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Insights

I had to travel to Magadi town in Kajiado, home mainly to the Maasai, at the start of Ramadan. Here are a few things I learnt:

1. Summer Ramadans are no joke

Having grown up in Gaborone, Botswana, I’ve experienced my fair share of blisteringly hot summer Ramadans. Temperatures close to 40°C are common there. A few years in Nairobi makes it easy to underestimate what a summer Ramadan means, but a day or two in Magadi corrects that mistake. With temperatures in the mid-30s, the thirst is what really gets you. We should make a special du’a for our brothers and sisters fasting during the summer this year, especially with long daylight hours.

2. Tabligh Jamat still do a lot of good

The Tablighi Jamaat are a group of Muslims who travel locally, nationally, and internationally to Muslim communities, stay at a mosque in the area, and encourage the Muslims they visit to grow spiritually. I’ve heard complaints from Muslims about the Tablighi Jamaat. Heck, I’ve made a few complaints myself about them (not enough da’wah to people who aren’t Muslim, using dubious “kitabs” [books containing advice based on inauthentic traditions of the Prophet, peace be upon him], overlooking the Qur’an, and promoting retrogressive methodologies and ideas). I often overlook the good they do, and in Magadi’s only mosque—a tiny little building built decades ago—their mere presence effused goodness. Coming from Nairobi, they brought sorely needed food for iftar; their talks after each salah were short and pertinent; and the eight people in their Jamat actually made up a third of the mosque’s daily salah attendance, bulking the masjid pleasantly.

3. We need to spread the word of Islam more (more da’wah)

I was heartened to see a Maasai man, complete with stretched earlobes, performing salah. What was sad is that he was the only one. The local community didn’t seem to have any problem with the mosque or the area’s few Muslims (though they were worried about the influx of Muslims from the Tablighi Jamaat, a little dialogue explained what the Jamaat was here for and everyone was happy).

I felt the Maasai are similar to the Bedouin Arabs of the Prophet’s time in that both communities are nomadic/semi-nomadic, both have livestock as a major focus of their lives, both have been known as raiders, both have a strong cultural identity, and both can be a bit abrasive. In theory, a community that resembles the Bedouins should be very open to accepting Islam and should be able to produce legendary Muslims like this sahabi or this one. Ok, I admit, this may be a stretch and a forced analogy, but not enough da’wah is being done to test this theory. I’m not blaming the Magadi Muslim Community alone: I’m not doing enough da’wah, and neither are you.

4. The mythical mosque where Fajr attendance equals Jumuah attendance exists

Yeah, I found it; and it’s in Magadi. Though before we celebrate an Islamic renaissance, a little context might dim that shine. The Muslim population there is so small that it is unfair to compare it to larger communities. About 20 people came for Jumu’ah while about 17 came for Fajr. This is still an impressive ratio. May Allah improve them and make us more like them.

5. Magadi Road is probably the worst “tarmac” road in Kenya

I write “tarmac” in quotes because falsehood is discouraged while fasting and say “probably” because I haven’t seen many roads outside Nairobi. There are sections on the road with more potholes than road, and we frequently had to drive off the road to keep moving. The 50 km/h road signs were pointless. It was impossible in some parts, on our way there, to drive over that limit. I’m not looking to blame anyone in this piece since 50+ years of independence offers too many culpable individuals to list in a paragraph: this is a simple observation that was made. The distance between Nairobi and Magadi is only 120 km, but the journey takes about four hours at an average speed of 30 km/h. A re-laying of the road is necessary.


One of the better stretches of road (Photo by ninara CC)

6. Everyone should spend a few days of Ramadan somewhere quiet

I was fortunate enough to start the month away from the stress of my daily schedule. I had the time to look inward and see what the month really means for me and what I want to achieve from it. With fewer distractions, I could spend almost the entire day in reading and understanding the Qur’an. Every Ramadan, scholars advise that we should modify our daily schedules instead of changing them completely to get the best out of the month, and this is something I agree with. What I’m suggesting is a day or two away from hours of traffic, unclean air, unfriendly people, and stressful job—basically time away from Nairobi—to focus on the spiritual side of yourself, especially if you won't be able to perform i'tikaf.


Go somewhere quiet and secluded. (Photo by Arts at LSE CC)



Featured image by Jim Fruchterman CC, Cover image by ninara CC



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