Remembrance of Hajj

Every year, millions of Muslims around the world go to Hajj in Mecca, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to fulfill one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Muslims are required to perform this duty at east once in a lifetime if able to do so.

Last January 2004, I was fortunate to be part of the Philippine Muslim youth Hajj program of the Saudi government and the Office on Muslims Affairs (OMA, which is now called as National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF). Ten (10) young Filipino Muslim pilgrims representing different Islamized ethnic groups participated in this program. I represented the Iranun – Maguindanao community of Maguindanao.

I was 29 years old then, married, when I performed the Hajj. I knew little about the Hajj. All I knew was that it is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Every Muslim who is financially capable is required to perform the Hajj or the pilgrimage to Mecca.

For benefit of my non-Muslim readers, allow me to explain what Hajj is and what are the different types of Hajj.

Based on the Al Qur’an, the origins of the Hajj date back to 2,000 B.C. when Ishmael, the infant son of the prophet Ibrahim (AS) (Or Abraham, as he is called in the Old Testament) and Ibrahim’s wife Hagar were stranded in the desert. The rituals being observed during the Hajj is the life story of Ishmael and Hagar. The Al Qur’an narrates when Ishmael was close to death from thirst, Hagar desperately ran back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa looking for water until the angel Jibril (Gabriel) went down to earth and told them that Allah (SWT) will provide for them. This act of Hagar became the part of the ritual of Hajj known as Sa’i. Jibril instructed her to return to Ishmael. Upon returning she found out that a pool of water sprung from where the heel of Ishamael struck the ground. The spring was then known as the Well of Zamzam.

The site became a holy place because of the presence of the water coming from Zamzam spring. Following the orders of Allah (SWT), Ibrahim (AS) is said to have built a monument at the site of the spring known as the Kaaba. Before the advent of Islam, worshipers from all faiths traveled to revel at the site. However, in 630 A.D., the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) led a group of Muslims to perform the first official Hajj in this place. He then destroyed the idols placed there by polytheistic worshipers and re-dedicating the site in the name of Allah (SAW). The experience of Ibrahim (AS) and his family became the rituals for the Hajj.

Pilgrimage to Mecca has two categories. The first one is called Hajj – known as the Greater Pilgrimage and ‘Umra – the lesser pilgrimage.

This year, the Hajj is on September 21 – 25, it takes place annually between the 8th and 12th days of Dhu-al-Hijjah, the final month of the lunar Islamic calendar. We Muslims believe that this is the time when Allah’s (SWT) mercy and compassion are closest to humankind. The second category may be performed at all other times of the year. Both pilgrimages begin at stations known as miqat, which pilgrims cannot cross unless they are in the white garments known as “ihram”. It is here where we don on the “ihram” and make our intention for Hajj and recite the talbiya – a prayer to announce to Allah that we arrived in Mecca for pilgrimage.

I remember the day that I arrived in Jeddah, the international airport near Mecca. At the airport, we were advised to wear our “ihram”. From there we travelled to Mecca by bus. On our way, we chanted “Labbayk allahumma labbayk… ’ ‘Here I am, Lord, responding to Your call [to perform the Hajj]. Praise belongs to You, all good things come from You and sovereignty is yours alone”. We arrived in Mecca at early dawn after more or less two hours of travel.

In Mecca, we stayed at Casablanca Hotel, a twenty-minute ride by bus to Masjid Al Haram. Upon arrival, we rested for few hours to recover from our jet lag. At around 9 o’clock in the morning, we went to Masjid Al Haram. When the Kaaba came into view, it felt so surreal. I was choked with intense emotion. It was truly then that felt that I was in the presence of the Supreme Being. The marbled floor of the Masjid was cold. As I walk near the Kaaba, I can feel my heart beating fast. I was really awed and humbled at the same time as I walked towards it.

I performed my Umrah with ease. I did the Tawaf or the circumambulation of the Kaaba in a counterclockwise manner. Tawaf is one of the key elements of the Hajj rituals. It is performed seven times around the Kaaba, starting from the eastern corner from which the Black Stone is embedded. Each time I looked at the Kaaba, I became emotional. There I was, standing about 50 meters away from the Kaaba. I kept thinking of the times I prayed at home, thousands of miles away. Indeed, there were no words to describe how I felt in that moment.

On the 8th day of Dhu al-Hijja, is the Day 1 of the Hajj. We once again made our intention to perform the Hajj and wore our Ihram. We went back to Masjid Al Haram and performed the Tawaf (circling the Kaaba) and Sa’i (passing between the hills of Safa and Marwa). Then, we proceeded to Mina. There we prayed Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib, and Fajr We stayed in Mina over night.​

After praying Fajr, we went straight to Arafah. We stayed in our tents for a day of Wuquf or a day of supplications. Our Prophet Muhammad (SAW), said that “Hajj is Arafah”. It was the actual day of the Hajj when we stayed at Arafah. There I was with thousands of pilgrims trying to get onto the bus and get to Arafat. We managed to get to plains of Arafah before noon on the same day. We went straight into our respective tents. We saw some of the pilgrims went to Jabal Rahma and offered prayers. Jabal Rahma is part of Mount Arafah and described as the mountain of mercy.

Our group decided not to go there any more because it was too crowded. The weather at that time was okay. Our guide told us to find a quiet place to make Du’a (prayers). I stayed somewhere near our tent. I spent the day supplicating to Allah (SWT). I cried as I prayed to Allah. I prayed that He accepts my supplication and forgive me for all my past sins and mistakes in life. It was an amazing experience of complete silence. There were millions of Muslims who were also there at that time doing the same thing. Everyone had an intense conversation with their Creator.

