A Journey Through Islam: Muslims have come up well in Ghana

Updated 01 March 2013
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A Journey Through Islam: Muslims have come up well in Ghana

AS early as the 8th century, Islam was introduced into West Africa by Arab merchants, who travelled through the trans-Saharan salt and gold trade routes.
Later, Muslim scholars would accompany them, and were instrumental in constructing mosques and centers of learning along the routes. Besides, the traditionally nomadic Hausa and the Fulani moved around all over West Africa, taking their Muslim beliefs to places such as present-day Ghana as also Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Benin, southern Nigeria and Cameroon. Embracing Islam by local inhabitants was however a late happening probably by 11th century. It was a gradual process. The empires of both Mali and Songhai that followed ancient Ghana in the Western Sudan adopted the religion.
Islam made its entry into the northern territories of modern Ghana around the 15th century. Traders and scholars from Mande or Wangara tribes carried the religion into the area. Some local scholars believe that Islam reached Ghana through daawa workers who came from the neighboring African countries. They observe that many of Ghana’s daawa workers got their Islamic education in mosques, adding that the mosque in Ghana was playing a prominent role in the lives of Muslims. According to Sheikh Hassan Khalid, a prominent Ghanaian Islamic Daawa activist, Islam reached through Daawa activists who visited the country from the neighboring African countries, whose sole aim was to spread Islam to their neighbors.
Despite the spread of Islam in the Middle East, North Africa, and even in Nigeria, Ghanaian Muslims and Christians have enjoyed very good relations.
Under the guidance of several organizations like the Muslim Representative Council, matters pertaining to religious, social, and economic issues affecting Muslims were often redressed through negotiations. The Muslim Council has also been responsible for arranging pilgrimages to Makkah for believers who can afford the journey.
The Daawa activists of Ghana are now focusing their attention on the Muslim youths, so as to prevent them from going astray, and lead them toward the proper path and the correct Islamic practices.
Dawa activists face the problem of lack of resources, and this has made it impossible to acquire new and modern methods and equipment to spread the message of Islam. These include printing presses and other communication equipment.
There is another organization, the Islamic Bureau for the Disabled and Service to Islamic Institutions, based in Accra, Ghana, that provides services and help in the area to anyone, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. In the true spirit of Islam they provide immediate aid to the disabled, financing their schooling and pressing needs. It provides wheel chairs and monthly support. It also lends assisting hands in building new mosques, hospitals, schools, wells, educational complexes for both Muslims and non-Muslims communities in Ghana and organizes events to present the true message of Islam.
Out of its population of 20 million, Ghana’s Muslims account for 45 percent. However, according to the census figures, out of Ghana’s 18.8 million people, Muslims constitute 2.9 million, representing a mere 15.6 percent.
According to Sheikh Seebaway Zakaria, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Muslim Organizations, the final figures contained serious flaws and as a result could not be used as reliable data for planning and projecting the country’s development agenda. The Coalition once protested the government statistics. In 2002 too, the group rejected the final figures of the 2000 Population and Housing Census released by the Statistical Service of Ghana, saying that the figures for the number of Muslims in Ghana was under-reported. It cited CIA statistics, according to which, the population of Muslims in Ghana is 30 percent of the population, while Christians comprise 34 percent, and followers of traditional African religion, 38 percent.
In all metropolitan areas and in many other cities in Ghana, especially in areas with a large Muslim population, there are now Islamic or Arabic schools offering primary, junior secondary and senior secondary education. However, most Muslim parents still send their children to state schools or private Christian schools. The more liberal of these schools show respect for the Muslim students among their ranks, for example by allowing Muslim prayers in their boarding houses or by opening or closing PTA meetings with a Muslim prayer. These developments are quite recent; this may explain the economic and technological gap between Muslims and non-Muslims.

— Dr. Hashim M. Ali Mahdi is author of An Islamic Odyssey.


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016
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The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.