Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Readying for Ramadan: Courage

Summoning up the courage to do what must be done.Courage.

Dan Rather, the American newscaster, used to end his broadcast with that one word.

My father says it to me often as a farewell.

I like the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

This is very true for readers who are about to fast in Ramadan for the first time. Wow! How overwhelming! I remember.

I remember being so interested in fasting for Ramadan UNTIL I realized there was not only no food, but no water. NO WATER?! What?! Are they crazy?! And I stumbled in my strength, lost my courage and had ABSOLUTELY no confidence.

Then, I had to screw my courage to the sticking-place. If I wanted to be a Muslim, I had to fast Islamically, which meant no water. I would do it, as billions had before me. I would think of those in the world who haven't any clean water to drink. I would pray for them as I felt thirst. I would thank my gracious God more for my blessings, when I would receive water at the end of the day.

I made a deal in my mind. I set the stones in places for me to cross. That is creating your own path. Don't look for someone else to get you to where you want to go. You have to make it clear to your own self. You have to really know why you are going to do something so difficult BEFORE you start. Make strong your intentions and get better results.

"To be what you want to be, you must give up being what you are," said Yusuf Islam, the former Cat Stevens.


What do you want to be?

I wrote before about not being able to take everything with you on the Ramadan journey. In addition to material possessions, you must also give up some of yourself. There are parts of you standing in the way of your own potential.

"We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are," said Max DePree.

Same thing.

It has to be about letting go of the past. The past is haunting. We hold onto the past with every photograph of what used to be; and who we used to be...who they used to be. We can't live there. Fasting certainly brings you to the NOW and makes you feel more alive and more in touch with who you have to be.

Start making the intention clear in your mind that you are about let go of this world. This world's contaminations are intoxicating and fool us into being scared of trusting in God. This world's pleasures make us wonder why we have to live like those less fortunate. The "letting go" has to be because you are about to embrace your faith more. This has to be about reconnecting to The Source.

Sure, there are other reasons to participate in Ramadan. You can learn about the cultural aspects to Islam. You can meet new people at the masjid during iftar dinners. You can lose weight. You can gain some respect from others who learn of your endeavor. That's all good and fine, but none of it can be the reason for the fasting.

So! Time to get your head screwed on! Look around you, in your own little corner of the world. See what it is that will have to soon be pushed aside and start summoning up your courage to let go of what you have and who you have been.


Anonymous said...

what is the estimated start date of Ramadan?

egyptchick7 said...

As ramadan is turnng the corner...two things are on my mind

1) Duh...After a year of not fasting and getting used to food and water...I cant imagine that I am gonna live without water for LONGER HOURS this year. But I have done it and will do it again. It will be hard but well worth it.

2) This Ramadan should be easier bc my last ramadans I have been addicted to nicotine, and while withdrawing for allah did not physically hurt as much as withdrawing not for him,, this year I will not feel ANY physical withdrawl bc I am not addicted anymore..HAHA. Chatntix works wonders y'all who wanna quit!

Oh and there is another thing I mntioned on the other blog. I will be away from the haram I have been committing each and every year for the last 3 years. Thank now I wont feel hypocritical fasting and can concentrate on OUR relationship :)

John & Anthea Mullis said...

Salam Muslima

Well Yosra, where to start? And how to stop being who I am in order to become who I want to become? Thats a big one, so let's start with the easy bit.

Sharing my decision to do Ramadan with my Christian friend was something I feared. My whole social reputation and personal credibility seemed to hang on it. I was scared but excited also. Well, they were so supportive and (much to my surprise) approving. We spent the next two hours talking about our own spiritual hunger and how we had all, un wittingly, put God in a box that was far too small, and of our own making. We laughed at the picture of the donkey and talked about the 'stuff' that was weighing each of us down. They were, I think, a little envious and want me to share my journey with them each week (we meet each Wednesday evening) So . . . thanks for your prayer support.

But what was God asking me to ' stop being'? My first thought was for the memory of my youngest daughter who died of natural causes just 4 days before her 20th birthday. She is in my every thought, still, so was God going to ask me to leave her behind as I moved on? I went to sleep heavy hearted. Then out of the blue this morning He showed me a burning bush. He began to show me how, in returning to my old life in NZ, I had tried to pick up the mantle of my old reputation - and this was chaining me to a past which, though very rewarding, was none the less, past. To move on I needed to stop being Mr 'Got it all together'. Simple!

