August 15, 2012 News: Recognizing the efficacy of the Holy Month of Ramadan in inculcating the divine importance of “Tawbat” (self-reformation) among Muslim believers, a group of young Muslims, the United Voices for Peace Network (UVPN) conducted its Grand Qiyamul Layl Symposium with the theme: “Self-Reformation: A Gateway to Peace and Progress” last August 11-12, 2012, 8:30pm-4:00am in Sultan Kudarat Islamic Academy Compound, Brgy. Bulalo, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Philippines.
It is an annual grand activity being undertaken by UVPN within the last ten days of Ramadan, wherein the “Laylatul Qadr” (Night of Decree – a night of worship that is better than all forms of worship for a thousand months according to Islamic belief) can be witnessed by every Muslim. In making this a success this year, UVPN was able to gain support from Sultan Kudarat Islamic Academy Administration headed by Datu Michael O. Mastura and his better half Hadja Bai Salma Lourdes V. Mastura; Office of the Provincial Vice-Governor of Maguindanao headed by Datu Ismael V. Mastura; Cotabato Inter-Communal Initiatives headed by Dr. Siti Maryam Malinumbay Salasal; Mabuhay Group of Singapore; Ustadz Zhul & Family, Rusmini & Family, Morni & Family, Iman Wong, Safiyyah Flores, Nor Ainaah Mohammad Ali, Jaafar Ma, Kartina Poh, Shafiqah Chew, Shawwal, Fadzlon Ahmad, Jasmani Jalil, Ariff Sultan, Abdul Jalil Tahir, Mona Barik, Arfah Ibrahim, Salmiah Hj Sayadi, Hafidz Abdullah, Hafizah Aman, Azizah Mohammad Taha, and Noor Ainee Osman of Singapore and other concerned individuals in the Philippines.
This event was joined in by eight hundred registered young Muslims in Mindanao – the southernmost part and is the second largest group of islands of the Philippines. Accordingly, there were also many other participants who were not able to register due to time constraint. Generally, this number almost doubled the previous years’ attendees in which the budget was based on. Some folks just settled on grasses due to unexpected insufficiency of chairs available.
Sheikh Abdul Wahab Fairat shared on the principle of “Tawbat” (self-reformation). According to him, it is the act of returning to ALLAH - the Almighty Creator. Meaning, one certainly follows what He commands and totally avoids what He forbids. Its ruling in Islam is “Wajib” (obligatory). Thus, it is mandatory for every Muslim to control himself from the evil influence of the World and rather pursue a true Islamic life which is actually peaceful and progressive in nature, in contrary to what others believe.
“Let us use the world to worship ALLAH. And let's not let it use us. Ramadan teaches us how to worship ALLAH which if done sincerely will elevate the level of our faith and self-discipline”, said Sheikh Lucman Sultan. He reminded the young Muslims with the life-changing lessons one can learn from Ramadan, lessons which a Muslim should uphold.
The discussion was continued by Sheikh Abdulrahim Sangkua with the topic Solution to the Contemporary Bangsamoro Problem. Generally, according to him, this solution is the absolute practice of the true teachings of Islam among Muslim communities which Ramadan actually instills. “Verily, ALLAH will not change the condition of the people unless they change it themselves”, he reminded. Changing the condition emanates from establishing peace within one’s self through tawbat. If everyone resorts to it, gradual illumination among communities will take place which will then gain ALLAH's Pleasure, Mercy and Forgiveness.
“Youth is the spirit of the nation, the resource of the future and the hope for tomorrow. A Muslim youth should serve as a model in all aspects. To uphold it you should be faithful, magnetic and patient”, emphasized by Sheikh Nurol-Am Abdullah in his topic Preparing the Bangsamoro Youth as Future Muslim Leader – which kindled the spirit of leadership of the young Muslims. He also encouraged the leadership of UVPN to strengthen its foothold and not to change its principle which is Islamic in all aspects for the Bangsamoro Homeland highly needs it. For years, the organization’s leadership has been keeping away from any entity that may distort the principle it upholds. It just suits to the communities where the organization operates. It only maintains and strengthens tie up with entities that adhere to the same principle it values. This is to avoid involvement to any undertaking which unconsciously poisons the mindset of the people - a very rampant poignant scenario nowadays.
Finally, Sheikh Nasrudin Musa wrapped up the lectures with his topic - Attributes of Ideal Muslim and Muslima. He remarked on the essential values to possess and ideal actions to practice which are all actually taught by Islam. If these are heartily done, it will ultimately change how the world sees the Muslims. This served as a reminder to the participants to act as epitomes of true Islamic life which is accommodating to all types of people.
After the series of lectures imparted, “Tahajud” (a prayer that ranks first and foremost in importance among all other optional prayers which elevate the position of High Distinction, Glory and Praise of a Muslim believer in the sight of ALLAH) was offered congregationally in SKIA Masjid Al-Qudra. It lasted for about an hour. After which, the participants were gathered in SKIA Canteen and Quadrangle for their “sahur” (food taken during Ramadhan before the prayer at dawn). As accustomed, UVPNians assured first that all participants had taken their “sahur” satisfactorily before they took theirs. They used to share only the remaining foods with one another – lucky if there are enough leftovers and luckier if there are only few, for they believe that more sacrifices connote more blessings. All throughout the event, separation between male and female participants was strictly observed to avoid “fitna” (worldly temptation).
The event was finally concluded by the “azan for salaatul fajr” (call for dawn prayer). As an end, the UVPNians and the participating young Muslims committed to gain Almighty ALLAH’s Pleasure, Mercy and Forgiveness through continually upholding what He said in Surah Ali-Imran, Verse 104 of the Holy Qur'an - "Let there arise out of you a band of people, inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong: they are the ones who attain felicity".
UVPNians who dedicatedly and collaboratively organized it are students and alumni of Sultan Kudarat Islamic Academy, Notre Dame University, Mindanao State University – Main Campus, Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology, Cotabato City State Polytechnic College, STI College – Cotabato and Arellano University. Some of them also serve as youth volunteers of Cotabato Inter-Communal Initiatives – an association which has been active in doing relief operations and covertly granting scholarships to poor but deserving students in Mindanao for several years. The organization has also members based in University of the Philippines – Manila, University of Southeastern Philippines – Main Campus, University of Southern Mindanao, University of Immaculate Concepcion and Emilio Aguinaldo College and the areas of Davao, Sulu, Palawan, Zamboanga and Metro Manila who also helped in their own simple but significant ways.
Irrefutably, this grand event is a clear manifestation that the young Muslims of the Philippines are dynamic in working out to have a peaceful and progressive country with the true light and guidance of their religion - Islam in their communities.