On Eid'l Adha, Filipino Muslims pray for strength amid prejudice

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino Muslims marked one of their holiest days on Friday, September 1, as they prayed for strength in the face of prejudice fueled by a 100-day-long terrorist siege in the Islamic city of Marawi. 

Muslims on Friday celebrated the Eid'l Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, to remember Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience to God, even as God spared Ishmael in the end.

In Manila, thousands flocked to the iconic Rizal Park to offer a morning prayer and listen to a 40-minute sermon delivered by Ustadz Mohammad Nhor Sawato, a Muslim teacher. 

In his sermon, Sawato pointed out that many of them Muslims have relatives in Marawi. 

For more than 100 days now, Marawi has been the site of clashes between government troops and the Maute Group, which allies itself with the terrorist Islamic State (ISIS). 

On top of this, the Marawi crisis has fueled anti-Muslim sentiments in predominantly Christian Philippines. 

An emotional Sawato cited cases of Muslims changing their Muslim names, and of women among them removing their veils, all because of fear.

"Marahil marami tayong mga pagkukulang kung kaya't tayo'y dumaranas ng tinatawag na pagsubok ng Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala," Sawato said.

(Perhaps we have many shortcomings, that is why we're experiencing what we call the trials of Allah the Most High.)

Sawato, however, urged his fellow Muslims to remain patient, and God will reward them. 

In an interview with reporters, Sawato explained: "Ang aming pakiramdam ay sobrang pagdadalamhati ngunit gaya po ng mensahe kanina, kailangan po namin ito tanggapin nang taos puso dahil parte po ito ng pagsubok sa amin ng Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala."

(We feel much sorrow, but as the message earlier said, we need to accept this wholeheartedly because this is part of the trials for us by Allah the Most High.)

He also reminded his fellow Muslims to live the true meaning of Islam. "Ang mensahe po ng Islam ay kapayapaan," he said. (The message of Islam is peace.)

Like Sawato, other Muslim leaders stressed the value of patience during Eid'l Adha, considered the holier feast between Islam's two religious celebrations.

MORNING PRAYER. Thousands of Muslims join the morning prayer at Rizal Park on September 1, 2017, for the feast of Eid'l Adha. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MORNING PRAYER. Thousands of Muslims join the morning prayer at Rizal Park on September 1, 2017, for the feast of Eid'l Adha.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Referring to the Marawi crisis, Imam Harun Ali also said, "This Eid'l Adha will revive their perseverance for this big trial happening to them."

Aleem Said Basher, another Muslim leader, said he is praying for peace not only in Marawi. 

Ebra Moxsir, president of the Imam Council of the Philippines, also said that the sacrifice of Abraham highlights the value of patience.

Moxsir was also recently named Marawi police chief.

"Talagang 'yung ginawa ni propeta Abraham, 'yung kanyang pag-offer, 'yung pag-alay niya sa kanyang panganay na anak, 'yun ay paniniwala niya sa lumikha sa kanya," Moxsir said in a phone interview with Rappler.

(What the prophet Abraham did, his offering of his first-born son, that is an act of faith in his creator.)

For this year's Eid'l Adha, Moxsir said he prays for the end of the Marawi conflict.

He also reassured Marawi residents that they will regain the things they lost, as long as they remain patient and obedient to God. 

"Dapat magtiis sila, at 100%, ito ay papalitan ng ating Poong Maykapal," Moxsir said. (They should persevere, and 100%, these will be replaced by our Almighty God.) – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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