A L H U M U L I L L A H !!!!!!!!

It looks like MY word for the journey is going to be transparency.

John & Anthea Mullis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Yosra said...

Asalamalaykom Anonymous,

Ramadan is on or around September 14 this year. Check with as early as the 12th.

I hope you can be part of it!

Asalamalaykom EgyptChick,

I was thinking about you not smoking this year! Alhumdulillah!

As for not to do, of course.

I'd like to mention the following for anyone feeling badly about something they've done in the past:

It is possible to relieve yourself of the burden by doing wudu and praying two rakhas. The trick is that you really have to have the intention to get clean. Make wudu like you are really washing away the dirtiness you feel. Then pray with full concentration; do not let your mind stray. When you go down, speak to God of your wish to live better. Your intention must be to not do the bad deed again. Stay away from any slippery slope that could make you feel inclined to re-start. See the blessings in your life pour in once you release the past. :)

Asalamalaykom J&A,

Thank you for the poem. I did decide not to print it due to "shirk". In Islam, we are very careful not to ascribe words or actions to Allah. There are real words from God in The Quran...we don't need any fabrications :)

I do understand the spirit of the poem, which was to remain spiritually free.

I'm so glad that your group embraces the idea of you fasting for Ramadan. Why not invite them? The more the ...can't say "merrier,"...the more the...oh, just invite them to join you and I'll think of it.

I am sorry to hear that you went through the tragedy of losing your daughter. May this time of exploring who you really are, brings to you some peace.

You really don't have it all together. I don't either. Good of you to acknowledge this. Only after knowing our frailities can we become stronger.

Inshahallah, you will gain strength from Allah and Allah will ease your mind and heart.

Aeryn said...

Asalaam alaikum Sister,

Love your new blog. I have thought a great deal about lightening since you wrote about it. About things I need to let go of, both material and immaterial. And there is a lot of it. Insha'Allah, I wil have the strength to do it.

May Allah bless you and your family,


John & Anthea Mullis said...

Salam Yosra

I don't want to 'hijack' this Hajj as a discussion forum but I am keen to understand more clearly things that would seem very basic to others. So feel free to regard notes like this as a separate private conversation, Master/Student. OK?

Thanks for vetting the poem. I was unsure of how it would be viewed and so I entirely agree with your reasoning. Incidentally I have been studying the difference between Tawheed & Shirk and find great resonance with Christian understanding - funny enough. I suppose though that the trinitarian concept and the practices of making D'ua to 'saints' can make us appear rather dualistic in this regard. Though we would still say, 'We believe in one God . . . All Christians irrespective of denomination would espouse this as the very 1st article of faith, though I can see how shallow this would look to you or indeed anyone who considered it objectively outside of western paradigm. See - I'm learning already.



Yosra said...

Asalamalaykom Aeryn,

Wow! So nice to see you! I'm glad that I had a positive effect on your life. Change...moving on...those are hard, but I think that when we do it as a group during Ramadan, it becomes easier.

Soooo glad that we are in the group together. Second Ramadan for you, yes? Alhumdulillah :)

Asalamalaykom J&A,

Um, I know what you are getting at, but have to decline.

No Master.

No Student.

Just a brother and sister in faith. :)

I really think there's some danger in having any kind of private conversation between a man and a woman---even if it starts off as focused on God as this one is.

In Islam, we say that where a man and woman meet in private, Shaytan is the third. I think this is true with technological privacy as well.

Really, I understand that you are a good person. I just think that good people have to keep to boundaries. You know what they say, "Good fences make good neighbors"? Well, it's true with brothers and sisters of faith too.

As for your observations...Yes! You do understand the Islamic tilt to things. You really might be able to come closer to God through our ways than if you continued full-steam-ahead in Christianity. This doesn't mean that you HAVE TO be Muslim by oath. You can chose to continue calling yourself Christian. You don't have to take the oath. Only Allah knows what you need. But, I do think that every Christian would deepen their understanding of God by learning about Islam. Sure, some would revert, but The Quran teaches us that the world will never be 100% Muslim. I'm not aiming at converting. I'm wanting education and dialogue and understanding and acceptance. Seems like we have acheived that and will,inshahahallah keep on acheiving that.