Holistic Poetry

Day 19 – True Strength

It’s at its weakest can strength be at its greatest. This has been the overarching theme in the days since my last contemplation piece during this blessed month of Ramadan. Through the countless iftars hosted by my fellow brothers and sisters in this small Muslim community while floating on a tiny island in the Caribbean, I have been again reminded of what true strength really means. With nothing more than a desire to live out the best in the remaining days left, we have come together as one people embodying what this month had intended from its beginning. Race or nationality became an exterior shell easily removed to reveal the richness in faith that bound us together under one ummah (community). As I appreciate and live this blessing within the confinements of my small world, how could I not partake such lessons in worlds beyond my shores? As an ummah, we choose to struggle with physical restriction to attempt to understand the path of those not blessed to have such a choice. We may not reach a complete state of empathy, but we strive to be on the path towards it during this month. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “When Allah loves a servant, He tests him” (Tirmidhi). Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) said, You will never obtain what you desire except through patience with what you despise” (Al-Ghazaali). Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) said, “Truly my Lord is with me, He will guide me” (Qur’an 26:62). It’s through the divine collaboration of these prophets of God that the poor, the hungry, the sick, the orphan, and the oppressed become living role models and not dying statistics. No matter who they are, where they live, or what creed they follow the only distinction worthy of notice is their place in what’s right above that which is wrong. They are in my prayers not just in words but within the lessons learned in this blessed month. They embody true strength. I pray that I can understand even a sliver of it, insha’Allah.

Day 13 – Unconditional Maturity

When we fail to address that which takes peace from the mind, it can seep into other areas of life it was never intended to reach. Nonetheless, living out obligations as a desire and not just an expectation becomes the struggle irregardless of the condition that fulfills them. As I headed to lead Friday prayer, this circumstance cemented the pillar that challenged my maturity. Looking to my own childhood, it’s one of many aspects of adulthood my youth mistakenly saw as the intrinsic nature of my parents. With a limited scope of experience, our youth sees the conscious choices of our caregivers as unconscious and expected. To live a task to its end with only its end in sight requires tunnel vision, a deliberate choice of amnesia, and the focus of a trauma surgeon. With every blessed month of Ramadan, I am grateful to be more aware of the source of these giving qualities of my parents. In the Qur’an God speaks to

“Be kind to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honor” (Qur’an 17:23).

I can find no better way to honor them then to live out the best in their example, insha’Allah.

Day 12 – Forgive and Not Regret

Alexander Pope, an English poet living in the 18th century, believed that “to err is human; to forgive, divine.” This delicate distinction becomes necessary whether disappointment comes from you or is received from another. When unwilling to face our own humanity and its ability to make mistakes, we develop a deceptive feeling of immortality and infallibility when those mistakes are made against us. It tells us to cover ourselves with pride rather than reveal an honest heart beating vulnerably inside. It is within this blessed month of Ramadan should we look within ourselves even when wronged to understand if our hand played a part in it. No index finger pointed at another is without three fingers pointed right back. It’s at this fork in the road are we faced with the choice between a tempting road that blames with ease or a forgiving road firm on a straight path. By no means am I advocating to simply be content with being wronged. When you choose to “show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant” it becomes a divine investment made towards God Who is both Al Ghaffar“All-Forgiving,” and Al-’Adl“The All Just” (Qu’ran 7:199). Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught us that “Whoever does not show mercy will not be shown mercy” (Al-Bukhari). Let us remember to embody the quality of forgiveness we seek from God in order to impart it to those that sincerely seek it from us, insha’Allah.

Day 11 – Be the Reality to Opportunity

Within Ramadan is a month filled with opportunities to give up more than just your lunch for the day. In limiting the physical, what is spirtual can unveil paths to serve others that are otherwise hidden in our own preoccupied lives. While immersed in medical school on a small island in the Caribbean, a local Muslim convert gifted me with such an opportunity. After sharing my salaams with her while at the marketplace, it became the very comfort she needed to share a real struggle with me. After choosing Islam for herself, her concern was for her son’s understanding of a religion much different than the community he is immersed in on a daily basis. The potential in his youth, the focus in his drive, and the influence to his aspirations became the catalyst to his mother’s plea for guidance for her son. After she shared her thoughts, I asked her to bring him to our student-led Jummah (Friday) prayer to see first hand what Islam can be to a generation that may better understand. When she introduced me to him, he no longer became an opportunity to do good but a reality too good not to embrace. May we continually seek to live out the best of deeds no matter our condition, insha’Allah.

Day 10 – Living Up To A Name

Your name is a personal gift from your caregivers that transcends time even after leaving this world. History has proven this test through time with each generation that has passed. Even if you decide to legally change it, the remnants of your given name is a living reminder of a life that was lived. The good in a name is not without purpose as its meaning can serve to uplift the very people that live up to it. How beautiful is a name when lived to its meaning with both an awareness and without a care. In  this blessed month of Ramadan, we are given a chance to reflect on the qualities of God through His many beautiful names. He is Al-Haqq, “The Truth.” He is Ar-Rahman, “The Exceedingly Compassionate.” He is As-Salaam, “The Source of Peace.” He is Al-Gaffar, “The Repeatedly Forgiving.” The list goes on encompassing 99 names in total that bear such beautiful qualities of God. Reflecting on each one is a prescription written in the Qur’an that says,

“And to God belong the best names, so invoke Him by them” (7:180).

