Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Loving God the Most

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

One of the (very few) advantages of fasting a long (long, long) day is that there is ample time to read and reflect over Scripture. I mean, since there is really nothing else to do while waiting to eat, might as well read the Qur’an. Besides, this is one of the reasons to fast during Ramadan: to honor the revelation of the Qur’an, which occurred during this most holy of months.

One of the most significant verses, among the thousands, across which I came was this verse:

And yet there are people who choose to believe in beings that allegedly rival God,loving them as [only] God should be loved: whereas those who have attained to faith love God more than all else. If they who are bent on evildoing could but see – as see they will when they are made to suffer [on Resurrection Day] -that all might belongs to God alone, and that God is severe in [meting out] punishment! (2:165)

What I focused on the most in this verse is this phrase: “Whereas those who have attained to faith love God more than all else.” The Arabic can also read that the believers are “most intense in their love for God.” And the crux of the matter, when it comes to fasting, becomes clearly evident.

On the surface of it, fasting makes very little sense: going more than 15 hours without food or drink, not even water, during a long and hot summer day looks like torture. Yet, when I think about it a little more: it is a small thing to do compared to the enormous bounty which the Lord has bestowed upon us.

When we thirst throughout the day – and we think of the nice, cold drink that is waiting for us in the refrigerator – it is a reminder of the enormous bounty of having that drink be there. When we hunger throughout the day – and we think of the succulent meal that is waiting for us at sunset – it is a reminder of the tremendous blessing of having that meal be there. There are millions upon millions – all across our world – who are not so fortunate to have food and drink so readily accessible.

If we are healthy enough to fast, that is a blessing in and of itself. I once heard someone say that “health is a crown that someone wears, but it can only be seen by those who are ill.” We should never take our good health for granted, and one of the ways we can be grateful to the Lord, for bestowing upon us health, is to fast when we are asked to do so. Fasting also reminds us of the poor and less fortunate, and if we are blessed with wealth and means, then we should be grateful by helping those less fortunate than we are as best as we can.

All these bounties that the Lord has given us: food, drink, health, wealth, safety, security; all of these He gave to us when we have done nothing for God to deserve it. Yet, He gave it to us anyway because He loved us. His love for us preceded us, and His love for us continues to permeate every fabric of our lives and beings. Each day we breathe and bask in the light of the sun, we really bask in God’s love. The fact that He gave us life itself, without us giving him anything beforehand (and there is nothing we can give Him that He needs), is because of His tremendous and undying love for us.

Therefore, seeing and living all this love, we naturally love Him right back. And as the Qur’an states, that love is most intense for God, and we love God more than anything else. Thus, when He asks us to fast for one month out of the year, if we are able to do so, it is really a “no-brainer.” We do so because we love God so very much for all the things with which He has blessed us.

And that is what keeps me patient as my throat dries and my stomach pains in hunger as the day wears on. I remember all the love my Precious Beloved showered upon me, and I feel so much love for Him. And so I reinvigorate my resolve to keep fasting as faithfully as I can. That’s because I love God so much…because He loved me first.

Update: Not Fasting…And Miserable

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

Yesterday, I blogged about how bad I felt – despite doing nothing wrong – not being able to fast due to my knee injury. Well, I talked to my doctor, and he gave me a different anti-inflammatory medicine that would allow me to safely fast and still treat my knee injury.

So, today I am fasting: Yes, I am thirsty as I write this; yes, I am tired from having to wake up early and eat something before I took my medicine; yes, I can’t wait for the sun to set…

But, I feel totally awesome inside. There is something to this fasting, and whatever it is, it is absolutely wonderful.

Not Fasting…And Miserable

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

It is no secret that I have approached this year’s Ramadan fast with an enormous amount of dread. I worried about the hot weather, the long days, the difficulty of having to forgo the things I love to do – eat and drink – for an extended period of time. And as the month started, the fast was – admittedly – quite difficult. But, I did it anyway, because it is one of the things I do for my Lord.

Over the last six weeks, I have been battling a knee injury that I must have sustained while jogging. I suffered through the pain, thinking that it will eventually go away, especially since I am not exercising during Ramadan. The pain, however, did not get better. It has, in fact, gotten worse. So much so, that I went to the Emergency Department yesterday to get it evaluated. I could barely walk into the ED yesterday.

Thank God, everything checked out OK, but I was still in pain, and so – thank God – my Orthopedic Surgeon could see me right away. He injected my knee, which gave me some relief, and I got an MRI which showed some soft tissue inflammation. My surgeon told me that I have to rest and ice the knee as well as take round -the-clock anti-inflammatory medicines.

And this meant having to break my fast to take the medicine. I was hesitant at first, but I knew it was the right thing to do. And my family really pushed me to not fast as well, seeing that my health is of utmost importance (and they are right). And so, today I am not fasting, and I may not fast the next few days either, as I nurse the knee back to health.

