Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Learning about Islam in the Maldives

The highest point on any of the country's nearly one thousand idyllic islands is just 2.3 metres above sea level. Little wonder, then, that Climate Change and Global Warming are a cause for real concern, since it would take only a very small rise in sea level to make the islands disappear altogether.
   Whilst the government of the Maldives is doing everything possible to make the world aware of their plight, there is another consideration which puts all of this into its true perspective. For Muslims, all things come from Allah. In everything they do they declare, "inshallah." Even the sun coming up in the morning depends on His will.  
   Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) urged his followers to "tie your camel, then trust in Allah." In other words, Muslims should do everything they possibly can, and then when they have done everything they put their trust and their faith in the One who controls all things.
   On approaching Male, the capital of the Maldives, from the air, the most immediate impression is how beautiful the islands are. Upon arrival at the airport, visitors are reminded of this in a peculiar way. In most of the world's airports, travelers are asked to declare if they are bringing drugs or alcohol into the country. In the Maldives, they are not only asked this, but also if they are carrying idols of worship, which, being anathema to Muslims, are similarly banned. 
   Islam came to the Maldive islands in the twelfth century. It was another of those countries never approached by Muslim armies, but by traders from the Arab world. Their example eventually led the whole population to embrace Islam. In a country which rejoices in being one hundred per cent Muslim, one of the first things visitors see as they travel by boat to the nation's capital is the splendid golden dome of the Sultan Mosque.
   Egypt’s Al-Azhar has always played a central role in leading and guiding the Muslim world. The Islamic Centre in Male, which is a truly impressive building and which incorporates the country's largest Mosque, was built with the help of many Arab and Muslim nations. This is a visible sign of the unity and brotherhood which exists among Muslims.    
    The Opening Ceremony was attended by the late Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Jadul-Haqq, who traveled to the Maldives in November 1984 especially for this. Even today there is an Al-Azhar school in Male.
   There is only one Islam. The beauty of Islam, though, is that it has so many beautiful faces throughout the world. These faces don't change Islam, since Islam is at home in every country and in every culture, but they do show its colours and its diversity. In fact, they show how practical and sensible Islam has been throughout the centuries in making its message relevant to all people on the face of this earth. The Maldivian people have their own very beautiful portrayal of Islam.
   In fact, no matter how beautiful the sea or how white the sand, or even how peaceful the atmosphere, the real treasure of the Maldive islands is the friendliness and simplicity of its people. As Muslims we should never forget the real treasure of ordinary Muslims that is always in our midst.
   The Maldives, like every country, has its own particular problems. Sometimes, as Muslims, we get distracted by our own national situation and forget to look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture shows us that Islam is alive and well and that Muslims are thriving. Perhaps this is why Islam is now the fastest growing religion in the West.
   In a sense, the people of the Maldives can cling so closely to Islam because of their very way of life. This way of life has something to teach us all. Many of its people are fishermen, at one with the sea and its seasons, and they are in tune with their Creator. It is when we become so sophisticated and so caught up with the affairs of this world that we begin to lose something of Islam's simplicity. Islam is indeed simple, but we have managed to make it seem so complicated.
   Anyone staying in the Maldives for even a short time is reminded just by being there that we need to remain focused on Allah, not on the things of this world. When we do remain focused on Allah, all things fall quite naturally into perspective and we see that all things come to us from the hand of Allah. With such an attitude, there is nothing that can overcome us not even Climate Change and Global Warming!

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