Date: Thursday 16th June 2016

Delivered by: Radeyah H. Ali a.k.a. R.H. Ali

Venue: Tabaquite Secondary School, Trinidad and Tobago

Occasion: Religious Instruction General Assembly

Audience: Forms 1 and 2 Students

Principal, Vice Principal, Teachers, Ancillary Staff, and students, AsalaaamuAlaaikum wa ramatalaahi wa barakatu, may the peace and blessings of Almighty God be with you all.

It brings me great joy to be with you all today. Just looking at your beautiful faces brings me back to a time when I, myself was a part of a general assembly at high school. In some ways, that time of my life seems like a lifetime ago, and in other ways it seems like just yesterday. This is how life is. One day we’re convinced that school will go on forever and the next, we’re wishing that our school days could return! I’m sure you’ve heard this countless times now, and it probably doesn’t seem like it now, but these are the days you will remember forever. You will remember the simplicity of coming to school, being taught and then being examined on what you were taught – most times anyway. I say to you – enjoy it fully.

Today I am here to talk to you a little bit about the Holy month of Ramadan and what it means for Muslims.

Do we have any students who are fasting today?

Okay, so hopefully I can shed some light on what fasting is about.

While I speak about the Holy month of Ramadan, I would be simultaneously speaking about five things that I want you to take away from my address this morning. They are:

  1. Be God conscious.
  2. Be patient.
  3. Have your own identity.
  4. Spread love not hate.
  5. Believe in yourself.

I’ll start by saying that there are five pillars of Islam and they are 1. Imaan or faith; 2. Salaat or prayer; 3. Saum or fasting; 4. Zakaat or Charity; and 5. Hajj or the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Thus, fasting is one of the pillars of Islam. We are currently in the middle of the Holy month of Ramadan in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. God says in Surah Al-Baqra Ayaat 183, that fasting is prescribed for us as it has been prescribed for those before us so that we may become pious. Fasting is compulsory or mandatory for all Muslims who have attained the age of puberty.

During the Holy month of Ramadan, Muslims wake before dawn for suhoor where we have a light meal as breakfast before we commence the fast for the day until sunset when we break our fast.

A lot of the times people often mistake fasting in the month of Ramadan for starving themselves or a good way to finally loose some unnecessary weight – but I assure you, it is neither of those things!

So, fasting does not only mean staying away from food and drink, but it refers to abstinence from bad thoughts and actions and ensures that we remain God conscious throughout our days. This month is a training period for the entire year. It is a month where we are able and encouraged to be the best that we can be so that we will get into the habit of this behaviour so that we can carry it through the entire year.

This is where the first thing I want you all to remember comes in – be God conscious. It does not matter to me the name by which you call God. God is God. If you are constantly aware of a Higher Being, who is able to see and hear you at all times, your entire personality and demeanor changes. I like to use the metaphor of a video camera to put things into perspective. Imagine – there is a video camera recording you 24 hours of the day – how would you act? Would you act differently than you usually do? Wouldn’t you want to ensure that everything that the camera captures is good? Yes. We would ensure that our behaviour is immaculate and we are seen as the best that we can be.

Now, imagine that the person viewing the footage from that camera is God, and that He has an unlimited subscription to our lives.

You see, when we become more God conscious, and we are constantly aware that God is watching us, we become better people. We begin to do more of the right things and less and less of the bad things. We begin to clean our rooms, like our parents and guardians ask, we begin to wash the dishes after we use them, we begin to give the beggar on the street some of the little money that we have, we begin to improve our lives because God is watching us.

As Muslims, the Holy month of Ramadan increases our Imaan or faith which is directly linked to how conscious we are of God.

So being God conscious is the first thing I want you to take from today.

Basically then, the Holy month of Ramadan shapes us into the people that we want to be over the next year. It sets the pace for us to be patient, kind, and do good deeds all year through.

So you know how everyone likes to say that Christmas time is the happiest time of the year? Well for Muslims, the Holy month of Ramadan is like the happiest time of our year! It becomes enjoyable for us to continuously make ourselves better than we were the year before and open up ourselves to new and greater challenges to overcome.

I know that we all struggle a whole lot with patience or as we say in Arabic, sabr. The adage goes – patience is a virtue, right? – but honestly it’s a virtue that some of us just don’t have enough of. In Islam, we believe that patience is the key to overcoming any obstacle – our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w. / peace be unto him) was the most patient man that ever existed. In Surah Al-Anfal 8 verse 46, of the Holy Quran, God says “…be patient. For Allah is with the patient ones.”

Now, be honest, do any of you get impatient really quickly?

Yep, I see some guilty faces in the audience. It is indeed a challenge, but one that we can overcome if we really try.

The key is to remember that nothing comes to us that is not for us and that God has a plan for us all. If we accept our struggles and trust and have faith that God will see us through, we automatically have fought half of the battle. If we view every hardship and struggle as a blessing – as an opportunity to become stronger people, then we already have a positive outlook on the issue and we are then in a better place to overcome it. Thus, no hardship, or struggle can make us impatient because we know that God will see us through.

The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w. / peace be upon him) said: “How remarkable is the case of the believer! There is good for him in everything, but this is not the case for anyone except for the believer. When the believer receives any good, he is thankful to Allah, and gets a reward. And when some misfortune befalls him, he endures it patiently, for which he is (also) rewarded”.

