Polarized Muslim Groups in the Philippines

Just a brief reflection about the Eidl Fitr dinner last night at Malacanang.

Since time in memorial, the Muslim Mindanao problem has cause the destruction of lives and resources from our government and our people. Unfortunately, some of our Muslim leaders were able to enrich themselves at the expense of our people. And it seems that for every compliant datu, there is another defiant one. Thus, the cycle goes on and on…

While listening to PNoy’s message last night, his sincerity has always been there. Unfortunately, like many of us, we try to understand and unfold the “mysteries” of the problems. And now, many so called Muslim leaders are also becoming part of the problem. The polarization of the Muslim communities in the ground (MNLF, MILF, BIFF, ASG, etc) is also present within the administrative bodies of our government. Each group trying to outsmart the other. I am really saddened by these realities.

As our people in Maguindanao are getting weary of the peace process, afraid of the bombings and attacks, some are affected by the recent flooding, the politics in our government structures derail the peace process.

I do hope and pray that PNoy will remain patient and understanding of these complexities. May he will always be guided by God / Allah (swt) of his choices and policy directions. Pnoy has already started the reforms. May he continue them until the final days of his term.


To Eid or not to Eid?

For this year’s Eidl Fitr, I had a mixed experience of being confused and funny at the same time. Like most Muslims who are awake in the middle of the night, after praying Tahadjud (explain) while waiting for the Sawul (early meal before sunrise during the month of Fasting), I was glued at my computer monitor, trying to get more information as to the moon sighting.

My first post regarding the Eid was taken from the declaration of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and the National Darul Ifta that says that the moon was not seen on the evening of August 7, 2013.

Based on this declaration my wife and I ate our meal and begun our niyat (intention to fast) for the day. HOwever, my friend and brother in Islam who is from Zamboanga informed me that the moon was sighted in Basilan and Sulu. Thus, the Region 9 Darul Ifta revised their pronouncement of the Eid. That instead of Friday, August 9, 2013, they moved a day before.

These conflicting statements made me and my wife even more confused.  I begun reviewing what the Sunnah and Hadith of the Prophet (SAW) had to say about this based from the Holy Quran.

The most authoritative Hadith (Hadith No 1906, Hadith Sahih Bukhari, Book of As-Saum, Vol 3) states: Abdullah bin Umar narrated:  “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) mentioned Ramadan and stated:  Do not observe fasting unless you see the crescent moon (of Ramadan),  and do not give up fasting unless you see the crescent moon (of Shawwal); but if the sky is overcast and you cannot see the moon, then act on estimation (i.e. count 30 days each for Shaban and Ramadan).”

This Hadith looks so simple and yet, just like any issues confronted by Muslims in the whole world, this simple Hadith will have several opinions and interpretations from Muslim religious scholars.

Unfortunately, instead of moon sighting, it becomes moon fighting. Different Muslims declare their own interpretations and analysis of the sacred texts and practices of the Phophet (SAW).

Lets review these opinions and interpretations of Muslim scholars. Before we proceed, we must understand and accept that all these principles are valid. They are valid given the proper context and background upon which they are actually being applied.

What are these opinions?

The Hadith mentioned above defines the lunar cycle of the Hijrah calendar. Based on this hadith, we have the group of Muslims who are in the opinion that it should be a local sighting meaning they don’t care about whatever the local should be sighted. Their “local” means the setting in Saudi Arabia. Thus, they do not care what is happening in New York, Manila, or Tokyo. Thus, they are the “literalist” group. They see the whole world as one community and their basis of that community is the set up in Mecca.

 

The second opinion is saying, “fast all of you when somebody sights it”. So, the people who said “whoever sighted in the world then we all fast”. Then that opinion is following the same Hadith words right beside each other. This is what we may call as the “universalist” group.

Then we have the third opinion that says we need to calculate the cycle of the moon, hence, this group are what we may call as the calculation-type of opinion. Their basis is also from the Hadith. Because the prophet of Allah has said and at the end of this Hadith that if it is cloudy and you cannot sight the moon then you should have calculate it in 30 days. Hence, they will say, “look we know when the moon is going to be sighted by calculation should long in advance so let’s just follow the calculation”.

Then we have the fourth opinion. This is still connected with the Hadith and this simply follows whatever their place of origin or back home does. This also had caused a lot of confusion. They will say “I just gonna following my place of origin or country back home. Whenever they see the moon, I’m gonna follow it.” 

Based on these four opinions, we can see a lot of confusion. This happens year after year.

The question is, how do we reconcile these opinions?

Based on my research and study of Islam, we can find the answer from the Hadith of the Prophet (SAW). The Hadith says, “follow your religious leader and the community must be one”. The religious leader must choose only one of the different opinions and his decision must be scientific and with rational basis. He must follow the hadith and arrive at the consensus of the community.

There is confusion when the Muslim community (like in our country) does not have a clear religious leader. We do have the Darul Ifta, however, with all due respect to them, their voice and their influence to our people does not reach the grass roots level of our communities. Although we could say that majority of the Muslim Filipinos follow their advice and guidance, but there are groups that will still based their belief and interpretations following one of the opinions mentioned above.

I hope our religious leaders will be united, once and for all. I hope the Darul Ifta will be united. They have to be visible in all our communities. They have to make a stand on certain issues and concerns of the Muslims in our country are confronting day in and day out. We need their presence. We need to know the essence and meanings of Islamic principles on current events like the recent bombings in Mindanao. Do they condemn these bombings? In this way, we can have one unified Muslim community in our country.


