Colombo - A group of 10 Bay Area Muslims visited Sri Lanka for the purpose of dahwa work. Sri Lanka is a country consisting of 16 million people, of which 10% are Muslim, 65% Buddhist, 20% Hindu, and 5% Christian. Tradition has it that Prophet Adam's (AS) footstep is imprinted on an area which is now covered by a mountain. The mountain, named Mount Adam, is in the city of Halton and is said to cover the footstep of Prophet Adam (AS).
Sri Lanka has approximately 2,000 mosques. In small villages, 100% of the Muslims attend the five daily prayers at the local mosques. In larger cities, the Masjids are filled to 60% capacity at every prayer.
The Muslims in Sri Lanka are very active and devoted to the Islamic cause. Although the government is not a Muslim government, Muslims are well represented. There is one speaker in Parliament, one Trade Minister, and one in Ministry of Religion and Culture. There are even official government holidays celebrating the Eid of Ramadan, the Hajj and Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) birthday.
The first masjid in Sri Lanka, in the city of Beruwala, was built by Yemeni merchants. There are now many Islamic centers throughout the country. In the larger Islamic centers, 5,000 Muslims attend their weekly program; in the smaller centers, there is an attendance rate of 2,000 Muslims for their weekly programs. In 1983, there was a huge Ijtimah (Islamic meeting) in which 90% of the Muslims in Sri Lanka attended. This huge success rate was due to the fact that every Muslim family was personally invited. There was a group of Muslims who went house to house visiting the Muslim families and inviting them to attend the Ijtimah.
Sri Lanka also houses many Islamic schools. The #1 rated Islamic school in Sri Lanka, named Zahira, is in the city of Colombo. There is even an all-girl Muslim school, ILMA International, in Colombo. More Islamic schools are opening up to fill the demand in the increase of Muslim students.
The S.F. Brothers had a very productive trip and the time spent in Sri Lanka was extremely beneficial. They felt accepted and the hospitality extended to them was very gracious. The Muslims in Sri Lanka are more than willing to extend their arms to foreign jamaats. While in Sri Lanka, the S.F. Brothers had two Buddhist converts to Islam. Due to the visit of the S.F. Brothers in Sri Lanka, we now have 9 Brothers from Sri Lanka visiting the Bay Area.
Many of our readers will remember Noor Cassim, the gentleman who was portrayed in the June 1991 issue of the Islamic Bulletin, WHY I EMBRACED ISLAM? Noor Cassim, who is from Sri Lanka, was a priest named Father Anthony Perera O.M.I. (Order of Mary Immaculate), before accepting Islam. Brother Noor Cassim is visiting the Bay Area Masjids at the present time; in fact, while this issue is being written. May Allah bless Brother Cassim and the rest of the Sri Lanka Jamaat who are traveling with him and spreading the word of Allah.
A South African Jamaat (SAJ) of four brothers left from Nizamudin, India to the former USSR. They took with them Qurans, Islamic literature, and other items such as dates, topis, and miswasks to be given as presents. Religious freedom had been restored to the people about three years ago. The prior 73 years, all Masjids and Madressas were closed or used for non-religious purposes. Learning and teaching of Quran and Islam were banned; but the spark of Iman (faith) was kept alive by practicing Islam secretly in homes or underground tunnels at the risk of death or imprisonment. Thousands of ulema (scholars) were massacred during the beginning of the century and thereafter those that were caught teaching religion were sent to labor camps. Islam still managed to survive.
The SAJ went to the former USSR to help further the revitalization of Islam. The first city the SAJ went to was Tashkent. It is the 4th largest city of the former U.S.S.R. and the capital of Uzbekistan Republic. At the Tashkent Airport, they were met by two Muslim brothers. They went directly to the masjid in the heart of old Tashkent city. The masjid is very active and there were nearly 200 people for Fajr Salat. Before its reopening, it was used as a government storeroom and in latter days as a hotel and bar. Most masjids are very large, with spacious courtyards, plenty of rooms, and central heating. The masjids are a good indication of the past days of Islam.
The people were very humble, kind, and soft spoken. Visitors were held in very high esteem. In the masjid, the SAJ was given a place in the first Saff (row). Azaan is respected very greatly and is performed over a microphone in all the masjids. No one talks or walks around during Azaan. These people are lovers of the Quran and the SAJ ran short of copies to distribute.
It is a custom there for people to gather for any ceremony like an Akikah, Walimah, etc. This was also one of the ways Deen was kept alive. All types of fruit, sweet meats, soups, and shish kebabs were offered. The SAJ went to several of these gatherings at which the Quran was read, Bayaan (talk) was given and the work of Dahwa (invitation) was explained.
