I woke up at 5 a.m. today for no particular reason. I knew something was wrong; it was the same feeling I had when other people close to me had passed away in the night. I dragged myself out of bed and opened up Google News. I took a deep breath. There it was. Nelson Mandela had passed away. I sat there staring at the screen battling with my own thoughts and the feeling of emptiness that began to engulf me. Why was I so affected? My family was safe, the people close to me were ok, Oman was ok, Mandela was so far away. He was someone else's president, someone else's father, grandfather, husband,..... but no. Those thoughts didn't win. I went back to bed and stared at the ceiling for over an hour. Judging from my Facebook newsfeed, pretty much everyone I know was feeling exactly the same.
We all knew he was ill and old. It was inevitable. But even that didn’t prepare us for his death. For a few hours or days the whole world is mourning the same person for the same reasons. Forgiveness, peace, humility, love, that’s what he stood for. I remember in junior high in Salalah writing an essay about him for my “Amazing Leaders” project. I couldn’t think of anyone else in the world alive at the time that I would consider a true leader. Since then I have been fascinated by Mandela. I recommend you read some of his speeches and even his book “Long Walk to Freedom” if you are not familiar with his life.
Unfortunately, I was able to hear the Friday sermon at my local mosque today as well. The sermon was about selling our souls to the devil. It was one of the most negative horrible sermons I have ever heard. The word 'devil, sin, punishment, hell' were repeated at least a dozen times each. In an ideal (but not unrealistic) world the Imam would personalize the sermon. He would gather his congregation and talk about the passing of Nelson Mandela. He would discuss the ideals that Mandela stood for. Forgiveness, humility, love. and how they very much reflect the true message of Islam and all religions. In an ideal world, that would have been our Friday sermon. Instead, we got a load of negativity. I felt even sadder.
II spent the afternoon reading up on Mandela's life. It was a privilege being alive while he walked the earth. Despite spending 27 years in prison, he remained a symbol of everything good in this world.
Rest in Peace Madiba.
Yours from Salalah,