Many happy returns 2009

Eid means return. It is a season of celebration that returns the same time every year. We celebrate the gift of faith, the security and warmth of family.

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Eid means return. It is a season of celebration that returns the same time every year. We celebrate the gift of faith, the security and warmth of family, the bounty and undeserved generosity of God in general. Its our thanksgiving day. It is also a time for review. To audit our progress in the life of faith within the gaze of Allah. To assess our bearings and check our compass direction. Are we on target? Are we keeping the faith and remaining faithful to our purposes? Where need be, we recalibrate, re-energise and step up the momentum in positive, constructive and purposeful trajectories.

The Prophet Mohammed mentioned that there would always be a group that remains true and unswerved by the obstacles in the path of life. He praised them as the "strangers" when he said this way of ours began as a stranger in the world and will return at the end of time just as it began; unrecognisable, even to its own people. "So joy to the strangers," he said. The stranger here is someone who is not diverted from right action by ethnic or national affiliations. He or she is unashamed to stand out, to choose a direction other than that of the herd. Intelligent enough to identify what is loyal to faith and in the best interest of human society; and courageous enough to stand by it, even when others may be silent.

The stranger - praised by the Prophet - is organic, holistic and grounded in the natural earth of timeless principles that have maintained equilibrium in the human body mind and soul. Fairness and justice are the state of affairs attained when all systems are in balance and equilibrium. In this lies the mission of the stranger: as impartial observer he is counsellor and well-wisher to all parties. In the timelessness of his logic and fairness of his judgement, he is familiar to every man.

This stranger in the world has two callings vis-à-vis his neighbour in humanity. He is a healer and a teacher. This is the relationship of the Muslim to the world. Healing is to bring balance to the systems of a body when they have fallen towards the displacement of entropy. That ever-present chaos that waits to pounce upon the un-vigilant. Where there is a rupture or a fracture, the healer brings about closure, repair and rectification of wounds.

The Quran is an eternal guide for the Muslim. From it he imbibes wisdom and insight, as well as universal principles for wholesome action. The Quran speaks of itself as containing a healing for all things. The example for the Muslim is the Prophet Mohammed, who was described by his wife as the Quran walking. He was a physician of hearts and always sought to bring well-being to the rifts that transpire between human relationships.

In his capacity as teacher, he seeks to illuminate hearts and minds. The condition for this is to be oneself a person of illumination and learning, a person of consciousness and conscientiousness. This is achieved through mentoring and keeping the company of masters. Illumination is an organic process that involves book learning and lecturing but is not limited to it. It is experiential, it expands beyond the classroom, and is a sagacity built on applied experience. The Quran continually returns to a theme of movement from darkness to light.

On this Eid holiday we revisit the identity and calling of the Muslim. He is not a follower but a leader, always looking towards the best interest of his neighbours and family, reminding all to pursue positive and sustainable directions. He is a catalyst to bring people together and reminds them to keep their eyes on the prize of the big picture. Jihad Hashim Brown is director of research at the Tabah Foundation. He delivers the Friday sermon at the Maryam bint Sultan Mosque in Abu Dhabi