3 Ramadan 2013: Thought

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If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking. – George Patton

Today’s post is to really trigger thought and a bit of a tongue twister  actually … it is about thinking out loud about thinking. The concept of thought, or more widely philosophy of mind, is not new and is one which philosophers like Descartes have tackled as they traveled on the route of self-discovery and existence.

With our fast paced world in terms of technology and an enormous amount of information being directly or indirectly received by our brains, could one trust their thinking and ensure that it is not one shaped by externalities??? How do we know that we know??? How do we know if we are right or wrong??? How do we know we are on a right path for success???

Without getting into the philosophical skeptical argument, we believe that one can answer the above only when they have a baseline to compare to. Some use a self value system, or use Mill’s utilitarianism in ‘maximizing happiness and reducing suffering’ for self and others, and some use a doctrine like the bible or for those fasting Ramadan, the Quran, which defines a baseline as belief and doing good.

We are thinking that at a time when we face high externalities, one needs to focus not only on a baseline but also on a ‘conscious’ thinking, emotional bond … there is a great saying (hadith) from the Prophet PBUH that explains the emotional perspective:

Righteousness is good morality, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in your soul and which you dislike people finding out about (Sahih Muslim)

in another saying,

Consult your heart. Righteousness is that about which the soul feels tranquil and the heart feels tranquil, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in the soul and moves to and fro in the breast even though people again and again have given their opinion in the matter’s favor (Ma’bad)

The bottom line? We call upon ourselves to be self-aware this Ramadan and to use active thinking instead of passive thinking focusing on what matters and more importantly, what is good to humanity, and leaving what wastes time without benefit accepting that there may not be any thoughts that are an absolute right.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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27 Ramadan 2012: Flows Without Asking

… ‘sakha’ is a type of generosity in which a man is easygoing with people who ask him for help and he facilitates the needs of those seeking help … ‘Jud’, on the other hand, is generosity that flows without the recipient of the generosity needing to ask for it. For that reason, God is considered Jawad but not Sakhi, for His generosity flows without our asking. – Hamza Yusuf *

God’s generosity is all around us, 24 / 7, and more profoundly felt in Ramadan when we focus more on the spirit than any other month of the year, we call it, a month of high consciousness.

Whether it is by looking at how life around us keeps going with all the risks that seem not to materialise, to the abilities for the skies to rain and help naturally grow the earth, or the way money, food and all provisions seem to come, or the way life challenges seem to take on different meanings and directions yet we continue to have hope … his generosity is abundant and never-ending in perfect wisdom.

In today’s post we want to highlight that although he is always generous without our asking, imagine what would happen if we did. Doing our part in seeking his help, his provisions and his blessings actually seems to heal hearts and seems to be an indirect validation tool when we ask for something that may look good but is actually bad for us and vice versa. On this note, and contrary to what most feel, even the smallest need or want, worldly or not, we understand from scholars that god likes to hear our calling, and likes to hear us ask as we indirectly recognize that all power is to him and that no matter how big a problem or a challenge is in our lives, he can sort it out for us in perfect wisdom.

As god says in the Quran,

“Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” (Chapter 40 (Ghafir/Forgiver), Verse 6)

In these last few days of the blessed month, we ask god to bless us and you with a good year ahead filled with knowledge, clarity, inner and outer (reflecting inner) peace.

* Yusuf, Hamza, 2005, Generous Tolerance in Islam and its Effects on the Life of a Muslim. Seasons, Spring – Summer 2005 Issue, pp. 26 – 42 [Online]
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20 Ramadan 2012: All Praise

There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever. – Mahatma Gandhi

Our gut feel told us that in order to achieve our objective and optimize our time before the end of Ramadan to uncover the secrets to sustainable inner peace, we needed to cover a key point: faith.

We personally believe that faith is essential to inner peace. However, our main point is not that it is essential, it is that the quality of faith is what is important. You see, similar to our post about purpose in life, we all have faith whether we readily recognize it or not. Why? It is our nature to be inquisitive and to want to ‘rely’ for confidence, stability and direction.

Faith is ultimately trust and/or reliance on someone or something that spans across all areas in our lives. Some have faith in god, and some, have faith in human logic, a person (dead or alive), passion (likes/enjoyment/love), empiricism, chance, an animal (pet or not), bad morals (cheating, stealing, lying), etc… So the key is that if one is going to believe and rely on something anyway, it might as well be something worth it and someone or something that benefits, elevates and improves all aspects of our lives. What does that mean? It must give us freedom from dependency on anything or anyone that can change or die.

The reality is that:

  • we don’t know when we can conceive (how many couples can’t conceive due to ‘no scientific reason’)
  • we are born from a foetus that is 1.5 g and an inch long (a paper clip?!#@)
  • we (plants / animals / people) die on a day and/or time unknown to us (even in cases of Euthanasia)
  • everything changes around us and nothing is constant, e.g. plants, animals, universe
  • natural disasters occur that we can neither predict nor prevent (scientists still maintain that earthquake prediction is inherently impossible*)

and someone who is all-powerful and knowledgeable, does.

