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Posts Tagged ‘Ramadaan’

RUMI REVELATIONS: Understanding Ramadaan through Rumi

In excerpts and quotes, literature, poetry, psychology of religion, Ramadaan, Rumi Revelations on August 23, 2011 at 1:07 am

RAMADAN SILENCE*

 

When the Ramadan banner flies, soul restrains nature,

so it can taste its own foodl

 

The strength of horses and the intensity of fire,

these are the powers of sacrifice.

Fasting, we honor the guest.

 

Clouds of courage give rain,

because it was in this month that the Qur’an rained down,

light through an opening.

 

Grab the rope.

Be lifted out of the body’s pit.

 

Announce to Egypt, Joseph of Canaan has come.

Jesus dismounts the donkey,

and the sacramental table descends.

 

Wash your hands. Wash your face.

Do not eat or speak as you normally do.

Other food and other words will come in the silence.

_________________________________

 

The concept of silence here symbolizes the fast. The silent person side-steps from the usual impulse to talk and to speak up his mind. This willing evacuation of the mind of petty distraction of conversation makes room for wisdom and insight. 

Rumis says this more eloquently in the following ghazal couplets**:

 

If you want your every atom to be eloquent and a poet,

don’t place your faith in poetry and prose, be silent.

 

If you start to talk, you will stray from your thought.

Don’t stray from your heart’s intent. Stay away from talk.

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Fast performs similar functions for us on a much broader scale. Why does performing acts God loves, with great frequency, length and recurrence become much easier in Ramadaan, than at other times? It’s not just because of the extra incentive we have in form of hope for extra reward; it’s not just due to being reinforced and encouraged by seeing nearly everyone around doing more. The fast frees us from the constant chain of distractions that our bodily ties of food and drink provide us through the day. Ordinarily, we remain mentally bound by one concern followed by another. Since hunger and thirst are of the body, naturally, other bodily and personal interests take forte as well and keep us occupied. Even when we think of doing something ‘extra’, we get lazy, feel busy, or simply forget amid the ‘stimulus overload’.

Fast provides a calm for the whole day. It also changes the schedule of daily life, thus helping to reinforce the change. The calm and peace resulting from a control on bodily hungers also weakens the force of other personal desires and lusts. Although, we feel the nutrient deprivation, we don’t even feel as much hungry as we would if we could not eat on time on a regular day. All this ‘stimulus underload’ paves the way for the better and nobler instincts of our psyche to come forward and to take lead.

If a mosque was full of chatter and banter, how could it inspire noble meditations, pious intentions and love-filled inclinations? It is the vast seclusion of the typical mosque from everything earthy and wordly that encourages those honorable attitudes.

And then….

 

A QUATRAIN^

 

This fasting sifts the soul like a sieve,

Discovering the hidden flecks of gold.

Once the soul outshines the brilliant moon,

It will tear up the veil and light up the seventh heaven.

 

 

Notes

* Translated by Coleman Barks in Rumi: The Big Red Book, 2010, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, p. 273

** Translated by Iraj Anvar and Anne Twitty in Say Nothing: Poems of Jalal al-Din Rumi in Persian and English, 2008, Sandpoint: Morning Light Press, p. 17.

^ Translated by the same as above, p. 19.

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THE BIOGRAPH: The Anniversary of an Anniversary

In The August Country, The Biograph on August 13, 2011 at 11:29 pm

 

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Time flies quickly but not too quickly for those who take some time out to reflect on their past, present and future.

It’s exactly one year since I left my country, my city, and my home; to begin a new life with new hopes, new responsibilities, and new pre-occupations.

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When I came here I experienced an emotional indifference towards all my previous interests. Except for my family circle in Pakistan, I rarely thought about anyone or anything else. Even within my family, talking to my mother every alternate day used to be enough; it used to fill up my longing to retain my touch back home.

