Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ramadan Diary – Faith and Freedom

Past couple of weeks, I had witnessed a pigeon comfortably sitting on a plastic bucket that was kept on my open balcony shelves. She always glimpses at me before it decides whether to fly or stay depends on my body language. Mostly she stays by staring at me and I never disturbed it because I knew that she was incubating with its eggs. The pigeon might have accidently chooses to live in my balcony for her incubation, but she has triggered my inquisitive mind to analyze our human life in context of ‘faith’.

Faith is the basic agreement between Creator and creatures. Faith is the foundation to build spiritual and material experiences. Faith is the nucleus of life system. We all exist and function in this world because we have faith in our own context and understanding.

The pigeon likes to live wherever possible and we need a comfortable home by carefully selecting the location, convenience, and of course need to consider our social, political and geographical constraints. The pigeon does not have any food storage in its nest. We would have a store room with enough food provisions for a period including a refrigerator with frozen stuffs. The pigeon fly everyday to nearby area to search for its food. We travel to work every day with loads of stress and worries about our uncertain income. The pigeon is always relaxes with her colleagues by spending considerable time with them. We don’t spend time with friends and hardly have any relaxations due to our preoccupation in making money. The pigeon lives in a simple life but we live a complicated life. The pigeon lives a pure natural life but we live mostly an unnatural life. Finally, the pigeon is a free bird, but we are prisoners… yes the prisoners of our own past, present and future. Why?

The bird’s life is simple, natural, one dimensional but imbibed with a basic quality of faith in its ‘life system’. Though it looks like a monotonous method from birth to death, yet their life is programmed to adhere to the Creator with a particular life system and limited liberty. It has no other option except to follow the integrated life system in which the ‘faith’ is interwoven. The birds that lived 5000 years ago and the birds that we see today are all having similar life system.

Mankind is also inbuilt with ‘faith’ in its natural life system, but has the remarkable quality of ‘freedom’ to execute the faith by choosing the method of application that suits to our environment, minds and body. The faith is imbibed in physical matters and is visible right from our own physical to worldly bodies. In other word, faith is inbuilt in the human life system also, but allowed the humankind to execute the faith with certain degree of freedom in order to realize, understand, engage and enjoy the life.

The context of ‘choosing the method of life’ is interpreted into trepidation and given birth to aimless subversion to the noble concept of ‘freedom’. Mankind mostly abused the concept of freedom and moreover believes that liberty is unconditional and is unquestionable rights for mankind. Mankind is happy to enjoy the freedom without any responsibility and accountability. Even the intellectual section of human race forgets that freedom is coiled with responsibility and accountability. In the process of exercising the freedom, especially now a day, the concept of ‘we’ is consciously subdued by the concept of ‘I’ and subsequently it override the existence of faith in our life system.

To make things even more badly or to kill the inborn quality of faith in human life system, a systematic assault on ‘freedom’ is unveiled in the name of ‘survival of fittest’ and therefore, the justification of self is completely overwhelmed in the subconscious minds of everyone. (I will write a separate article with my views on the callous concept, the ‘survival of fittest’). Towards achieving our selfish objectives we are misusing the ‘freedom’ and eventually forgot the stipulation of life that is ‘faith’, because faith is directly consequential with the concept of ‘freedom’. Moreover, faith is associated with certain degree of accountability and accountability is most hated by many. How many of us know that freedom is worthless if the true concept of faith is not exercised? Not many.

The deviation in our life is seems to be so innate that we started to believe that independency is permanent. Further we work hard to achieve the independency by liberating our mind by relinquishing the responsibilities. Some of us believe death is only act that can terminate our independency and death is natural because of ageing body cells and nothing else. In pursuit of confirming the ‘state of permanency’ we have no qualm in questioning the veracity of faith and its necessity in life. The ‘state of faith’ is endlessly dissected and dismembered, thanks to the rudimentary knowledge by generation after generation without any contrition. Eventually, there are two sets of people emerges in the world. One is atheist and other is believer. While atheist holds the degree of ‘permanency’ and sadly exercises their own faith or believe in ‘nothing’ while they are all part of ‘something’. The other set of people who are known as ‘believers’ have many divisions and beliefs; and distracted the concept of faith to their advantages.