After Magrib, the Imam who was assigned to us congratulated everyone on becoming “Hajjis”. We then congratulated each other. At sunset, from Arafah we went to Muzdalifah and there we prayed Maghrib, Isha, and Fajr. The distance of Arafah to Muzdalifah was not far. We hiked from Arafah to Muzdalifah. It took us about less than an hour to get to Muzdalifah. You can see thousands and thousands of pilgrims wearing their ihram and we were doing the same thing. Following the same ritual that was handed down to us for a thousand of years. When we arrived at Muzdalifah, we prayed Magrib and Isha in Jamaat with our group Imam. We were then instructed by our Imam to collect pebbles in preparation of another ritual.

Some groups left before Fajir. I remembered our imam in saying, “we must make a special supplication to Allah (SWT) after Fajir and before sunrise”. The special supplication was to ask Allah (SWT) to forgive our past mistakes. We also prayed for forgiveness to anyone whom we may have hurt. We are also taught that Allah (SWT) will not forgive us not until the people whom we may have hurt or offended have forgiven us.  But it is during Hajj and when we pray at Muzdalifah after Fajir and before sunrise, it is the only time that Allah (SWT) will accept our supplication and forgive us of our past sins and mistakes.

Soon after sunrise, my fellow Filipino pilgrims decided to walk to the Jamarat. There were 10 of us walking together from Muzdalifah to the Jamarat. It was a long walk. It took us 2 hours to walk to the Jamarat. While walking to the Jamarat, I was again amazed by the number of pilgrims who were with us. You can feel the strong intensity of the crowd. The energy of the more or less 3 million Muslims was so powerful that I didn’t feel the hardships of performing the rituals.

The ritual at the Jamarat was also intense. I heard many stories of how hard it is.  There were some pilgrims who died because of the stampede. We were told that dying on Hajj would have been such an honorable death, but the thought still did scare me. Like all the other pilgrims we walked up the Jamarat. We walked passed the small Jamarat, then the middle one, and then we approached the big Jamarat, which was the only one we had to stone the first day.

Alhamdulliah, I managed to get to the front with no hassle and threw stones to the Jamarat. As soon as I finished, my mind tells me to get out as fast as I could. I saw some pilgrims who were careless. All they did was to finish the ritual even though they may have hit or hurt others. They were so focused on their goal that their hearts were hard and cold in being insensitive to the others. They were not even hitting the Jamarat, rather hitting the pilgrims in front of them.

On the same day, it was also the Eidl Adaha or the feast of Sacrifice. Muslims celebrate the Eid on the same day the pilgrims were at Jamarat. By that time most of the Hajj rituals were completed. The only thing left for us to do was continue throwing pebbles at all three Jamarat on 11th and 12th Dhul Hijjah. On these two days, we had to stone all three pillars. The hardest part was on the third day. It was during this time when it will be overcrowded with pilgrims all doing the same ritual.

After the stoning was finished, all of us were happy and relieved. I was so grateful that Allah (SWT) gave me the opportunity to perform the Hajj. I was happy to perform the rituals in Jamarat safe and without hurting anyone.

On the 12th of Dhul Hijjah, we were so tired. We walked back to Mecca. The last ritual left was the Farewell Tawaf. We went back to Mecca and in Masjid Al Haram. It was during this time that I remembered what Rumi said in his poem, “The true Kaaba is inside our hearts. In our heart, we can find Allah (SWT).

I traveled thousand of miles away from home, only to find out that Allah (SWT) was inside my heart. He was with me all along.

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Unfolding the layers of my Spirituality

In my more than thirty years of existence on this planet, I have travelled to different continents and one of my favorite places that visited is the province of Tawi Tawi. My team in my office in Ateneo de Davao was fortunate to accompany me for a project coordination with different sectors and institutions in the municipality of Bonggao.  Unknowingly, the entire trip became spiritual experience for me.

 

We were supposed to take the plane from Zamboanga to Tawi Tawi. But our flight was cancelled, thus, we took MV Trishia Kerstin II. The travel time took us more than 19 hours. We were scheduled to depart at 12:00 pm, but we got on board the ship at 4:00 pm.

 

The ship’s crew advised us that the ETD was at 7:00 pm. But we left Zamboanga at past 9:00 pm. Unfortunately, due to a steering problem of the ship, we went back to Zamboanga. We finally depart at 3:00 am the following day.

 

We arrived at Bonggao at past 8:00 pm. It was my first time to visit the place. We went straight to Beachside Inn. Our accommodation was pre-arranged by my staff.

 

In the morning, we had our breakfast at the Bonggao market. After our breakfast, we went back to Beachside to prepare our coordination work. We finished early doing our job because the people at Bonggao were very friendly. The next 36 hours at Tawi Tawi were spent exploring the islands.

 

Imagine, seeing different colors of the sea: turquoise, green, sky blue, dark blue and sometimes light brown. All the beach fronts were white sand. The people were friendly. There was lots of seafood: crabs, curacha, sea mantis, white squid, and grouper fish. Our host served all those sea creatures that I mentioned. Some were fried, steamed, and adobo style. If you love seafood, you will definitely find Tawi Tawi as an island of paradise.

 

After eating all the halal seafood we could ever imagine, it was a time for us to do some island hopping.

 

The first island that we visited was the municipality of Simunol. It took us less than an hour boat ride from Bonggao. In this island, you may find the oldest mosque that was built by an arab missionary, Shariff Makdum. According to our history, the mosque was built in 1380. It was also the marking of the start of the Islamic faith in Mindanao.  Inside the mosque, you can still see the strong pillars that are made of Ipil.

 

After walking around and taking some pictures, I performed an ablution and went inside to pray one sunnah and dhuhur.  While inside, I noticed that the floor was made of white tiles. Interesting to note that when I prostrated, the floor had soothing smell that reminded me of my pilgrimage to Mecca few years back when I prayed inside the Masjid Al Haram near the Ka’aba.

