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Friday Sermon: Chronicles of Poverty 1: The Black Man’s Burden

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By Babatunde Jose

Woe to the rulers! And woe to the chiefs! And woe to the trustees! Some people will wish on the Day of Resurrection that their hair was hanging from the sky and swinging between heaven and earth rather than to have done what they did.”  –  Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW).

Africa is a developmentally challenged continent. Its name evokes that of a people wallowing in poverty, famine, wars, underdevelopment, and hunger. This is because Africa has been unable to translate its vast opportunities into wealth creation and poverty alleviation. Africa is the home of poverty and its intractable problems spell doom for its people. Africa is also a divided continent that is amenable to political, diplomatic and economic manipulation by both East and West.

Despite the worldwide focus on Africa and its problems, Africa has remained poor, in comparison with other parts of the world. To a very large extent, Africa’s problems have defied explanation. This is chiefly because Africa has never been part of the solution. Like Kenyan President Ruto eloquently conjectured, Africa has to be at the table, where matters are being decided. Failure to be at the table means Africa would be on the menu.

Looked at from this perspective, Africa has been the laboratory of economic development theorists: Theories which are not ‘sui generis’ but conceived in the academic laboratories of Western universities. Various development models have been tried; some with limited success and most with woeful failure, sometimes exacerbating the problems they set out to solve. SAP readily comes to mind. Four common theories of development economics include mercantilism, nationalism, the linear stages of growth model, and structural-change theory.

The anomalous working of African economies has succeeded in turning development theorists into false prophets. Former President Babangida once confessed that he did not know what propels the Nigerian economy, which commentators quickly defined as ‘witchcraft economy’.

At other times, foreign aid has been looked upon as a panacea, but it too has been found to be insufficient. At other times its problems have been blamed on bad governance. This, however, misses the point as some well governed African countries still remain very poor: To all intents and purposes, poverty has remained ‘the Black man’s burden’. Unfortunately, the solution to our problems can be found within Africa.

There is no gainsaying the fact that Africa, particularly Black Africa, is a society retarded. Compared to other societies, we find no comparison to the misfortune the peoples of Africa have been subjected to.

People were once transported and exiled to Australia from England and today, they have created a prosperous society for themselves; ditto for the Protestants that first sailed to America on the Mayflower; they have today created the world’s most prosperous society. China was once synonymous with overpopulation and poverty; today it is the industrial kitchen of the world, turning out HP computers, iPhones, BMWs, and Range Rovers.

Some years ago, Nigeria and some other African countries were said to have come out of recession; unfortunately, her people are still in recession; they have always been in recession, but for a small percentage of the people who operate in the real economy: Majority of Africans would remain poor. They live in countries that are experiencing growth without development of the human elements. As the economies of these countries are presumed to be growing, the lot of their people continue to deteriorate.

One poor African once said“I know poverty because poverty was there before I was born, and it has become part of life like the blood through my veins. Poverty is not going empty for a single day and getting something to eat the next day. Poverty is going empty with no hope for the future.

Poverty is getting nobody to feel your pain and poverty is when your dreams go in vain because nobody is there to help you.

Poverty is watching your mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters die in pain and in sorrow just because they couldn’t get something to eat.

Poverty is hearing your grandmothers and grandfathers cry out to death to come take them because they are tired of this world.

Poverty is watching your own children and grandchildren die in your arms but there is nothing you can do. Poverty is watching your children and grandchildren shed tears in their deepest sleep.

Poverty is suffering from HIV/AIDS and dying a shameful death, but nobody seems to care”.  

Poverty is when you hide your face and wish nobody could see you just because you feel less than a human being. Poverty is when you dream of bread and fish you never see in the daylight.

Poverty is when people accuse you and persecute you for no fault of yours. Poverty is when the hopes of your fathers and grandfathers just vanish within a blink of an eye. 

