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Love and Light

Region 1 - Eid ul-Fitr celebration at Brixton Sai Centre

The Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Brixton congregated at Norbury Manor on Sunday 27th July to celebrate the auspicious occasion of Eid ul-Fitr, marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. With the divine blessings of Swami, we had the opportunity to observe the occasion once again with our Muslim brothers and sisters who came to visit us from the Hyderi Islamic Centre, a local Madrassah (Islamic school).

We commenced the celebration as per normal with multi-faith prayers, including al-Fatihah, the first verse of the Holy Koran in which we both praise God and ask him for His guidance on the right path. We sang multi-faith devotional songs, which all referred to the name of Allah. It was truly spiritually uplifting as different faiths joined hands together to mark the occasion.

Brother Mohamed Raza Walji, Principal of Hyderi Islamic School and Sister Rummana Kazmi, a spiritual facilitator for the Muslim community, shared their experiences and the meaning of Ramadan. Sister Rummana explained that ‘Ramadan’ comes from a Sanskrit word meaning to meditate, to bring an awareness of the light that shines in our heart and to connect to the inner core of our creation. The benefits from fasting are for us to gain piety, be conscious of our inner voice, and spring-clean our soul. She further informed that psychologists say, ‘If we can restrain and control hunger, we can control anything.‘ The month of fasting gives the opportunity to control the senses, to refrain from this material world and to attain the ultimate goal of divinity by praying, not hurting anyone, or gossiping about others by speech or thought. The day of Eid is a celebration, but also a test of the break from this controlled regime during the month of Ramadan: such self-control should also continue after Ramadan. The real celebration of Eid is how much success we make in this journey from evil to good.

The talk also identified some similarities with Hinduism. Sister Rummana noted that, in 2008, both Eid al-Adha and Geeta Jayanti came about the same time; and both occasions are about sacrificing your loved ones: Arjuna in the Bhagavad Geeta was asked to go to the battlefield and face his family; and Ibrahim (Abraham) was asked to sacrifice his son. These two examples show us that faith and surrender is the way to unify with God and that self-discipline is the real path towards God.

Sister Rummana concluded her talk with a quote, ‘Mutual respect and love is across all diverse communities. We need to learn that these qualities will enable us to come and serve one another.’ Swami himself has expressed this many times as, ‘Love All Serve All.’

In the evening, around twenty members from Brixton Sai Centre attended ‘The Big Iftar’ at the Hyderi Islamic Centre in Streatham. The Big Iftar is a national initiative promoting neighbourliness, strengthening of community relations and sharing. Mosques, community centres and places of worship come together and share ‘iftar’ (the evening meal that breaks the fast) during Ramadan, by inviting friends and neighbours from different faiths and ethnicities. There were speakers from different faiths, including a Christian priest and a Jewish rabbi, a local councillor and a local Muslim police officer.

By using the occasion of the centenary of the start of World War One to discuss whether religion can be a force for peace, the evening aimed to bring universal peace by sharing our friendship and growing spiritually together with mutual respect regardless of religion, race, nationality, caste, creed or sect, which is exactly the divine teaching of Swami. Some significant figures in history were mentioned such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Pope John Paul II, all of whom preached human rights and freedom through non-violence.

After the talks, evening prayers were held, before the ‘iftar’ was served. Sumptuous vegetarian food had been specially made for Sai Centre attendees and was lovingly served.

To summarise a day that touched us all, here is an extract from the teachings of our Beloved Swami:

"There is an urgent need for harmony. All great people are images of God. They form one single caste in the realm of God; they belong to one nation, the divine Fellowship. Each must interest himself in understanding the practices and beliefs of the others. Then only can everyone, with cleansed mind and loving heart, attain the divine presence with others. The principle of harmonising is the very heart of all religions and faiths."

Sutra Vahini, Chapter 4
Amrita Issory