But His most unique name unlike any other is Allah (SWT), the One and Only God. It is this mark of Tawhid, or “Oneness of God,” that serves as a foundation of faith not just in Islam but in all people that recognize it. Being a “muslim” is not one that simply believes in the religion of Islam but literally means  “one who submits to God.” When we define terms that are unknown amongst us, we can lift a veil of ignorance that may have blinded us to what may bring us together. May we live up to the good in the name that we were given so we can know what it truly means, insha’Allah.

Day 9 – The Wisdom in Listening

So few partake in the simple act of just being an attentive member of the audience to the words of another. There is an art to listening that can only be appreciated when chosen for its original intent. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was an exemplary listener that perfected this art. It was his act of listening to the revealed words of God through the Qur’an that we are able to appreciate its value in our lives today. It’s a book that is not simply read aloud but recited carefully “in slow, measured rhythmic tones” (Qur’an 73:4). But it’s when you consciously listen to its recitation, meaning, context, and message are you able to traverse through time as if these words were first revealed to you as they were to the Prophet. There is a history and beauty to listening that is meant to extend beyond such an example by embracing the example itself. When employed with those around you, it can mean the world. Listening isn’t contemplating what to say while one shares their thoughts. It resides within silence meant to echo the thoughts that are shared. Think back to a time when you valued listening with silence. You’ll know its mark all too well. It’s found in the worries that are lifted off the shoulders of someone close to you. It resides within the path towards change for all that participate in its presence. It defines the difference between wisdom and intelligence. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) once said,

“Speak a good word or remain silent” [Sahih Bukhari].

He was a man of few words, but when he spoke it was with emphasis and deliberation. It was because he listened, no one could forget what he said. May we embody such a beautiful quality of listening that brings value to our words when spoken, insha’Allah.

Day 8 – Liberty and Justice For All

In the past few days I have come across numerous articles and grainy videos depicting a 15 year old Palestinian American, Tariq Abu Khdeir, with hands forcibly tied behind his back being brutally beaten until he lost consciousness. It’s easy to make claims that he incited violence, but that simply was not the case here. Pictures of Tariq before and after the incident was like night and day with bruises and scars that paved the difference.  In honor of celebrating the 4th of July as an American, I signed and shared a petition that demanded the U.S. State Department to take swift action in bringing justice to a fellow American citizen held without charges. No matter who he is or what he represents, it’s what was done to him that should raise eyebrows. Regardless of either side, it has been the children that have carried the burden of these recent atrocities to human dignity. It’s because of the injustice done to this American youth that the media can no longer turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of the people there. Let us continue to extend our prayers to those affected by these horrific acts no matter whom they are done against, insha’Allah. Let us remember that justice is unbiased and meant for all of those that deserve it as said in the Qur’an,

“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do” (Qur’an 5:8).

Day 7 – The Truth In Each Day

My eyes were drawn to the hands of the clock as the lecture faded nearer to its end. The weight of my pen grew heavier on my hand with each second that translated the professor’s words into my own. Finally given a break, a sigh of relief carried me to a couch outside of class to decompress the medical factoids we became responsible to know. Amidst the carefree laughter of friends and colleagues, my thoughts shifted to the coming days of Ramadan making its annual return. I thought how the routine I grew comfortable with throughout the year would quickly become uncomfortable in the first few days of fasting. School days would drag just as long as before. Sleep would be an even further luxury. Studying would be a more difficult task. Getting to the gym would be a workout itself. As I headed back to class, I searched for my pen that went missing from my desk. After a complete TSA-style search of my belongings, I ran my fingers through my hair only to find my pen calmly resting atop the groove of my right ear.  And that’s when it hit me. What will get me through Ramadan is remembering what already exists within my forgetfulness. It is “in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” (Quran 13:28). I can seek no better truth in each day that follows.

Day 6 – Station of Appreciation

Unexpected gratitude has the ability to momentarily lift the heaviest of burdens off its recipient’s shoulders. There is within us both a subconcious and sometimes concious desire for our efforts at times to be recognized, validated, and simply appreciated. It is the honesty within genuine appreciation that reawakens the drive within the soul to seek its purpose. When shared with the divine, to the One that deserves limitless gratitude, we appreciate our existence by praising the One that created it. By thanking God we do not abandon the world but embrace it as Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

“He who does not thank Allah does not thank people” (Abu Dawud).

During this blessed month of Ramadan, seek the opportunity to thank those that never ask for it. They are within your family before dawn starts the fast, your friends that once were or now are, and your neighbors both at home and afar. Who knows, they just might thank God you were there.

 

Day 5 – Patience is the Key

Life has been a bit busier these days, so much apologies to those that are following my Fast Contemplation posts for Ramadan. It is fitting to say the least that patience became a resounding theme the other day. Patience is the prescription necessary to treat the struggle buried deep within us all. If employed it becomes an unexpected response to those whose history is filled with moments of reactivity, bouts of turbulence, and deprivation of meaning. But this patience comes not without a price. Throughout this month of Ramadan patience becomes a difficult investment we strive to make for the One to Whom is its source. We pay with our hunger pains, diminished energy, and restraint in deserved frustration to remember what is important. Remembering Allah (SWT) through this month is knowing full-well that the fruit of our patience is as real as the world that we live in. If we know him as As-Sabur (The Patient), we can begin to understand the depths of such a divine quality. As “Allah is with the patient” (Qur’an 2:153), I could ask for no better company.

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