 

Outside the mosque is a Muslim cemetery. Shariff Makdum was  believe to be buried within the premises near the mosque.

 

As a sat inside the mosque, I asked myself. What happened to Islam? What happened to the Muslims of Mindanao? What happened to the Islam that were practiced by our forefathers? Why is it that Islam nowadays is linked to Al Qaeda? Muslims are labeled as terrorists? And the Islam that our forefathers practiced are threatened by the “new” Islam being spread by the Arabs in the Middle East. As I reflect on these matters, my thoughts turned to our beloved prophet Muhammad (SAW).

 

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was a very pious man. He was a man of peace, a man of compassion, a man with honor and trustworthiness. A man who died leaving only two possessions in life, a shield and a mattress made of dried leaves.

 

He was instrumental in the rise of Islamic civilization. A civilization that values knowledge, science, mathematics, astronomy, algebra, and a way of life called Islam, a way of life that adheres to peace and active non violence.

 

One of the basic hadith of the prophet was to seek knowledge. But how come most of us do not value the true essence of education and having knowledge of the different fields of arts and social sciences?

 

While sitting inside this oldest mosque in the country, I remembered a verse in the Holy Quran that made mentioned about Tafakkur. This word in arabic means “to reflect, meditate, think over, contemplate, and consider”. It is mentioned in the Holy Quran 17 times.

 

In Surah A-Rum verse 8, it says: Do they not contemplate within themselves? Allah has not created the heavens and the earth and what is between them  except in truth and for a specified term. And indeed, many of the people, in [the matter of] the meeting with their Lord, are disbelievers. (Sahih International)

 

Why do some of us take the “will” of God in their hands?

 

When we left Tawi Tawi, I begun to reflect even more further.  Slowly as I ask more questions inside my head, I also uncover layers of my spirituality.

 

I know someday death will come his way to me. But I also remembered a friend that once said:

 

“Remembering death more frequently has helped me live a better, more-fulfilled life. It enables me to keep my struggles, triumphs and challenges in perspective.  I remember to treasure loved ones, and treat others kindly and respectfully at all times. I’m less likely to hold a grudge for long, and more likely to apologize quickly if I feel I’ve said a cruel word. Amassing wealth, hoarding possessions, worrying excessively about the future become unreasonable waste of time, while praying, giving charity, spending time with family and friends, and striving always to say kind words and do good deeds take the focus of my energy.”

 

My friend was right. I guess the same thing happens when we tend to globalized Islam and make it an ideology and political stand. Our vision of Allah (SWT) becomes different. We then forget that this world is just temporary and the Day of Judgment will eventually come. Allah (SWT) is the Master of the Day of Judgment. If He can create the beautiful wonders of the world, then He has the power to protect it and help us face our everyday challenges.

Learning Islamic Finance in Indonesia

The Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia is an institute for understanding Islam, the Muslims and peoples of Mindanao that are culturally linked to other Southeast Asian communities. This is part of the Ateneo de Davao University under its research department. As an institute, it actively contributes toward fortification of spirituality thereby strengthening a sense of belongingness to a bigger humanity and co-creating and nurturing a society founded on social justice, gender equity, multiculturalism, religious pluralism and sustainable peace and human development.

 

Al Qalam Institute in partnership with Peace and Equity Foundation is preparing a project document which aims to create a manual to serve as guidelines for Bangsamoro Shariah Finance.  This program aims to assist the proposed Bangsamoro Entity in Southern Philippines. Al Qalam and its partners are hoping that the Bangsamoro Shariah Finance Manual will help our Muslim brothers and sisters to move forward in the direction of lasting peace and sustainable progress and development in their communities. As part of the preparation, we just concluded a Shariah Finance Study Tour in Indonesia particularly in Yogyakarta and Jakarta last November 10-17, 2013.

 

There were seventeen delegates who joined us in the study tour. These delegates are coming from different organizations and civil society groups in Mindanao. The names and organizaions of the delegates were the following. From Peace and Equity Foundation: Mr. Roberto Calingo, Executive Director; Mr. Martiniano Magdolot, Board Member; Mr. Alberto Roslinda, Jr., finance officer; and Ms. Wilma Guinto, SDO. From the Azatidz Council of Davao City: Ustadz Janor Balo, Ustadz Abdullah Joe Manan, and Ustadz Nolie Darindigon. From Al Qalam we had Atty. Jamil Matalam, Joseph Germin Umadhay, Jr. Mr. Harris Tanjili. From the different organizations: Hadja Bainon Karon, Federation of Bangsamoro Women; Ms. Yolanda Nawal, Katiakap Multipurpose Cooperative; Hessam Ezrael, Al Wataniya Credit Cooperative; and Mr. Errel B. Narida, One Renewable Energy.

 

The whole trip was a success due to the strong support of the Consular Office of Indonesia in Davao City under Hon. Eko Hartono , Consul General.

 

Our first stop was to visit the Islamic University of Indonesia (UII). We were welcomed no other than the head of the university, Prof. Dr. Drs. Edy Suandi Hamid, M.Ec. Then it was followed by a series of presentations given to us by experts on Islamic Finance.

 

Before we proceed further, lets discuss first the background of this project. Why do we need to study Islamic Finance?