However, those who exercise certain level of faith in monotheism, the Oneness God are also inclined to compromise the part or whole of ‘faith’ for the love of world in the name of ‘freedom’. The ‘faith’ in pigeon is inbuilt and functions according to the programmed life plan with limited liberty and therefore no consequences. But with total liberty at our disposal we corrupt our faith and create endless consequences in us. This article is not against freedom, but an opportunity to remind ourselves that faith and freedom are integral system in human life and freedom is strongly bonded with responsibility and accountability. In other word to enjoy the true freedom one must understand the ‘faith’.

Faith is basically starts with heart related application or worship towards our Creator and is applied in all our life activities and matters throughout the day and nights. Allah says in Quran:

“And know that Allah comes in between a person and his heart” – Surah Anfal – 42

“Verily it is not the eyes that grow blind, but is the hearts which are in the breasts that grow blind” – Surah Al Hajj – 64

The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said, ‘certainly the body has a morsel of flesh, when it is upright, all of the body is upright and when it is corrupted, all of the body is corrupted and that is the heart’.

The heart generates the ideas and concept and brain prepares the strategy, plan and execute in association with heart. It has connection with brain; and its sensual and nervous inklings are known to Allah only. Heart is the basic of all functions and therefore the faith must start from there itself.

The basic components of faith is ‘Al Ikhlas’ (sincerity), Attawbah (repentance), Attawakkul (reliance on Allah), Al Khawf (fear of Allah) and Arrajaa (Hope in Allah). Let us take all these five as yardsticks to measure the strength of our faith.

We compensate our ‘faith’ or ignore it for worldly matters and justify it with our wants and needs. We are seldom sincere to our own self and how can we except to be sincere with others? We don’t respect our own self let alone to others. We do things first and find reasons next.

Consequently, in a period of time we have completely disoriented and the ‘faith’ in our life is nothing but mere utterances by words. To a Muslim, faith in Creator is the basic for life on earth. Faith, as we Muslims called as ‘Eman’, is a ‘verb’ and need to be demonstrated, not just uttered by words alone.

In reality, our faith is largely conditional and our approach to the Creator is ‘conditional one’ to fulfill our requirements. We need Allah for our requirements, mostly for this world. We don’t strive with our belongings that we possessed to the cause of Allah. Instead, mostly we strive hard in our prayers to fulfill our worldly requirements and desires only. Our faith is largely for selfish advancements only.

Only those who are believers who have believed in Allah and His messenger, and have never since doubted, but have striven with their belongings and their persons in the cause of Allah: Such are the sincere ones. Al-Qur’an: Al-Hujrat 49:15

Our attitude and approach with Allah is ‘give me first and I will show my gratitude next’. Our gratitude is subject to what we receive and forgetting that our mere life in the world itself is a gift from Allah. The life on earth gives the opportunity to amend our mistakes and strive in the cause of Allah. Instead every one of us lost in the world of material requirements or achievements and expects the Creator to fulfill our needs. We consider as privileged because we have pronounced the faith or a born Muslim and demanding Allah that it is His responsibility to take care of us.

Once a Bedouin came to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and complained about the camel that he lost in the desert. He asked the Prophet to use prophet’s or seer’s gift see the location of stray camel. Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) told him that he had come to the wrong prophet. The Prophet asked him ‘why he did not tie back the camel’s knee?’ ‘I did not tie it because I put my trust in God’ replied the Arab Bedouin. ‘Both tie and trust’ Prophet told him.

Our fundamental mistake is that we don’t tie but we put our trust in Allah. We don’t tie our mind and let it wander even in prayers and blame the Creator that he did not listen to us. What is our concentration level in prayers? We learned Quran or some part of Quran mainly to recite in our prayers. We hardly attempt to understand its meanings and let alone the implementation in our life.

We don’t tie our desires and therefore experiences unlimited sufferings in life, yet we blame the circumstances and complain to God. We don’t tie our tongue and create as many as enemies, yet we defend ourselves and blame others. We misplace our faith and trust and blindly expect rewards.

