Saturday, September 28, 2013

Reflection and Action on the Zamboanga Siege (Parts 1 and 2)

By Ustadz Alzad Sattar, Undersecretary for Madrasah Education, DepEd-ARMM

Part I - Faith in God
After the consultation meeting I attended yesterday at Garden Orchid Hotel, Zamboanga City on the “Consultation on Documentation and Monitoring of Violations and Compliance of HR/IHL, facilitated by the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) and sponsored by the Asia Foundation relative to the present crisis in Zamboanga City, I was reflecting on something that somehow help appease and mollify the growing animosity among victims. When I say victims, I am referring to the Muslims and non-Muslims, whatever ethnicity they belong to, e.g. Tausug, Yakan, Sama, Chavacano, Bisaya, Ilonggo, etc. The animosity is rapidly growing every second, every minute, every hour, and every day. In fact, such has already led to hatred and abhorrence amongs the victims. I am afraid that this hatred will turn into Muslim-Christian conflict very soon. As a matter of fact, it’s already happening in some instances, either in real situation or in social media.

During the meeting, one participant revealed that he already transferred his two sons to Jolo to continue their studies because of such apprehension. In one of our relief goods distribution sorties, I have a small conversation with some of the evacuees. One of them asked me, “Are you also giving food stuff to Christians?” Of course, I quickly responded, but our first priorities are those who are residents of ARMM who happens to be in Zamboanga City during this crisis. Out of curiosity, I asked him also, “Why did you ask such question?” He simply smiled and said: “No, nothing!” Then, a fellow, who is considered to be their group leader said: “It’s actually like this, sir, some of us experience hearing bad and provocative words from our Christian co-evacuees.” They say, “You Moros are all the same. Get out from Zamboanga!” He also mentioned that two of his men were invited by men in uniform for questioning. The two fellows were returned back safely later, though.

These are just some examples of the growing animosities brought about by the Zamboanga Crisis. I am pretty sure, there are a lot more. If you read and hear from tri-media especially the local stations, provocative words are the order of the day. Instead of pacifying the issue, it helps in aggravating the situation. Seeing the gravity and intensity of the problem, I found it incumbent upon myself as peace advocate to write this article. I am addressing this to my Muslim brothers and sisters, in particular, and the whole stakeholders in general. I hope to read soon similar if not totally the same article from a Christian or non-Muslim perspective.

My Muslim brothers and sisters, as Muslims, we certainly believe as we always do, that life in this mundane world is FULL OF TESTS or TRIALS (Bala’ or Ibtila’). Allah, the Almighty mention it in the Holy Qur’an in Surah al-Baqarah 2:155: “And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient ones (As-Sabirin).” Imam at-Tirmidhi reported that Abdullah ibn Abbas narrated: Once I was riding on an animal behind the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, when he said: “boy, I would like to teach you something. Be careful and follow Allah’s commands with perseverance. Allah will protect you. You should safeguard His rights, and you will always find Him with you; if you need something, ask Allah, and when you need help, solicit Allah alone for the same. Bear it in mind that if all the people combined together to grant you some benefit, they would not be able to do so except that which Allah has determined for you and that if all of them were combined together to do you harm, they would not be able to do so except that which Allah has determined for you. The pens have been lifted and the writings of the book of fate have become dry.”

Part II: What must we do in times of difficulty or calamity?
My beloved fellow Muslims, the best weapon for us in times of difficulty and hardship is to be patient for Allah is with those who are patients. Almighty Allah says in Surah al-Baqarah 2: 153: “Oh you who believe! Seek help with patient, perseverance and prayer, for God is with those who patiently persevere." In Surah Hud 11: 115, Allah, the Almighty directed us towards the same when He says: "And be steadfast in patience, for verily Allah will not suffer the reward of the righteous to perish." If we cannot achieve the reward in this world, I am very sure, we will have it on the Day of Judgment. We all believe that the life in the Day to come is far better than the life in this world.

Patience is not actually an easy thing to do and to gain. We need Allah’s grace, blessings, pure heart and humility, as Allah mention in Surah al-Baqarah 2: 45: "Seek Allah's help with patient perseverance and prayer. It is indeed hard except for those who are humble." My dear brothers and sisters, yes, truly! To be patient is not an easy one, yet, if we reflect and allow small amount of ‘sabr’ (patience) to be implanted in our heart it will grow like a wild vine and bloom and flourish like a beautiful flower and fruitful tree. Everybody benefited from it, animals, insects, human beings, and others.

I know some of you might say that I know how to say this because I am not among those whose houses were burnt into ashes. I am not among those who lost loved ones in the fighting. But to tell you frankly, my experience is comparable to what you are experiencing right now, if not more. The pain I felt before is similar to what you feel right now, if not more than that. I experience transferring from place to another place during Martial Law period, from Tapiantana (Basilan) to Tattalan to Dungon to Bullaan (Tongkil, Sulu) to Lupah Pula (Sulu), then to Bubuan (Basilan).

My late and beloved father was shot dead in front of me when I was at the age of 9 or 10 years old. My grandfather, uncle, elder brother and one relative were massacred, killed simultaneously when I was a child. It was good that we were blessed with a goodhearted mother, who is full of wisdom and patience. We are a family of six brothers and one sister; but our mother never inculcated and implanted into our hearts and minds the seed of vengeance. Instead, she sent us to madrasah to learn religion and ethics, and to public school to prepare us for the world of work.

I still remember until now what my mother used to tell us, “You might get satisfied by killing the one who kills your father, but the truth remains the truth, your loving father is now dead. Retaliating will not make him alive. He will be happy to see you on the Day of Judgment with full of patience rather than full of hatred. Let us leave the matter to Allah, after all, He knows what is better for us.”

True enough, she was right. Granting took our vengeance on those killed our father, but what good things could we get out of it? Fulfillment? Maybe? But I am certain the killer's son, nephew, or male relatives will not stop until they will have taken their revenge too. So the vicious cycle of vendetta will become our norms. Eventually, the cycle of vengeance will be the inheritance of our generation to come. 

Honestly, vengeance crosses my mind several time especially when I was growing up when some ill-minded relatives would tell me that this guy or this family killed my father or when being bullied by playmates. But, Alhamdulillah (Thanks to Allah) my mother’s wonderful words reverberates in my mind and my heart. My learning in Madrasah about patience and perseverance helps also a lot. The two verses mention above in Surah al-Baqarah 2: 153 shape my whole personality and what I am now.

"Moral Governance"

English - "Good governance for a progressive and peaceful BARMM."

Sinama - "Hap pamarinta tudju BARMM na sambu maka salamat"

Bahasa Sug - "Dan mabuntul tudju pa BARMM masambu iban mahatul"

Meranaw - "Mathitu a kandatu sa BARMM ko katagompiya go kalilintad"


"Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE)"