 

In a policy document presented by Mindanao Deveopment Authority, it stated a new paradigm of looking at the problem in Mindanao. It clearly made mentioned of the issue on “Perceived Suppression of Islamic Practices, Traditional Customs and Indigenous Institutions”  as one of the main causes of problems in Mindanao. To quote the MINDA 2020 output:

 

Numerous analyses and prescriptions have been put forward to reconcile these extremes. In the 1990s, it was a popular notion that poverty lies at the root of the Mindanao peace and development challenge, prompting interventions that were dominantly economic in nature. Without underestimating the destructive impact of poverty, historical injustice is now commonly regarded as the underlying root of the Mindanao challenge. This injustice has come in various forms: social, political, economic, cultural and environmental. Thus, attainment of lasting peace and development in Mindanao must hinge on addressing and redressing these various forms of injustice.

 

Last October 7, 2012, President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III, presented the Framework for the Bangsamoro Agreement. This framework aims to lay down the road map for the signing of the final peace agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines. Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University sees this milestone as “An enduring peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been the long-held clamour of the people in the region. The decades-long conflict has taken a dizzying, ruthless and despondent toll on both fronts: more than a thousand people’s lives wasted, properties and entire communities destroyed, with a multitude of people displaced. With this framework agreement, the people of ARMM hope that it will lead to a Final Peace Agreement that will ensure reforms on its political structure and bring true and lasting peace in ARMM.”

 

The Framework Agreement (2012) outlines the general features of the political settlement between the Government of the Philippine (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).  Crafted by the panels of the GPH and MILF, the FAB defines the structure and powers of the Bangsamoro autonomous political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).  It also sets the principles, processes, and mechanisms for the transition until the regular election for the new Bangsamoro entity in 2016.  It is hope that the FAB paves the way for the just resolution of the historical divide between the government and the Bangsamoro.

 

Al Qalam and PEF, together with their partners, believe that Islam has many things to offer in the people of Mindanao. Instead of focusing on inter-religious dialogue, Islam can give us an wholistic view of finance, economics, and human development.

 

Going back to our Indonesia trip, we can learn a lot from our Indonesian neighbours how they live the principles of Islam in their economics, finance, and business. But this was made possible because of the contributions of their young Muslim scholars. These scholars started their personal advocacy as early as 1900s.

 

Brief history about UII. In 1945, a general assembly meeting of the Masjoemi (Majelis Sjoero Moeslimin Indonesia ) was held. The meeting was attended by some of the leading political figures of the day including Dr. Muhammad Hatta (the first Vice President of Indonesia), Mohammad Natsir, Mohammad Roem, and Wachid Hasyim. One of the decisions of this meeting was the establishment of Sekolah Tinggi Islam ( STI-Islamic Higher School ) by those leading figures, who became the institution’s founders. STI began operating on July 28, 1945 and developed into a university called Universitas Islam Indonesia (UII) on November 3, 1947 to respond to the growing demand for a higher education that integrates general knowledge with spiritual teachings.

 

Many students and staff members joined the Indonesian military force to repel the Dutch invasion. In the early 1950s, shortly after the war, UII had to move its classes from place to place around the city of Yogyakarta , even using part of the Sultan’s Palace and some of the faculty members’ houses as classrooms.

 

We also visited the Muhammadiyah univeristy. This has a very fruitful history. Wikipedia tells us that “Muhammadiyah  is an Islamic organization in Indonesia. The organization was founded in 1912 by Ahmad Dahlan in the city of Yogyakarta as a reformist socioreligious movement, advocating ijtihad – individual interpretation of Qur’an and sunnah, as opposed to taqlid – the acceptance of the traditional interpretations propounded by the ulama. At the moment, Muhammadiyah is the second largest Islamic organization in Indonesia with 29 million members.[1] Although Muhammadiyah leaders and members are often actively involved in shaping the politics in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah is not a political party. It has devoted itself to social and educational activities.”

 

Looking at our own context, we can indeed learn a lot from the Indonesians which we share common historical roots dating as far as the Mahajapit Empire and the influence of Hinduism and Islam. We also share some common words in our languages.

 

In the local setting, Al Qalam Institute aims to open up a new arena of what Islam can offer in today’s economic concerns and community empowerment. We can have continuous dialogue about our religions, but Islam, as a way of life, has different economic perspective that is not the usual value of capitalism and commercialism. It was under these circumstances that we pursued the study on Islamic finance and establishing economic pratices that would comply with Islamic law, or Shariah, within Mindanao and the proposed Bangsamoro Political Entity.

 

Studies on Islamic Finance conducted in Malaysia have shown that:

 

“One early experiment with Shariah-compliant economic practices was the Mit Ghamr Savings Bank. Established in 1963 in the small town of Mit Ghamr in Egypt, the bank primarily accepted savings and deposits, which were invested in local businesses with profits channelled back to depositors. Interestingly, during its life the endeavour was merely called interest-free banking as the government of the day was wary of ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ and overt mention of Islamic tenets was carefully avoided.”

 

Today there is an Islamic alternative for most conventional financial instruments, whether simple or sophisticated. Where there is not, it is usually due to a Shariah prohibition. However, proponents believe that far from being handicapped by Shariah, its rules serve to put Islamic finance in good stead and have largely shielded Islamic finance from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. 

 

Why Indonesia?

 

Our group decided to tap the Indonesian universities in studying Islamic finance based on the cultural and religious similarities between us.

 

We know that “long before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, Mindanao, particularly Sulu and Maguindanao, had a distinguished history of contact with other sovereign kingdoms of Indians, Chinese and Arabs. Toward the second century after the advent of Christ, the Pallava Kingdom rose into prominence and spread its influence from Southeastern India to Cambodia, Java, Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula and what is now the Philippines”. Thus, people in Mindanao had strong historical and cultural similarities with our Indonesian neighbours.

