Friday, September 26, 2008

Hunger


This is an older article written by Hamza Yusuf, which appeared last Ramadan in The Guardian, UK. If you are not familiar with him, check out the link in my 'places I frequent' under Zaytuna Institute. Masha'Allah he is a brilliant convert to Islam. He was raised as a Greek Orthodox and was born in, of all places, Walla Walla, Washington.

"Hunger can bring out the worst in us. In a wonderful scene in Shakespeare's As You Like It, a desperate and hungry Orlando comes upon Duke Senior and his exiled court in the forest, who are about to start dinner. Assuming the law of the jungle presides in Arden, Orlando brandishes his sword and demands food upon pain of death. Duke Senior rebukes him for his lack of civility, and wisely adds: "Your gentleness shall force, more than your force move us to gentleness." Orlando responds: "I almost die for food, and let me have it." Unfazed, the duke says: "Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." Orlando is shamed by the duke's gallantry and explains that hunger had bred violence in him.

Almost four centuries later another bard, Bob Marley, melodically reminded us: "Them belly full, but we hungry / A hungry mob is an angry mob." We all know the primal nature of hunger; we have experienced the irritability that comes from missing breakfast or skipping our cup of morning coffee or tea. We hyperbolically talk of "starving" when a mealtime draws near. Our food trysts are now frequent every day in what sociologists refer to as "repeated food contacts" and farmers simply call grazing. At the drop of a hat, we indulge in lattes and biscotti. Many people no longer eat three "square" meals but rather graze all day, with Starbucks troughs sprouting up everywhere to ensure none suffer the pangs of hunger or the pain of caffeine withdrawal. In the lands of plenty in the west, we tend to forget that the abundance and easy accessibility of food was not always so and is not as widespread even now.

Few of us who have the luxury of reading the daily paper over a cup of coffee and a piece of toast slathered with rich butter and marmalade have ever gone hungry intentionally, unless we succumbed to some ridiculous crash diet. But there was a time in the west when Lent, which commemorates Christ's 40-day fast in the desert, meant fasting all day and eating one meal at night. As time passed that tradition devolved into a semi-fast and now means merely giving up something one really likes, such as chocolate.

Even our portions of food and drink are much greater than what our grandparents had. In the midst of this cornucopia of consumption, millions of Muslims voluntarily abstain from food, drink and sex during daylight hours in the month of Ramadan. They watch their co-workers eat and drink throughout the day, and occasionally have to apologise for not joining in due to their religious observance. Fasting for a month makes them aware of hunger as a palpable physical sensation, not a remote occurrence they read about in the newspaper. When the UN tells us that almost a billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition and 25,000 people a day die from hunger, a faster appreciates these statistics in ways that remain distant to others.

But fasting is not just about giving up food and drink. It's about tending to "the better angels of our nature". The prophet Muhammad said, "If one is not willing to give up bad behaviour during his fast, God has no need for him to give up his food and drink." Muslims are encouraged during this time to be better people, to treat others with more deference. If enticed to argue, the faster is advised to respond: "I am fasting."

There are many ways to be hungry. One can hunger for love, or fame or social justice, but hunger for food seems to curb all other cravings. In being aware of others' hunger, we contribute to a more empathic world. Perhaps, if, like Duke Senior, we responded to the cries of the myriad desperate Orlandos foraging in the forests of famine out there with hospitality and help, they might be coaxed into civility themselves. Certainly, hunger can bring out the worst in us. But it can also bring out the best."

· Hamza Yusuf is a Muslim scholar, lecturer and author, and the co-founder of the Zaytuna Institute in California, which is dedicated to reviving the traditions of classical Islamic scholarship

