It’s in the ‘dying days’ of the 2023 holy fasting month of Ramadhan; actually eight days to go. I access a story about a not-feeling-so-well Tanzanian old auntie, yet still holding fast on to one of the five pillars of Islam – the fast. From her very humble home in Mbweni outskirts area north of the Tanzania’s commercial capital, Turkey’s Istanbul equivalent, on the way to the world famous notorious Bagamoyo slave route trade point on the western rim of the Indian Ocean, she is reported to have claimed to see her “superhero” face to face. This was during the Ramadhan food packages distribution exercise of generosity organized annually by the Ishik charity foundation.
My mind was taken up by this story, when comparing other live reports of members of the police and gendarmerie harassing and mistreating the people in need in the earthquake-hit areas of south-eastern Turkey under the disguise of Erdogan’s state of emergency, even during the month of Ramadhan for that matter. Why is the Turkey regime adding salt to the wounds of earthquake victims? Can’t anything good come out of Turkey? I remembered a bible story about Jesus (PBUH) when the world around him doubted whether anybody great could come out of the small, humble, ignored, belittled, little-known village of Nazareth.
Reading further into the story I learn that this auntie’s “superhero” is a Tanzanian, Turkey university graduate now turned into a volunteer. Lest I overwork you with ‘having to read the letter in the envelope’ here is what the “superhero” and the old sick auntie had to say – something that is a worthy message sending to the powers that be in Turkey and anywhere in the rest of the world on the meaning and demand of humanity. Neither his name, nor that of the auntie matter. It’s the message that does. And here we go.
“I studied [did] my university [studies] in Turkey and came back to Tanzania in 2020. Alhamdulillah, I am now a volunteer employee of the charity known as Ishik Charity. Our job is to reach out to those in need. To be a bridge between righteous and generous people and people in need of help.” At this point, this volunteer recognizes and appreciates the fact that although he is the one doing the delivery, his role is that of a conduit. He doesn’t claim the gratitude. If only the rulers of current Turkey could realize this fact, definitely they could not be treating the people in the way they do.
He goes on: “We started to distribute packages in Ramadan. We were delivering packages to people’s homes one by one [house to house] during the corona time, and my story began right there. We went to Mbweni, north of Dar es Salaam. I met an old woman there. Since then, every year, when Ramadan comes, I personally go and deliver the food package[s].” How does this compare with the Erdogan regime approach of letting people deemed as adversaries, followers of the Hizmet Movement, die in congested prisons while setting criminals free because of the very pandemic?
“This year we did something different. A tree is bent while it is still young and [so] we gave the students of Shamsiye Boys” High School the task of distribution. We hadn’t forgotten our old aunt. While the students [entered her house to hand over the package], I stayed outside. A few minutes later they called me saying the old lady wanted to see me. I went in. She was veery happy. She said: ‘Here is my superhero.’ On her demand, I had to repeat the package handing over ceremony. “She looked sick. She asked me to pray for her recovery and reunion in the next Ramadan.”
The volunteer superhero of the old lady is right when he observes that the entire exercise “is not just about handing [over] the food packages. It’s about touching people’s hearts.” This is where Fethullah Gulen points out that sympathy is not enough under such circumstances. It’s empathy that counts more.
He is thus right again when he comforts her saying: “Oh auntie, you see me as a ‘superhero’ but the real heroes are the righteous and generous people who are invisible like the stars but locked in the reformation we know are out there, far away. They are the superheroes. May they never be absent from the earth.”
Personally, I can’t calibrate what the auntie’s superhero had to say. If he has quoted the Quran, be sure I am a super illiterate. If he has quote the bible, I never went beyond bible knowledge level. All I know is that without being righteous and generous, one’s religious life is not worth living. Faith without love is as good as dead. This reminds me of what Mahatma Gandhi classified as one of the Eight Blunders of the World being “religion without sacrifice.”
And it would not also be a bad idea to send as an attachment to the electorate of Turkey as the country closes on to the parliamentary and presidential polls set for May,14, 2023 that politics without principles is another blunder of the world. So, they should be on the lookout. Non-principled or unprincipled incumbent leaders seeking reelection should not be given another (even the slightest) chance. Enough is enough for Turkey. Catching the mood of that old Tanzanian auntie, whose ‘superhero’ is Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party to warrant being given another term for creating hell on earth for the people within and outside the Turkey boundaries?