Letters to the Editor


Prophet Muhammad's b'day falls on April 22
Holy Prophet Muhammad - model for mankind
By A. Abdul Aziz
Allah says in the Holy Qur'an: "Verily, you have in the Prophet of Allah an excellent exemplar". The Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) grew up an orphan, his father having died three months before his birth and his mother when he was only six. And yet he was so good mannered and gentle that all those who came across him were inspired by feelings of love and affection for the child.

Muhammad (PBUH) made an excellent model for the married. Although he had more than one wife, except for one, they were all either widows or divorcees. Amongst a people who treated women as chattels, he treated them with much love and care. "The best among you is the one who treats his spouse best. And I treat my spouse best," he said.

Before his advent, women were not entitled to inherit the property of their husbands, but the Prophet (PBUH) gave them this right. He had many children and he looked after their physical, moral and spiritual development. The loss of a dearly loved child is the worst calamity that can befall a parent. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lost all his sons in infancy and all his daughters, except one, during his lifetime. He bore his bereavement with exemplary patience and fortitude. His motto was: "That which the Lord takes away belongs to Him. Even that which He gives belongs to Him.”

He was a model for the poor and the workers. The Prophet (PBUH) belonged to the noblest tribe of Mecca, but he never hesitated to do any manual work and upheld the dignity of labour. "The best meal is the one which is the fruit of the labour of one's hands," he would say. Even when he became wealthy, he led an extremely simple life. He would spend money on the poor and for the emancipation of slaves. He was so generous that sometimes he would give a hundred camels to one poor man.

As the ruler of Arabia, he was never given to the luxuries and pleasures of wealth. Muhammad (PBUH) said, "The head of a nation is their servant.” Hewould lead all the five daily obligatory prayers, the Friday and Eid sermons, perform the Hajj and Umrah ceremonies, lead the funeral prayers, usher in the newborn babies with the call of Azaan and Iqama softly in their ears, pray for the sick, mend his own shoes, help his wives in preparing the meals, fight in battles for Islam, etc. Not for a single moment of his life was he idle.

For 13 years at Mecca and for eight years at Medina, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) suffered all sorts of atrocities at the hands of his enemies. They would beat him and his companions, torture and torment them. At a place called Ta'if, Muhammad (PBUH) was insulted, stoned and chased with hounds for miles. Once when he was praying in the Ka'aba, the intestines of a camel full of filth and dirt were placed on his back, so heavy that he could not move until someone came to his aid.

His daughter who was pregnant at the time was mercilessly beaten that she suffered a miscarriage and died subsequently. When Muhammad (PBUH) fled from Mecca, he was declared an outlaw and a price of one hundred camels was placed on his head. For all these relentless persecutions one would expect severe retribution. But when he re-entered Mecca at the head of ten thousand warriors, he summoned the Meccans and announced his verdict thus:

"Go away. You are all free. No blame shall lie on you this day. May Allah forgive you. And He is the most Merciful to those who show mercy." For such clemency there is no parallel in history. Peace be on Muhammad (PBUH), the conqueror and merciful. Such was Muhammad (PBUH)- the Holy Prophet of God, an ideal man and excellent guide.

We are marching out of pace
One can recall the days when Sri Lankan society was enriched with values and culture. Wewai-dagabai (tank and temple) played a major role in shaping the values of village folk. Respect for authority, tolerance, helping each other, kindness, disapproval of criminals, living simple lives and earning wealth by ethical methods were some unwritten rural values, derived from noble Buddhist principles.

Ordinary Tamils also had similar social values such as respect for authority, hard work, fear of gods and honesty derived from Hindu social morals. Then, contemporary urban society was strongly influenced by the social and cultural values of the west. Deriving values from Christianity (though Middle-eastern in origin), they had a strong sense of justice, law and order, duty, responsibility, honesty, truthfulness, charity, concern for fellow citizens, respect for authority, objectivity in awarding and rewarding, and a stream of other good social values.

When Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike won the election in 1956 he not only laid the foundation for economic disaster, but also prepared the way for the collapse of our esteemed social values. Bringing the rural masses to the forefront was essential, but this should have been done whilst retaining the quality of moral values, the strength of institutions and improving the level of industry that the colonialists left behind.

Gradually the noble values of Buddhist philosophy have now been replaced by so-called Buddhist nationalism. The good moral values have given way to a different set of rules or no rules at all. Thanha for political power has drawn leaders into social evil. Under the guise of nationalism, civil rights are undermined. When the rest of the world progresses in values and culture, we are marching out of pace in moral values.

