Sunday, 20 September 2009


It's Eid today. The celebration to mark the end of Ramadhan and celebrated by Muslims the world over. Ramadhan is obviously a time of great self discipline - fasting between sunrise and sunset. And it's not just food they abstain from, it's liquids too, including water. And there's a side to it that encourages spiritual fasting - no gossiping, lying or speaking badly of other people. The reason for all of this is to strip away "worldly pleasures" and pave the way for inner reflection and intense religious introspection.

I was reading up on it and right now apparently, to celebrate the end of Ramadhan, Muslims will be taking the opportunity to have fun, celebrate their faith, and enjoy the company of friends and family. The celebrations can also involve fireworks, present giving and music and dancing.

It made me think about Bashir Ahmad, Scotland's first Muslim MSP who passed away on 6 February this year. I was wondering what Bashir's children's memories of him were at this time of year. I remember my own dad was so funny at Christmas, he got so ridiculously over-excited.

And what I knew of Bashir was that he just seemed to see the good and the joy in everything and everyone. So I imagine he loved Eid. I can picture him making sure everyone had enough to eat and drink and nobody was left on their own. The perfect host. I suspect if there was dancing, you'd be told to dance and you'd dance. "It's good for you" he'd be telling everyone. I remember his daughters telling me that he'd often come home late in the evening after a long day in parliament and without sitting down he'd go straight to the kitchen to cut up fruit for them. He was always giving and always looking out for people so this surely would have been his perfect time of year.

As for refraining from gossip, lies or speaking badly of others during Ramadhan, I honestly never once heard Bashir do that, whatever time of year it was. If you were mad at someone, you didn't talk to Bashir about it because he was too kind. He pointed out their good bits, he found ways to understand why they behaved in the way they did (even the Labour Party!) and he never believed anything bad about anyone. I don't think that made him naive, I think it just made him someone who didn't want that kind of negativity in his life. To live your life like that is amazing. To live your life in politics like that is almost unheard of.

I am not Muslim but we can all learn from other religions and we can all learn from other human beings. And I am using Eid to think about Bashir and what I can learn from him and from his faith.

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