COTABATO CITY --- This year’s Ramadhan season is to culminate soon with the sighting anytime starting this weekend of the new moon, something Central Mindanao folks will remember as the “holy season” made bloody by a ragtag band that terrorized Maguindanao province to avenge the death of a bandit.
The hostilities, perpetrated by the brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) , are to become an added entry into Mindanao’s history, blighted with blood and highlighted with chapters showing the ugly faces of conflicts that have condoned poverty and underdevelopment in most Southern Muslim communities.
Questions on the real motive of the brigand BIFM for the incursions that drew flak and condemnations remain hanging above the heads of Mindanao’s cross-section constituents, and there is still no long-term solution in sight that can stave off a repeat of the group’s violent acts.
Even the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, from where the BIFM of Ameril Umra Kato sprung, branded as virtually unjustifiable the bandit group’s assertion it mounted the attack to avenge the death of a member who was gunned down by soldiers in an encounter near its enclave at Mount Firis in Maguindanao last June 20.
Muslims in Mindanao and abroad are to break the fasting season with the sighting anytime, between August 18 to 20 of the new moon, a centuries-old practice taught by Islam’s progenitor, Mohammad.
Mohammad, according to Islamic books and Qur’an, had asked his followers to “fast when you see the new moon, break your fast when you see the new moon,” apparently referring to the start of the Ramadhan and its culmination 28-30 days later, according to the lunar-based Hijrah calendar.
The sighting of the new moon before the Ramadhan signals the end of the month of Shaban, while the culmination of the fasting month, after another ritualistic moon sighting after one lunar cycle, is called the Eid’l Fitr, which also marks the beginning of the Islamic month of Shawal.
Apart from Ramadhan (parched thirst) there are also other “holy months” in the Hijrah calendar --- Muharram (forbidden); Rajab (to respect); Dhul-Qi'dah (the month of rest); and Dhul-Hijjah (the month of hajj, or pilgrimage).
Warfare is prohibited during any of the “holy months,” during which patience and inclination to preserving relationships and enhancement of harmony among communities are obligatory among believers.
Many Muslims were incensed by last week’s attacks by the BIFM that dislocated thousands of ethnic Maguindanaons and hundreds of non-Muslims in five Maguindanao towns.
The attacks marred the supposedly solemn observance by the internally-displaced people of the month-long fasting season, where they ought to fast from dawn to dusk for one lunar cycle while they focus on good deeds and reparation of wrongdoings.
Imam Mus Bod, a yakan cleric, said Moro guerrillas calling themselves “mujahideen,” Arabic for freedom fighters, are supposed to be sober during the Ramadhan when they, too, fast at daytime.
Bod, who is employed at the provincial capitol of Basilan in Isabela City, said any misbehavior or offensive activity during the period is unacceptable.
There are many stories that, for Muslims, can give credence to Ramadhan’s being a “holy month.” They believe that it was during the season when Allah, through Archangel Gabriel, sent the Qur’an to the supposedly illiterate orphan Mohammad.
Catholic station dxMS have been airing for three weeks now recorded religious messages of local officials, among them acting Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema and his spouse, Bai Sandra, who is the representative of Maguindanao’s first congressional district, emoting similar lines in appealing on Muslims to adhere to the spiritual tenets of Ramadhan.
Mangudadatu, according to provincial publicist Franch Villa, is looking forward to a peaceful celebration of the Eid’l Fitr, or the culmination of the fasting season.
Villa said Mangudadatu earlier condemned the BIFM attacks and called for an end to hostilities that affected thousands of innocent civilians.
Muslim communities, during the Eid’l Fitr, which is in important Islamic holiday, gather for a traditional open-field congregational prayer before holding reunions, or celebrating the event in parks and beaches. (JOHN M. UNSON)