 

Three Main Points

 

The eight days educational trip at Jogjakarta and Jakarta had taught us the following important learnings. First, the move to introduce Islamic finance in Indonesia was started by their young Muslim intellectuals, especially those whose field of expertise were economics and business. These young Muslim intellectuals started their advocacy to look at the good things that Islam can offer to Muslims and non-Muslims in the field of economics. They also defined the parameters of how to introduce Shariah compliant micro finance whose main objective is to help people start up their economic life without the fear of incurring more debts due to “riba” or usurious interests.

 

These young intellectuals were also part of the religious leaders in their communities. Thus, they have a holistic view about Islam from economic, religious, and socio-political landscape of their society.

 

The second point that we learned focus on the institutions that these young Muslim intellectuals organized and set up. The first institution that was organized was the Baitul Maal wa tamwil (BMT). “The existence of the Baitul Maal wa tamwil (BMT) as one of the pioneers of financial institutions with Islamic principles in Indonesia, starting from the idea of the activists Salman ITB Bandung, which established the Cooperative Services Expertise Teknosa in 1980.” BMT was more like a cooperative and this has business and social responsibility all in one. “The initial concept of the thesis Syar’iyah BMT begins, “Can the concept Maal and Tamwil combined into one?”. The question that they raised at first was that, “can maal and tamwil compliment each other?

 

Maal taken from ZIS used as security for the financing of 8 groups are eligible to receive zakat (ashnaf). In short, zakat is used as a productive fund. While Tamwil, pure business calculation and where obligations and rights, which are used purely business are applied.

 

Moreover, the Islamic Economics Society (IES) defines further BMT as, “Baitul Maal Tamwil is an institution / Islamic financial institutions that effort substantially collects funds from a third party (member storage) and channel financing to businesses productive and profitable. Baitul Tamwil source of funds comes from public deposits (deposits) which includes savings , time deposits, capital and other similar deposits and not contrary to the provisions of the applicable regulations and legislation.”

 

Still from IES, “basically an investment of obligation of every Muslim (especially) to worship solely to obtain the blessing of Allah SWT included in activities in the field of finance and trade. This is a manifestation of the belief in Allah ban on usury prohibition as contained in the letter of Sura Al-Baqarah 275-279. In some cases, the Financial Institutions conventional and sharia have in common, especially on the technical side of the receipt / deposit of money, services and technologies. However, there are many fundamental differences between the two. The difference concerns the legal aspects, organizational structure, distribution of funds, the work environment and the mechanism of calculating gain or for the results.”

 

Third point, we visited the office of the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MORA) in Jakarta. We learned that the government only comes in when there is already a need to regulate and set up laws and policies to govern the Islamic finance. Thus, the Islamic finance in Indonesia started at the grassroots level. It was moulded by young Muslim intellectuals and ustadzes and aleems who are not only experts in theological and dawah of Islam, but also experts in Islamic economics and different fields of knowledge.

 

Looking at our local context, we are still far behind in terms of looking at Islam in a holistic view of different fields of education and knowledge. We need Muslim intellectuals and ustadzes that are well versed in science, philosophy, economics, engineering, politics, and sociology. Because our society evolves. Yes, the Holy Quran is complete, but mankind (or manu’sya) are fallible and has its own limitations.

 

Inshaallah (God willing!), we can generate more Muslim intellectuals in our country today. These intellectuals are Muslims who see all human beings as creations of Allah (SWT) and has a role to be a mover for change, a seeker of knowledge, and an advocate of peace and development.

My First Experience in Joining UGAT

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ON October 24 – 26, 2013 the Ateneo de Davao University’s Institute of Anthropology hosted the 35th UGAT Conference. This conference was organized by Ugnayang Pang-Aghamtao (UGAT) in cooperation with Ateneo de Davao University and Philippine Social Science Council.

The title of this year’s conference was Rethinking and Remaking Forms of Knowledge (The Critical Work of Anthropology). The conference was divided on two parts: plenary and parallel sessions. The plenary sessions had the distinguished lectures and visualizing knowledge. While the parallel sessions had the following themes: instrumentalizing knowledge, threatened knowledge systems, mining and water governance, faithful knowing and forms of life, museological tensions, cosmological turn, routes to knowing, subaltern knowledge in cities, affective knowledge, disaster and place names, and politics and poetics of knowing,

I was assigned as moderator on two parallel sessions. I will highlight only the first one, the Session B1 – Threatened Knowledge Systems. In that session, we had four presenters coming from different universities in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. There were different topics and focus of their study.

The first presenter discussed reviving kinutiyan. Ms. Analyn Salvador – Amores, from UP Baguio, was the presenter. She said, “The kinutiyan is a renowned funerary blanket used by the affluent class in the Cordillera region north of Luzon and one of the national cultural treasures of the Philippines, unfortunately scarce research and documentation have been made on the blanket and its use.” She also added that, “earlier woven by the Isinay of Nueva Vizcaya, the blanket had translocal connections through trade and ritual use among the different ethnolinguistic groups in the Cordillera region (“Igorots”) in the past, and in the contemporary period. However, a handful of women elders who are knowledgeable about the practice had died out, and the intricate process and ikat technique have not been passed on to young generation of weavers. From this funeral blanket, she then connect it to the IPRA saying that the law, as a modality of understanding the peculiarities of the indigenous people has become an enabling instrument for the ethnic communities to a renewed appreciation of their culture, and a strategy to re-signify their identity.

The second presenter was from University of San Carlos. She was Prof. Zona Hildegarde Amper and her paper was entitled “A Disappearing Tradition: Gapas as Textile and Medicine in Santander, Cebu. Her study seeks to document local knowledge on “gapas” as crop, textile and medicine in this town in order to determine its place in Santander culture and recommend steps for the revitalization of an important heritage of this town.

