Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ramadan Reflections

I've noticed something about myself that I'm pretty dismayed about. Often, I get so caught up thinking about the state of the Muslim Ummah, about the problems of the world, that I spend more time worrying about that than focusing on what I should really be paying attention to - myself.
Sometimes it's harder to focus on yourself and your own faults than those of others. It's easy to criticize others, to point out their problems, and be able to say to yourself smugly, "I know exactly how to solve these problems!"
But it is so much harder to turn that criticism to yourself and admit that you aren't doing as much as you should be, that you aren't practicing Islam to your utmost best.

So, I decided to do a little self-evaluating. How good of a Muslimah am I? Am I really trying to implement what I know of Islam? What are things that I should work on?

The results made me cringe and want to hide under my bead in shame. As a general rule, I think I do okay. But further scrutinity reveals that there is a lot I need to work on.

First and foremost, salaah (prayer): It is the one thing that I have the most difficult time with.

Which is pretty embarassing. After all, salaah is the second pillar of Islam, one of the most important parts of Islam.
However, my problem is not so much performing the prayer physically, as spiritually. It's so easy stand, bow, and prostrate, to rattle off the Qur'anic ayaat and the various supplications of Salaah. It is much more difficult to really focus on what you're saying, understanding what you're saying, and actually feeling it.
When I'm tired, or grumpy, or even just eager to go do something else, it's so easy to rush through the salaah, performing the actions and letting my tongue utter the words while I'm really thinking about something else and just trying to get it over with so that I can go do whatever it is I want to do.

There are times when I do feel the salaah, when I do try to perform it correctly - spiritually as well as physically - but the times that I rush through it are far more than the occasions when I feel that I've really done it.

Sometimes, in mid-rush, I realize that what I'm doing is wrong, and I'll slow down and try to concentrate, but in my head I'll still be wanting to just get it over with... and then I feel guilty, 'cuz does that mean I'm not a really good Muslim? I do try, but what do other actions count when you aren't really fulfilling the spiritual goal of salaah?

Even in Ramadan, when you know it's the month of mercy and blessings, when every salaah counts more at this time than it does during the rest of the year... it's still hard for me. I'm too impatient, that's the problem!

Man, being a teenage Muslimah can be really tough... 'cuz on one hand I know a lot of stuff, I know what I should be doing to become a better Muslimah and all, but on the other hand, sometimes I just don't feel like doing it, and there's that nasty little voice saying, "Just pray your fardh and you've done what you have to! Now let's go do something fun!"

Does anyone else have this problem? Pleeeeeeeaaaaaaase tell me that I'm not alone in this... otherwise I will die of shame.

Impatience is what seems to be the root of the problem. Maybe I can attribute it to my youthfulness, maybe I can't... but I like to be on the go, always doing something to keep my hands, and at the very least my mind, occupied. It's hard for me to focus on my 'inner self' and reflect on myself internally and all that stuff. I find spirituality to be difficult. It's hard to sit down, close my eyes, and just... think or feel. The few times I've tried doing that, I either get bored and wander off to do something else, or I start getting sleepy and yawning.

So what do you think? Do you think is just a phase that all teenagers go through, or do I need to do some major self-disciplining and spirital exercising?

Hurry up and tell me, because I'm in agony over it!!!

Your agitated little sister in Islam,


Anonymous said...

hey mouse,
please check out a few tariq ramadan essays at tariqramadan.com

I would be interested in your response. He seems like one of the few post-modern Muslims I've heard anywhere.
Keep up the great work.
When christian sunni is pope, you'll be a high cardinal or bishop or whatever.
did you ever check out Ingrid Mattson? She is the new leader of the north american mulims org.(or something like that.) She is the first westerner, woman, and convert to ever hold the office.
You can hear her as the second guest on "fresh air with terry gross" sept. 28,2006.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I didn't first respond to your post. I'd recommend you fast, pray, and smoke hashish.
It works every time if you approach it in a truly sacramental way. It fails all(or almost all) of the time if it is approached profanely.

AnonyMouse said...

Yeah, I'll check out his essays after my Social Studies assignment... although I don't know if I'm qualified enough to judge someone considered an Islamic scholar by many.

