Monday, 1 August 2011

Just because... (2)

When you strip down Islam to its core – removing ALL the perceptions, interpretations, opinions, rituals and innovations – all you have is faith and trust in One God. It’s a sense of God Consciousness in every aspect of our lives. It’s an acknowledgement of what He has given us... from the food we eat, to every breath that we are allowed to take. And in that consciousness and acknowledgement is a perpetual sense of gratitude for everything we have in our lives.
It’s the first day of Ramadan here in South Africa. The new moon was sighted last night... or so they tell me. I wouldn’t know. I was too busy trying to find a nurse to help me inject myself with a vial of Vitamin B12. The things we do for our deficient blood cells...

I love this time of year, not only because I derive some kind of gratification from deprivation, but also because it gives me time to reflect and re-group. It’s like a spiritual detox for the mind, body and soul. For me, fasting is more than just a physical experience. It’s a spiritual one where I feel kinda zoned out from the perpetual rush of life. It’s like my body and soul is being brought down from the highs and lifted up from the lows and made to settle somewhere in the middle, in contentment. I feel more centered during this auspicious month than I do at any other time of the year.

In many ways, this Ramadan won’t be any different to previous years... I’ll still be hungry at 10:30am, I'll still be going to bed earlier. I’ll still be taking my breakfast/sehri/suhoor before dawn (at around 04:30am here). I’ll still suffer from caffeine withdrawal for the first few days. I’ll still count down the hours before I get to break my fast (at around 05:44pm today in Johannesburg) and eat good homemade food. I’ll still be significantly well behaved and somewhat subdued (or try to be). I’ll still use whatever free time I have to immerse myself in prayer and remembrance of The Almighty.

I always think of my late grandfather during this time. I think of the legacy he left behind. The kind of man he was. He was a man who devoted his life to helping others. He devoted his time in the service of humanity... regardless of their race, ethnicities or religion. He never ever judged anyone. People often came to see him from all over the country and they had a tremendous amount of respect for him.

The result is that even though I haven’t met him I regularly encounter perfect strangers in the street, telling me what a great man he was. They hold all their stories or accounts of their personal experiences with him and his memory in their hearts, like little treasures they want you to see. It always makes me think “I should have met this man; where can I meet him?”. Some of them cry while they narrate their stories... nearly 40 years later and they still cry for him.

The one thing I want to focus on this Ramadan is my way forward in life. I want to focus on change and reflect on the kind of person I want to be - my place on earth that would honour his life - not for myself, but for others and for the sake of The Almighty too. Life is like a river in that sense... the water always needs to flow, it can’t remain stagnant because stagnant water is often toxic and unhealthy.

You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips ~ Oliver Goldsmith

Side Note: Here in SA, we have many towns and areas that have the word "fontein" attached to their names e.g. Slangfontein, Kalkfontein, Jackalsfontein etc. "Fontein" means "Fountain" in Dutch and Afrikaans. I have added an "Islam-fontein" section to this blog for additional Ramadan reading, chronicling previous posts and relevant material.

14 comments:

  1. Religion, to the extent that it is represented by religious structure tends to serve political (power) ends.

    Faith and a relationship with the Almighty is something all together different, brings with it a purity of intent and is desirable.

    Being able to tell the difference can be difficult, but it's important.

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  2. Religion, to the extent that it is represented by religious structure tends to serve political (power) ends.

    Faith and a relationship with the Almighty is something all together different, brings with it a purity of intent and is desirable.

    Being able to tell the difference can be difficult, but it's important.

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  3. Though I'm not a religious person myself, I can appreciate all the things you're saying. I once had an interesting conversation with a student about his religion. I just wanted to share it with you. I, for one, will never forget it.
    http://rcbenglishclass.blogspot.com/2010/08/proof.html

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  4. Amen, Miss Azra, I hope the holy month of abstinence brings you closer to the divine. Just as well you're in the southern hemisphere where the days are currently shorter.

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  5. Another amazing piece. Thank you for sharing that. I would love to hear more about your grandfather!

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  6. I too would love to hear more about your grand father.

    I always like hearing about other people's religion and their spiritual journey - so thanks for sharing!

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  7. Beautiful piece!
    And I agree with your initial comments. Once you strip down all the commandments of faith, you'll be left with the unity of God.

    It was really nice hearing about your grandfather :).

    All the best for this Ramadhan. May the Almighty accepts our sacrifices and our prayers.

    :)

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  8. "I love this time of year, not only because I derive some kind of gratification from deprivation, but also because it gives me time to reflect and re-group. It’s like a spiritual detox for the mind, body and soul. For me, fasting is more than just a physical experience. It’s a spiritual one where I feel kinda zoned out from the perpetual rush of life. It’s like my body and soul is being brought down from the highs and lifted up from the lows and made to settle somewhere in the middle, in contentment. I feel more centered during this auspicious month than I do at any other time of the year."

    This paragraph was very touching. I had a few Muslim friends in college, but one in particular who felt the same way about Ramadan as you do, and who opened my eyes to his religion and way of life. I have such great respect for individuals who go beyond the physical to incorporate well being into their minds and souls. I still don't know much about the Muslim religion or culture, but am thankfully learning a lot through you! :)

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  9. Slms

    What is your grandfather's name ?

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  10. belated ramadhan mubarak to you azra. you are spot on about the essence of this month of mercy.
    i used to dread it and count down the days till eid. yep things were bad.
    and for the first time in my life i looked forward to this month. i made the effort to do more than just being ritualistic in rememberance of God. It's the simple concept of being grateful and yet so hard to consciously catch yourself bellyaching away.
    looking forwards to many additions to the islamfontein section.

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  11. LL - I think the term "religion" has political connotations to it because religion was and is still used as a tool to manipulate people into serving the agendas of the greedy power hungry people who want to rule the world. Spirituality better describes our relationship with The Almighty these days.

    RCB - That post put a smile on my face. The thing about proof is that sure you can't prove that God exists... but you can't prove that he *doesn't* exist either ;)

    GB - I'm grateful for the shorter days. And I think that our link with Divinity can only come when we improve our Humanity :)

    Angie - Thanks again. I have spoken about him before, but since I've gotten a few comments and many emails, I will do another post again...

    Deidre - I love learning and hearing about other peoples beliefs and their daily activities too. Thanks for reading :)

    Nas - InshaAllah! Wishing you a blessed month ahead too :)

    Michi - :) I feel very smiley today lol! I guess when you get to know what real Islam is about (and not what the media perpetrates it to be or what other crazies "think" it is), you'll find that we are much more alike then we are different. I's like people to get a true picture of it and not a picture of Fundamentalism that is completely against Islamic law.

    Fathima - Shukran. Seeing those images from Somalia... those whose fast never ends... has made it so much easier for me to be more grateful. I hope this months brings unfounded blessings and prosperity for you and yours :)

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  12. SS - missed your comment there. I'd rather not reveal it on the web, but anyone is welcome to email me if they want to know more

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  13. I'm glad you liked the anecdote. It was the strangest thing. It was the first time ever I could see (and feel) the world through the eyes of someone truly religious, so at least I understood. I remember him looking up at me (he was a very short guy with twinkling eyes) and he said, 'Look around you. Here's your proof.' That surprised me a bit, for he was a scientist and it was as far as I could join him on his journey, but I knew in that instant that two people who see life in completely different ways can nevertheless respect and appreciate each other's company, and talk without wasting their time trying to persuade the other that s/he is wrong.
    :)
    Have a nice day, Azra, and talk to you soon.

    - Randy

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  14. RCB - I certainly believe in respect and appreciation. Thank you for sharing your experiences :)

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