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The ritual of the brave

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, May 13, 2014

ONLY those who are brave at heart may be able to see this Islamic ritual performed.

And only those Muslims who know their souls are pure can participate in the annual ritual of Shaik Rifa'i Ratib.

Mohammed Yusuf Manu, 77, the national president of Mannatul Islam Association, is someone who has participated in the ritual.

"When our forefathers came from India during the indenture system, they brought this ritual with them and it has been practised from that time until now," he said.

"In 1953, it was performed publicly for the first time at Churchill Park in Lautoka by a group of which my father Abdul Rahiman Manu was a member. They got a certificate of appreciation from a US group that was also present at the grounds."

Mr Manu said Muslims who participated in the ratib must abstain from alcohol, yaqona, smoking, sexual activities and other luxuries one or two weeks before the ritual.

He said the mind needed to be focused on the night of the ratib to ensure everything went well as far as the ritual was concerned.

"In the past, only selected people could participate in the ritual but now, anyone can participate, as long as that person is a practising Muslim with a pure soul and mind.

"We recite the Holy Koran and pray and seek permission from God before we start performing the ritual.

"We have to seek His blessings.

"The Muslim priest will be there and small musical instruments will be played continuously while prayers are being said during the ritual."

Mr Manu said prayers were recited for between 45 minutes and one hour before the actual performance of the ritual starts.

He said the sound created by the small musical instrument coupled with the recited prayers had an effect on the minds of devotees.

"You won't feel afraid or anything and you'll just stand up and start participating in the ritual, which is the cutting of one's body.

"The Muslim priest will be there at all times and he will give the devotees either rods to pierce their bodies or small knives to cut themselves.

"At the end of the cutting ritual, a piece of cloth is set alight and given to the devotee who will put it in and out of his mouth.

"The closing prayers are then said and thanks given to God."

Mr Manu said people got cut sometimes while performing the ritual but not much blood was lost. He said devotees who might have done something impure could get hurt and bleed during the ritual.

"In some places, people lie on the ground and they are struck on the stomach with a sword which comes down in full force.

"But no one has been injured seriously so far and to my knowledge, no one has died in Fiji during the performance of the ratib.

"I participated in the ritual a few times and I got slight cuts on my stomach region. But the mood was such that I didn't feel anything then, it was only later."

Mr Manu said the priest then applied oil on the bruised part of the body and the wound usually healed within days, without any medical treatment needed.

NEXT WEEK: Islamic scholar on the second coming of Jesus Christ.





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