Yes, I did check out Ingrid Mattson - I'm happy for her, and hope she does well.

And yes, I am fasting and praying... but smoke hashish?! :O

DA said...

Umm, smoking Hashish for non-medicinal reasons is haraam, datta :-) Smoking hashish 'sacramentally' is not part of Islam, no matter what the Hashishins etc were doing, and adding a haraam behavior as a tayyib activity is bi'da.

That's the problem with excessive legalism. People think alcohol as a substance is haraam, and thus a medicine with it is haraam (even though BREAD has alcohol in it, chemically speaking), but then figure, hey, the Qu'ran doesn't mention Hash, so it's halal.

Not that it matters because the issue came up during the prophet's (saws) life, and he clearly stated that taking anything in order to intoxicate oneself is haraam.

Anyway, Mouse; don't feel too bad. I'm 25 and still find myself slacking off on what I should be doing for what is superfically attractive at that moment. It's just life. Mankind was created weak, so the Qu'ran says. Just do your best.

AnonyMouse said...

DA - I don't think that datta is Muslim :)
(Are you, datta?)

And shukran for the reassurance... I need it.

Anonymous said...

The Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan was a truly wonderful influence and inspiration to me for the past 23 years.

DA said...

Kahn was an interesting guy. I disagree pretty whole-heartedly with a lot of his teachings, and he had the unfortunate effect of de-Islamizing Sufism. This although he by many accounts was a very strongly attached to practiced like Salat and Sawm. Anyway though, I have no beef with his SOI but I consider most of its members outside the fold of the authentic Sufi path (no offense, I hope).


I'm still going to disagree with Datta that smoking hash is a good sacrament. I've smoked plenty of it, and used a fair amount of other drugs, in my Jahiliya days. Part of it was believing that drugs are enlightening or that they would lead to some higher reality. Nope, doesn't work. Drugs only show you what it's like to be on drugs, and don't bring one closer to Allah (in my experience anyway). I find it disingenuous when people promote such practices; I have no problem with people going off and getting high if they want to, to each their own; however, when they present it as a legitemite means to gain knowledge, yeah, that bugs me. I've heard it "expands the consciousness", but that begs the question...Why can't people drive, cook, or even sometimes walk properly if there consciousness is so expanded.

Anyway, nothing against Datta, but Mouse, my advice is; stay away from 'sacramental' uses of drugs, or any use for that matter. But you probably already knew that.

Hope your Ramadan is going well. If by any chance your family is gonna be in NorAz (haha, likely, right?) you're welcome to come by for Eid Iftar at my place. So far it's just me, a nice Yemeni couple, an Orthodox Jewish friend of mine, and my friend Samantha who is thinking of taking shahadah. Oh, and please do du'a for Samantha, and if you can spare it do du'a for me to get back on track :-D Thanks in advance.

AnonyMouse said...

lol, yep, I don't intend to go anywhere near hashish or any other drugs... in Canada, the schools do a very good job of hammering in the fact that drugs are bad...

Shukran for the invite, lol :D
Insha'Allah, one of these years... who knows? :)
May Allah make things easier for all of us, and keep us upon as-Siraatul Mustaqeem, ameen!

Safa said...

wow...u got some interesting comments here. Hashish as a means of enlightenment? Go figure....

Anonymous said...

Wow, I really picked a touchy subject. I've smoked hash with lots of sufi sages in the Lebanon, India, and Pakistan. They did not abuse it at all, but ONLY used it rarely in a sacramental, devotional setting. It worked for them and me.(just being honest)
That was 20 years ago, and I haven't smoked (or found!) hashish in 18 years except in Amsterdam a few times.

AnonyMouse said...

lol, datta... don't feel bad :)
Drugs are just a big no-no in Islam... plus after learning about all the harmful effects (even of 'moderate use') I just totally don't want to go there...


Anonymous said...

Has anyone on this sight gone through the work of Tariq Ramadan?
I know he is usually disliked by traditionalist muslims(who discount him as a modern), but can we really turn to traditionalist, premodern paradigms for answers to a postmodern world? I think not.
I would like some feedback though.(especially on Tariq Ramadan)

I don't know if you've ever been to India but there is a long history of the sacramental use of hashish by Sufi Muslims and Hindu Sadhus for centuries. It is nothing new.