The third presenter was Robert Panguiton from Ateneo de Zamboanga University. His paper focused on the Bajaus in Maluso and Lantawan municipalities of Basilan.  Using a qualitative method, he tried to answer a basic question: how do the Bajau indigenous laws interplay with the formal laws of the Philippines? His paper showed that on recent times, “the panglima and the Bajau constituents in many areas of Maluso and Lantawan, Basilan, continue to maneuver within the local government politics.  Many of the state laws were adapted by the Bajaus, while trying to maintain their other customary laws”. He further added that the “Badjaos made some adjustments of allowing them for enculturation of local state politics and engender greater political participation therein because they know what modern time brings where there is cultural pluralism and globalization”.

The last presenter in that session was Aidel Paul G. Belamide from the Municipal Government of Silang, Cavite. He used the theories on Cultural Materialism by Marvin Harris and Social Negotiation by Elizabeth Brumfiel, to explore the changing notions and values of land in his locality.

I consider myself very fortunate to participate and be part of the UGAT Conference. I have learned a lot. It is very much related to my line of work in Al Qalam Institute of the Ateneo de Davao University. This institute is part of the university that focuses on research and formation, inter-religious and intra faith dialogue.

One of the leading anthropologists of our time is Brother Karl Gaspar. He had written a number of books pertaining to Mindanao and the indigenous peoples. Bro. Karl is one of the pioneer members of UGAT. During the conference, he provoke my mind and spirit to write on several things. Starting from day one, Brother Karl inspired to me to write the anthropology of Islam in Mindanao. Now, what do I mean by saying this? Well, anthropology has a different lens in looking at what Islam is and the theory of liberation in the eyes of mudjaheeden. Specially in the lens of the late Chairman Hassim Salamat. Also, what is folk Islam and how do the panditas cope up in changes of our time? What is the mapping of the different schools of thought of Islam in Mindanao and what are its implication in the peace and security in Mindanao? Thus, there were so many research agenda, so many interesting topics for Al Qalam and Al IQRA.

One thing I can never forget during the conference was when I witnessed how anthropologists really interpret and define culture. Is it the practice or the idea or concepts behind the reason why people do certain acts of their norms and traditions? I was “star struck”, like a child’s first experience of watching 3D or an IMAX… different theories about culture, language, nuances, and syncretism filled our minds while listening to the presentations and open forum. At one point, I forgot that I was the moderator of the session and not a participant.

I cannot wait for the next UGAT conference. The next conference is set on 2014 in Baguio. Hopefully, by that time I can also present a paper about Islam in Mindanao for non Muslims to understand that Islam in Mindanao is diverse and very colourful.

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/opinion/2013/10/29/lidasan-my-first-experience-joining-ugat-311227

 

Unfolding the layers of my Spirituality

In my more than thirty years of existence on this planet, I have traveled to different continents and one of my favorite places that I visited is the province of Tawi Tawi. My team in my office in Ateneo de Davao was fortunate to accompany me for a project coordination with different sectors and institutions in the municipality of Bonggao.  Unknowingly, the entire trip became spiritual experience for me.

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Blue seas

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Almost near Tawi Tawi

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White Beach Front…

We were supposed to take the plane from Zamboanga to Tawi Tawi. But our flight was cancelled, thus, we took MV Trishia Kerstin II. The travel time took us more than 19 hours. We were scheduled to depart at 12:00 pm, but we got on board the ship at 4:00 pm.

The ship’s crew advised us that the ETD was at 7:00 pm. But we left Zamboanga at past 9:00 pm. Unfortunately, due to a steering problem of the ship, we went back to Zamboanga. We finally depart at 3:00 am the following day.

We arrived at Bonggao at past 8:00 pm. It was my first time to visit the place. We went straight to Beachside Inn. Our accommodation was pre-arranged by my staff.

In the morning, we had our breakfast at the Bonggao market. After our breakfast, we went back to Beachside to prepare our coordination work. We finished early doing our job because the people at Bonggao were very friendly. The next 36 hours at Tawi Tawi were spent exploring the islands.

Imagine, seeing different colors of the sea: turquoise, green, sky blue, dark blue and sometimes light brown. All the beach fronts were white sand. The people were friendly. There was lots of seafood: crabs, curacha, sea mantis, white squid, and grouper fish. Our host served all those sea creatures that I mentioned. Some were fried, steamed, and adobo style. If you love seafood, you will definitely find Tawi Tawi as an island of paradise.

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After eating all the halal seafood we could ever imagine, it was a time for us to do some island hopping.

The first island that we visited was the municipality of Simunol. It took us less than an hour boat ride from Bonggao. In this island, you may find the oldest mosque that was built by an arab missionary, Shariff Makdum. According to our history, the mosque was built in 1380. It was also the marking of the start of the Islamic faith in Mindanao.  Inside the mosque, you can still see the strong pillars that are made of Ipil.

After walking around and taking some pictures, I performed an ablution and went inside to pray one sunnah and dhuhur.  While inside, I noticed that the floor was made of white tiles. Interesting to note that when I prostrated, the floor had soothing smell that reminded me of my pilgrimage to Mecca few years back when I prayed inside the Masjid Al Haram near the Ka’aba.

Outside the mosque is a Muslim cemetery. Shariff Makdum was  believe to be buried within the premises near the mosque.

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As I sat inside the mosque, I asked myself. What happened to Islam? What happened to the Muslims of Mindanao? What happened to the Islam that were practiced by our forefathers? Why is it that Islam nowadays is linked to Al Qaeda? Muslims are labeled as terrorists? And the Islam that our forefathers practiced are threatened by the “new” Islam being spread by the Arabs in the Middle East. As I reflect on these matters, my thoughts turned to our beloved prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was a very pious man. He was a man of peace, a man of compassion, a man with honor and trustworthiness. A man who died leaving only two possessions in life, a shield and a mattress made of dried leaves.

