The month of Ramadan is the month in which the Quran was sent down,
a guidance for the people, and clear verses of guidance and criterion.
[Quran: Chapter 2:183]


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ramadan Advice By Hamza Yusuf

Preparing for Ramadan 2010: Highlights of the Video Series on Ramadan Advice by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf starts off the lecture by noting that Islam has 5 pillars: shahadah (oneness of God), prayer, zakat, fasting and hajj. All of the pillars, including fasting, are forms of protection (a protective shield) for believers. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf notes that the previous religions has had fasting in their religious traditions. Muslim fasting during Ramadan is an extension of the religious traditions of Judaism and Christianity. This is not something new to believers seeking God.

Why Fasting?

Fasting has been prescribed for believers so that we learn taqwa. Taqwa is from an Arabic root word that means protection. So fasting is viewed as a way of protecting oneself. Fasting helps to form a protective barrier (shield) between us and the things that can harm us. Fasting also brings us back to our true nature.

It has been recommended that when someone attacks you verbally, or offends you while you are fasting, that you say twice "I am fasting". The aim is to prevent yourself from reacting to negative outside stimuli. These unwanted stimuli can unsettle you and make you behave in a reactionary manner. This should be avoided because the aim of fasting is to bring you to a state of higher consciousness. And you cannot achieve this state if you are reactionary.

Too often, people succumb to "patterned behaviors". People are essentially sleeping. For example, people in bad relationships find themselves behaving in reactionary manner, stuck in a vicious cycle. Islam is about waking us up. It is said that one should consider oneself as being already in one's graves (as in, soul "wakes up" from grave upon the call on Judgment Day) - the point being, one should not to wait till that moment to wake up.

Fasting is one such way to wake up. One wakes up early morning to eat; one stays up late for night prayers.

Fasting is also not about eating - one should eat small morsels of food, and not gorge yourself. It is said that if one has to eat to fill, it should be in this order - 1/3rd of stomach for food, 1/3 for water, and 1/3 for breath. One has to eat what is necessary for survival, not in excess.

Essence of Ramadan

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf notes that the pre-Islamic Arabs regarded jahil (ignorance) in a different form from its literal Arabic meaning. They would respond to slights/offensive words or acts (ignorant acts) with disproportionate zeal. Their aim was to "out-jahil" (beat the others, figuratively speaking) with more ignorant acts. This form of behavior was raectionary. And contrary to the Islamic way.

The Islamic way is to show forbearance in the face of ignorance. This is the hallmark of those who follow the Prophet's path.

Sadly, this is not the face of Muslims today. You see anger and reactionary behavior. Contempt for non-Muslims is also prevalent. But this is not right. Avoid the zealotry of arrogant reaction. Be like the lion who walks with dignity (it is not about being meek as a lamb). Instead, the lion only attacks when it needs to, and that too, out of necessity, for food or out of defense. It never creates carnage for the sake of it.

The essence of Ramadan is to become aware of one's own nature, tongue, heart, eyes, ears, and to be aware of the gifts given to you by Allah. Look to Islam on how to structure your life - actions that are halal, haram and what is recommended.

Fasting helps you achieve forbearance and discipline. It brings tranquility to the heart. And when the heart it tranquil, it becomes acutely aware of Allah. This confers protection on you (others can't harm you) AND others are protected from you (you cannot harm others).

When we fast, we follow the prophetic traditions from times past. We are connecting with every seeker of God before us. This is time for us to turn off the television, stop the empty chatter and gossip. Spend your time remembering Allah through dhikr instead.

Trust in Allah

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf notes that the modern world is one that is very much fear-based. Feelings of doubt, fear and anxiety are prevalent. People are scared of losing their jobs, their wealth, worry about provisions of life. But when a believer has such feelings, he is simply not putting his trust in Allah.

He notes that it was entirely possible that such fears could come true - one could indeed lose it all. But if one seeks Allah, one gets everything one desires. Why? Because everything one desires is with Allah.

This state of fear, needs and wants are things that makes use miserable. Ramadan is about letting go of such doubts, fears and anxieties that plague our minds. Avoid being reactionary. Trust in Allah and recognize that the things in this life you will need, you already have - that is, faith.


Ramadan Advice Part 1

Ramadan Advice Part 2

Ramadan Advice Part 3

This is an excellent message from Sheikh Hamza Yusuf. The point about how the people who are living their lives hobbled by doubts and fears are actually not trusting God was profound. Ramadan is a good time as any to let go for such fears, trust in God, and indulge in the activities that uplift one's spiritual development.

A timeless advice that we can use in our lives well beyond Ramadan. Definitely worth spending time listening to.

Recommended: Articles on Preparing for Ramadan

Basic Facts on Ramadan

Setting Goals and Planning

The Importance of the Month of Shaban

Fasting During Shaban

Video Series 1: Preparing for Ramadan


Special Ramadan Series

Dear Reader, Assalaamu’alaikum.

Ramadan Mubarak. We wish you a blessed and productive Ramadan! Make no mistake about it - keeping the fast and increasing our acts of worship during this blessed month is not an easy task. The physical demands of balancing work or school with fasting all day, feeling fatigued and less effective than you normally are, waking up for Suhoor, praying Teraweeh and Tahajjud prayers, dealing with sleep deficits.

But the last thing we would want is to let Ramadan pass us by without doing all that we aim and desire to. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty or regretful when Ramadan passes.

The Ramadan Series will send you emails with practical tips on how to gain and maintain the physical and spiritual energy necessary to embark on increased religious oligations so that you will reap the benefits from this blessed month. This includes special Ramadan duas to say during the month. Do sign-up today!

* Email
First Name
Last Name
* = Required Field


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Related Posts with Thumbnails