Address at the Iftar Reception - april 2023

Dear friends and guests,

Indeed, not all evil comes to harm! I could say that even Edi’s appendicitis, was not all about harm, as, thanks to the intervention for its removal, instead of listening to a lengthy speech by him, you will listen to a short address by me.

I welcome you all to this traditional table of Iftar where Muslims, Christians, believers or non-believers break bread in humility and respect of a universally accepted ritual that celebrates man and life with its sacrifices and rewards.

It was precisely 100 years ago, in 1923, when the High Muslim Council addressed the Prime Minister’s Office with a written notice informing of the establishment of the Albanian Muslim Community. Under the moto “the love of your country is a part of your faith” and with the decision to use Albanian as the language of the Islamic liturgy, the Albanian Muslims had embraced from their birth as a community a vision of peace and progress in their love for their country.

 Today, 100 years onwards, that vision of peace and progress, which all religious communities have most naturally embraced, is embodied in the shining example of interfaith harmony, Albania’s precious treasure, an invaluable gift to the family of European nations, and a model among the Albanians wherever they live and work. Thanks to that harmony, we have been able to handle the responsibility of being a role model, which is one of the virtues mentioned in the Quran itself.

Being a model of virtue is anything but easy, quite the opposite. According to the Holy Quran, a model of virtue is hard work and responsibility.

Good or evil?

Work and virtue or deception and envy?

These are the major questions that also the Holy Month of Ramadan raises in this day and age where the individual example of virtue is needed maybe more than ever before, where the windows of communication among us are limitless and the flow of information is just as much. They offer an unprecedented opportunity to embrace the world, the good and the progress, adding, nonetheless, an almost suffocating pressure to give in to temptation, to vanity, self-centeredness, to the unbearable lightness of the being, as the title of a famous book goes.

Fortunately, we have numerous, albeit neglected, models of virtue among us, who with their day-to-day work and choices make our society better, the surrounding atmosphere more peaceful and the environment more wholesome.

Over my 30-hour stay at the hospital with Edi, I had the chance to meet a team of dedicated doctors and nurses. Aida, Ela, Anxhela, Sonila, Elena, Delina were the girls that tiptoed around like butterflies taking care of the patients silently, without losing the impressive agility of their hands and their heart-warming smile during those sluggish night hours.

While I was sitting on a chair, one of them came to me a little after midnight and asked whispering: Shall I bring you a pillow?

She came back in an eyeblink and handed me a small pillow that I kept under my neck throughout the night. At dawn, I saw that it was a baby pillow with a hand-embroidered duckling at its centre. I asked her whose was that pillow that had comforted me during the night. It is my daughter’s, she answered. I keep it with me at night when I work. I hope it served you well. I looked at her full of admiration for her kindness and asked: “What is your daughter’s name?” “Ajlina,” she said with smiling eyes.

Ajlina, an angel with an old Muslim name that means “the sublime,” had stayed with me like the “moonlight,” a “God’s gift” through a difficult night of the month of Ramadan.

With this indelible impression of an exemplary kindness, wishing that peace, health and prosperity be with you and your families, allow me to wish Muslim believers especially: May your fasting be accepted!

Thank you.

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