Sunday, May 29, 2016

Chapter 35, Make Yourself Strong and Resourceful

On May 16th, we discussed chapter 35, "Make Yourself Strong and Resourceful," which is based on the following Ayas:
Sura 16; Ayas 75-76:
God gives an example - someone enslaved, owned by another, has no power over anything, and someone else whom We have given good resources from ourselves and who spends from it at will, both privately and publicly. Are these two equal? Praise and thanks be to God:  but most of them do not understand it.
And God gives the example of two men - one of them dumb, powerless, and a burden on his master:  to whichever task is he directed he brings no good.
Can such a one be considered the equal of someone who commands justice and is on a firm path?

The ideas expressed in these ayas convey an important evolution in religious thought:  seclusion and constant praying without doing much else, thought of as a mark of true religiosity/piousness throughout history, isn’t what God meant.  Those who understand where their resourcefulness comes from, work to use it to improve the future of humanity, and command justice are the ones who are on the right path and are truly pious.  This is where it becomes very important how we understand and interpret religion or what God is looking to say to us.  If we interpret it in a way where we are bogged down by following others’ (“authoritative”) interpretations involving endless rules and regulations as to how we are to behave, that interpretation leads to constriction and lack of productivity.  If we focus on the spirit of what God is looking to explain to us and dig deep within ourselves, then we start to focus on our own resourcefulness and  to see how we can join the forces of our fellow human beings who have made and continue to make this world a better place for all.  There are, of course, plenty of negative examples stemming from narrow-minded interpretations, but that is precisely why we are asked to first work to understand what the ayas say, then be generous in all our dealings, professional or private, and command justice.  On the face of it, it seems that these ayas also suggest that God gives someone less than others, but if we focus on His repeatedly telling us that He does not deal unjustly with a single human being, then we must see that the majority of people in this world are given the resources and that the majority’s job is to improve the conditions of the minority.  The truly enlightened understand the spirit of His message and are constantly finding ways to use their resources, everyone according to his or her capacity. 

Some of the thoughts that came to mind to those present during this class include the notion that we can be enslaved by our own mind patterns.  A good number of people want to feel accepted by their society (through cultural conditioning) and therefore feel that permission has to be granted for them to do anything.  Respect and  love are important but value of our life is also important.  We need to do things to make life better for us and others and we must learn to strengthen ourselves so that we don’t run away from life’s challenges.  A successful person is one who demands justice and is on a firm path.  People are not using their tremendous potential to change things.  It is not enough to pray - we must pray and act. What is happening in our lives is the direct result of what we are thinking.  Everybody should spend at least a year trying and really looking to understand the words of prayer.  It seems as though Islamic societies tend to discuss social rules that restrict people.  There seems to be a general narrowness of focus among Islamic societies and a focus on the wrong things.  We rarely hear an imam say to a woman that learning is mandated to all  by Islam, but we hear them all too often say that a woman should cover herself.   An interpretation of Islam that doesn’t inspire us to uplift people in whatever capacity we can must be the wrong one because it contradicts pages and pages of Quran that focus on doing good.  

The exercise developed by Dr. Abdulhameed for this chapter states:
Look up the names of Prophet Muhammad.  These are the attributes of strength for which he was known.
a) Identify three of these attributes you already possess.  What can you do to manifest these traits consistently so that people will know you through them? Write down your answer to this question in your journal.  
b) Identify three other of these attributes that you would like to develop.  In what ways can you change your behavior to manifest these attributes?  Write down the answer to this question in your journal.  
Summary by Alma Subasic

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Chapter 34 – Uplift Those Below You

Chapter 34, Part 1 – Uplift Those Below You

During this lesson we discussed what the following aya says to us:

Sura 16; Aya 71:

God has bestowed more resources on some of you than on others: yet they who are more abundantly favored are often unwilling to share their gifts with those who are under their authority so that they might be equal in this respect. What! Will they, then deny that these favors are from God?

While there are many opportunities in life, all of us cannot take advantage of them equally. That is because some people are born in better circumstances, some people are more intelligent than others, some people are more resilient than others and so on. What this aya tells us is that while this “unequal state of things” among us is and will continue to be a fact of our lives and that the world is that way for a particular reason, it means that it is expected of those who are better situated in life to share with others, that is, to teach those who need coaching so that they can be equipped with tools to succeed, to provide financial help to those who are in need, or both. Those who do this understand the purpose behind what God is continually saying to us in this and many other ayas where he exhorts us to help one another. By helping others in whatever capacity we can, we understand that we are interconnected and depend, first of all on God, and then on others whose help we used to get to where we are in life: in order to survive, we need millions of people who produce food to bring that food to us; to get a job we have, we depend on schools where we are given knowledge that’s been condensed in books we read and which books contain compilations of knowledge accumulated through centuries.

By thinking deeply about what God is saying in this aya, we should eventually come to the very logical conclusion that we must help because we wouldn’t be here unless we were helped every step of our way. Our faith deepens and we reach higher levels of understanding once we do this because by doing the act of helping, it means we understood the true meaning behind God’s words. He promises us that it will only bring us closer to attaining a happy state.

Some of the thoughts that came to mind to those present during this lesson include: We are freed from the ego and experience a great expansion when we realize who we are (i.e., that we have been greatly blessed by God in many areas of life and have His divine spirit within us).The principle underlying giving is a spiritual one that states that we will receive abundance the more we give. If we worry about whether the other person will reciprocate, we are trapped in a small experience, away from God's stream of abundance. In order for spiritual growth to happen, we must “uncondition” ourselves, unlearn what we have learned, what we believe from our previous lives. All limiting beliefs can be unlearned. Quran always says: Give out of what We have given you. Everything that happens is from God and everything that we have is from God. You become one with the spirit if you give, you become part of the stream. The basic premise of the Quran is that God is Most Compassionate and Merciful. We are born in this stream and can be uplifted by it. The stream/God uplifts those who uplift others. Then you become an agent of God, but if you withhold it, you are outside this stream. We will never feel isolated or alone if we think of being part of this stream. Everything is from the Mercy of God. It is part of this stream. For example, if we read a good book and learn something from it, it is from the Mercy of God. Spend time to think about specific ways in which you are blessed. Do it regularly, for a long time. You will internalize this idea and will always feel blessed. By doing this, we eliminate the rust in our hearts (there is no shine because there is rust in the hearts). Then, we will always be happy, no matter what is happening outside. A good teacher will want you to be as good as he is. You want to make others equal to you, give them what you have. There is no limit to how far to mentor or encourage someone. You are a leader only if you are a servant. We benefit if we implement what we know within our own circle of influence. Unless we make something a habit, we don't do it: Make gratitude a habit. Opposite of gratitude is complaining. If you learn to be grateful, you won't need to ask for something because you will get a flood of abundance.
Summary by Alma Subasic