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  • Anguish as Sri Lanka forces Muslims to cremate COVID-19 victims
    Rights group and activists accuse gov't of forcing cremation of Muslim COVID-19 victims in disregard to WHO guidelines. The forced cremation of two COVID-19 infected Muslims in Sri Lanka has sent shock waves among the minority community, which accused the authorities of violating Islamic burial rites. Bishrul Hafi Mohammed Joonus, a 73-year- old  man from the capital Colombo who died of COVID-19, was the second Muslim to have been cremated in the Indian Ocean island nation, which has registered 151 cases so far. Bishrul's son Fayaz Joonus, 46, said his father who had a kidney...
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  • ආදරණීය සිිංහල මිතුරන්ගෙන් කරන ‌ඉල්ලීම
      ඊයේ දින ‌කොරෝනා නිසා මරණයට පත් වූ මීගමුවේ පුද්ගලයාගේ මිනිය භූමිදානය කිරීමට කළ උත්සාහයන් අසාර්ථක වීම ගැනත් ඒ පිළිබඳව රවූෆ් හැකීම් වැනි ‌අය නිකුත් කළ මාධ්‍ය නිවේදනය ගැනත් විවිධ අදහස් සමාජ මාධ්‍යය ඔස්සේ ඉදිරිපත් ‌වෙමින් පවතී. ඒ අය නීතියට පටහැනිව කිසිවක් ඉල්ලුුුුවේ නැත. ‌‌‌‌ලෝක ‌‌‌සෙ‍ෳඛ්‍ය සංවිධානයේ මාර්ගෝපදේශය සහ ඒ අනුව...
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  • Coronavirus toll in New York state passes 1,000: Live updates
      00:50 GMT - Death toll in New York state surpasses 1,000 More than 1,000 people have died from the coronavirus outbreak in New York state, according to a tally by The Associated Press  (AP) news agency. On Sunday evening, New York City said its toll had risen to 776. The total number of statewide deaths is not expected to be released until Monday, but with at least 250 additional deaths recorded outside the city as of Sunday morning, the state's total fatalities was at least 1,026, AP said. 00:30 GMT - China reports 31 new cases in mainland The number of COVID-19 infections in China continues to slow with health authorities in Beijing reporting 31 new cases at the end of Sunday. The figure includes one locally transmitted infection and marks a drop from the 45 cases reported a day earlier. There were no new cases for a sixth consecutive...
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  • Iran urges US to free Iranian prisoners amid coronavirus pandemic
    Iran's government has urged the United States to release Iranians held in US jails on sanctions-related issues due to fears about the coronavirus outbreak. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Washington of holding a number of Iranians in its prisons and said under these circumstances they should be set free. Meanwhile, the death toll in Iran from the coronavirus rose to 2,378 on Friday, a jump of 144. Iran is one of the worst hit countries in the world. Zarif also referred to a report by The Guardian newspaper about Sirous Asgari, a science professor, who it said was still being...
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  • Palestinian groups cancel mass Gaza rallies due to coronavirus
    Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip have cancelled mass rallies planned for next week along the border with Israel amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in the densely-populated territory, organisers said on Saturday. The rallies were called for March 30 to mark the second anniversary of the so-called "Great March of Return" which had prompted weekly protests by Palestinians seeking to regain access to land, now in Israel, from which their ancestors were forced to flee during the Nakba, the Palestinian exodus, in 1947-48.
    They also mark Palestinian Land Day which commemorates the events of March 30, 1976, when Israeli police shot and killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel as they protested against the Israeli government's expropriation of land. "We call upon our people not to go to...
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  • Sri Lanka pardons soldier who killed Tamil civilians
    Sri Lanka's president on Thursday pardoned and released an army officer sentenced to death for slitting the throats of Tamil civilians, including four children, during the island's bloody ethnic war. Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake was to be hanged for the December 2000 killing in a case held up by previous Sri Lankan governments as an example of rare accountability over abuses during the conflict. A court convicted him of murdering eight members of the Tamil minority, including a five-year-old and three teenagers after a 13-year trial. They were killed as they returned to their bombed homes to salvage what was left of their belongings and their bodies were found buried in a cesspit near an army camp at Mirusuvil on the Jaffna peninsula. The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the officer's appeal and upheld the death penalty last year. But...
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  • Fears mount as Syria reports first coronavirus case
    Authorities step up lockdown efforts in war-torn country after 20-year-old woman tested positive. Health officials in war-battered Syria have announced the first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, as authorities in the country prepare to halt all public transportation in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. Health Minister Nizar Yazji told a news conference in the capital Damascus on Sunday that...
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  • Fear, anxiety as besieged Gaza confirms first 2 coronavirus cases
      Authorities in the coastal enclave have shut restaurants and cafes, while Friday prayers have also been suspended. Palestinian officials have announced the first two cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in the besieged Gaza Strip. Deputy Health Minister Youssef Abulreesh said late on Saturday the two Palestinian patients had returned from Pakistan via Gaza's Rafah border with neighbouring Egypt on Thursday. The pair exhibited symptoms of the illness, which include a dry cough and high fever, Abulreesh told a news conference. He added that the two were placed in quarantine upon arrival and are now in a field hospital in the border town of Rafah, in the southern 
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This could be your last Ramadaan