So ultimately, if we don’t see him, we know he exists and we seek during these last few days the secrets to sustainable inner peace on the basis of an unchanging, powerful, knowledgeable god who has provided us with the tools and knowledge necessary to make it the best and most peaceful life we can have.

 

 

We apologize for the length of today’s post but referring to god is something that cannot be done in a simple post and with that, we know that we have not done justice and we seek forgiveness for anything we might have said wrong.
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_prediction (accessed Aug 9, 2012)
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15 Ramadan 2012: Gold

Renounce the world and Allah (god) will love you, and renounce what people possess and people will love you. – Prophet Mohammed (Peace and Blessings Upon Him)*

Fifteen days since the start of Ramadan 2012 and our search for sustainable inner peace continues.

Let’s admit it, we cannot and do not want to, live in isolation. We live with families, neighbors, colleagues and society in general and it is of natural human disposition to want to be loved by others. However, people dynamics can sway one so far away from inner peace that only isolation could help dissect confusion. Yes, we have discussed people’s kindness, their stories, their positive influence, but there is also a dark side, so we were wondering, how could we win both life and life hereafter while at the same time be loved by others? In other words, and in the spirit of the Olympics and London 2012, to win gold?

The quote above was the key to our reflection. The official translation uses the word renounce and we wanted to know more. We found that renounce here would signify a state where one voluntarily gives up or turns away from loving or wanting control of that which is with people either in material possessions or personal traits. In other words, letting go of jealousy and envy. Granted, we are not talking about how to (nor should we want to) be popular and ‘friends’ with everyone for that also leads to confusion and shallow relationships. However, if we didn’t care about what people had, we guess that we wouldn’t care to enter into competition with them, and competition is what creates disharmony and discomfort with both oneself and others.

We ask god on this blessed night to bless us with the satisfaction to compete with our own selves and if we compete with others, compete on the basis of doing good and getting closer to god and accept, after hard work, that which is preordained to us.

* Hadith #31 of Imam An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths. Quote is PBUH’s answer to: “A man came to the prophet and said: “O Messenger of Allah (god), direct me to an act which, if I do it, [will cause] Allah to love me and people to love me.”
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12 Ramadan 2012: Thin Line … Big Difference

Being responsible and being entrusted are different concepts. One may be responsible but not entrusted, however, one can never be entrusted and not responsible. – Ramadan Living

We have been reflecting on this for a few days now, is there a difference between being responsible and being entrusted? We believe, it is a yes.

We felt that for sustainable inner peace, one must look at responsibilities and identify those that weigh us down and seek ways to eliminate them or reduce their impact on our time and energy. However, there was a distinct set of responsibilities that could neither be eliminated nor changed, a set that was ‘entrusted’ to us by god. These things being under our care, to be nurtured or utilized and subsequently being responsible for them in the hereafter. Hence, the only thing we could do is to understand this set as ‘high priority’ seeking the necessary tools to do the best we can in the best way possible.

*Potential Set* God gives us:

  • talent to perfect and share with the world and be questioned on how we used it to …
  • children to raise and let them go into the world and be questioned on values we taught them to …
  • wealth to acquire and utilize in the world and be questioned on how we optimized our wealth to …
  • parents to depend on and be grateful for and be questioned on how we humbly …
  • health to move our bodies and be questioned on how we took action to …
  • hearts to have awareness of self and others and be questioned on how we purified it to …

better the world for humanity and help spread the truth.

We ask god in this Ramadan, to bless us with the ability to patiently fulfill our responsibilities on those things we are entrusted with to the best of our abilities.

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7 Ramadan 2012: What is it

A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder. – Thomas Carlyle

 

Would you say it is possible to live a life without purpose? Some say yes, especially those who perceive others to be lazy, carefree, rebellious, hesitant and/or unsure.

We believe that a purpose may not be clear or known, but that no one can live a life without purpose for, as in the quote above, one would not move anywhere and clearly … we all seem to be moving somewhere.

We believe that purpose in life is dependent on purpose assumed in all daily actions. Each trip we take, every phone conversation we have, every friendship we keep, every meal we eat, every email or FB post we send, every piece of clothing we buy or wear, etc… is basically a signpost indicating what our current life purpose is. For example, if at the root of it all, one eats to survive, works to survive, exercises to survive … then their overall life purpose is to survive. Another example, if one gives charity because it is highly respected by others, and dresses nicely because it impresses others, and exercises to look better than others … then their overall life purpose is to get approval from others. Try it yourselves and you will find that the most common ‘root’ purpose in your daily actions is ultimately, your overall purpose.

Our point? Let’s make it a good one for our lives and lives-hereafter! (Stay tuned for a future post about discovering together what it may be!)

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4 Ramadan 2012: Purity

A clean heart is a free heart – Mother Teresa

Having asked god to help us see the truth irrespective of our ideals in last night’s entry, we couldn’t skip over what we understand is a critical factor in making this happen, a state of purity, that is, in the heart.

