AS Muslims in Zimbabwe join the rest of the Muslim world in celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, our Religion Correspondent Desire Ncube caught up with Zimbabwe men’s senior national soccer team manager and businessman Mr Sharif Mussa, to talk about this pillar of the religion.
Q: What does Ramadan mean to you?
A: Ramadan is very crucial for me as a Muslim. It prepares me to be patient and brings me closer to Allah. It is a time that makes me realise what is required of me as a Muslim. Ramadan is a month of extreme importance by its very virtue of being one of the most important among five pillars of Islam.
God wanted people to be part of this month for the aims of exercising compassion, to help, gentleness, tolerance, and decency. Ramadan is a special command from God which is celebrated in the ninth Islamic month from an Islamic calendar (lunar) by which the month has 29 or 30 days.
Q:Why is Ramadan so important to you?
A: The month of Ramadan is directly linked to the Qur’aan. It (the Qur’aan) was revealed to Prophet Mohammad during this month, that’s why every Muslim is encouraged to read a lot of the Qur’aan, spread a lot of the Qur’aan, pray a lot of the Qur’aan, and listen to a lot of the Qur’aan as well as to practise a lot of the Qur’aan.
Q: Do you find any challenges working with non-Muslims? How do they perceive you?
A: One thing that I am happy with in Zimbabwe is that there is freedom of worship. However there are some challenges that we face just like any other religion . . . there are bad apples in every religion.
We are, however, strengthened by the teachings of the Prophet and it encourages us to move on with whatever we will be doing; be it fasting despite enormous challenges we can encounter on our way to the last day.
I am not ashamed of being a Muslim, and I don’t compromise on matters of my faith. They all know that.
Q: When fasting, do you encounter challenges?
A: Yes! In the course of fasting, there are many challenges we face, but if we stick to the teachings of the Prophet, we are able to surmount all those challenges and move on as believing Muslims.
Q: Does your work as the Warriors manager and as a businessman allow you to exercise your faith properly?
A: When I am fasting it doesn’t matter where I am, be it in the stadium . . . I just find a place to go during prayer time. We must pray five times a day during the month of Ramadan so it’s every Muslim’s obligation to pray five times a day. You might be at work, in the streets, or anywhere – you must pray.
Q. Do you close businesses or schools during Ramadan?
A: Schools are not closed in Zimbabwe, ours is not a Muslim nation but in places like Zanzibar the schools are closed because there are many Muslims there.
In the case of business, pure Muslims do close their shops which sell food, such as restaurants and hotels. This is an option and they are not forced to close their shops though they are advised to do so.
Q: Is Ramadan in Zimbabwe different from Ramadan in the Middle East?
A: There are differences since in the Middle East 90 percent are Muslims so during this time there are big changes in people’s behaviour.
Harare is not dominated by Muslims hence changes are there but not much. Changes are seen in people’s lifestyle. By that I mean the dressing styles during Ramadan are more respectful. Also, evils during this month are very few.
Q: Can non-Muslims participate in Ramadan or attend Ramadan services?
A: Non-Muslims can participate but not in all services, only in Darsa and Mawaidha (a service to educate each other on what God wants and does not want, also about historical events in Qur’aan).
Q: Can a non-Muslim participate in eating food when you are breaking the fasting?
A: Food can be eaten by anyone even the one who has not fasted and we do warmly welcome other people.
Q: At what age do children begin to participate in Ramadan?
A: A child can participate in Ramadan starting in his or her puberty. It can be from 11 years. But also on that, when a Muslim child is born he or she is told that you are a Muslim soon after birth; this is done normally by the father of that child or a religious leader.
Q: What do you instil in your children so that they embrace the Muslim faith?
A: Our faith dictates that soon after birth our children are told about the Qur’aan and about Allah. A religious leader or the father of the child should pronounce to a child “you are a Muslim”.
Besides, since our country is not an Islamic state, our kids go to secular schools from eight in the morning up to one in the afternoon, and from 2-5pm they go to Islamic schools where they are cultured with the Islamic faith, being taught the values and principles, the dos and the don’ts so that when they mix with the secular people they don’t lose their identity. As Muslims, also, our duty from birth to grave is to read, practice and spread the Qur’aan so our kids learn from that as well.
Q: In Islamic laws who is not allowed to participate in fasting?
A: Sick people, travellers, non-Muslims, old people and women in their period time.
Q: Is the Islamic faith growing in Zimbabwe?
A: Yes; this is evidenced by you coming here.