KISSA AND DAWAT: Marawi in my mind

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/28 June) – A good friend and a sister in Islam, Atty Maisara Dandamun-Latip reminded me today on something I wrote a year ago, a reflective du’a (supplication) about Marawi. It was written on one Eid occasion.

So, I wrote, “Eid Mubarak people of Marawi. May your extreme sacrifice be accepted by Allah SWT and may He grant you double blessings, too! May your city grow out of this siege beautifully and wonderfully as the weather, location and culture that define it – the ‘summer capital’, ‘by the lake’ and ‘the only Islamic city’.”

Marawi City is 700 meters above sea level. At this elevation, the alternation of shower and fog are what the locals refer to as their normal or usual weather. As Baguio is a summer capital of the North, we should not forget Marawi is our summer capital of the South. Just as they were in Baguio, the Americans were also in Marawi captivated among others by its weather, scenic panorama and strategic location. Who wouldn’t be? The residents are proud to say that all roads in Mindanao started in the city, proven by a marker in town referred to all “Km 0.0”. In Basa Iranon, respected Meranaw professor Mamitua Saber reminded us what Marawi is to the local consciousness, “a place where things are inclined or centered”.

The city is also tied to the majestic “Ranaw”, an ancient and great lake upon which the inhabitants of the region proudly bore as a badge of their identity – Meranaw, “the people of the lake”. Consequently, to develop Marawi as a city cannot be divorced from the conservation of the lake. Perhaps those who look to massive construction boom can be forgiven for thinking that this is the way to go for the city after the siege.

The old name Dansalan is intertwined with the lake. In the local language, Dansalan literally means, “where waves dash upon” and figuratively, “a place of arrival, destination, or resting place”, according to Prof. Mamitua Saber. Therefore, Marawi’s allure arises from her natural surroundings, a place of respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Feasibly, the best way to physically develop the city is not to mimic or follow in the footsteps of Baguio or Tagaytay but to develop itself attuned to the principles of culture-sensitive sustainable development and technologies. As the city by the lake, it should continue to be a place of tranquility and solace, sort of a spiritual hub, a place to commune with nature, a place to refresh exhausted bodies and to regenerate weary souls.

Befitting the designation as the only Islamic city in the country, Marawi is home to the largest concentration of overseas-trained Muslim clerics, diversity of Islamic education experts and highest concentration of traditional and integrated Islamic schools from ibtida-i (elementary) to kulliyah (college) levels. It is also home to so-called “back-to-back” professionals, who are schooled in both secular and religious education; thus, it holds the potentials of becoming a model city of Islamic wasatiyyah (moderation), an antidote to present fanaticism and terrorism, a prime center of Islamic education and social services.

As such, Marawi can easily lead the Filipino Muslims in developing Islamic scholarship in the Philippines where we develop Islamic discourses attuned to our indigenous, minority and secular contexts. A place of higher education where we develop future generations of ulama, aleemat and Moros attuned to the context of the multicultural, multireligious, multilingual and secular nature of this country, and where the quality is so high that Muslim minorities from other parts of the world would send their students to Marawi for proper training. And finally, perhaps as center of Fiqh ‘Aqaliyyat (minority fiqh) in South East Asia and the world.

However, Marawi is far from perfect. Despite her inherent strengths, potentials and opportunities at hand, she has to address lingering challenges. Marawi has to address perennial internal issues that kept her from growing and blossoming into a model Islamic city that is the envy of the world. Marawi needs to deeply reflect beyond and be not limited by her conventional “Meranaw lens” to be able to properly occupy her leadership role as “dar al-aman”, an abode of peace, security, tranquility and prosperity in this part of the world.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Noor Saada is a Tausug of mixed ancestry – born in Jolo, Sulu, grew up in Tawi-tawi, studied in Zamboanga and worked in Davao, Makati and Cotabato. He is a development worker and peace advocate, former Assistant Regional Secretary of the Department of Education in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, currently working as an independent consultant and is a member of an Insider Mediation group that aims to promote intra-Moro dialogue).