, having made an "unofficial and personal study" I have come up with the following: The people who criticize and try to defame are usually unsuccessful. The objects of their criticism are usually those who have made it in life, whether in the private or public sector. Comments may vary from "How did he accumulate all that money?" to "Yes, his influential uncle helped him get the top position"...
While these may sound nasty, there are many among us who are even more sinister in approach. They may have a hatred or grudge against a person who may be unaware of it. They indulge in what is known as "character assassination."
This "character assassination" is part of a long and sustained program by people who do not fear God. Their aim is to make the victim lose the confidence of his boss and his peers and to besmirch his character as well. If the person is in business, his ethics are questioned. All of course is done through innuendoes and insinuations. These people are very cunning.
What may seem as a harmless remark may affect a man's career or even his relationship with his family. "He is just a talker; he can't do anything. He panders to higher ups. He is servile".
How many times have I heard these remarks! It is most disturbing!
What is most despicable of all, however, is the anonymous letter writer. Slanderous letters are sent to bosses, friends, wives and the authorities with concocted information.
My advice to all receivers of such letters and phone calls is to treat them with the contempt they deserve.
Throw them in the garbage can or slam down the phone. God help us all.