Anonymous said...

In response to da,
you said you've smoked plenty of hash. Did you use it in a casual, recreational, profane way or have you ever even once used it at the end of a 3, 6, or 9 day fast?(a fast that was accompanied by other devotional/spiritual practices.) That is the sacramental approach.
I bet I know the answer but I could certainly be wrong.

AnonyMouse said...

Datta, I'll do some reading about Tariq Ramadan over the weekend, and write a post about what I think of him...

DA said...

Datta; both actually. When I was younger I smoked it "profanely" and then when I was older and getting more spiritual, tried it (and other drugs) in 'spiritual' contexts, though admittedly not after fasting. My opinion remains the same. Drugs do not lead to a higher reality, they just confuse the brain chemistry and disorient the mind. Any spiritual path worth anything, in my view, is going to orient people TOWARDS reality, and drugs orient people away from it.

I am aware that a lot of Desi Sufis enjoy a bit of herbal sacrament. The fact that soem Muslims have done something in the past does not make it Islamically okay. Pick any practice (seriously, including ritualized child abuse and religiously mandated murder) and I can find Indian "Holy Men" who do it. This does not make it Islamically sound. In Islam, we take out cues from what has been revealed by Allah, QED, and no religious teacher has the power to abrogate that; indeed, we consider that to be "shirk", or joining another authority to that of God.

Please don't take this as a personal attack, I'm genuinely not trying to be rude. But I do view the teachings you espouse as a misguidance, and I would be remiss not to say so. That being said, I often respect teachers of tassawuf who I disagree with on some particulars. I don't think Sufis who smoke hash are nessiscarily bad or anything, just wrong on that point. One of my favorite desi Sufi teachers, Bawa Muhayadeen, said many things I disagree with, but was still a great teacher of Islam.

Anonymous said...

mouse and co.,
just finished 2 essays of tariq ramadan that were very interesting.
They can be read on the "discussions" section of his website.
1.)a strong and confident islam...
2.)bridging the gap with christianity
I highly recommend them and would really appreciate feedback from anyone. I am not a muslim but I would like dialogue and a muslim like tariq ramadan seems alot more conducive to peace and dialogue than any fundamentalist of whatever religion or sect.

AnonyMouse said...

Datta - I'm going through the first article right now.

He makes some good points, but there are also a lot of things I disagree with him on.

(For anyone interested, here's the link to it: http://www.tariqramadan.com/article.php3?id_article=746&lang=en)

Anonymous said...

You are a champ Mouse.
Thanks for being so responsive.
Tariq has lots and lots of stuff on his site that you might like more than my articles, never the less, he seems to be uncommonly intellectual and lucid, and a truly modern individual: A man with alot of love and freedom and peace and justice, which is a beautiful thing. He is like a Sufi As'ad!!!

p.s. you can watch the second talk on video.
keep up your great work. I can't believe you and christian sunni are so young! JESUS!!!
christian sunni for popette, mouse for princess!

Julaybib said...

I converted 15 years ago and this is still a problem! My faith is, there is an answer to this - somethng that makes salah special, to the extent that its something I will look forward to. I don't think it's self discipline, not for me, anyway. I can be disciplined if it matters.



Molly said...

Two words, Mouse: Nobody's perfect. :)

Sumera said...

Re feeling spiritually numb - its quite a normal thing to be honest.

Sometimes youre so wrapped in why you're feeling so numb that you begin to discard everything else.

Neglecting salat is easily done. Grand Prix praying, without really feeling the benefit of the time out you've took is an easy trap to fall into.

But at least you recognise your shortcomings and attempt to rectify them, Mash'Allah.

Where would be without awareness eh?

The Shardul of Allah said...

Very good article.

I find myself in this situation very often. Suppose an idea comes to my mind and I know that I can produce an article about it later, yet it happens that no matter how hard I try to slow down, I just try to finish off my salah as quickly as I can.

I think our problem is we do not prepare for our salah. We need to get up soon after the proclamation of the adhan so that we can free our minds up from all worldly worries before we actually start our salah. But we often procrastinate after the adhan and do not get up to prepare ourselves for salah. I think this is the reason why we suffer from this problem.