The next day the SAJ flew to Kokand. They were met at the airport by Sheikh Noaman and representatives of Mr. Yakubou Yusufjan, the mayor and an oil mill director. In Kokand there are about 180,000 Muslims of a total population of 200,000.
From Kokand the SAJ went to Margillan. There are 200 Masjids there of which 46 are opened. Jumha Salat takes place in 8 Masjids. There they met Sheikh Sabir who asked them to give the Bayaan at the masjid. About 400 people sat for the Bayaan. The work of Dahwa was explained in detail. After Asr he took them to another masjid and asked them to give a Bayaan after Maghrib. The masjid was filled to capacity.
Two programs were arranged for the SAJ in both the high and primary schools. As they entered the school's hall, all the students stood and recited Kalima Tayyiba: La-ilaha illallah Mohammed Rasullallah. This made the Sheikh and the SAJ cry. The Sheikh told the students how fortunate they were that in their youth, religious freedom has been granted to the country. The SAJ spoke on the Omnipotence of Allah, life after death, Jannah (paradise), and even established local volunteers in the masjid.
After Asr the SAJ took a few brothers with them to the Taron Bazaar Masjid in the City Center for Maghrib. There the etiquette of inviting was explained. Four jammats of seven brothers were made. However when they went out, more brothers insisted on joining. Some jamaats had up to twenty brothers. The people listened very attentively. When they left the Taron Bazaar Masjid, "Riyad Al Saliheen" was given to the Imam to be read daily after salat.
The next morning the SAJ left for Fargana. From Fargana, they went to Andizaan, the birthplace of Sultan Baber, founder of Mogul Empire of India. The Jumha Masjid they went to was very large. There were approximately 7000 people who prayed Jumha Salat there. The SAJ gave the Khutba (Friday talk) in Arabic. There were 10 Jumha Masjids and about 700 small masjids. Youngsters there were very keen, and enjoyed listening to the SAJ.
From Fargana the SAJ went to the border of the Republic of Kirgizia, which is divided from China by a mountain range. Local people say the Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet) (RA) crossed this mountain range and entered China. A local brother had organized the day's program for the SAJ. Hundreds of people attended. Their desire for religion after 73 years of isolation made the jamaat's Iman (faith) strong. The next morning they took a 10 hour train ride back to Tashkent. Back in Tashkent, the SAJ slept in the masjid of Qari Abid Jaan. They were amazed to see about 15 youngsters learning the Quran until 11 pm at night. These youngsters loved to wear Islamic attire, which unfortunately was not readily available.
The SAJ concluded their trip by returning to Tashkent and visiting Idana-Diniya. A Quran from the time of Hazrat Osman (RA), which is written on leather, is there. The Quran had been taken away by the government and returned only three years ago.
The SAJ reported that many masjids have now opened. In addition, six Islamic schools have been established. In many towns Hafiz and Quran classes have started. For many years, jamaats from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the UK have been working and their fruits could be seen. The SAJ encourages other jamaats to travel to the former USSR.
San Francisco, California - Recently, representatives of the Islamic Center were invited to speak at a Group Home for Children which is run by the City and County of San Francisco. The Home had two teen-age Muslim boys in residence and the staff wanted more information about Islam so that they could better understand the needs of their wards. After giving the staff a brief talk on Islam, the Islamic Center brothers also met briefly with the two young men. One was from Yemen, the other from Afghanistan. They were both very interested in attending prayers at the Masjid and arrangements where made to accommodate them. Islamic literature was left for the staff and the boys. The boys also asked for copies of the Holy Quran, which were given to them.
This visit was very moving and points out the variety of work which the Islamic community has to do to attend to the spiritual needs of Muslims in all levels of society. There is a growing need for volunteers to work with the Muslim youth as they try to make the very difficult adjustment of integrating into mainstream America with its very un-Islamic values. In addition to homeless or troubled Muslim youths, another growing problem is runaway teen-age girls who are rejecting traditional Islamic family values in favor of the decadent western ways. We need to identify resources in the Social services community which may be sympathetic and supportive of objectives to help our Muslim youth, males and females, protect their Islamic beliefs and values. This is particularly urgent for those youth that are receiving public assistance in any form, such as foster home care, as was the case here.
If you are interested in working with Muslim youth, or if you know of social work resources which might be able to help, please contact us at 415-552-8831.
The Islamic Bulletin
P.O. Box 410186, San Francisco, CA 94141-0186
|March / April 1993|
|Ramadan Is Here|
|Letters to the Editor|
|Islamic World News|
|Islamic Dietary Laws|
|Women in Islam|
|Miracles of the Qur'an|
|Why I Embraced Islam|
|Stories of the Sahabah|
|The Kid's Corner|
|Sayings of the Prophet|