Religious festivals are wonderful opportunities for Muslims to put away resentments, forge new friendships, and build intimacy among people. Yet today, we see that some Muslims do not make good use of this opportunity.
The death toll in the ongoing sectarian wars in Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Syria has already surpassed millions, while armed conflicts continue to take place between Muslims in Egypt, Libya, Pakistan and Afghanistan due to differing interpretations of Islam. Meanwhile, Muslims in Nigeria, Xinjiang and Myanmar are facing heavy persecution. They are regarded as threats in their own homelands solely because of their beliefs. And in Europe and the USA, anti-Islamic sentiment is on a rapid rise.
The old festivals have now become a thing of the past in the Islamic world. The grandfathers of Arakan can no longer joyfully caress the hair of their grandchildren; nor can the children of a devastated Syria merrily run around on the streets sporting their brand new festive cloths. Afraid for their safety, people cannot pay festive visits to their relatives and neighbors.
In order for Muslims to recapture the spirit of the festivals of old they have long yearned for, the sectarian disputes in the Islamic world need to be abandoned as soon as possible. Completely casting aside sectarian differences will also put an end to wars and unrest.
In the Qur’an, God forbids believers from turning against and causing divisions and dissent among each other; acting in defiance of this divine commandment will entail nothing but trouble. Only through unity and solidarity, and a sincere intention of brotherhood and compassion among the entire Muslim community under the guidance of the Qur’an, can our brothers around the world – and particularly in the Middle East – overcome the sufferings and hardships they continue to endure and lead the serene, stable, peaceful and prosperous lives they long for.
Of course in this regard, a major responsibility falls on the shoulders of the Islamic country leaders. The presence of more and more just and compassionate leaders, who mix with their people and create an amicable environment for them, rather than oppressing and remaining distant to them, will stave off the dark and turbulent atmosphere that reigns supreme in some Islamic countries.
In fact, in the Qur’an, God orders believers to exercise benevolence, compassion and lenience, while exalting the importance of having a mild character and emphasizing the fact that all prophets have mild personalities. A verse of the Qur’an gives the following example of the beautiful moral values of the Prophet Abraham (pbuh):
“… Abraham was tender-hearted and forbearing.” (Surah at-Tawba, 114)
It is crucial that the leaders of Muslim countries adopt an amiable discourse in their speech. Only in this way can the hatefulness Muslims bare against their attire, life styles and political preferences be averted.
The Islamic world is in paramount need of more and more highly modern, humble and eloquent leaders who readily engage with the youth and provide rationalistic solutions for their problems, who embrace, love and treat with compassion all walks of life, and who are avid supporters of art and aesthetic. By treating all their people with a generous spirit and giving precedence to love, these leaders will also elicit God’s blessing of beauty upon the Islamic countries.
Another way to bring about the long-awaited period of peace and serenity in the Islamic world is to treat women with the respect and affection they deserve. In societies that do not adhere to Qur’anic moral values, it is women who suffer oppression and maltreatment the most. In some countries, the mentality of fanatics regards women as second-class beings who simply live to serve and carry out domestic chores, an erroneous idea that is in complete contradiction with the Qur’an. What is more, the false idea that women are lacking in personality, morality and ability in direct proportion to their physical incapability is not hard to come by in these countries.
The false beliefs drawing from non-Qur’anic sources and superstitions that are predominant nearly in all Islamic countries are wrongly associated with Islam. The fanatical mindset that is entirely contrary to the essence of Islam and the spirit of the Qur’an is the root of the widespread disregard for the arts, science and technology as well as the intellectual and economic underdevelopment apparent in the world of Islam.
In the Qur’an, God tells believers of how He made Hazrat Maryam (pbuh) grow to be healthy and beautiful like a plant, pointing out to the fact that women are elegant, delicate, pure and precious. Therefore, women in Islamic countries should be treated with the utmost care, compassion, respect and love, and their rights should be given prominence.
The leaders at the helm of Islamic countries developing a non-discriminatory and inclusive discourse will be the best and the most accurate path to follow in changing the fanatical mindset. It is a commandment of the Qur’an to allow women the same freedoms enjoyed by every other member of society.
Muslims should also treat Christians and Jews, the People of the Book, amicably and ensure them the freedom of belief that is essential for practicing their faith. In this regard, it is most crucial to follow the example of the practices in the era of our Prophet (saas). The leaders of the Islamic countries should take the lead in this matter as well, and take measures to safeguard the Christians and Jews residing in their countries to ensure them a safe life and free practice of their worship.
If all these points are realized, religious festivals will once again become periods of joy where Muslims are able to embrace each other with love and intimacy, come together in remembrance of God, and pray for the good of one another and of the entire Islamic community. All resentments will come to an end in a longing hug, the poor will be lent a helping hand, the elderly will be greeted with a kiss on their hands, and the young will be pleased to receive pocket money, candy, chocolate and other pleasant gifts.
With festivals come celebration, joy, happiness, socializing, sharing, tranquility and beauty. Beautiful festivals that Muslims have long awaited are close at hand; all we have to do is put in more effort towards attaining them.
—The author is a prominent Turkish writer and activist. He blogs at: www.harunyahya.com