I know poverty and I know poverty just like I know my father’s name. Poverty never sleeps. Poverty works all day and night. Poverty never takes a holiday” (One Poor African)

Fast cars, Luxury yachts, diners in trendy beach-side, enjoying the gentle ocean breeze; the African capital cities are illusions of prosperity. The number of multimillionaires in Africa has been rising over the years — the highest growth of any region in the world. Many have dubbed this reversal in fortunes “Africa Rising,” a term encapsulating the continent’s jubilant ascent to prosperity after decades of post-colonial strife and sluggish growth. But this story ‘Africa Rising’ is a false hope for the millions of the poor whose lives remain unaffected by the growth taking place around them.

A startling number of people still live in abject poverty. Almost one out of every two Africans survives on $1.25 a day or less and the continent hosts six out of 10 of the world’s most unequal countries.

Africa’s population is projected to triple to 1.25 billion by 2050, but youth prospects remain dire across the board. The ‘army of disguised unemployed youths who roam our highways selling all manners of goods, are epitome of our ‘pure water’ economy. But they also formed a reserved army for a future uprising. In Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, the majority of young people get by on less than $2 a day, if at all. At the current exchange rate, our minimum wage earners on N30,000 a month survive on $1.3 a day: Automatically living below the poverty line! The unemployment queue can today be measured in miles.

Africa’s growth statistics measure only those who are active participants in the economy, leaving out the marginalized masses who often find themselves in sporadic, informal employment.

Africa has a political problem that must first be addressed by Africans – equitable distribution of national resources: Who presides over this equitable distribution? Our thieving leaders.

Simon Kolawole, in his column in ThisDay newspaper, had this to say: “It may need reminding that most of the countries we call “developed” today were built through competent and patriotic leadership. . .. .  In fact, Singapore, we all know, ran a dictatorship. South Korea was developed essentially by military governments. Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnic, regional and religious backgrounds — are afflicted with poverty, viciously denied the basics of life by those they call their leaders. . . . . As long as the constant factor of inept and unpatriotic leadership stays in the mix, we will remain underdeveloped. . . . . . I am confident that one day, we would come to agree, even if grudgingly, that the biggest set-back for Nigeria, (nay Africa), is the quality of leadership at different levels.”

Meanwhile, it is instructive to know that:

* Out of the 800 million people still suffering from hunger in the world, over 204 million come from Sub-Saharan Africa.

* Africa is the world’s least electrified continent. Nearly 600 million people remain without access to electricity in Africa.

* UN data supports claim that one in 10 children in Nigeria dies before fifth birthday.

*More than 800 million people go to bed hungry every day, 300 million are children.

*Every year, six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday.

*In 2021, for instance, around 247 million cases of malaria were reported and about 619,000 people died. Four African countries accounted for just over half of all malaria deaths worldwide: Nigeria (31.3%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12.6%), Tanzania (4.1%) and Niger (3.9%). Professor Olugbenga A.

Rabbana atina fid dunya hasanataw-wa fil Aa’khirati hasanataw-wa-qina ‘azaaban-naar. “Our Lord, give us in this world [that which is] good and in the Hereafter [that which is] good and protect us from the punishment of the Fire.”

(Quran 2:201)

Barka Juma’at and Happy weekend.

 

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Friday Sermon: Orgy of Genocide and Destruction in Gaza and the Arms Bazzar

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By Babatunde Jose

Six months into the Israeli genocide in Gaza, facts are getting clear to the whole world, especially Western Europe and ‘grandpa’ United States that things are not what they thought it would be. There is no doubt they are all having a rethink about their initial support for Israel. Today, many European nations are not comfortable with the tag ‘supporters of genocide’ and with the United States have started sending cautionary signals to Netanyahu. But despite these, the United States and the West remain the major supplier of arms to Israel, hence, its continued intransigence in the face of world condemnation.

More than 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza, 70% of them children and women. 60% of Gaza stands destroyed and laid to waste. A destruction never before witnessed in modern time.

Of those killed in the Israeli air and artillery attacks on the Strip, 28,951 (92%) were civilians, including 12,345 children, 6,471 women, 295 health personnel, 41 civil defense personnel, and 140 journalists. Meanwhile, 61,079 individuals have been injured, hundreds of them critically.

