20 Ramadan 2014: Normalise

Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional. -Roger Crawford

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Life is a series of good and bad, ease and difficulty, abundance and limitation, happiness and sadness, health and sickness … have you ever seen anything else? So if life is a cycle of changes, what does that mean? It cannot mean that it is an outcome, for if it is an outcome, why do people who do a lot of good deeds and charity face hardships? Or why do people who do bad deeds get good things? It wouldn’t seem logical. Yes, some of the outcomes are as a result of our own actions, but not all.

When looking at scholarly work in the holy book, what comes across is ‘tests’. All these states test our beliefs and values. These tests test our ability to reflect and learn until we reach a place where the cyclical change becomes the norm, recognizing and passing each test as it comes along for eternal success. How? By thanking god when good comes and using the blessings to do good … By not complaining, blaming or arguing when bad comes and seek help from god to help us through.

May god help us during this blessed month and these last few nights to have the strength to ‘normalise’ our good and bad times not feeling arrogant when I have it better than others and not feeling depressed and jealous when others have it better than me … for life is a cycle.

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19 Ramadan 2014: I have a Dream

“I have a dream today” – Martin Luther King Jr

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As we start the last third of this blessed month, the third of salvation and countdown to the ‘farewell’, today’s thought is also a reflection …

I have a dream that …

  • what is wrong is seen as wrong through the assessment of harm to oneself and others
  • all accept and respect the differences within humanity, i.e. race, color, faith, and move on
  • no one tries to ‘fix’ others based on own opinions as opposed to research, study and discussion with an open mind
  • all focus on and look for the positive side of others
  • we all pardon
  • every person has the right and ability to provide their own products and services to an open market to make their own living
  • research is done for the sake of people and improvement and not money
  • gossip stops
  • no one wonders if food is ‘safe’ for consumption
  • we smile more
  • we all realise that no one is better than anyone
  • we all believe in a day of judgement and are accountable for our actions
  • all debts are fulfilled and everyone is free to start anew
  • children enjoy their childhood without being bombarded by consumerism
  • children are children until at least their teens
  • education is fulfilling, empowering and joyous for both young and old
  • we respect each other
  • we say ‘i love you’ and ‘i miss you’

I am not saying these are right or wrong. I am not saying you should like them or not. I am not even saying that I am actually doing all those I list. I am just sharing mine

… what is yours?

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18 Ramadan 2014: Purpose

“I want to make my mark,’ he says. But what target, I wonder, are you going to hit?” ― Cecil Castellucci

In its’ 9th year, I do believe that this topic comes up every year. Is it surprising? I believe not, because with no purpose … why are we here again? Why am I writing? Why do I continue living? This year however, I want to reflect on this question with some of what others have said.

The purpose of life is ….

  • something to live for – Dostoyevsky
  • to achieve greatest self – Maraboli
  • to contribute in some way to making things better – Kennedy
  • a life of purpose – Bryne
  • to be happy – Dalai Lama
  • not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • to help others – Dalai Lama
  • to find your purpose – Gautama Buddha
  • to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all. – Leo Rosten

So, three observations; one is that some prescribe the attributes of a person who has a purpose in life, e.g. compassionate, useful; others prescribe purpose as a specific action, e.g. help others; and the third is so generic, one can’t help but ask more questions, e.g. a life of purpose, to find your purpose.

To prescribe what life purpose is in attributes or limited actions is narrow and makes me wonder about its completeness as it isolates some who may not have these “attributes” or “actions” who actually may have a purpose or confuse others who are trying to find their purpose as they “don’t meet these standards”.

I can’t provide you with another “quote” unfortunately and leave this to your own reflection as I do not feel I have all the knowledge necessary to do that but believing in an all-knowing god makes me accept the one that has been prescribed by our creator – Our life purpose is to “worship god” through belief, actual worship and doing good.

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17 Ramadan 2014: Maybe Tomorrow

“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss

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Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer or a thought or even an inkling as to what time is. I know what it means to Physicists, and I know what it means to Sociologists, but other than that, I can’t tell you. We all think we do, but all we observe is a sequential series of events, moon changes, aging, or simply, a life story … so time, is a group or series of elements in one’s life that constantly seem to change.

So when we say, time is going so fast, what do we mean? Do we mean that these elements in our lives seem to happen faster? Or do we mean that we have things we want to do in a given period of time that we can’t seem to do? Which one is it?

As I first started to write this entry, I would have said the former, but as I momentarily thought about it, I do think that maybe, it is the latter. It is in the achievement of goals, in comparison to my own expectations, that I can sense if time is fast or slow. I am not talking about big goals, but it could be a simple to do list. On the good days that I do finish what I intend, I start to think about how much time I have. On the challenging days that I do not finish what I intend, I think “gosh, time goes fast! I have no time! Time is shrinking!”

So putting aside the possible illusion of time, the only thing I can do maybe is good planning, realistic goals, and belief in destiny. When I can’t finish something, it is not because time is short or long, it is simply because, I am not ready today … maybe tomorrow.

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16 Ramadan 2014: Truth

“The more I see, the less I know for sure.” – John Lennon

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…. and the only thing we know for sure is that we are born, we live, we die … simple.