The developed world considers exclusive attachment to race and religion as racism and fanaticism. We consider them as nationalism. They consider, the right to religion, belief, worship and ethnicity as fundamental rights of citizens. We consider that citizens' rights are vested in the state that is fundamentally Buddhist and Sinhala. They consider privatization as an opportunity for all, and a way of increasing efficiency. We consider it as an opportunity for the rich and influential.

Their education is to fit students into society. Our education is to produce academics. They treat everybody equally. We treat them according to their social status, connections and political power. They mind their business, but we mind others’ business.

The developed countries do have a religious history, but today they practise religion in the gentlest way, without hurting the feelings of minorities. Buddhism needs to receive its due place in Sri Lanka (through the ministries of Culture and Buddha Sasana) and Fundamental Christianity needs to be managed (i.e., discouraging their methods), without hurting the majority Christian denominations. Anti-Conversion bills, anti-Christian books burning churches and suppressing Christmas celebrations are certainly not the way to give Buddhism its due place in Sri Lanka.

The need of the day is a true internal Buddhist revival, a return to righteousness, renunciation and asceticism, to Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upeksha. Political leaders can get moral values, ethics and good judgement back into the system.

Dr. Leonard Pinto

Where’s the authority?
CAA or the Consumer Affairs Authority is a farce! Why should we taxpayers allow this inefficient Authority to continue? This authority appears to have no authority whatsoever when the consumer is penalized.
Let us consider the following matters:

Petroleum products are sold at a premium within the Colombo Municipal limits. Isn't this a gross violation of the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka where every citizen is equal!

Bill payments for public utilities - the beneficiaries being the CEB, National Water Supply & Drainage Board, and Telecom - effected at commercial banks are subjected to a charge to the payer and not the payee (receiver). Usually, the commission for a transaction is paid by the receiver and not the payer. In Sri Lanka the consumer of public utilities credits (or deposits) money to the service provider's account with the bank. Why should the consumer be liable to a service charge when the bank has no contract whatsoever with the payer. The service charge should be claimed from the customer of the bank - the service provider of the public utility.

D.A.M. Ayantha
Colombo 3

Funeral of a great man: Lessons in simplicity
As in other parts of the world, no doubt, many people in Sri Lanka too would have watched the live telecast of the funeral of Pope John Paul II last Friday. Many people here would have discerned the stark contrast between funerals in Sri Lanka for any dignitary, be it a politician, a member of the clergy, an artiste or anybody who is somebody and that of the late Pope.

The most striking contrast was the simple coffin, lying in the open, almost touching the ground, a cedarwood coffin as compared with coffins in Sri Lanka made of highly polished expensive wood with polished handles, elaborate carving, the more tassles the better. There were no wreaths and canopies. The Pope was a simple man and died as one and will be remembered as such. This was a man who was not only the leader of millions of Catholics but also a head of state.

During an interview someone was asked what was to happen to the Pope's personal effects. The answer was: the Pope had none. Everything he needed for his day-to-day living was provided by the Vatican household. No bank accounts, acres of land, and houses in his country and abroad.

There were 200 world leaders present but no one made any speeches. Contrast this with Sri Lanka; at least one dozen must speak and often it is a repetition.
I hope our Sri Lankans will learn how to conduct solemn public occasions in a less ostentatious manner. Since we are so good at aping the west, I fervently hope we will follow this example too.

Quintus de Silva
Colombo 5

Private sector and a little gesture towards ethnic reconciliation
I visited a big showroom opened in Wattala area recently. It is good to see Wattala developing fast with many new buildings coming up. This is the New Year season and there were many notices and leaflets being given out with the purchases made to promote customer relations. Unfortunately they mean nothing to people who cannot read Sinhala.

This is what happened to me. All the printed material are in a language that I do not understand. And everybody will agree that the New Year is also for Hindus (the majority of Tamils in this country). But not even a word is mentioned in Tamil in their displays outside the showroom wishing people a happy New Year. I saw this even last year in almost all the shopping areas on Galle Road, Duplication Road and others.

The private sector often forgets that there are Tamil speaking people in this country and it is important to talk to them in a language that they understand.

They need not talk – at least when they print material, put up posters advertising discounts why can't they have it in Tamil? After all, Wattala has a considerable Tamil population. The private sector wants to promote ethnic reconciliation only when it affects its own survival.

We noticed this when the airport was attacked. Everybody wants to blame the government for its poor response on language issues but what of the private organizatons when they could do little things to communicate in all three or at least the two vernacular languages?


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