Benin, or officially the Republic of Benin, is a country located in the western part of the African continent. The country's borders, neighbors are Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Burkina Faso. In the first days of February 2019, we went from Istanbul to Benin with Mr. Ahmet Yunus and Mr. Berk Türk to make a series of openings ceremony and visits consecutively. Mr Ahmet Yunus is a brother from Benin who studied high school in Turkey and is currently a student at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences Department. He served as our translator, guided us, and also our host as well. Mr. Berk Türk is a Deniz Feneri staff member like me, and it was his duty to shoot photographs of the opening ceremony of the Mosque project organized by our association.
Mr. Mustafa, the founding president of the partner organization with which our association works in Benin, is the older brother of Ahmet Yunus. They prepared a tight program for us to visit as many places and do as many opening ceremonies as possible during the trip. Especially the intensity of the program on the Saturday before our return was dizzying. Running from one opening to another throughout the day was both exciting and tiring.
As of the date of our visit, the number of water wells opened by our association in Benin had exceeded 400. Many Quran courses and masjids/mosques were built. We visited some of those wells during our 10-day trip to Benin. We checked it to see if there was any malfunction. We hung the beautiful calligraphy frames we brought from Turkey with our own hands in the mosques. The opening ceremonies of the two-story Women's Training Center, which we built in the city of Natitingou with funds collected from a group of humble people working at IETT, were magnificent. The full administrative and civil staff of the city attended the program's opening ceremonies of the developmental projects. The ceremony lasted for hours, due to the long speeches being made, unlike exceeding the program scheduled in Turkey.
In the center, which is the work of IETT employees, women of different ages receive religious education and acquire manual skills such as sawing and sewing. I congratulate all the great people who lead and support this good cause. Accordingly, relying on our programs, we practiced slaughter during our visit based on our donors' sacrifices and distributed the meat to those in need.
The attendant of a Quran course organized by our association participant said the following words that cooled our hearts: “There is no mosque in our neighborhood. This Quran Course is both our place of worship where we pray five times a day and an important center where our children learn to read the Quran and receive religious education. This masjid has become like a sun rising over our neighborhood.”
The most meaningful of the several opening ceremonies we held was associated with the mosque such as named the “İlhami and Kadriye Gün”. The masjid we built in Birugaba village in the Atacora region had more meaning for the village people than just a place to pray. This masjid was built in a village where Christians and Muslims lived together. The Masjid was built with the support of our donors İlhami and Kadriye Gün and the water well dug next to it had led to a large-scale conversion even before the ceremony was held. Masjids were of great importance in meeting both the worship and educational needs of the people of the region.
Before the opening ceremony, our hosts gave the good news; “We will hold two ceremonies here today, "One is the opening ceremony of our mosque, and the other is the conversion ceremony of a group of our Christian neighbors from our village becoming Muslims." First, we opened our mosque with prayers. Then we invited our new brothers, 10 men and 11 women, to the mosque. They all stood at the altar. We completed the conversion ceremony with the prayers of the teachers and the leaders of the community.
The five daily adhans and congregational prayers meant a call made five times a day to non-Muslims from the people of that village. The prayers that Muslims performed shoulder to shoulder-were signs of solidarity, brotherhood, and power. As long as sincere calls continue, more people will join Islam. In the hadiths, Hz. Our Prophet s.a.s gave the good news that "Being instrumental in a person's conversion to Islam is better than anything in the earth and in the sky." Another narration stated that it was "better than valleys full of red-furred camels." In another narration, it was stated, "Being instrumental in the conversion of a person is better than anything on which the sun rises."
How happy are those who beautify their lives with good deeds that will lead people to the right path? Like the people of Benin, other victims and financial pain societies across the vast globe are waiting for your upper hand. Let's not forget that, "The place you don't go is not yours."
“Only those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, perform their prayers, pay their alms, and fear Allah alone can build the mosques of Allah. It is hoped that these will be among those who find the right path.” (Repentance / 18)