Approximately 2 million or 85% of the total population of the Strip have been displaced from their homes and residential areas amid a lack of safe shelters.

The facilities that have been targeted by Israel include 320 schools; 1,671 industrial facilities; 183 health facilities, including 23 hospitals, 59 clinics, and 92 ambulances; 239 mosques; three churches; and 170 press offices.

Israel continues to escalate its military assaults against Palestinian civilians in an apparent attempt to expand its territory to include the entire Gaza Strip, uprooting the vast majority of the Strip’s population.

Israel is deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure in order to cause as many casualties, material losses, and as much general destruction as possible as a form of retaliation and collective punishment. This is against international humanitarian law, the 1949 Geneva Convention, and amounts to war crimes according to the Rome Statute, which governs the International Criminal Court. This is tantamount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Unfortunately for Israel, the children that survive today’s genocide are the potential Hamas of tomorrow. There will never be an end to the state of war. Israel will never know peace nor sleep with two eyes closed. It must learn to live in peace with the Palestinians.

  In 1939 Europe’s Jewish population was around 9.5 million people, and it is estimated that six million of these were ultimately slaughtered by 1945 by the German machine.

In an ironic twist of history, Germany that was responsible for the genocide of over 6 million Jews is today a major supplier of weapons of genocide to Israel for the purpose of exterminating Palestinians. What has the world turned to?

 According to a BBC report Western governments are coming under growing pressure to halt arms sales to Israel over how it is waging the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israel is a major weapons exporter, but its military has been heavily reliant on imported aircraft, guided bombs, and missiles to conduct what experts have described as one of the most intense and destructive aerial campaigns in recent history.

Campaign groups and some politicians among Israel’s Western allies say arms exports should be suspended because, they say, Israel is failing to do enough to protect the lives of civilians and ensure enough humanitarian aid reaches them.

Recently, the UN Human Rights Council backed a weapons ban, with 28 countries voting in favour, six against and 13 abstentions. The US and Germany – which account for the vast majority of Israel’s arms imports – both voted against.

The war was triggered by Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October, which killed about 1,200 people, mainly civilians, according to Israeli tallies.

The US is by far the biggest supplier of arms to Israel, having helped it build one of the most technologically sophisticated military in the world.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the US accounted for 69% of Israel’s arms imports between 2019 and 2023.

The US provides Israel with $3.8bn (£3bn) in annual military aid under a 10-year agreement that is intended to allow its ally to maintain what it calls a “qualitative military edge” over neighbouring countries.

Israel has used the grants to finance orders of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, a stealth aircraft considered the most advanced ever made. It has so far ordered 75 and taken delivery of more than 30 of the aircraft. It was the first country other than the US to receive an F-35 and the first to use one in combat.

Part of the aid – $500m annually – is set aside to fund missile defense programs, including the jointly developed Iron Dome, Arrow, and David’s Sling systems. Israel has relied on them during the war to defend itself against rocket, missile, and drone attacks by Palestinian armed groups in Gaza.

Since the start of the war, only two US military sales to Israel have been made public after receiving emergency approval – one for 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth $106m and the other for $147m of components to make 155mm artillery shells.

But US media report that President Joe Biden’s administration has also quietly made more than 100 military sales to Israel, most falling below the dollar amount that would require Congress to be formally notified. They are said to include thousands of precision-guided munitions, small-diameter bombs, bunker busters, and small arms.

One deal that is large enough to require Congressional notification is the $18bn sale of up to 50 F-15 fighter jets. Congress has not yet approved the deal.

Even though the aircraft would need to be built from scratch and would not be delivered immediately, the sale is expected to be hotly debated by Democratic Party, many of whose representatives in Congress and supporters are increasingly concerned by Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has said she is prepared to block the deal and has accused Israel of “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza.

The US has reportedly allowed Israel to draw artillery shells from its reserve stockpile there, Israel is also home to a vast US army depot set up in 1984 to pre-position supplies for its troops in case of a regional conflict, as well as to give Israel quick access to weapons in emergencies.

Stockpiled munitions in the US. Military depot in Israel has reportedly been freely supplied since the start of the Gaza war.

