slip-sliding away…..

Archive for November, 2010

Food for the Soul

Posted by Yacoob on November 26, 2010

“Tasawwuf” is a segment of Islam that’s concerned with the growing – or maturation – of the soul. One of the teachings it extracts from the Islamic sources is that things – all of which were created by the Almighty Allah – are created in one of two ways:

  1. Instantly, by Allah’s command (“Be…and it is”); and
  2. Gradually, over time

 

The categories

Those things created instantly include Jannah (Heaven) and the angels; while those created gradually over time include things of this world – such as the Earth itself, plants, animals.

Things in the latter category start out in a stage of infancy or immaturity, then grow over time. For example, a plant starts out as a seed, which then grows roots, and then a stem, leaves, etc – until eventually it becomes a full grown plant.

But things in the former category are fully developed from the moment of their creation.

These two distinctions are important because humankind is unique in that we are a combination of both: we have bodies – which are formed and develop gradually over time; but we also have souls – our core and essence – which come into our bodies ‘ready-made.’

It’s important to recognise these two categories, because understanding what we’re made of will, insha-Allah, help us to understand how we can progress in our lives and attain happiness.

 

Nourishing each category

Another principle, which follows on from the first section, is that created things are nourished and grow only by interaction with / consumption of things that belong in their own realm.

So, in short, things that are created instantly are nourished by things in that spiritual realm; while things that were created over time are nourished by other things that were created over time.

For example: the plant, which was mentioned above, is nourished by water, sunlight, and the nutrients in the soil it grows in. The plant, as well as its nourishing elements, are all created over time.

Another example is the human body (i.e. the body alone – without the soul): the body is created over time, and it’s nourished by things that were created over time: food – which is either derived from plants, animals, or other things of the Earth.

The soul – which was created instantly – is from the spiritual realm. As such, it is nourished from things in that realm. In Islam, the belief is that the purpose of humankind’s creation – the reason we’re here – is to worship our Lord and Creator: Almighty Allah. (And the term ‘worship’ has a very broad definition in Islam – it’s not restricted to ritualistic acts such as prayers or fasting).

So, acts of worship nourish the soul. These include the ritual acts of worship (especially if done with the proper understanding and a deep connection to Allah); as well as the more informal / ad-hoc acts – such as remembrance of Allah (thikr), reflection on the wonders of this creation, and spending in charity.

 

Open Happiness

We all want to be happy. It’s a natural human desire – one which we gravitate towards and seek out in many different forms.

But the ways we seek that happiness often show our lack of understanding of, and inability to learn from, the two categories discussed so far.

In our understanding, which is highly influenced by the world we live in, we tend towards materialism. It’s no secret that, over the last 50 or so years, materialism and greed for more has really taken hold of many of our societies. Much of the world is trapped in consumerism – always wanting more, or wanting the next ‘new’ thing; often thinking that those items we lust after will make us happy.

And companies and advertisers use this to make tremendous amounts of money. For example, take Coca Cola’s recent slogan: “Open Happiness.”

The implication is that Coca Cola makes you happy. And for a short period – while you’re drinking it and enjoying it – you certainly do feel some kind of ‘happiness’; because the drink tastes good, and satisfies a desire within you to have that which you enjoy.

But in reality, Coca Cola does not make you happy. Actually, if you aren’t responsible and moderate about the amounts you drink, it can make you unhappy – in that it can be detrimental to your health.

Or what about people who feel depressed and think that going on a shopping spree will make them happy? Those items they purchase may make them feel good for a short period, but in the end, the attraction of those items fade – and if they’ve spent money they know they couldn’t afford to spend, then regret (and debt) quickly overtake them.

Or what about the super-rich people of the world, who have mansions and cars and everything money can buy. How many of them, in reality, live unhappy lives? How many of them try to fill the void – try to find happiness – by turning to drugs, promiscuous sexual behaviour, lavish spending on unneccessary things, etc? And what are the results of these forms of pursuing happiness?

If you read the tabloids, or follow celebrity news stories – or you just hear the headlines – you’ll know that the results are nothing to be proud of. Sometimes, those pursuits end in death – either through suicide or an overdose.

 

Understanding Happiness

The important thing to understand here is that “happiness” is something which is linked to the soul – not the body. When the soul is happy – the whole human being is happy. And when the soul is depressed or sad, the entire human being is depressed or sad.

And because happiness is of that spiritual realm, only things of the spiritual realm – like those acts of ‘worship’ mentioned above – will truly advance a person towards achieving it.

