I hadn’t come to the American military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to reflect on the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, with respect to prisoners. I had come here to report on the unique case of the Canadian child soldier, Omar Khadr, accused by the U.S. of throwing a hand grenade that killed an American soldier in Afghanistan in 2002. He was 15- years-old at the time. He is now 21.
But as I stood on a cliff high above a beach on the idyllic island staring off into the dark salty Atlantic Ocean, I found myself thinking that had the Prophet been alive today to witness the treatment of these prisoners he would have demanded that all nations, particularly Muslims, adhere strictly to the principles of the Geneva Convention.
Europe holds some deep Islamic secrets embedded in its history, theology, culture and literature. But none is more amazing than the relationship between a famous 20th century German poet and Islam. Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) is considered one of the German language’s greatest poets. His haunting images focus on the difficulty of communion with the ineffable in an age of disbelief, solitude and profound anxiety – themes that tend to position him as a transitional figure between the traditions and the modernist posts.
Throughout his life Rilke showed a high opinion of Islam and especially the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. This is obvious in his letters and some of his key poems. Yet not much of this exciting relationship between a European poet and the Blessed Prophet is known or appreciated by the masses.
To understand the relationship one has to grasp the relationship between poetry and poets in traditional societies and especially within the Islamic tradition.
This is after all the land of carnival and Calypso and it takes a great deal to disturb the festive atmosphere. But with a population of 1.3 million people and an average GDP of TT$90 billion, Trinidad has earned the unenviable reputation of being the "kidnapping capital" of the world.
Many influential Muslim leaders, who asked to remain anonymous, told me they suspect that Yasin Abu Bakr and members of his Jamaat al-Muslimeen have been behind a large number of the kidnapping for ransom schemes.
Tradition can mean many things to many people, but to the mainstream community of believers its meaning is both understood and agreed upon
When Muslims in the West describe themselves as traditional, it might seem as if they are adding yet another label to a dizzying array of social and religious typologies that already exist in their communities. The concern with defining tradition is not a vain attempt to reframe the Enlightenment debate of reason versus revelation, or tradition versus modernity. Rather, tradition, albeit the Islamic Tradition, is the gladiator's arena where the most bitter conflict for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims is taking place.
The word tradition comes from the Latin traditio, meaning to hand down or to pass on knowledge or truths embodied in ritual practices, culture and beliefs from a past authority to subsequent generations within a religious community. The central purpose of a tradition is to act as a bridge between then and now, between a sacred moment in history and the profane present. Tradition is much more than just a word or a concept; it is a paradigm.
In the Islamic context, Tradition is the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. It is the way of the Prophet when he walked on Earth.
- By Nazim Baksh
- Published 12/26/2016