As we go through life observing, listening and reflecting, we find that the need to have a pure heart comes up time and time again especially when our state of “inner peace” is shaken. This is because without purity, one cannot put aside ideals and self-built restrictive boundaries that are as a result of unexposed and unresolved “diseases” in our hearts ranging from hypocrisy, arrogance, jealousy, insecurity, etc…

We heard a scholar recently say that the way god answers our prayers when we seek specific character virtues is by exposing us to situations that force us to identify the current state of that virtue in our hearts forcing us to rectify and grow. On this blessed night, within the blessed month’s third of mercy, we ask god to mercifully give us the capability to identify diseases of our hearts, purify them and continue cleansing them until we acquire a set of good virtues.

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Ramadan 28: In All Languages of the World

Pray as if everything depended on God, and work as if everything depended upon man. – Francis J. Spellman

There are three different perspectives on prayer. Those who believe that prayer alone should be able to get you where you want to be, those who believe that only work and action gets one to where they want to be, and those who believe in the power of prayer and power of self to make dreams come true; we are of this view.

We Need Support

We don’t believe that we are meant to be alone in our struggles and pressures in life especially when fulfilling our dreams and aspirations. Friends and family may support but at some point, they also have their own struggles and pressures.

We Deserve Support

Our parents are meant to, by nature, support us when we are young / old, coasting / struggling, happy / sad, and as descendents of Adam (pbuh) who was created by god, we believe that allah is here to support us in all things ranging from the food we eat to the companies we want to build to the vacations we want to take and to the inspiration and help we need to give others etc…

We Will Get Support

Does god, who is (as extracted from his 99 holy names) the … compassionate, merciful, sovereign (king of all kings), almighty, creator, all-giving, all-knowing, all-hearing, all-seeing, just/fair, generous, wise, loving, powerful, gentle, self-sufficient, etc… not give support to those he created? That doesn’t sound logical does it?

As we embark on the last night or two of this blessed month, we ask god to accept all our prayers and to guide those who haven’t approached god yet, to do so in these blessed hours … in all languages of the world.

Ramadan 22: Reflections

I don’t try to imagine a God; it suffices to stand in awe of the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it. – Albert Einstein quotes

As we go on in our busy lives we rarely stop and look ‘up’ at the world around us to see that someone supreme and powerful created a world in such equilibrium and beauty yet can probably stop it all in a blink of an eye.

We watched a few episodes of a documentary recently called ‘Through the Wormhole’. It is one of those really scientific ones but what is unique about it is that it uses different scientific questions to deduce whether or not there is a god, fully analytical and using none of the holy books, scriptures, priests, rabbis or scholars. The results were without question affirmative, yes, there is a god or a powerful being because our universe is so calibrated, there is absolutely no way that this can happen spontaneously or out of entropy, i.e. disorder.

Here are a few thoughtful reflections we extracted from the holy book we thought we would share with you on this blessed night:

  1. The creation of the heavens (skies) and the earth both stable in position
  2. The cycle of night and day
  3. The seas which move large ships from one end of the earth to another
  4. The rain which gives life (vegetables, fruits and grass) to the earth after lifelessness
  5. The wide variety of moving creatures, animals and insects
  6. Winds which can come and go without reason and without warning
  7. The stars, which were initially used as guidance at sea and land during the night
  8. Wives and husbands who people share their living with and love even though they are strangers
  9. The natural cycle of rest during the night and work during the day
  10. Natural and fluid exchange between the sun and the moon without touching one another
  11. Strong, large mountains and flowing rivers
  12. Fruits that vary from sweet to sour, full of color to without color, small to large
  13. Vines, palm trees and corn fields which are all different yet need the same food to grow, i.e. water
  14. Different colors of the earth from desert to greenery
  15. Cattle which between blood and excretions produce pure milk
  16. Palm trees and grapes that produce both delicious treats and intoxicants, i.e. alcohol
  17. Birds that freely glide across the skies without anyone controlling them and telling them where to find food
(1-6) Chapter of Al Baqarah
(7,8) CHapter of Al An’am
(9) Chapter of Yunus
(10 – 13) Chapter of Ra’ad
(14 – 17) Chapter of Al Nahel

 

Ramadan 19: It is just the beginning

Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can. – Lowell Thomas

Do every act of your life as if it were your last. – Marcus Aurelius

It is NOT over, it is just beginning.

The first 20 days of Ramadan may be physically longer, but the last 10 days are heavier and more worthy with ‘lailut ul-qadr’. Contrary to what people believe, this day is unknown and we were guided to seek it during the last 10 nights with consistency and determination seeking god’s forgiveness, love and blessings.

In the beginning of Ramadan, we welcomed Ramadan and reduced ‘life’ commitments …  in the last ten days, life becomes Ramadan: prayer, bringing joy to others, charity, loving parents, connecting with relatives, mending broken relationships, and anything else that can bring us closer to what the rasool embodied without forgetting to ask for how we would like to see our lives in the upcoming year.

We ask allah to bless us and you with ‘the night of power’ along with the strength, determination and perseverance to do the best we can in these last 10 days. Our actual capabilities surpass the level we think we are at.