So what does that mean? Nothing really other than always knowing that everything we see or hear may or may not be truth and the question to ask oneself is, ‘does this benefit me in any way?’ … ‘can I do anything positive about what I am seeing or hearing?’ … ‘do I have the capability, knowledge and resources to actually do something positive in response to what I am seeing or hearing?’ …. if not, then the only thing we know for sure is … truth is subjective and all what we hear or see must have a benefit to us.

… we are born, we live, we die …

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15 Ramadan 2014: Treasure within our Reach

“The greatest treasures are those invisible to the eye but found by the heart.” – Maryanne Williamson

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Clearly this is a blog related to Ramadan, which in itself is a festive and spiritual time full of goodness and blessings. Whichever faith one belongs to, most often forget about a treasure that is within reach – the book of god.

Reflecting on the quote above revealed something interesting, although the words of god are written in books and are literally now found everywhere and within the reach of anyone, it is not the words that really matter as much as how the heart moves and gets affected by those words. The month of Ramadan is known to be a month that most dedicate more of their time to read god’s words, hoping to uncover treasures and secrets of the world we live in as relayed to us by the creator himself.

May this Ramadan give all of us the opportunity to uncover secrets to this world that bring us joy and calm, health and wealth, love and harmony, peace of heart and peace of mind.

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14 Ramadan 2014: Decide to Decide

“Sometimes, making the wrong choice is better than making no choice. You have the courage to go forward, that is rare. A person who stands at the fork, unable to pick, will never get anywhere.” – Terry Goodkind

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We all face indecisive moments and contrary to what most people think, we are indecisive for genuinely good reasons, it is not always lack of confidence or weakness. The question is however, how does one move beyond this phase that is filled with unknowns, fears, questions, literally putting us to a complete halt, unable to decide and unable to understand why one cannot decide.

A book that I have read for years and go back to every once in a while is Susan Jeffers (1987) ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’. She says that in a moment of decision, there is no consequences, only experiences which looking back at one’s own life, one would see that these consequences led to either some great learning that led to a future benefit or led directly to another benefit. So if every decision is seen as a winning decision, the fear goes down, decisions taken on face value waiting to see how it unfolds. It is difficult, but she says it can be done and this is how I understood it.

In this Ramadan, I call on myself first and then you to make a decision today … today, can be the day that we make a decision that will shape the next chapter in our lives. And if not today, let it be tomorrow, but let us decide to decide.

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13 Ramadan 2014: Make Peace

“The best peace agreement you can enter into is one you make with god, yourself and those around you” – Ramadan Living Blogger

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I don’t know about you, but I sure feel like there hasn’t been a more opportune and desperate time to make peace. Before we start looking at how others should make peace with each other, the question to ask is, have I made peace with god? with myself? with those around me?

What does peace mean? It does not necessarily mean a specific outer appearance, but it is an internal state. A state of comfort and satisfaction. Satisfaction that god’s rights, your own rights and the rights of others have been fulfilled or at least, you are trying to fulfill them. These include prayer, reflection, doing good, enjoining good, advising others, smiling to others, accepting ourselves talents and faults, accepting the choices we make and accept the destinies that have pre-ordained for us after we have the comfort of knowing that we have tried our best.

And once that is all in the clear, then one can look at what others are doing.

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12 Ramadan 2014: Reflection

“Don’t wait for the last judgement – it takes place every day” – Albert Camus

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I had a small reflection, what if all of humanity believed in a day of judgement? what if none of humanity believed in a day of judgement? What are the risks in life and what are the risks in hereafter? Just some food for thought.

In any case, for those who do believe in the Day of Judgement, this quote reminded me of the need to renew our “vows” to god, to believe and do good … believe and do good … believe and do good and to ask ourselves everyday, did I do anything today that warrants forgiveness, reflection, learning and improvement? We tend to forget very quickly. The year 2013 went by so fast I wondered in the New Year what I did that year in terms of good and bad deeds, and I could not recall.

The daily review is simple, what did I do good and what did I do bad every day leading to a positive cumulative result at the finish line.

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11 Ramadan 2014: Even Better

“A good deed is a good deed” – John Lee Hancock

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I liked this quote because it simply explains how any good is good … aaaannndddd?

The definition of a good deed can be portrayed by faith and other philosophical views of morality and ethics. Central to a lot of Scholarly thoughts and views in Islam and for those fasting Ramadan is the concept of “no intended harm and no unintended harm (1)” quoted by the Prophet PBUH, in other words, all forms of possible harm irrespective of the benefits, direct or indirect. Another supplementary concept related to the thought today, is the concept of intentions where “one’s own actions are judged by one’s own original intention (2)”, in other words, if one aims to do bad, what they do is bad and if one aims to do good, what they do is good.

So, what is a good deed? Anything that does not cause any intended or intended harm where the original intention was good and as a result, it is not always possible to correctly judge other people’s actions especially if what they do does not cause harm, have good intentions but actions do not necessarily make a large, noticeable positive change.

The call to action is to watch our intentions, and study our actions before we take them, aware of the possible harm and if unintended harm is done, then one learns, improves and repeats … sustaining the good and making the good, even better.

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(1) Nawawi Hadith #32
(2) Nawawi Hadith #1