It’s not that I am an insensitive or changeable person, quickly forgetting old loves. Rather, I always had had the tendency to become completely and deeply immersed in any new strong experience. The same happenned when I began my first teaching job at a well-known business school in my city; when I had joined courses for basic training in primary Qur’anic sciences; and  again, when I joined the public university in my city. I had become similarly immersed back when I had acquired my first internet connection, and then years later, when I set up my blog.

While I was learning to read the Qur’an in its own language, I had struck a strong personal and emotional relationship with matters spiritual. When my course was coming to an end, my class was asked to write about their intentions for the future. My clear thinking at that point was: It’s futile to think too specifically about the future, for one must wait for the Hand of God before He reveals His writing for our tomorrow. What shows from that elusive door, must be accepted and responded to. I expressed the same idea in one of my last biographical posts in lyrical form.

So when the new change of marriage arrived in my life I accepted it similarly, and I had to wait only a few months before Allah Ta’ala allowed me to immerse myself into married life by joining my husband in Michigan, USA.

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I set out from my city after the sehri of 3rd Ramadaan, 14th of August, 2010, early morning, and after 22 hours of journey in which I was repeatedly served a broad pastry shaped as the Pakistani flag, I arrived here before the iftaar of 3rd Ramazaan, evening of 14th of August.

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That the point of exchange between my two lives and homes was in the middle of the most prestigious Islamic month and the most prestigious Pakistani day, may have been a coincidence. But not for me.

To me it was a significant contrivance of fate designed to remind me forever of what enduring legacies I was to take into my new life. To me it was a reflection of the two welding forces of my lives no matter how different in other ways those two lives might turn out to be. To me it was a sign of what I was supposed to value, cherish and nurture through all of my life no matter where it led or ended. To me it was a warning that despite having to leave so many things behind, what were the two things in life I would be a fool to abandon. (The love of one’s family is obviously not included in things left behind, as it is molded into the very clay of any earnest person).

And indeed, despite clear indifference to old loves, as I have already written, there were two things that I craved for and missed with sadness since the beginning of my move-over: my way of practice of my faith back home and my exercise of sharing my concern over my country’s issues on an everyday basis with my fellows. Small things kept coming into my mind. I missed hearing the Azaan, doing proper sehri with my family, attending lectures and classes meant for reminders of lessons of faith, sharing with my fellows of spirituality concern, ideas, prayers, and occasionally pro-social activities regarding the myriad of issues facing my country. I even missed and yes, cried for the taste of my homeland’s food, whether cooked in my own home or in the kitchen of some known eatery in my city. Although I had as simualtaneously been cut-off from my professional and academic lives, it is a lesson that the only memories that invaded me were my intellectual and studious interactions with my students, which themselves had always had been clearly embellished by my two big loves.

 May Allah always keep me on the path of these two loves.

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There is more to the story of this memorable anniversary.

Generally, after coming, I remained mentally busy in shaping my new lifestyle as a housewife and exercising my skills in the clever arts of managing a kitchen, a house, and a husband. Soon, however, other fond memories of the past started creeping into the moments of discomforts in the new life. I must say that the make-up of my being is not social, rather it’s intellectual and experiential. Hence it was not ‘talking to old friends’ that I missed. Rather, mostly I missed interacting with my students and endeavoring to stimulate and activate them in new ways, I missed laying down leisurely on my back and just wasting my time reading about different lifes and worlds, or sitting up at the computer table and wasting hours in browsing now this now that, I missed indulging in my petty habits of attempting to translate and understand Nasir Kazmi’s poetry and of gathering and integrating material for my blog…

Slowly, after more time, my old loves began to resurface and to be incorporated into the structure of my daily life. It’s interesting that my oldest loves reasserted themselves first and foremost. In a few months, I started reading some of my unfinished books that I had brought from Pakistan. When the books I had brought were done, I searched up my to-read lists from my various internet accounts and, slow and steady, began to collect them, reading at least half of what I bought, shelving the rest for future perusal, exactly as I used to do back home. Then one day, many months later, I discovered that one of my essays inspired by Nasir Kazmi’s poetry had been published by Dawn newspaper, that I had had sent them a few months before leaving my country. This re-awoke in me my old passion for his poetry and I asked my mother to mail me one of my translation diaries that I had forgotten back home. I began to reattend to my Nasir Kazmi blogs, though only  occasionally, given pre-occupation with social responsibilities on my in-laws across the border in Canada.

And so nearly a whole year passed.

Had I been thinking about my key blog, this, the Structure of Entropy, through all that time?

 Structure of Entropy was the newest and a developing passion when I left my life in Pakistan for a transoceanic change. When I used to recall it in my new life, it seemed like something very distant, something of the past, something that once was but may not be again. I used to feel this way not because I was not sincerely attached to it back home. Rather, it was not that deeply ingrained and well-integrated into the rubrics of my personality, as I had not yet passed as much time with this interest as with my other passions. After most of my old loves reappeared and started being expressed however sparingly I begin to feel a re-inkling of my urge to blog. Yet, I was uninspired: I had nothing to blog about. I was not as yet re-engaging with my old online and offline sources that used to fuel my thought and to churn out inspirations. And I am never the one to do anything without having a definite feeling for it.

As I took up my interest in Nasir Kazmi and to write out my insights from his poetry, however, I realized that I had a draft in my hand which was worth sharing on this blog more than in my online Nasir Kazmi notebook. Even then I had anticipated myself returning only sparingly and incidentally to this blog.

The close of my first year finally drew near. I had intended, however, to share this anniversary post with my readers come 14th August, so that at least they could make some sense of what was happening (rather, not happening), and also I had wished to share my personally felt signifiance of the timing of my departure. Also, this time, I was bent on spending my Ramazaan the way I was accustomed to back home, rather than in the new, casual way my first ‘honeymoon’ Ramazaan of 2010 had been spent. As I reconnected with my spirituality, I suddenly found that the well of inspiration that had been dry for more than a year almost, was running again. And indeed, it had had been my urge to share my spiritually minded insights and observations that had finally propelled me to write systematically through my blog, in a way that my literary- and historical-research minded author father had never succeeded in doing.

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I am not claiming that I will be as fluent in my posting once Ramazaan is gone, as I will InshaAllah manage through out the month (only two weeks remain). With another year, a new set of responsibilities await in the form of an expectant addition to the family (InshaAllah). However, my first year’s presumption, that the blog was a short-term indulgence abruptly cut-off by the force of circumstances has been proven wrong. As I had observed before in my life, old loves go to hibernate, but do not dry up to die, if they were indeed sources of seeding, erupting and flowering of new streaks of thought that themselves became integrated in the kaleidoscope of my personality.

So InshaAllah, the flow of expierences, intellectation, and sharing will continue in the future albeit with their own phases of hub and quiet.

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 Let’s see what I have to say on the second annual edition of the anniversary of my special anniversay…. 🙂

 

PS: Thanks for keeping up with my overly rambling post. And, Happy Independence Day… 🙂

 

QURAN IN RAMADAAN: Convention or Essence?

In Quran, Ramadaan on August 26, 2009 at 4:58 am

1430, 04 Ramadaan:

َلَيسَ البِرَّ أَن تُوَلّوا وُجوهَكُم قِبَلَ المَشرِقِ وَالمَغرِبِ وَلٰكِنَّ البِرَّ مَن ءامَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَاليَومِ الءاخِرِ وَالمَلٰئِكَةِ وَالكِتٰبِ وَالنَّبِيّۦنَ وَءاتَى المالَ عَلىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِى القُربىٰ وَاليَتٰمىٰ وَالمَسٰكينَ وَابنَ السَّبيلِ وَالسّائِلينَ وَفِى الرِّقابِ وَأَقامَ الصَّلوٰةَ وَءاتَى الزَّكوٰةَ وَالموفونَ بِعَهدِهِم إِذا عٰهَدوا ۖ وَالصّٰبِرينَ فِى البَأساءِ وَالضَّرّاءِ وَحينَ البَأسِ ۗ أُولٰئِكَ الَّذينَ صَدَقوا ۖ وَأُولٰئِكَ هُمُ المُتَّقونَ

  It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing.

The above verse is no. 177 from Al-Baqarah and falls in the second juz of Qur’an. The verse is the most complete and comprehensive definition of the Arabic word ‘birr’ (good deed) and is hence called as the ayat-ul-birr. I believe this is also the perfect verse for Ramazaan as it makes the key distinction between engaging in ‘conventional’ forms of religious observations and those behaviors which reflect the essence of moral behavior.

This verse was sent to the Holy Prophet (salla Allahu alaihi wasallam) at the time when the qibla had been recently changed from the Mosque Al-Aqsa to the Ka’aba. The jews of Madina were raising arguments at this change and the verse is one of several that answer to them.

The verse highlights the fact that compared with the ‘form’ of a deed, the character that is being developed through those deeds is of higher importance. It doesn’t mean that the ‘form’ can be changed at will; for even in that lies the test of our willingness to submit ourselves to Allah’s injunctions.

However, it does refocus our attention away from futile arguments over details of form on the essence of religiousity which is intimately tied to morality in Islam. So how can this verse serve us in Ramadaan?

It provides us with a list of behaviors through which we can compare our behavior and judge for ourselves how much of the true spirit of the fast is there in our efforts.

1. Have we set our beliefs straight? that is, based on this excellent and the most authentic sources at our disposal? This first point in the verse covers all the essentials of belief and raises an important question: What is the validity of a fast that is held for the sake of convention (because everybody else is fasting and expects us to keep, because of parental pressure, etc) because it merely satisfies the outward observers; but can it be acceptable to Allah who knows that in the person in his/her hearts of hearts does not believe? This refers us again to that Islam vs Eman issue we have been lately considering.

2. We fast, we offer more than the obligatory prayers; we try to complete one cycle of Quran’s recitation; but here is the test of tests: do we spend from that most closest-to-the-heart of our possessions — money? Note zakat is not intended here for it is covered in the next point of the ayah. It is the other-than-zakat expenditure called sadqah in Arabic. And there are so many ways of offering it as outlined in the ayah. I have read this in ahadith that this is one of those deeds which can protect us from falling into the hell-pit when we are crossing that bridge over it to the heaven’s side and which will also protect us from the intense heat of the day of the big gathering while we are waiting for the Judgment process to begin. We spend so much in Ramadaan on ifraar and sehri but do we bring ourselves to remember those who are not as lucky as us? Indeed there may be families whose state of faith might be weakening because of the very urgent need of food and hygiene. Your charity can save them from completing falling away from the path of faith, because faith on God does have an association with faith on people. Your help can be a message of hope for someone, can be a reminder that God creates ways out of trouble, and can motivate the needy ones to benefit as much from this prized month as you yourself are gaining.

3. Many people count salat and zakat among the more formal aspects of Islam. But their mention in this verse reminds us that these two are the key character-building exercises that are designed to produce the qualities that this verse summarizes. Just think. All these qualities require a firm self-control and both these conventions teach us that. Whatever activity your are engaged in, no matter how important, or no matter how engrossing the fun you are having, you must break away from it to offer your prayer on time. Self-control! Then again, no matter how large an amount your 2.5% translates into (depending upon the extent of your resrouces), you must deliver it as promptly as it is due. Another important point is that since Ramadaan quickly transforms into a cultural observation and a lot social pressure is accumulated, there are people who do “fast” while retaining their lack of concern about offering salat and while having no intention whatsoever of clearing their zakat dues. So can such a fast be acceptable?

 4. The final portion of the ayah covers all those behaviors — keeping promises; patience in pain, adversity and panic; and truthfulness — that are not only the traditional good deeds but also very practical guidelines in going through the affairs of the world with i) straight relations with people intact, ii) duties performed efficiently and effectively, iii) and good health (both physical and mental) maintained througout the ups and downs of life. Being judged as a good subject of our Creator is, of course, an incomparable bonus. Once again, all of these are also the many qualities of a sincere and authentic (and truly acceptable) fast that we keep reading in various ahadith.

So, think about it.