In Islam, the act of fasting – in Ramadaan especially – aims to elevate the soul by denying the body of its pleasures. And for many, many Muslims, Ramadaan is the best time of year – because they feel most spiritually alive in that month; most connected to their Lord; and as a result – most happy, compared to other times of the year.

People of other faiths or spiritual beliefs have also used this concept to elevate the soul. Ascetics deny themselves worldly pleasures – even to the point of denying their human need for sexual gratification by remaining unmarried and keeping away from the opposite sex completely.

But such extreme asceticism is unnatural, and can have disastrous results. How about the sexual abuse scandals that have been rocking the Catholic Church?

Some of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also took to the idea of self-denial – in an extreme way. One pledged to fast every day, while another wanted to deny himself the sexual satisfaction of being with his wife. The Prophet (pbuh) taught them very simply – by mentioning his own lifestyle – that such extremity is not the way to go. His reply to them encapsulated the concept of moderation, which is so central to Islam’s teachings.

Islam takes a balanced view with regard to self-denial. It recognises that the body does indeed have needs, and those needs must be fulfilled in order for the human being to live a healthy life. But it also requires that the person deny these bodily needs for a set amount of time.

So, for example, fasting in Islam denies food, drink, and sexual activity  – all things which the body needs – for a set period of time each day. During this period, the body is denied its pleasures and needs, so that the soul can be elevated.

And then, at night, fasting ends, and the Muslim is then free to satisfy these bodily needs (in a lawful manner).

 

A Balanced Diet

As mentioned, things of the spiritual realm –acts of ‘worship’ – are the keys to happiness. Yet these acts need to be balanced – both in quantity and in variety. Among the acts are fasting, reading Quran, prayer, dua, repentance, giving charity, and making thikr.

To achieve happiness of the soul, a person needs to find the right balance – the right ‘spiritual diet’ – that works for them; thereby helping their soul grow, find happiness, and attain closeness to its Lord.

In the example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and the teachings of Islam, we have all the sources necessary to find that balance. For many of us, perhaps, the only missing ingredient is a learned scholar – a practitioner of the soul – who would be able to assess our unique situations, and ‘prescribe’ the ‘diet’ that would be best for us.

 

This piece is primarily based on a talk on the subject of Tasawwuf, given by Chicago-based Islamic scholar Shaykh Hussain Abdul Sattar – whose works can be found at www.sacredlearning.org. This particular talk, is called “Fundamentals of Tasawwuf (Part 1)” (Download) – and the main content (discussed in this article) starts at about 27 minutes. Shorter talks, which encapsulate the main ideas, are “Sustaining the soul” (Download) and  “Essentials for the soul” (Download).

Posted in Advice | Leave a Comment »

For Toddles

Posted by Yacoob on November 8, 2010

Whenever I hear an infant cry,
I think of you –
remembering the many months
when you could do little else
to express your wishes
to a pair of adoring but stressed parents,
that had to cater to your every need,
and soothe your every discomfort.

The time when you were so small
you couldn’t even turn your head;
and each time you slept
we’d have to turn you over to alternating sides,
the result being a band round the back of your head
where no hair grew.

And your cute yawn
would melt my heart every time;
so precious and delightful it was to my ears.

But those days are long gone now –
distant memories faded so far away that they seem like years ago.

Yet it was not long at all.

A mere 10 months back,
we marveled when you were able to sit up on your own;
and not long after,
we watched with excitement,
as you squirmed your way forward like a worm –
your first independent movements;
the crawling that would help you explore your own limited horizons,
in our cosy little home of old.

And 8 months ago
when you went through a short period
of scrunching your nose up so cutely at everyone –
a trick which you knew got you attention
and smiles from everyone you did it to.

And maybe it was around the same time
when we’d be so amazed
that you could put your dummy back in –
a dummy that you now throw defiantly
when you want to get a point across;
a dummy that now pops out –
almost automatically –
when you’re around food you want to eat.

And 5 months ago,
when we knew you could walk –
we’d think you unconfident,
or lazy,
as you’d stay down,
one leg up, dragging the other one behind you –
like a miniature cripple
who didn’t think it necessary
to make use of the legs we knew were capable of carrying your little body.

And those once-vicious teeth,
slowly making their way beyond your tender gums,
no longer bite everything in sight;
while your days of scouting the floor
for something to put in your mouth,
seem part of history now.

So too have departed the times of hysteria,
when you’d go mad
laughing at the silliest things,
collapsing on the floor sometimes,
because you just couldn’t take it anymore.

And don’t forget when you started to respond,
intelligently it seemed,
to prompts
like “don’t touch – it’s hot!”
and
when you’d tell us what sound the bow-wow made.

