By Tesfu Telahoun Abebe – My warmest Eid Mubarak to primarily the Muslim communities of Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt; but also to the the entire Umma! As in the rest of the world, Ethiopia celebrated the 1441st Eid al Adha under the extraordinary and compelling circumstances caused by the raging Corona virus pandemic. I pray that we will celebrate the 1442nd with at least reduced social distancing and less onerous yet essential quarantine restrictions.
As a non-Muslim, this particular year’s Eid al Adha has been of special intellectual and journalistic significance on a personal level as well as professionally. This experience goes way ibeyond the fact that despite taking different names and dates, Islam’s older sister religions also commemorate Avram’s/Abraham’s/Ibrahim’s profound demonstration of his loyalty to ha-Shem/God/Allah by being willing to obey the command to personally sacrifice his son with his own hands.
As I stated above, the pandemic necessitated that Ethiopian Muslims celebrate the holiday at home. This meant that the media had to play an even larger role than usual given that mass gatherings were not possible. Perversely and profitably; media, the internet and virtual economics characterized by high interactive connectivity with the least amount of physical interaction are booming all over the world. Only recently released from an iron grip, Ethiopia is now enjoying the inherent benefits of open and uncensored media. This includes the well served cultural and social space which has enabled practically all of Ethiopia’s people groups to be well and truly represented. !!!
We were treated to near blanket coverage by dozens of TV and radio channels offering all sorts of shows and programming including devotional songs and illuminating commentaries by scholars of Islamic and Koranic history and of Ethiopia’s critical role in protecting the young faith during its perilous foundation years.
My favorite and indeed the motivation for this article, was an interview given by a certain highly respected historian and dealing with the fascinating Koranic edicts which govern the ownership, riparian rights and general utilization of water. Readers who are familiar with my proclivity to write commentaries and opinions revolving around issues related to Ethiopia’s Abay River (Blue Nile); will appreciate my intense interest and profound joy at learning that Egypt’s selfish claims to the Abay waters is in flagrant breach of Koranic laws. I would have imagined that the respected scholars at the authoritative and deservedly venerated Al-Ahzar Mosque and its prestigious center of excellence in Islamic jurisprudence would have pointed this out to the rulers.
I won’t and in fact, I’m not qualified to elaborate on the finer theological points and cite the precise Koranic quotes so informatively and professionally outlined by the eminent historian. However, I have gleaned sufficient new and empowering knowledge which for all intents and purposes is the final seal of confirmation and HOLY JUSTIFICATION of Ethiopia’s inalienable and in fact; Allah bestowed rights to utilize its water resources. The following core revelations illustrate this truly mind blowing and transformative boost to my personal intellect but more importantly to the collective consciousness of the nearly 250,000,000 people of Egypt, Sudan and of Ethiopia.
*The Sharia-the canon of Islamic Law-began as a set of laws and regulations relating exclusively to water itself, water ownership rights, usage -including irrigation, conservation and numerous other issues in regard to water. This goes to show how important and precious this scarce resource was and remains in Islam. In fact, I was amazed that the Holy Koran mentions ‘water’ 63 times.
*Among these water laws one in particular stands out as it pertains to the Ethiopia-Egypt stalemate over the GERD. This law states unambiguously that (in a nutshells) source or upstream lands utilize what water they need and allow the remaining flow to resume to downstream lands. By the way, the Sharia was very explicit in its rulings and has even cited the four great Rivers of Heaven-the Pishon, the Euphrates, the Tigris and The Gihon-the ancient name for the Abay River; arbitrarily misnamed “Blue Nile”(..hmm a story there…).
In building GERD, Ethiopia was and remains entirely within its rights. In fact, Ethiopia is legally entitled to build as many dams as it wants on the Abay and on any other of its mighty rivers. This right is not only enshrined in international law but perhaps more importantly; by Allah himself.
Dear Egyptians and Sudanese brothers and sisters, Ethiopia and her prosperity are not a threat especially to you our neighbors or to anyone else. We Ethiopians are a good willed people struggling to escape the deep quagmire of poverty. We may be poor but we are are united in our poverty. I urge you to advise your rulers that above all stop attempting to divide Ethiopians-especially on religious terms. This strategy did not, is not and will not work on a nation which is precious to Islam.
Do not forget that Ethiopia was the lovingly safe incubator during Islam’s early years when the faith was under terminal threat. Do not forget that Ethiopians accepted Islam long before you. And because of this proud history, Ethiopia itself is uniquely afforded a privileged status in Islam. We will do what we have to do to develop our nation but without harming others. Its not as if we have a bad reputation as a bully-that may describe a certain other.