The Muslim community owes a big thank you to Ven. Gnanasara Thero. He has done a great service to Muslims which the community was struggling to make happen for half a century.
Muslims in Sri Lanka had been following a so-called Muslim culture rather than the real religion for centuries. Then with the reawakening of Islam which swept through the world in the 20th century entered Sri Lanka too and a small number of Muslims understood the notion of every Muslim studying the Quran and following the shariah laws in our personal lives. But it was an uphill task and the conservative Muslims even opposed the change. Many Muslim organisations were working in the field, mostly not to preach Islam, rather to do social service. Many of them were at loggerheads with each other, almost to the point of drawing daggers. Enmity and rivalry were commoner than comradeship and cooperation. Persuading people to study Quran was an uphill task.
Then tsunami hit the island wreaking havoc mainly in the Muslims areas. All the Muslim organisations came together to do relief work but still not on studying the religion. The enmity lessened but did not disappear. Rivalry continued.
Then BBS came into the picture. Every single Muslim saw a common enemy and it brought a comradeship among the differing organizations and sects that even major calamities like tsunami, cyclone and floods could not bring about.
When the Halal issue arose, actually the Muslims themselves were not aware of what really Halal stood for. A vague sense of halal food was what most Muslims had but when the Thero sarcastically said, “One of these days they will say the wife also has to be halal” and the scholars replied, “Certainly they must be, for the word Halal is not restricted to food”. Everyone wanted to know what is halal and haram. They started listening to the lectures more carefully, halal became the talk of the town and people started adhering to halal in every aspect of day-to-day matters very diligently.
When he mentioned falsely that the Quran orders us to spit into the food offered to the non-Muslims, many Muslims who have never touched a translation of the Quran, wanted to find out for themselves whether there is such a thing and started reading the Quran. In fact, there was a short period soon after the Kandy BBS meeting the Quran translations flew from the bookshops like hot cakes. The beauty was that even non-Muslims started reading the Quran, when Ven. Gnansara started misquoting the Quran one after the other. Muslims specifically wanted to know the actual explanations and started to study the shariah laws more carefully.
The rivalry and enmity reduced drastically among Muslim organisations; the All Ceylon Jammiyathullulema which was just a theological figurehead until then started taking active interest in matters of state and rose to a position of leadership.
Islam preaches that when problems arise in the society to look into our own lives, that if we lead proper Islamic lives, Allah will rectify the problems. This fact was driven into people’s mind, making many a Muslim becoming pious when the common enemy threatened their very lives. These men brought total friendship, mutual protection, awareness of danger and methods of warning among neighbours, both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Then Aluthgama incident happened. That brought all the leaders, including politicians who had been in utter disarray, intellectuals, social workers and the philanthropists together like nothing else could have. The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka became very active and the National Shura Council was born. Now all the differing factions of the Muslim organisations are seen on the same stage in many meetings which was unthinkable just 50 years back.
That’s not all. I asked an Aluthgama resident recently how matters are there. He said they – all of them – every single one of them is better off than before the riots. They have better houses, better businesses but most of all better religious knowledge and practice.
And, of course, the regiment that brought the BBS into the scene and nurtured it, came down with a thundering crash ending a decade of corruption and bigotry to the joy of not only Muslims but to the entire country.
That’s not the end of it. The best outcome is the show of assurance and the cooperation of the non-Muslims in the face of abuse of Muslims. It is heartwarming how many highly respectable Bhikkus came out publicly condemning the abuse by BBS and helped the Muslims; how many non-Muslim politicians showed support for the Muslims even risking their own lives; and the common man in the street including intellectuals, freethinkers, housewives and three-wheeler drivers expressed utter contempt for the BBS openly and supported the Muslims and commented favourably on their patience and unity. A few even embraced Islam after reading the Quran out of curiosity.
The allegation that Muslims are secretly nurturing a terrorist outfit in Sri Lanka was proved utterly false in the face of all the allegations. If ever there was a reason for such terrorist organisation to come forth, it would have been at the Aluthgama massacre. No such thing happened.
Islam preaches that “Every trial is but a blessing in disguise” – BBS certainly is the best blessing the Muslims have had in recent times.
So here is a Big Bouquet to you Ven. Gnanasara Thero and thank you BBS!
Allah says in the Quran “They plot and plan, and Allah too plots and plans; But Allah is the best of the planners”.
Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai Dehiwala