A Datu’s Path Towards Peace

A Datu’s Path Towards Peace

By Brent Harvey Jimenez

 

In common parlance, the word datu is closely linked with authority, conflict and warlordism. However, there is one datu who seeks to break this notion.

 

Datu Mussolini Sinsuat Lidasan, fondly called Muss by friends and family, is a man of great influence and affluence. But despite his status, the 37-year old datu believes that humility, simplicity, and peace are paramount.

 

Muss is a Martial Law baby and was born in Cotabato City. He is a descendant of the Iranun-Bugasan Sultanate and a member of the Royal House of Maguindanao.

 

His mother and father are first cousins, and incidentally, descendants of Sultan Kudarat, the ancient Muslim sovereign who reigned the Sultanate of Maguindanao in the 17th century.

 

As a genuine Islamic datu by blood, he also has a lineage to the prophet Mohammed through Shariff Kabungsuan, from whom all datus stem from.

 

Clearly, royalty runs through his veins.

 

But even so, growing up was not easy for Muss.

 

Being a datu, there were certainly a lot of expectations. He was expected to be a leader, to have people under him, and to protect his people with his own power. He recalls the words of Datu Sariff—that a datu is someone who is tough, courageous, but will not fight; he may at times be a coward, but he will not run away from a problem.

 

Muss also grew up seeing so much violence. His father, Atty. Tahir Lidasan, had been ambushed several times. In his childhood years, their political opponent in Parang, Maguindanao, attacked his father.

 

Muss has seen more violence than an ordinary person can take—and his other experiences are better left unsaid.

 

And perhaps it is all this violence that has shaped his worldview on violence—that it is cowardly, that nothing good will ever come out of it.

 

And because of this, Muss has set out to become an advocate of peace.

 

But that propensity for peace was most influenced by his father.

 

His father was a lawyer. And as a lawyer, he tried to maintain the lawyer’s classical oath of office—to make the long story short, he didn’t grow rich by being a lawyer.

Oftentimes, Muss’ father would take him along with him, especially in political campaigns and court hearings.

 

His father, who mostly handled criminal cases, once brought him along to Marbel for a case that lasted for more than 10 years, in which four Iranuns were accused of murder and kidnapping. What struck him was that his father did not even ask for them to pay him—for his father, ensuring proper justice is served is more than enough.

 

And it is this sense of justice that Muss, and many other people of all walks of life, truly respect and admire.

 

This dedication for service, patience and humility is something he took after from his father. And he infuses it in his life and his leadership.

 

Even as a datu, Muss sometimes rides jeepneys and public transport. He does this not only to be more humble, but also to attach himself and be closer with people. Too much air conditioning and luxury, he says, can negatively change the way you look at the world.

 

Interestingly, Datu Muss was also raised in a Catholic school. For many years, he studied in Notre Dame University. It is through this experience that he was able to see and admire the good things of a religion other than Islam, allowing him to better understand his Christian brothers and sisters, as well as strengthening his relationship with Allah and becoming closer to Islam.

 

Now, Muss is based in Davao City. But his journey to the City of Royalties was not something he planned.

 

When Muss’ term as Provincial Board Member of Shariff Kabungsuan ended in 2007, he planned to run for office. But his clan decided that Maguindanao wasn’t ready for him. He accepted the wisdom of his elders, and eventually, he came to Davao.

 

He finished law school at the Ateneo de Davao, and he has fostered a good relationship with the Jesuits. Through the years he has had partnerships with the university during the administration of Fr. Samson, SJ, organizing the Muslim Atenista Conference in 2006.

 

It was Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, current President of the Ateneo de Davao University, who invited him to work at the Ateneo. He accepted Fr. Tabora’s offer. Now, he works as Executive Director of the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia (Al Qalam).

 

With this, Muss has set out to pave the way and cement the road towards lasting peace. He envisions a Bangsamoro that is no longer divided, a Bangsamoro whose citizens are not merely citizens of Bangsamoro, but of the world—without, of course, compromising their ethnic and religious identity.

 

For him, for peace and security to become a reality, the individual person or Bangsamoro must learn and know that he has a role to play in helping the community. No amount of system or political peace negotiations will work if the individual will not change.

 

Even in light of the recent bombings, Muss remains positive that this peace and this vision are achievable.

 

And it is this vision that anchors him in Mindanao and keeps him from pursuing the many opportunities abroad.

 

In pursuing that vision, he has chosen to stay and work with Al Qalam. And he sees Al Qalam as the bridge—that which will bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians, among different communities, to arrive at a better understanding and achieving the vision of a collective concern for all people.

 

Muss is married to Bai Oleh Sinsuat Limbona-Lidasan. They have two children, who now study in the Ateneo de Davao Grade School.

 

Though Muss is often busy with work, he finds time to spend time with his family, especially with his children. To Muss, bonding with his children not only relieves him of all the stress as a datu and as Executive Director of Al Qalam, but it gives him fulfillment, which fuels him up for succeeding days.

 

His children, too, inspire him in his work. And he believes that through his work with the Al Qalam and the Ateneo de Davao, he can help make his vision for Mindanao and the Philippines a reality.

 

And he hopes that vision of peace truly becomes a reality within his lifetime.


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Cotabato City: Why Do We Stay?

I found out through an aunt that a Facebook status post of mine has been featured in “The Stuff of Life,” a column by Ma’am Victoria R. Franco in The Mindanao Cross. The column featured other Facebook status posts which came out after the horrendous August 5 bombing in Cotabato City.

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Here is my Facebook status post:

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I meant every single word of that post. May there be real peace in Cotabato City and all of Mindanao.

Thanks Ma’am Victoria for choosing my post.

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