And what of your introduction to stairs?
when you’d be so determined to go up yourself,
crawling slowly and exerting yourself –
yet now,
you think you’re beyond that,
and you try to walk up stairs like a grown-up;
not even taking it one stair at a time.

Your carseat never got much usage,
while your pram was similarly left unused most of the time –
as you preferred to be carried everywhere;
your chubby little figure
weighing heavily on tired arms
of everyone who’d oblige your demands.

But now you walk on your own;
toddling along in the shops,
walking up to strangers
and grabbing things that take your fancy.

And when you’re lifted away from what you shouldn’t touch,
you squirm and kick your legs vigorously,
a squealing protest
against the injustice you think you’re being subjected to.

Yet still
you hold no grudge –
you come back to us,
perhaps because you forget quickly,
or maybe you have no one else to go to.

And what about the phase
where you saw it as your duty
to unpack boxes, cupboards, shelves, and drawers?
Taking one thing after the other,
flinging it behind your back,
and making a mess of your immediate surroundings.

And that silly table
that you’d keep hitting your head on
when you couldn’t stand or walk properly yet.

Let’s not forget
your sleep-time acrobatics:
how you’ll end up all over the place –
whether in your cot
or in the bed between us;
pushing us to the very edges,
just so you can be comfortable
in whatever position takes your fancy
at that particular moment.

And when you run from the hairdryer,
or towards the vacuum cleaner –
which was once your enemy,
but then became an object of attraction and awe.

How about the way you so very often
end up with either
one sock
or one shoe?
Always managing to lose the other one
somewhere along the way of your never-ceasing toddling.

And the nurturing moments
when you gives your babas bottle,
or put them to sleep –
though the latter act
is not restricted to teddies alone.

And don’t you remember
the winter gown
you once marveled at when you were tiny?
You were so fascinated by it,
and now you hide behind it,
thinking I don’t know where you are –
even when I’m staring right at you,
with no barrier between us.

I love your little grunts and gasps
when you see something that captures your attention,
and turn to look at me
as if I, too, should be utterly amazed
at the sight your little eyes
are so impressed by.

And the way you point
at what you want,
then look expectantly at me;
as if you’re the boss,
and I must follow your orders
and bring you what you wish for.

And it warms my heart
when you wander
indiscriminately around us
as we pray –
an act so sanctified and peaceful,
requiring concentration –
yet you find no difficulty
in playing with our toes,
or standing in front of us demanding to be picked up,
making funny noises directly in our faces,
or plopping yourself down in the place we are to prostrate in.

And it doesn’t seem to bother you, either,
that your mother often has to chase you
just to feed you food
which you like,
but won’t take to immediately.

But even with the difficulties;
for all your quirks,
eccentricities,
and normal, day-to-day cuteness,
we find tremendous joy and entertainment
in being around you;
giving you our attention;
and being there for you
not only out of duty,
but out of love –
pure,
tremendous,
unstoppable love –
that,
I think,
would inspire us
to do all we could
to take care of you:
our precious gift from God,
and our greatest responsibility in life.

So to you,
Toddles / Kukus / Yum-Yum / Aunti Drooly / Stinky / Gassy Pants / Little Bunny
we say
thank you,
for being who you are,
and accepting us –
despite our flaw and faults;
and we hope
that our road with you
will be a long and happy one;
with the ultimate ending;
in the ultimate abode of peace.

Whenever I hear an infant cry,

I think of you –

remembering the many months

when you could do little else

to express your wishes

to a pair of adoring but stressed parents,

that had to cater to your every need,

and soothe your every discomfort.

 

The time when you were so small

you couldn’t even turn your head;

and each time you slept

we’d have to turn you over to alternating sides,

the result being a band round the back of your head

where no hair grew.

 

And your cute yawn

would melt my heart every time;

so precious and delightful it was to my ears.

 

But those days are long gone now –

distant memories faded so far away that they seem like years ago.

 

Yet it was not long at all.

 

A mere 10 months back,

we marveled when you were able to sit up on your own;

and not long after,

we watched with excitement,

as you squirmed your way forward like a worm –

your first independent movements;

the crawling that would help you explore your own limited horizons,

in our cosy little home of old.

 

And 8 months ago

when you went through a short period

of scrunching your nose up so cutely at everyone –

a trick which you knew got you attention

and smiles from everyone you did it to.

 

And maybe it was around the same time

when we’d be so amazed

that you could put your dummy back in –

a dummy that you now throw defiantly

when you want to get a point across;

a dummy that now pops out –

almost automatically –

when you’re around food you want to eat.