Friday, September 19, 2008

Too Little Time

Yesterday, as I was driving down the Fahaheel Expressway, I was almost crashed into by a flying, black SUV that appeared suddenly in my rear view mirror and out of nowhere. As quickly as he appeared, careened towards me, causing heart-palpitations, and then sped off, he was gone. As I was gathering my wits, I began wondering aloud, perhaps no so eloquently or subtly, just where in the heck does someone have to be that he should have to drive so recklessly?
I came to the conclusion that either there was an emergency that suddenly presented itself, or he had somewhere he was supposed to be and had not allotted enough time to get there, or he was just a fool.
Given that this was not the first, second, or third time that I have seen this sort of thing happen, I will give the person the benefit of the doubt and say that he most probably was just in a hurry and wasn't thinking about anyone other than himself. Which also lead me to wonder about time...
It seems that so many of us are chasing, rushing, hurrying to this and that and the other. Often we hurry for no particular reason, just that it has become habit, which leads us to all kinds of other problems, not the least of which is that we have, for the most part, lost our ability to notice the other.
Be it the other person, the other landscape, the other beings, we have just lost our touch with the world around us. This is evident by the way many of us treat that world. In fact it is often used as our passing through place to dump our trash, throw out cigarette butts, and generally ignore and disregard.
If we are rushing past it all, how should we even notice its decrepitude and demise? If we are rushing past everyone, how should we notice others' needs or feelings? If we are rushing past it all, how can we ever invest ourselves to make our surroundings a better/safer place to be?

Have you ever stopped to think about the places you are driving through? Noticed the people that you pass on the side of the road? Looked at the shape of the terrain that you are driving through? Having the ability to be in the car and fly past the world around us in some ways puts us at a disadvantage. Sure we gain a lot from rapid transit, but we lose our connection to the world at large and to each other; therefore, we start to view each other not as people who have their own lives, needs, and rights, but as impediments to our own destinations, road blocks, as it were.
Islam says that speed is of shaytan, many other traditions also relate this sentiment in various ways. Henry David Thoreau said this: The finest workers of stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time.
Would that we could all slow down and observe the workings of life around us enough to appreciate it all.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Art

I love this man's art, so I thought I would share something beautiful with you.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

How to Let Go or Forgive


I found this online tool that is a unique way of approaching and practicing forgiveness and letting go. It helps you to identify, analyze, and let go of, or forgive. Interesting and worth a try.

And Now for Something More Uplifting...Ramadan Advice


I love Zaytuna Institute and its Imams. May Allah be pleased with them. Here is a Ramadan message from Imam Zaid. (It has been shortened)


...O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those who preceded you; that perhaps you will be mindful of God. Al-Qur’an 2:183

We encourage everyone to be especially generous during this blessed month. Our beloved Prophet , was normally exceedingly generous. In Ramadan, he was even more benevolent.

Ibn ‘Abbas, May Allah be pleased with him and his father, relates: “The Prophet , was the most generous of people. He was even more generous in Ramadan when Gabriel would meet him and review the Qur’an with him. Gabriel would come to him every night of Ramadan to review the Qur’an. During these times, the Messenger of Allah , was more generous than the freely blowing wind.” Al-Bukhari and Muslim

We encourage everyone to read through the Qur’an at least once. Those who can read the Arabic script should do so in Arabic, even if they do not fully understand what they are reading. They should also try to read through the English translation. Those who are unable to read Arabic, should try to read through the entire English translation. Ramadan is, among other things, a celebration of the Qur’an. We should join the celebration by reading the Book of God much during this blessed month. Our Imams, Abu Hanifa, Malik, al-Shafi’i, and others, May God have Mercy on them all, would cease teaching Hadith and Jurisprudence during Ramadan and devote themselves exclusively to the Qur’an.

God says, concerning His Majestic Book: The Month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed, a guidance for mankind, [containing] clear proofs of guidance, and the criterion of distinguishing right from wrong. Al-Qur’an 2:185

We encourage everyone to refrain from all of the ruinations of the tongue during Ramadan. In his seminal work, “Quickening the Religious Sciences,” Imam al-Ghazali mentions them as the following:

Speaking in matters that do not concern one.

Excessive speech.

Speaking about sinful matters.

Disputation and contestation.

Argumentation.

Excessively embellished speech.

Lewd, insulting, or crude speech.

Invoking the Curse of God on someone.

Singing indecent songs, or relating immoral poetry.

Excessive joking.

Sarcasm and ridicule.

Revealing secrets.

False promises.

Lying and false oaths.

Backbiting and slander.

Instigating tense relations between people.

Being two-faced.

Praising someone who is either undeserving, or unable to remain humble when praised.

Speaking about involved subjects and ideas one lacks the necessary knowledge or eloquence to adequately convey.

Ordinary folk speaking in subjects that are the domain of specialists.

May God spare us from these ruinations both during and after Ramadan.

The Prophet, Peace and Blessing of Almighty God be upon Him, said: “Whoever fails to leave off ruinous speech, and acting on it [during Ramadan], God does not need him to leave off eating and drinking.” Al-Bukahri

We encourage everyone to avoid all arguments, disputes, and unnecessary worldly entanglements during this blessed month. This is a time for deep devotion and dedication to Allah.