You would think that, given all the dread I have about fasting in August, I would be happy to be able to drink and eat during the daylight hours, if even for a short time. You would think that I would be excited to have water and yogurt and maybe even coffee again. You would think that I would be happy that I am not fasting for these few days.

You would be totally wrong. I feel absolutely miserable.

Leave aside the fact that any sudden jolt, and my knee pain becomes excruciating. I feel terrible that I am not fasting. This is not because I have no right to break my fast or am ashamed at doing so. On the contrary, the Quran directs that I should not fast if my health commands that I do not. But, I still feel totally abnormal that I am not fasting.

Not because everyone around me is fasting, and I am not. My colleagues are almost all not Muslim, and so my eating and drinking would not be out of the ordinary at all. Some, many in fact, do not even know that this is Ramadan. Yet, still, I feel weird and uncomfortable. I feel totally out of my norm not fasting during Ramadan. It is almost like my soul is yearning again to fast, even though sunset is almost at 8 PM.

I am completely surprised by this feeling. Yet, I totally can’t help it. Yes, I get tired while fasting; yes, I get thirsty; yes, I feel sleepy, sometimes. But my soul is invigorated while I fast, and now that I am not fasting, I can totally feel the difference.

God willing, my knee will get better soon, and I can resume my fasts. And whatever days I miss, I will have to make up later (probably in the short days of winter!). Yet, still – in a strange sort of way – I miss fasting, even though it is still August. Even though I can’t eat or drink until late, when I fast, my soul basks in the light of God’s Grace and Mercy, and I don’t like not being able to feel that any more.

Ramadan Realities

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

This was my guest post on the Beliefnet blog, City of Brass.

As Ramadan approached, I had no small amount of dread. Fasting, of all the ritual practices of Islam, is the most difficult for me to do. I am not happy to admit this, but this is one of my (many) human weaknesses. Add to that the long, hot days of summer, and you get dread on my face and in my soul. In fact, I addressed this fear in a poetic letter to my soul just before the month began.

Now, Ramadan is here in full force, and I will just have to suck it up and fast. It is strongly recommended to eat a pre-dawn meal/snack called suhoor, and it is for good reason, too, especially in the long days of summer. But, I usually do not do so: I don’t feel well afterwards, and it makes the entire rest of the day even more difficult. I remember once during Residency, I ate gyros for suhoor, and I regretted it SO much. I had horrific heartburn the entire first half of the day, and I could not take anything to make it better. Never again, I said to myself. Mostly, my suhoor is a large heaping of water to help keep me as hydrated as possible for the coming day of fasting.

Yet, no matter how much water I will drink before the time to stop eating and drinking, it is inevitable that I will get thirsty as the day wears on. So, I change some of my routine: I stop working out in the morning throughout Ramadan. I could – theoretically – get up at 3 AM and hit the elliptical…but that is madness. I need sleep more than I need exercise, especially during Ramadan, when I stay up a little later to pray special prayers. So, no exercise for me. Last year, when I was training for the Chicago Marathon, I also skipped my Ramadan runs. And, I was still able to finish the race with a time of 5:37, thanks be to God.

Also, I frequently have “Ramadan stashes” in my lab coat pocket for after sunset: it might be a small pack of M&Ms, or – like yesterday – a piece of Ghirardelli’s chocolate, or a small chocolate bar. The Prophet (pbuh) used to break his fast with dates, and I definitely do that as well. Yet, I take it to the next level: I make a date/milk delight: I soak dates in an ice cold cup of milk for several hours before sunset. Many times, I will also add some walnuts. It is AWESOME. Things such as these makes sunset something to which I look forward, and it makes breaking my fast all the sweeter, both literally and figuratively.

One good thing about fasting during the summer is that there is a lot of time for spiritual reflection and recitation/reading of the Qur’an. And that is the whole point of the fast of Ramadan: to take away food and drink for just enough so that you can think “upward,” and reflect over the enormous blessing of having food and drink every single day and not even thinking about it. Thus, I should be motivated to help the poor and hungry who – many times – do not have even one square meal a day. And suprisingly, many said people are right here in the United States.

And, Lord, are there blessings in Ramadan. Everything seems to go much more smoothly during Ramadan. In fact, many of the most important things in my life have happened during Ramadan. My medical school interview was during Ramadan: I was accepted three months later. I had a very important high school track meet during Ramadan also. My coach told me that, in order for our team to win first place, I had to throw the shot put 42 feet at least: my distance was 42 feet and six inches. Just yesterday, coming home from vacation, the airport security experience was the easiest ever. Yes, I have to not have my coffee in the morning, but there are so many good things that come with the month of fasting.

All in all, Ramadan is a very good thing, but it is not without hardship and dread on my part. All I can do is fast to the best of my ability, try to clean up some of the bad habits I have learned throughout the year, polish my spirituality and improve my ritual practice, and pray that the Precious Beloved Lord accepts my efforts. Knowing how Beautiful He is, I am confident He will do just that.

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass/2011/08/ramadan-realities.html#ixzz1UY3P8qHX

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