He was instrumental in the rise of Islamic civilization. A civilization that values knowledge, science, mathematics, astronomy, algebra, and a way of life called Islam, a way of life that adheres to peace and active non violence.

One of the basic hadith of the prophet was to seek knowledge. But how come most of us do not value the true essence of education and having knowledge of the different fields of arts and social sciences?

While sitting inside this oldest mosque in the country, I remembered a verse in the Holy Quran that made mentioned about Tafakkur. This word in arabic means “to reflect, meditate, think over, contemplate, and consider”. It is mentioned in the Holy Quran 17 times.

In Surah A-Rum verse 8, it says: Do they not contemplate within themselves? Allah has not created the heavens and the earth and what is between them  except in truth and for a specified term. And indeed, many of the people, in [the matter of] the meeting with their Lord, are disbelievers. (Sahih International)

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The tomb of Sharif Makdum just outside the mosque.

When we left Tawi Tawi, I begun to reflect even more further.  Slowly as I ask more questions inside my head, I also uncover layers of my spirituality.

I know someday death will come his way to me. But I also remembered a friend that once said:

“Remembering death more frequently has helped me live a better, more-fulfilled life. It enables me to keep my struggles, triumphs and challenges in perspective.  I remember to treasure loved ones, and treat others kindly and respectfully at all times. I’m less likely to hold a grudge for long, and more likely to apologize quickly if I feel I’ve said a cruel word. Amassing wealth, hoarding possessions, worrying excessively about the future become unreasonable waste of time, while praying, giving charity, spending time with family and friends, and striving always to say kind words and do good deeds take the focus of my energy.”

My friend was right. I guess the same thing happens when we tend to globalized Islam and make it an ideology and political stand. Our vision of Allah (SWT) becomes different. We then forget that this world is just temporary and the Day of Judgment will eventually come. Allah (SWT) is the Master of the Day of Judgment. If He can create the beautiful wonders of the world, then He has the power to protect it and help us face our everyday challenges.

(All photos were taken by Vinci Bueza of Ateneo de Davao University.)

“Why and how do men go to war?”

In an article[1] written by Roger Highfield and Nic Fleming, they said that, “(m)en need threats, rivalry and war for them to work together the most effectively, according to a study of the “male warrior effect”. The ‘male warrior effect’ refers to a study conducted by Professor Mark van Vugt of University of Kent. This was a study that involved some 300 participants in a psychology test that involved economics game. The participants were given money either to keep it for themselves or invest it in a group fund. The whole research had an interesting process, but in summary it says that “having a common enemy brings out the best in men”.

Comparing the result of this study in relation to conflict and war, we can see that nations are more united when they have a common enemy. Take the case of the “crusades” or the battle to get Jerusalem, a fight between Muslims and Christians. Key persons like Salahudin and King Richard became the greatest warriors of their time representing the religions they belong. In a way, it was not totally about religion, both Islam and Christianity claim its roots as Abrahamic faith similar with Judaism. The three religions believe in One God, and all claims that they are a religion of peace. But getting the control, either politically or economically, of Jerusalem means a lot to them. Even up to now, we see the conflict in Palestine as a global issue of the Muslims (specifically the Arab world) and the Jews (or the Zionist regime).

Before we proceed at the local level, let us take the case of Islam and democracy. Are they compatible? With what is happening now in the Middle East and the so called Arab spring, this has ways of drawing the line between Muslims: radicalist, Islamist, or critical minded Muslims, that resulted in defining the present socio political landscape of the entire region.

Although a lot of my fellow Muslims would say that Islam and democracy do not co-exist, but I do believe that they do. Both have similar key points in terms of principle. Graham Fuller said in one of his essays that, “(s)ome Western scholars examine the Koran and Islamic law and tradition to textually “demonstrate” that Islam is not compatible with democracy”.[2]  This is not only limited to Western scholars alone. I see and know many Muslim Islamists and radicalist that say democracy is not part of Islam. For them democracy is a product of the Greeks and Romans. Moreover, for them, the Holy Quran is the basic law and guidance from Allah (SWT).

Fuller also added, “the essence of the radical argument rests on the divine source of Islamic law: If God has revealed clear principles of what is to be encouraged and what is to be proscribed, then human desire and man-made law have no place in tampering with these prescriptions and prohibitions[3]“. This topic has cause conflict within and outside the Muslim world. Take the case of Syria, Egypt, and Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, in our country, our own Islam is also threatened by the globalization of Islam. This is what I see as the future threat in Mindanao. Although the MNLF  and MILF have already shown their willingness to agree on autonomy, but the rise of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is a force that slowly gain momentum. The BIFF may be the clear and present danger, but unknowingly, our madrasahs and religious leaders (aleems and ustadzes) are actually putting folk Islam to extinction. Thus, the politics of identity is a present phenomenon that is a root cause of conflict that may erupt to a bigger conflict. This I believe may also be a reason why men go to war.

Looking at the present peace process of the GPH and the MILF, I have the impression that the present administration shows their lack of appreciation of proper consultation at the ground and lack of having inclusivity. The recent case at Zamboanga has shown some valid claims of the MNLF. Unfortunately for them, it was not properly presented. It backfired to them and depicted Misuari and his followers as “spoiled brats”. Now, they are wanted for crimes against humanity. Therefore, even the peace process, which is “mishandled”, may also be a reason why men go to war.

Aside from those I mentioned above, there is also a point about ethnopolitics and ethnomobilization. First, we know that the Bangsamoro construct was just a recent invention of the moro front advocates. Saleeby started it. Majul followed and designed in epic proportion the “moro wars”. Misuari, as a research assistant of Majul, became the holder of the “franchise” of representing the Bangsamoro people.