We encourage everyone to work to restore any severed relations or kinship ties they may be experiencing. This is a time when the gentle breezes of Divine Facilitation are blowing. Any good we endeavor during this blessed month will come to bear its proper fruits, Insha Allah.

We encourage everyone to eat simply during this month. One should try to make a vow to give up unnecessary, and generally unhealthy fare during this blessed month. Pizza, ice cream, fast food, pastries, and soda should all go. We should make our solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters in other lands real, and not something confined to speeches and pamphlets.

If one is in the habit of watching television, or listening to commercial music, one should also try to give these things up for Ramadan. They are things that divert us from the remembrance of God in any case. During this special month when every letter we recite from the Majestic Qur’an is tremendously rewarded, we should busy ourselves with recitation, and drop frivolous pastimes.

Married couples should encourage each other to engage in spiritual pursuits during this month, i.e. reciting the Qur’an, attending Tarawih, etc. Those in the habit of hosting extravagant dinners in Ramadan should try to avoid doing so, especially if they involve burdening cooks with long hours in the kitchen at a time when everyone should be increasing acts of worship. Usually, the womenfolk are disadvantageously affected in this regard. While it is certainly virtuous to provide the wherewithal for the believers to break their fast, dates, water, and simple, easily prepared dishes suffice.

Everyone should endeavor to pray the Tarawih Prayers. This is practice that should not be left without an excuse. The Prophet , mentioned, “Whosoever stands for prayer during the nights of Ramadan will have his/her prior sins expiated.” Al-Bukhari and Muslim

The prayer is the symbol of our devotional life. Ramadan is a great time to rediscover the power of the prayer, and to renew our commitment to our Lord through the prayer.

These are some of the things we wanted to convey to you. Hopefully, they will prove of benefit. Please take this message in the spirit with which we have conveyed it, as sincere advice. Again, we wish you a very successful Ramadan and would like to thank all of you for past, present, and future support.

On behalf of the Zaytuna Staff,

Your Brother in Islam,

Imam Zaid Shakir

[1] Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Lata’if al-Ma’arif [The Subtleties of Knowledge], (Damascus: Dar Ibn Kathir, 1997/1416) p. 282.

[2] Ibn Rajab, p. 278.

Friday, September 05, 2008

RNC: Either You Agree with Us, or You Must be a Terrorist


What is it with politics? I am so turned off by politicians of late. I only watched snippets of the RNC, as that was all I could stomach, and it really made my skin crawl.

I am so sick of the hypocrisy! Why can't a politician say what s/he is for and against and leave it at that? Why do they have to act like 7 year olds trying to make friends, 'What, did I say I like Power Rangers? I mean I hate them!'
The latest hypocrite is this Sarah Palin, but heck, she is just joining ranks with the rest of them; "Did I say abstinence is a Christian value? I meant: we are all sinners, and let he who is without sin cast the first stone!"

Don't get me wrong, I am not pointing fingers at her daughter, I just seem to remember some of my good ol' Republican friends saying that Bill wasn't fit to lead and be an example to our children because he 'had a moment of weakness', (which they could have forgiven him for) and yet Sarah Palin is leading the Christian conservative charge with her unwed daughter and her daughter's 'baby daddy'!
I just don't get it...
I will go on record saying that just like I don't want my children to become desensitized to immoral behavior by watching the likes of Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, or Jaime Spears(sp?), I also don't want them to do the same by watching the Vice President's family!

Is anybody awake out there?

What really gave me the creeps was the look in the eyes of some of the attendees at that convention...I think I spotted drool on their faces when the speakers, Sarah, John, and Rudy, were bashing Obama. Was that glee in their eyes? I found the whole spectacle to be distasteful and hateful. Rather than focusing on what they were going to do, they spent their whole time focusing on demonizing their opponents. And woven throughout the truculent grandstanding was an undercurrent of 'we are the right people; they are the wrong people'. It was not about issues; it was about the people themselves...sinister.
They very much epitomized George's mantra, 'Either you are with us, or you are against us'.

I think I like the Islamic way, if you seek to govern, then you are unfit to govern.
Throw 'em all out!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Ramadan Blessings


Ramadan Kareem to all.
And let me just go on the record for this: It is nearly impossible to keep one's fast while driving in Fahaheel!
God give me patience, Ameen