Germany is the next biggest arms exporter to Israel, accounting for 30% of imports between 2019 and 2023, according to SIPRI.

As of early November, the European nation’s weapons sales to Israel last year were worth €300m ($326m; $257m) – a 10-fold increase compared with 2022 – with the majority of those export licenses granted after the 7 October attacks.

Components for air defense systems and communications equipment accounted for most of the sales, according to the DPA news agency.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been a staunch supporter of Israel’s right to self-defense throughout the war and, although his tone on Israeli actions in Gaza has shifted in recent weeks and there has been some debate in Germany, the arms sales do not appear to be at risk of suspension.

Italy is the third-biggest arms exporter to Israel, but it accounted for only 0.9% of Israeli imports between 2019 and 2023. They have reportedly included helicopters and naval artillery.

Defense Minister Guido Crosetto told parliament last month that Italy had honored existing contracts after checking them on a case-by-case basis and ensuring “they did not concern materials that could be used against civilians”.

The UK’s arms exports to Israel are “relatively small”, according to the UK government, amounting to only £42m ($53m) in 2022.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) says that since 2008, the UK has granted arms export licenses to Israel worth £574m ($727m) in total.

Much of those are for components used in US-made warplanes that end up in Israel. But the British government is coming under growing pressure to suspend even those exports.

But a senior government source has said an arms embargo on Israel was “not going to happen”.

However, as the genocide in Gaza continues, the situation continues to prick the conscience of many people and nations so much so that the Government of South Africa took the matter to the International Court of Justice at the Hague, accusing Israel of genocide. However, it has since been realized the as with most UN organs, ‘talk is cheap’, they cannot walk the talk as they lack means of enforcing their judgement.

Recently the Government of Nicaragua approached The Hague, on a similar mission demanding that the Court sanction Israel and stop the genocide, accusing Germany specifically of supplying weapons of genocide to Israel. Nothing will probably come out of it.

Even in the United States some Democrat senators have petitioned President Biden to order a halt to the sale of weapons to Israel.

Unfortunately, all the protests and marches all over the world have failed to yield any result, except that people are standing up to be counted. It is rather bizarre that Nigeria, the foremost anti-apartheid nation of old and a major leader of ECOWAS and EU has remained mute on the issue. Not even a pim. Who or what are we afraid of? If ‘Free Palestine’ is too heavy for us to say, then we need not wonder why our people continue to suffer and wallow in poverty, penury, and impoverishment in their own land. The government just doesn’t care and is not bothered by the plight of its people not to talk of the suffering of Palestinians.

With all the opportunities of economic leverage at the command of its Arab brethren, it is a big shame that little, or nothing is being done to ameliorate the plight of the beleaguered people of Palestine. But soon, something must give. It cannot continue like this. With this current orgy of destruction and killings, the world is getting to know Israel for what it is, apartheid and genocidal nation, land grabber and nation of mass destruction.

Barka Juma’at and happy weekend.

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Akwa Ibom Government Invests N112 Billion in Road Infrastructure Projects

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…DAKKADA OIL PALM FACTORY COMMENCES MILLING SOON

“Since May 2023, Akwa Ibom State Government Invests N112 Billion in Road Infrastructure”

Commissioner for Works and Fire Service, Prof. Eno Ibanga disclosed this when he presented a breakdown at the State Executive Council meeting in Uyo.

He revealed that 39 new road projects have been undertaken with N78.77 billion released to fund them, while old projects have been funded to the tune of over N30 Billion, with an additional N12 Billion recently released by the Governor.

Details of the Exco meeting were made public by the Commissioner for Information, Ini Ememobong.

The Executive Council also approved the increment of pension for pensioners who retired before 2012, effective April 2024.

Following the ongoing harvesting of fruits, milling will soon commence at the Dakkada Global Oil Palms.

The Managing Director of the Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation, Pastor Imoabasi Jacob announced this during his presentation at the State Executive Council meeting presided over by Governor Umo Eno.

Two projects executed through the Direct Labour Agency have been completed with 19 other ones ongoing.

