Monday, November 28, 2016

God Has Blessed Us in So Many Ways

On November 14th, 2016, during our meeting in NYC, we discussed Chapter 36 from the book, The Quran and the Life of Excellence.  Our discussion was based on the following ayas:

Sura 16; Ayas 78-81

And God has brought you out from your mothers’ bodies not knowing anything – but He has given you hearing and sight and feelings, so that you may be grateful.
Have they not seen the birds flying in the air?  None but God holds them up.  In this surely there are messages for people who have faith.  
And God has given you houses as places of rest, ad tents from skins of animals – easy  for you to handle when you travel and you camp – and furnishings and goods for temporary use from their skins and their wool and their hair. 
And God  has made for you, in what He created, means of protection:  thus, He has given you places of shade in the hills, and garments to protect you from heat and cold, as well as such garments that protect you from danger.
In this way, He bestows blessings on you, so that you might acknowledge Him. 

 Looking at the ayas above, we can see the emphasis God places on acknowledging Him and His favors as we contemplate the world around us through the senses which have been given to us.  It is clear that we are not responsible for having the bodies we have and for sensing what we sense.  It is all created to serve one God and He is asking us to help ourselves by simply taking heed for a few minutes every day.  To the extent we think about Him regularly, we will come to the conclusions expressed in the Quran. 

 Focusing more specifically on how we can help ourselves, we need to make sure that we acknowledge many gifts we have in our lives.  Even if we are facing great problems, there are some things we can think of which are helping us and for which we can feel grateful, such as: we have a room or a home to rest in, we have clothes to protect us from hot or cold, we have the ability to her and speak, etc.  Changing our focus from what is bothering us to what is helping us, shifts our spiritual energy from negative to positive. 

 We clearly can’t ignore our problems because we have to protect ourselves as that is our inherent need.  It is the mindset with which we approach our thinking and doing anything about our problems that makes the difference.  Talking about our problems continuously prevents our minds and bodies from getting out of the negativity which we have attracted within and without ourselves, but when we look to see how else we can approach the predicament we are in, will, in time, bring some ideas that we can use to resolve our problems.  God is here to help us go through everything we face in life, not to constantly intervene and remove problems from our lives. If we think about it, we will, in time, realize that no strength of spirit or of body can come without significant amount of work.  

 Summary by Alma Subasic

Banish Satan When You Read the Quran

On September 12th, during our regular meeting in the NYC, we discussed chapter 40 from the book by Dr. Abdulhameed. The chapter is based on the following ayas:

Sura 16 Ayas 98-100:

When you read the Quran, seek refuge with God from Satan, the accursed. Behold, he has no power over those who have developed faith and place their trust in their Lord. He has power over those who take him as their master, and who thus ascribe to him a share in God’s divinity.

We are all aware that both good and evil reside in us and that we have a tendency to express compassion and love as much as we have a tendency to express arrogance, envy, and deceit. Our honest efforts to lessen the influence of evil tendencies through genuine asking for help with it and to increase the influence of divine tendencies within us will eventually inform how far we come in our efforts to live a happy and fulfilled life, to the extent we understand that the life in God’s presence is the only truly fulfilled life. 
We have all experienced and continue to experience difficulties and sometimes feel that our good intentions simply fade away no matter how hard we try to eradicate it from ourselves. When we read the Quran, we see that God reminds us regularly that shaytan’s work to obstruct and oppose us is never-ending and that he is a true enemy to us. That reminder should help us understand that we are actively being opposed in our efforts and that we need to continue our good work of purifying ourselves patiently and the help from God will come.

It is, therefore, important that we approach Quran as the book that is here to explain to us what is taking place within and without ourselves so that we understand ourselves and by extension, the world around us, better. We should not approach Quran with impatience expecting to immediately understand everything it is saying given that God had been preparing Prophet Muhammad for years so that he might understand it properly. We must not approach it with arrogance expecting it to support us as we are or expecting it to support our views of superiority over other people, and we must not approach it with a rebellious state of mind because we are angry with what it is saying. If we think about it seriously, we will realize that the consistent and the patient seeking for the truth is the only way to receive true answers. Of course, it is not easy, but as we all know, anything worth our while requires patience and considerable effort on our part. We only must want to do it.

Summary/Commentary by Alma Subasic

Advice on Food

On October 17th, 2016  during our Quran study session in the New York City, we discussed  chapter 41 which is based on the following ayas:
Sura 16, Ayas 114-115:
So eat what God has provided you, lawful and wholesome, and be grateful for the favors of God if it is God that you serve.
God has forbidden to you only what has died of itself, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and anything offered up to other than God. But if anyone is compelled by necessity, without wanting to or being excessive, then God is very forgiving, very merciful.
Eat the wholesome things We provided for you, but not to excess, lest My anger descend on you.  And whoever My anger settles upon has already fallen.

Most of the food practice in the Muslim culture has been around prohibitions.  It is, however, equally  important to focus on the other information in these ayas and understand the deeper message behind God’s words.  We now understand a lot about food compared to generations before us and we can easily understand that the above prohibitions were articulated to us to keep us healthy. 
In addition, God specifically indicates that when we eat, we must be careful about how much we eat.  This is something that we now understand is important for our health given all the problems that come from over-eating. 
We will also notice that every aya concerning food specifies that we eat what is wholesome.  That is clearly because by eating wholesome food, we keep our bodies healthy.  When we are healthy, we can do whatever we set our mind upon, while illness, especially prolonged illness, causes pain and we depend on others and are unable to do much. 
Therefore, it seems very clear after we break these ayas down that living healthily and making that our priority – that being the absolute basis of our being able to do anything else in life – should be a matter of common sense.
The exercise accompanying this chapter states as follows:
  1. Think of a habit you have that you know is bad for your health.  Write a paragraph in your journal on how your future life will be damaged if you continue this habit.  Make a plan to get rid of this habit as soon as possible.
  2. Think of a healthy habit you would like to add to your lifestyle. Write a paragraph in your journal on how your future life will be improved if you succeed in adopting this new habit.  Make a plan to change your daily routine to include this habit.   

Summary by Alma Subasic