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REMEMBER the beginning of Ramadan last year: the festive supermarkets with their jampacked aisles, the makeshift roadside stalls outside restaurants selling crisp sambusas and subiya, the sounds of Adhan emanating from Masajid...

My house overlooked a Maghsalat-Al-Amwaat Al-Khairiyyah (a charitable organization which prepares bodies for burial in the Islamic manner), and as I walked home from the neighborhood supermarket laden with packages of food and other essentials in preparation of the next day’s fast, I caught sight of a family accompanying a bier in a hearse. The women huddled together, sobbing quietly, while the men stood at a distance in somber silence.

It struck me: While I was going home to the comfort of my home and the company of my family, this person was being dispatched alone, to answer the stern questioning of the grave. While I would be given the opportunity to fast and perform other deeds as Allah willed, this person, who had been given the same opportunity in past years, had been deprived of it this year.

Our Imam and Khateeb, may Allah preserve him, used to remind the congregants of the favors of Allah in allowing us to witness yet another Ramadan, by contrasting our state with those of the people of the graves, who would gladly give the world and all that is in it if they could, in lieu of the chance to worship Allah a little more, to add the tiniest good deeds to their scale that would enable them to draw closer to Paradise and take them further away from the Fire.

In a khutbah, Imam Abdul Bari Al-Thubayti, may Allah preserve him, said: “Whoever remembers death frequently is honored with three things: hastening towards repentance, contentment and energy in performing acts of worship; and whoever forgets death is punished with three things: delaying repentance, lack of contentedness and laziness in acts of worship.”

With disturbing reports of the MERS virus and the resultant panic pouring in from all over the world, it is no wonder that our thoughts naturally turn to death and dying.

Unlike some belief systems which consider the contemplation of death “inauspicious” or “macabre”, Muslims are encouraged to regularly remind themselves and others about the inevitable end of life, and what awaits a person in the Hereafter.

The Prophet once stood at the edge of a grave and called out to his Companions: “O my brothers! For this, prepare yourselves.” (Ibn Majah) and in another narration, he said: “O people! Remember often the destroyer of pleasures: death.” (Al-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah)

Once a man asked the Prophet , “Who is the wisest among the people, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied: “The one who remembers death most often and the one who is best prepared to meet it. These are the truly wise, honored in this life and distinguished in the Hereafter.” (Ibn Majah, Al-Tabarani).

The remembrance of death acquires a special significance with the advent of Ramadan, since it is the season of Hope and Blessings and an opportunity to earn innumerable rewards that can be reaped eternally, which is open to everyone equally.

Yet, many of us greet Ramadan with a sense of complacent déjà vu, a “been-there, done-that” lassitude, that could cost us dearly. Let’s face it: for many of us Ramadan has turned into a time for socializing with friends and extended family, spending hours preparing and sampling traditional dishes, watching TV sitcoms from Iftar to Isha – to the extent that we even spend the precious nights of Ramadan in auto-pilot mode, performing our prayers perfunctorily before hitting the supermarkets, malls, coffee shops and Internet cafes to shop or while the night away.

Somewhere at the back of our minds is the assurance that there’s always next year – or a succession of years – to count on, when we will magically have the “Ramadan of our dreams” with plenty of time to read the Qur’an, stand in prayer at night, seek forgiveness in the early morning hours, serve the ailing and poor, be hospitable to our neighbors and friends.

However, the sad truth is that as the years pass by, our energy and health dissipates and our responsibilities and distractions increase exponentially, distancing us from the mirage of the perfect Ramadan even further... until it may be too late.

The Prophet advised us: “Hasten to do good deeds before you become busy. Are you waiting for such straitened circumstances which will make you unmindful of devotion? Or such prosperity which will make you corrupt? Or such disease which will disable you? Or such senility which will make you mentally unstable? Or sudden death? Or the Dajjaal (Anti-Christ), who is the worst apprehended (sign of the Hou r)? Or (are you waiting) for the Hour? That will be most grievous and bitter.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

We have no guarantees that we will live to see another Ramadan, let us seize each blessing with eagerness and each opportunity to earn rewards with enthusiasm, to make this the best Ramadan of our lives.

Rahla Khan

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