The Director of Operations of the Agency, presented a status update on the projects under their supervision, also disclosed that 31 of the 100 initial ARISE Compassionate Homes will be completed and presented soon.

The Council was also briefed on the progress at Ibom LED, where 800 people have been trained and N400m has been approved to fund the grant of N500,000 to each of the participants, which will soon be done.

The Governor charged all the Executive Council members to ensure that all the projects and programmes under their supervision are people-centric from ideation to execution. He advised that project monitoring should be ramped up to ensure quick completion.

Major Highlights of the meeting are as follows:

√Status update on Food sufficiency received; proposal on increased cocoa, rice production & Ibom Model Farm submitted by HC for Agriculture & Rural Development

√Presentation of proposal by MD, AKICORP on Ibom Towers, FalconNext, Landmark Beach Resort.

√Dakkada Global Oil Palms Ltd ready to commence milling of ongoing harvested fruits

√Confirmation of N400m disbursed at N500,000 each to 800 IBOM-LED trainees in two batches

√Briefing by HC Works & Fire Service on N112 billion disbursed by the Governor for road infrastructure since May 2023, with 39 new road projects receiving N78.77 billion & N30 Billion for old projects, with additional release of N12 Billion

√Presentation by HC Culture & Tourism on tourism blueprint for proposed development of Tourism hubs at Ikot Abasi, Itu, and Oron

√ Two projects ready, 19 ongoing through Direct Labour Agency on 1 Project per Local Government Area; 31 ARISE Compassionate Homes nearly completed

√Approval for increment of pension for pensioners who retired before 2012, effective April 2024.

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Friday Sermon: Ramadan: Time for Religious and Divine Reflection 4

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By Babatunde Jose

During this holy month of Ramadan, all mosques have been recording a huge increase in worshippers; spiritual contemplation and acts of charity have increased; ties of brotherhood strengthened; angers and tempers subsided, and an atmosphere of peace has prevailed. If only these could continue after Ramadan, the Ummah and the country would be a better place. But lo, the evil machinations of man will gather speed once again and the march towards perdition will be renewed with vigor. It would be as if the Ramadan fast was an interlude in our inglorious life, making the whole sacrifice unworthy and an exercise in futility. This would be a great shame.

Already, we have it on good authority that there are plans afoot to celebrate the end of Ramadan with roaring rainfall. All over the metropolis arrangements are in top gear for the end of Ramadan parties. From Agarawu to Ricca, down to Okepopo, Oshodi, Freeman and Lafiaji, and all the ‘palaces’ on the Island chairs and canopies are being rented and all the tools and accessories of stormy weather are being iced. This is Lagos, land of Aquatic Splendor. But must it be like this?

We should resolve to be steadfast in the good habits acquired during the holy month of Ramadan.

Muslims should be bold enough to admit that many of their problems are created by themselves. To admit this is the first step toward solving the numerous problems facing the Muslim Ummah. We, as Muslims, are obliged to follow the teachings of the Holy Quran and the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). I believe that the only solution to our present difficulties is to read, understand and follow the teachings of the Quran in its proper perspective. Fasting is not merely abstention from food and drink; it is a temporary cessation of eating and drinking which enables attention to be directed to higher things and thus making the fast more meaningful; like kindness and goodness of which Mark Twain said: “Goodness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”

Let us pray that as we approach the end of this holy month of Ramadan, a sincere effort will be made by all Muslims to come closer to Almighty Allah through prayers, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, Zakat, and charity: And, through hard work, let us make this a better world for us and our children.

This is particularly important for our leaders, as Simon Kolawole admonished in his column: “I think our leaders need to have a genuine conversation with their consciences. As they bask in the sunshine from the balconies of their yachts, they need to ask themselves if this is the reward for our love. As they lavish billions of naira to arrange weddings for their sons and daughters and designer-cars for their wives, they need to examine their consciences. The reckless display of wealth in the midst of poverty is an insult upon injury. Nigerians are justified to expect the dividends of democracy.”