History of our republic has shown that the process of integration with the Muslims / Moro people has already started as early as 1900s. Several “datus” or local chieftains  had already accepted the process of integration and fondly call themselves as Filipinos. Now, Kiefer said that for every complaint datu, there is a defiant one. The source of conflict has rooted on the process of nation building that was imposed on the indigenous peoples and even to the Islamized IPs where not all has the same view and appreciation of the “reality”, world view, and history. For most Christian Filipinos, they believe that the history of the country started at the time of Magellan and Spanish colonization. The Muslims on the other hand, strongly believe that it was the time that Islam was brought to Mindanao sometime in 13th and 15th century. This perception somehow tells us religion was the point of reference. But we know that our history is far more interesting than those points of references.

Last point, men goes to war simply based on historical, theological, political, and nationalist context. We have all these in our own little country. As to how, there can also be several factors. It can be through massive propaganda or “brainwashing”. It can be through the use of terroristic acts, guerilla warfare, or it can also be through the declaration of the pope, or the king, or the president and supported by their congress. Thus, peace can also be achieved if we do all the causes of war in the opposite.

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[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1528418/Why-do-men-need-war-Its-male-bonding.html

[2] Graham E. Fuller, Middle East Series, ISLAMISTS IN THE ARAB WORLD: THE DANCE AROUND DEMOCRACY. CARNEGIE PAPERS, 2004.

[3] Ibid.

Power Sharing? Who are Sharing?

Last October 4, 2013 (Friday), the forumZFD and Civil Peace Service – Bread for the World in partnership with the Al-Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia of the Ateneo de Davao University conducted the second of the series of roundtable discussions (RTD) on contentious topics in the on-going peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The title of our project is Pakighinabi: Peace Lens. The objective is to discuss issues that are crucial in the framework agreement, such as territory,power sharing, wealth sharing, normalization, or justice system, which we believe that various perceptions of our people which is not properly handled, may lead to misrepresentation and polarization of our communities.

The first of the series discussed about “Wealth Sharing” and we had Atty. Johaira Wahab as the lead discussant. This was conducted last August 28, 2013 at Ateneo de Davao University with a multi disciplinary set of participants.

The second was about “Power Sharing” where we invited Guiamel Alim, Executive Director of the Kadtuntaya Foundation to be the lead discussant. The main output of the RTD was focused on our dream of National Unity and Reconciliation. Dir. Alim was hopeful that once the Final Peace Agreement would be signed as scheduled that this will address the problems of the Bangsamoro people.

But we ask ourselves, power sharing? Who are sharing?

In a country like ours, we are severely divided into contending ethnic groups, clans, and political ideologies the result of these have caused us conflicts, war, and political dynasties controlling the status quo that hampered our overall human development.

At the grassroots level, our people have the tendency to take care of their own group which led to a politics of inclusion and exclusion.

As a result, we see people in power are taking care of their own defined constituencies within their own turf and even the “moro” fronts are having their own way of defining the Bangsamoro people and their own struggles thinking that they have the monopoly of common sense in addressing the socio-political problems of our time.  Unfortunately this system of exclusion has become a breeding ground for new armed groups to emerge from one generation to another.

Most political analysts and policy makers alike believe that power sharing is the most viable democratic means of managing conflict in divided societies. (O’Flynn and David Russell, 2005)

In an article written by Ian O’Flynn and David Russel, “New Challenges for Power Sharing”, said that, “in principle, power sharing enables conflicting groups to remedy longstanding patterns of antagonism and discrimination, and to build a more just and stable society for all.” But how do we do this in the proposed Bangsamoro region?

When we speak of power sharing, the first thing that comes to my mind is the “actors” involved. They are the people on the ground who are the real players and actors that controls the access and the delivery of basic social services; the way of life and even the justice system of the community.

In an ethnographic study about Mindanao and Sulu, the research had showed that the following are the actors: the religious leaders, dissident/ground commanders, traditional leaders, and politicians. Each one enjoys a relatively autonomous practice of power on the ground. Now, with the Zamboanga standoff, we can see that even the Civil Society Organizations, religious groups, and interfaith organizations have become players in the peace process and each one having their own agenda and claim of representing the people.

The study also mentioned that “they have found a way to co-exist and to allow each sector to be at the forefront of people’s attention. Each navigates their territory by being careful not to overstep the boundaries in their exercise of power so as not to upset the prevailing balance of forces in the area.”

Looking at the on-going discussions of the panels, it seems that both parties (MILF and GPH) are more concerned in discussing the vertical line of power sharing. Vertical line refers to thepower between the Philippine government and the Bangsamoro. But what about the horizontal line (the power players at the ground), which conflict in our areas are mostly related to horizontal issues?

According to Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, government peace panel chairperson, “the annex on power sharing specifically deals with “jurisdictions and authorities over certain matters” of the Bangsamoro. For instance, jurisdiction over natural resources.”

But they do not see the dynamics on the ground. Thus, we ask, “Power Sharing for whom?”

We know already who are in power. But we need to empower our people.  We are the true holders of power in a democracy. We need to understand that it is our power to vote and elect our rightful leaders that will define our future.

Therefore, we need to have institutions that will ensure that true power sharing will materialize on the ground. In a democratic process, “there is an indeterminate number of ways in which democratic power sharing can be realized”. But looking at the present situation, it is only the MILF and the GPH that are discussing the pertinent points of the annexes. How can we have faith that this system will work when we will only be allowed to be part of the process when it is already deliberated in Congress and during the plebiscite?

We hope that the Pakighinabi: Peace Lens will resonate on the different levels of our community. We cannot wait and let things happen on their own. We need to find ways of how we can engage our government and the MILF. Besides, it is our taxes that funds the government agencies that work for the peace process.