So be patient. This is the second thing I want you to take away today.

The third thing I want you to take away, is to always have your own identity.

In this day and age it is crucial that as young adults you build your own sense of self. I urge you to never allow the media to dictate to you what to believe. In a perfect world, the media is supposed to be unbiased, but in reality, it rarely ever is. It is essential that you read as much as you can on all topics so that you can form opinions about the world that are your own. Do not be dependent on others to tell you what to believe or who you are.

You are being educated. You have the opportunity and the resources in front of you to think critically and to use the system to your advantage. Take every opportunity that comes your way.

At your age, you are still figuring out who you are. You are at that stage where the people around you can influence you greatly. I urge you to keep good company.

Also, you should know that if you don’t exactly “fit in” with the crowd, it is perfectly okay. You don’t have to follow the latest trends, you don’t have to do things you don’t want to or that you are not comfortable doing. You can say no, and you can be yourself. It may be difficult if you feel as though you aren’t “cool” but your older self will thank you for staying true to yourself. Don’t just go with the crowd, but if need be, forge your own path.

So that sums up my third message to you this morning – have your own identity.

So we just have two more messages remaining —

The fourth one is to spread love not hate.

You know they say, that you can’t fight fire with fire? Well it’s the same with hate. You can never overcome hate with hate. You need to show compassion and love in order to fight the hate. I have a story about the beloved Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w. / peace be upon him).

At the time when he was delivering the message of Islam, one old lady got into the habit of throwing rubbish at him when he passed her house and he had to pass it everyday on his way to the Mosque. Even when the old woman threw rubbish on him, he would pass silently without showing any anger or annoyance. This was a regular, daily event.

One day when the Prophet was passing by, the old woman was not there to throw the rubbish on him. He stopped, and asked the neighbour about her well-being, as he wondered why she wasn’t throwing any rubbish on him.

The neighbour informed the Prophet that the old woman had become sick and she was on bed rest. The Prophet politely asked permission to visit the woman. When allowed, he entered the house, and the old woman thought that he had come there to take his revenge when she was unable to defend herself because of her sickness.
But the Prophet (s.a.w. / peace be unto him) assured her that he had come to her, not to take any revenge, but to see her and to look after her needs, as it was the command of Allah that if any one is sick, a Muslim should visit him and should help him if his help is needed.

The old woman was greatly moved by this kindness and love, of the Prophet. By the example of greatness of Muhammad, she understood that he was truly the Prophet of God and she saw the beauty of Islam. She then accepted Islam as her own way of life.

This story shows us the huge impact of responding with love to hateful acts and comments. We ought to strive to spread more love so that we can obliterate the hate.

In today’s worldwide social and political climate, Muslims are painted as certain types of people. I know this to be false and as a result, I have launched a social media campaign called #IAmMuslimAndI which aims to show that Muslims are regular people who want regular things like peace, equity, love, success and a good life. In the campaign, I humbly ask for Muslims to post on social media with the hashtag #IAmMuslimAndI and state something they love to do or something positive that they believe.

I also humbly ask non-Muslims who want to support this campaign to post on social media with the hashtag #IAmNotMuslimBut and something positive that they genuinely believe about Muslims and Islam. If you want to read more about it you can find the Page on Facebook, it’s called I Am Muslim And I. If you read about it and like it, and you decide to support, it would really mean a lot to me. It’s a very small step to reducing Islamophobia but it is still a step nonetheless, and it is my small way of spreading love and not hate.

So that was the fourth thing that I want you to remember: spread more love and less hate.

Fifthly, and lastly, I want to emplore you all to always always believe in yourselves. It may be totally cliched, but I cannot emphasize its importance enough. If you believe in yourself and trust your abilities, you can make anything a relaity. You have the power within you and all you need is the belief that you can do it, coupled with hard work and determination and you will see the fruits of what you sow.

How many of you know of Malala Yousafzai?

Good. She has made it her life’s missions to fight for girls to be educated. She quoted a heartbreaking figure 32 million girls who are missing out on the first three years of secondary education.

Imagine that. And here all of you are. You all are given the opportunity to gain an education and as it stands, a free education too. In other parts of the world children aren’t as lucky as you are. Think about it. Don’t waste the opportunities that you have.

Use every opportunity you have to further your goals and become who you want to be.

When you believe in yourself, anything is possible. This quote by Stacy London really sums it up. She says: “Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you from trying new things. Believe in yourself. Do what you love. And most importantly, be kind to others, even if you don’t like them.”

So this was the fifth thing I want you to take away from this morning: believe in yourself.

So today we talked a little bit about Ramadan and what it means for muslims. As we did that, I left you with five things I want you to remember from my talk with you today.

To recap, the five things are:

  1. Be God conscious.
  2. Be patient.
  3. Have your own identity.
  4. Spread love not hate.
  5. Believe in yourself.

I hope that this was beneficial to you all and I thank you for being such a gracious audience. Thank you for having me.

I wish each of you every success in all of your endeavours and may you all grow into brilliant contributing adults in our country.

As I end, I leave you with this quote by Leah LaBelle:

“Work hard for what you want because it won’t come to you without a fight. You have to be strong and courageous and know that you can do anything you put your mind to. If somebody puts you down or criticizes you, just keep on believing in yourself and turn it into something positive.”

I will end with the greeting that Muslims use during the month of Ramadan – that is – Ramadan Mubarak!

For your time, I thank you.


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