And while doing our duty by our fellow man, our families, children, and community, let us pray:

Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against faith. (Quran 2:286)

O Almighty Allah help us attain the true spirit and essence of Ramadan and accept our fasting. Ameen!

What have we gained from Ramadan? Have we been spiritually rejuvenated, recharged, and reengineered? Has it been morally fulfilling? Have we been able to shed many of our iniquitous baggage? Have we relinquished the sins of fornication, covetousness, and a life of deceit? Have we been able to move nearer God in an atmosphere of God-consciousness? Have we been doing the needful in our homes and to our fellow man? Have we given the orphan his due? Have we entrenched Justice, Fairness, and Equity in our daily living?

What about compassion and empathy? Do we feel the pains of our fellowmen, our subjects, and followers? Have we taken steps to right the wrongs we brought on the people around us? Have we been fair to our wives, children, relations, and neighbors? Are we satisfied with our new lease of spiritual awakening? Must all the gains of Ramadan end today? Are we returning to our old ways of cheating, backbiting, slander, and wickedness?

Today is therefore, a day of decisions. Are we going to consolidate on the gains of Ramadan or descend back into the abyss of a sinful life? The choice is ours. Ihdinas siraatal Mustaqeem.

Ramadan has rightly been described as a school of Iman and a stop to recharge our spiritual batteries. Must we allow that battery to die by going back to the old ways? The choice is ours.

Unfortunately, the fall and descent into a life of sin and iniquity starts a few days after Ramadan; when we say ‘fasting is finished, the nightly prayers are over; the group gatherings to break the fast have vanished. We can eat, drink, and be merry again when we like.’ And that special feeling of God consciousness gradually fades away. The spiritual high evaporates, and all we are left with are the bad habits we tried to shed during Ramadan which mysteriously rear their ugly heads once it is over.

Ramadan is supposed to increase our faith and God-consciousness:

“Believers! Fasting has been prescribed for you-as it was prescribed for those before you-so that you may be conscious of God.” (Quran 2:183).

Prophet Muhammad (SAW), said: “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions [while fasting], God is not in need of his leaving his food and drink.”

Ramadan is a month of training for us so that we may become doers of good and refrain from evil throughout the year. Each and every year this blessed month helps to train us to become better Muslims.

Many of us did not say our prayers before Ramadan but during the blessed month we found it easier to pray. We cannot continue our lives without praying; otherwise, we are not fulfilling the purpose of our lives.

Allah says: “I have created the jinn and humankind only for My worship” (Quran; 51:56)

We will not be successful in this life or the next without prayer. The Prophet (SAW) said, “The first thing that a person will be questioned about is his prayers.” Missing prayers intentionally is so serious that it is tantamount to disbelief: The Prophet (SAW) said: “What lies between a man and disbelief is the abandonment of prayer.” (Muslim). Unfortunately, there will be many Muslims in Hell who did not say their prayers.

Many of us left the Quran on the top shelf throughout the year but when Ramadan came, we picked up the Quran and blew off the dust and began to recite it again. By returning the Quran to the bookshelf, we will be missing out on receiving intercession from the Quran on the Day of Judgment: The Prophet (SAW) says: “Recite the Holy Quran as much as you can for It will come as an intercessor for its reciter on the Day of Judgment” (Muslim)

Allah the Most High said:

Establish regular prayers–at the sun’s decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading: For the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony. And pray in the small watches of the morning: (It would be) an additional prayer (or spiritual profit) for thee: Soon will thy Lord raise thee to a Station of Praise and Glory!  (Quran 17: 78-79)

During the blessed days and nights of Ramadan we were given the ability to repent and ask Allah for his mercy and forgiveness and to thank him for his infinite favors upon us. But now that Ramadan is over, we must not stop repenting to Allah for our sins and we must continue to be thankful to Allah for his infinite favors upon us.

For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean. (Quran 2:222)

“Our Lord!” (They say), “Let not our hearts deviate now after Thou hast guided us, but grant us mercy from Thine own Presence; for Thou art the Grantor of bounties without measure.” (Quran 3:8)

Jumuah Mufeedah and Happy Eid.

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