We practice our religion through verbal exchanges, not through genuine demonstrations. Quran is not just to read, understand and folded up. We all read Quran in holy month of Ramadan as a part of prayer. Quran is to read, understand, feel the presence of Allah and practice in life.

Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said; ‘Learn Al Quran, recite it, for the example of whoever learns the Quran, recites it and adheres to it, is the example of a bag that is full of musk whose scent fills the air. The example of whoever learns the Quran and then sleeps (i.e. lazy) while the Quran is in his memory, is the example of a bag that has musk, but is closed tight’.

Faith is to demonstrate by actions not by words alone. I pray to Allah to guide me and my fellow Muslims to practice the Quran and Sunnah in every part of our life.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ramadan Diary - Introduction

The ascendency of spiritual celebration could never be more enjoyable than the month of Ramadan. A month long prayers coupled with joy and feelings of getting closer to Allah is something that every Muslim looks forward to enjoy once in a year. The eternal pleasure of knowing, understanding, feeling of Allah and His endless presence can be well realized in Ramadan, in fact subject to our total surrender to Him. If there any prayers with lots of celebration, it is Ramadan, because one can enjoy his or her prayers as much as they wants. I am writing about the spiritual celebration that liberates the mind and body from worldly matters and smooth the path of self purification in attaining multiple rewards from Allah. Exerting the control on mind and body with a sole objective of achieving peace with Allah, the Creator of universe could never be explained with words of any languages. It is more of a personal relationship and closely confined to our hearts only. In Ramadan the mankind achieves the highest level in prayers aimed for Allah’s pleasure in both here and after life. The reward for the prayers on the ‘night of power’, the lailathul kadhr is equal to one thousand nights. What else we need? It must be realized, felt, experienced and enjoyed in solitary confinement, especially at mid-night prayers.

Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said, "When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained" [Bukhari]. Now it is the requisite of Muslims to open our gates of ambition to attain heaven by totally surrendering ourselves to Allah. And it is the necessity of Muslims to shut the devils out our heart and minds once for all. This exercise of broadening our path to heaven by totally eradicating the devils out of our lives could be easily achieved in Ramadan because of our total surrender to Him. Ramadan brings happiness to every Muslim irrespective of their status. It is a month of sharing in which Allah increases the sharing with His creatures; men and women shares whatever they can with their known and unknowns. It is a period where there are no strangers and all are universal brothers and sisters. The joy of sharing the breakfast, especially in two holy mosques in Makkah and Madiah is a treat to eyes and minds and a living proof of universal brotherhood among Muslims.

We are fortunate enough to welcome yet another Ramadan in our life. Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) often prayed to Allah, when he nears Ramadan month, to grand the opportunity of living in yet another month of Ramadan. While we would enter into Ramadan shortly, I would like take this opportunity to reflect the rational and emotional part of our life, prayers, especially the application level and sustainability of good deeds. While Ramadan treasure is unlimited, I would prefer to analyze how much we benefits from our Creator’s unlimited bounty. Precisely, my analysis is in two categories a) application of knowledge (principles, guidance and instructions of Allah) and b) sustaining them beyond Ramadan.

Celebration of prayers shall be meaningful if it is followed with application and sustainability of good deeds throughout our life. Confining all those good deeds in Ramadan only or cherishing it once in a year is nothing but a sign of weakness in our faith (Eman). My analysis is directly relevant to the practical conflicts and challenges that we face in our contemporary life and the necessity of preserving and increasing the faith. I am not offering any extraordinary techniques to handle the conflicts and challenges and not necessary too. The simple technique that is given to us by Allah is nothing but to strengthening of our ‘faith’ in Allah. Faith in Allah is always take us forward when knowledge and experience stops or fails, because faith is the basic connectivity between Allah and us and it should never be tampered with, instead it must be strengthened. The strength of our faith determines the strength of our password to login to the domain of Allah’s heaven.

My analysis is based on simple reflections of Ramadan in connection with our daily life, habits, attitudes, approaches and inner consequences. I would share it under different topics with my perspective and understanding which is not necessarily an academic view under religious interpretations. Knowledge is after all to share with others and therefore I am.

(To be continued)