 

And 5 months ago,

when we knew you could walk –

we’d think you unconfident,

or lazy,

as you’d stay down,

one leg up, dragging the other one behind you –

like a miniature cripple

who didn’t think it necessary

to make use of the legs we knew were capable of carrying your little body.

 

And those once-vicious teeth,

slowly making their way beyond your tender gums,

no longer bite everything in sight;

while your days of scouting the floor

for something to put in your mouth,

seem part of history now.

 

So too have departed the times of hysteria,

when you’d go mad

laughing at the silliest things,

collapsing on the floor sometimes,

because you just couldn’t take it anymore.

 

And don’t forget when you started to respond,

intelligently it seemed,

to prompts

like “don’t touch – it’s hot!”

and

when you’d tell us what sound the bow-wow made.

And what of your introduction to stairs?

when you’d be so determined to go up yourself,

crawling slowly and exerting yourself –

yet now,

you think you’re beyond that,

and you try to walk up stairs like a grown-up;

not even taking it one stair at a time.

 

Your carseat never got much usage,

while your pram was similarly left unused most of the time –

as you preferred to be carried everywhere;

your chubby little figure

weighing heavily on tired arms

of everyone who’d oblige your demands.

 

But now you walk on your own;

toddling along in the shops,

walking up to strangers

and grabbing things that take your fancy.

 

And when you’re lifted away from what you shouldn’t touch,

you squirm and kick your legs vigorously,

a squealing protest

against the injustice you think you’re being subjected to.

 

Yet still

you hold no grudge –

you come back to us,

perhaps because you forget quickly,

or maybe you have no one else to go to.

 

And what about the phase

where you saw it as your duty

to unpack boxes, cupboards, shelves, and drawers?

Taking one thing after the other,

flinging it behind your back,

and making a mess of your immediate surroundings.

 

And that silly table

that you’d keep hitting your head on

when you couldn’t stand or walk properly yet.

 

Let’s not forget

your sleep-time acrobatics:

how you’ll end up all over the place –

whether in your cot

or in the bed between us;

pushing us to the very edges,

just so you can be comfortable

in whatever position takes your fancy

at that particular moment.

 

And when you run from the hairdryer,

or towards the vacuum cleaner –

which was once your enemy,

but then became an object of attraction and awe.

 

How about the way you so very often

end up with either

one sock

or one shoe?

Always managing to lose the other one

somewhere along the way of your never-ceasing toddling.

 

And the nurturing moments

when you gives your babas bottle,

or put them to sleep –

though the latter act

is not restricted to teddies alone.

 

And don’t you remember

the winter gown

you once marveled at when you were tiny?

You were so fascinated by it,

and now you hide behind it,

thinking I don’t know where you are –

even when I’m staring right at you,

with no barrier between us.

 

I love your little grunts and gasps

when you see something that captures your attention,

and turn to look at me

as if I, too, should be utterly amazed

at the sight your little eyes

are so impressed by.

 

And the way you point

at what you want,

then look expectantly at me;

as if you’re the boss,

and I must follow your orders

and bring you what you wish for.

 

And it warms my heart

when you wander

indiscriminately around us

as we pray –

an act so sanctified and peaceful,

requiring concentration –

yet you find no difficulty

in playing with our toes,

or standing in front of us demanding to be picked up,

making funny noises directly in our faces,

or plopping yourself down in the place we are to prostrate in.

 

And it doesn’t seem to bother you, either,

that your mother often has to chase you

just to feed you food

which you like,

but won’t take to immediately.

 

But even with the difficulties;

for all your quirks,

eccentricities,

and normal, day-to-day cuteness,

we find tremendous joy and entertainment

in being around you;

giving you our attention;

and being there for you

not only out of duty,

but out of love –

pure,

tremendous,

unstoppable love –

that,

I think,

would inspire us

to do all we could

to take care of you:

our precious gift from God,

and our greatest responsibility in life.

 

So to you,

Toddles / Kukus / Yum-Yum / Aunti Drooly / Stinky / Gassy Pants / Little Bunny

we say

thank you,

for being who you are,

and accepting us –

despite our flaw and faults;

and we hope

that our road with you

will be a long and happy one;

with the ultimate ending;

in the ultimate abode of peace.

 

Posted in Meanderings | 4 Comments »

Hajj 1432 / 2011

Posted by Yacoob on November 3, 2010

For those South Africans hoping to go next year, you can begin the process already – by registering with SAHUC online:

http://www.sahuchajjregistry.org.za/public/Main/Home.aspx

On the registration page, choose the year 1432.

Registration opened Friday, 29th October 2010 – and the sooner you put your name down, the better.

Posted in Information | 2 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers

%d bloggers like this: