TTG Day 14 – The Invitation
We Three (Rumi)
My love wanders the rooms, melodious,
flute notes, plucked wires,
full of a wine the Magi drank
on the way to Bethlehem.
We are three. The moon comes
from its quiet corner, puts a pitcher of water
down in the center. The circle
of surface flames.
One of us kneels to kiss the threshold.
One drinks, with wine-flames playing over his face.
One watches the gathering,
and says to any cold onlookers,
This dance is the joy of existence.
I am filled with you.
Skin, blood, bone, brain and soul.
There’s no room for lack of trust, or trust.
Nothing in this existence but that existence.
I woke up feeling twilight blue mixed with swaths of red. Due to a flare-up of an ongoing condition, I’ll not be fasting the rest of the month. That realization filled me with great frustration and upset and had me overdose on the tv show Army Wives whilst laying on the couch yesterday. Today the upset is mellowing into disappointment and acceptance. Ramadan has already been so powerful for me this year, and I so deeply cherish the experience of fasting for Allah and also the sense of solidarity with Muslims worldwide. Somehow not fasting feels like leaving the stream of the latter. In case it seems unclear to you, I <3 Ramadan! Though I grew up in the Christian tradition, and consequently did not experience Ramadan until I was 19, I have loved fasting since I was a child, looked forward to it really. Every Lent was precious to me because it brought with it the opportunity to fast.
So, what does Ramadan mean for those who are not able to fast? What significance does Ramadan have then? As mentioned in a previous post by Wazina, fasting from food and drink is simply one level of fasting. There are the deeper levels of the fast—fasting with the senses and the limbs, fasting of the heart. Those I can continue. I can feel the place in myself, the place of disappointment, that wants to act out a drama in which I fling myself, crying, to the ground in despair and lock myself away for the next two weeks. No more iftars, fewer masjid visits, etc. but that drama is just a reflection of sadness at not being able to do the full fast. My truth is that Ramadan is no less significant because I have to deal with a health issue. If anything, that makes me all the more eager to stay engaged inwardly and with community. And I know I’ll need help to do so. I’ll need my community to reach out to me if you see that suddenly I’ve stopped organizing us for an iftar, or don’t seem to be in the Ramadan spirit. I want to maintain the structure of Ramadan in my day to day, and to be a cheerleader for those who are doing the full fast.
I also had to remember that it isn’t a coincidence that I am having this flare-up now. This means somewhere in the experience, is blessing. I am absolutely certain of Allah’s generosity and lovingness—Ya Karim! Ya Wadud! The Quran reminds us time and again to be patient and steadfast with whatever Allah gives us. What if I were to consider not being able to do the full fast as an invitation to draw nearer? Yes, an invitation.
Thank you Allah, I accept.
Waz Day 15 – Brave Face
Today has been a hard day and I don’t actually know if I have the capacity to deal with it.
I know that Allah gives us only what we can handle. And for the most part, I know I can live through the challenges – make it out on the other end, but I don’t actually know if I’ll come out a winner. I’ll just come out of it after having taken blind stabs at solutions and none of them work. In the end, the darkness turns to day but I’m still where I was before… I just outlasted the dark.
Today, I went home to my parents and was confronted by my angry and upset father. He is angry and upset over my absence at home, my queerness, my infrequent visits, the course our lives have taken… I can take a lot, I really can. I have a lot of empathy for my parents – for the endless struggle they endure, the tons of weight they carry on their shoulders and in their hearts… I love them for who they are and the person they made me to be but tonight I just couldn’t stick around.
I broke my fast on the bus ride back to NYC. I am home now but will be leaving again right after I post this to go back to my parents shortly. I will be meeting my mom at her job (she works at night) and we will travel together – she refused to go home without me and as much as I would love for her to be in Brooklyn with me, it’s best that we go home to NJ.
I have no specifically Ramadan-related reflections at the moment… I feel a little numb and a lot tired. I prayed a lot on the bus and zikr’ed on my tasbeh to calm down and I don’t know where it has left me. I guess I am waiting on God to give me an answer, give my parents peace and ask that I only be given as much as I can handle because right now I don’t know how much I can do with a brave face alone.
TTG Day 16 – Abide
And do thou (O reader!) bring thy Lord to remembrance in thy (very) soul, with humility and in reverence, without loudness in words, in the mornings and evenings; and be not thou of those who are unheedful. Those who are near to thy Lord, disdain not to do Him worship: they celebrate His praises and bow down before Him. (Sura Al-Araf, 7:205-6, Yusuf Ali translation)
And bethink thyself of thy Sustainer humbly and with awe, and without raising thy voice, at morn and at evening; and do not allow thyself to be heedless. Behold, those who are near unto thy Sustainer are never too proud to worship him; and they extol His limitless glory, and prostrate themselves before Him [alone]. (Asad translation)
Please excuse my tardiness today. It’s been an intense day witnessing how Allah uses our bodies to speak to us. When our bodies are in crisis of any kind, what is our tendency? When you get that headache, or that toothache or that stomachache or that painful constipation, what do you think? It is simply unfortunate happenstance? I don’t believe so. As I don’t believe in randomness or coincidence, every single ache or pain in our body is an opportunity. It may not feel like it as you make your way through it moment by moment, but it is. There have been times that I have been in so much pain that I could only groan and talk myself through one breath at a time. A few years ago I had a long bout of knee problems. Nothing seemed to help. About 3 years into it, my mother asked me “why are you having this problem? What do you feel unstable about in your life?” That was the very first time I’d connected the dots and considered that maybe it wasn’t simply a trial I had to endure, but a message to decode. Once I took the time to really think about my mother’s questions, doors to healing that I hadn’t seen before opened up immediately. Ya Shafi, Ya Shafi, Ya Shafi! Next time you have a headache, talk to Allah. What is it that you are reluctant to let go of? Next time you have a stomachache, talk to Allah? What is it that is causing such anxiety in your life?
During today’s crisis, there was prayer and tears on the way to surrender (I can’t do this Allah, only you can do this). Afterwards, I lay drained and stared at a wall. I realized that as my mind was moving on, it was also reverting to a space of selective remembrance. I was thinking about this or that thing, and had so easily moved on from witnessing that deep surrender. Surrender to Allah! Surrender to Allah! Surrender to Allah in all things, at all moments! La ilaha illallah! Allah is the only Reality. It is for us to remember Allah in all things, at all moments, challenging, joyful and everything in between. “…bring thy Lord to remembrance in thy very soul” We are called to abide in that place of remembrance. The Quran tells us that all of creation praises Allah whether we know it or not. A tree is in constant praise, a toad, a mosquito, even someone who identifies as an atheist. Praise is the inherent state of our soul. How do we cultivate consciousness of the one true Reality in what Piers Anthony calls Mundania? When you’re cleaning the bathroom, when you’re running out for milk, when you’re doing everything? This is the purpose of dhikr. To abide, truly and deeply abide in a state of taqwa, of God-consciousness requires us to dispense with the illusion that any aspect of our lives is separate from Allah. Every aspect of our lives is Allah. Our very being is Allah! What a marvel! Who are we to indulge in the arrogance of forgetfulness?
Ya Allah, Ya Allah, Ya Allah! Allahumma, remove from me the veils of forgetfulness and illusion. Do not allow me to be in any state of heedlessness. Amin.
Waz Day 17 – Surah 17
And you be kind to the parents
When one or both of them attain old age in your life,
Say not to them a harsh word nor scold them, but address them in terms of honor.
And out of kindness lower to them the wing of humility and say,
“My Lord! Bestow on them mercy just as they cherished me in childhood.”
Surah 17: Ayah 23-24
This Ayah and a reminder from a hadith, nobody has any control over which family they are born into, have been helpful to me this weekend.
Yesterday was pretty awkward – I stayed upstairs most of the day, dressing up in scarves, sharwal kameezes, spending time with my mom, hanging out with my siblings. I didn’t see my dad until about 6pm and it was calm and quiet straight until bedtime and suhoor and even today.
I look for answers where ever I can when it comes to my parents. Kids don’t come with instructions and raising kids as refugees/as visitors to another culture makes things double-y hard. Had they raised me in Afghanistan or even Pakistan, we would likely be in a different boat right now. I would still be queer identified but options for expressing it would be different.
My parents do the best they can. I know without reservation or hesitation that they love me… I need to express my love and appreciation to them more. I think everyone who meets me, sees our show, and in conversation with me understands entirely my appreciation, respect and love for them – but I don’t think they feel it.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve exhausted all options, but I know that I haven’t done all that I can do. I need to be around more with my family and it’s hard when I have my life, my friends, and normal things that I want to do on weekends, or places I want to go on vacation instead of spending my days off in NJ. I have to figure out a better balance… I need to be kinder to their hearts and their feelings.
It’s funny, I even looked up stuff on Mercury in Retrograde and wondered if it had something to do with what happened on Friday… the planet that governs communication and transportation issues; it rules intelligence, education and truth and when Mercury is in retrograde, it’s power is held back. Much like the month of Ramadan, the two weeks or so related to the planet are a time for reflection… while I might not have answers right now, all signs do point to reflection, reflection and reflection.
that’s all I got for today…
TTG Day 18 – Surrender
Excerpt from Father Reason (Rumi)
The universe is a form of divine law,
your reasonable father.
When you feel ungrateful to him,
the shapes of the world seem mean and ugly.
Make peace with that father, the elegant patterning,
and every experience will fill with immediacy.
Because I love this, I am never bored.
Beauty constantly wells up, a noise of springwater
in my ear and in my inner being.
The last few days have been a struggle for me. I am struggling with not fasting. I know what I said a few days ago about continuing the fast in ways other than food and drink, but it’s more challenging than I realized to let go of that and accept the current situation. I’ve found myself eating what I need to for my medication and then not eating for the rest of the day until fast break, hoping that somehow it will count. To be honest, I’ve been a bit miserable about it. A lovely friend has offered to fast the days I’m missing with me whenever I make them up. That helps but it isn’t enough.
So, I’ve been in that cycle of feeling sad about not fasting. Reading the excerpt above reminded me, once again, of how our own perspective and our own feelings can loom so large in our mind, large enough to convince us that our point of view is it. In noticing some of the beauty around me today—the leaves growing along my window, the gorgeous 6-foot long prayer on my wall, my beloved—I am reminded of how self-indulgent we can be in our feelings. Of course, by all means we must experience and be honest about our emotional being, but that does not have to limit our view of the horizon.
When we get to the place where our particular feelings are all we see, it is essential to use the touchstone of beauty, the touchstone of noticing and appreciating other beings, the touchstone of prayer and consciously being with Allah, the touchstone of surrender, to restore our view of the horizon of life. I spend a lot of time thinking about surrender. To me this means, the return to understanding how small I am in the scheme of creation, and the simple appreciation that I get to be here, gratitude for all the blessings I can perceive and the infinite many I do not. It means the return to that essence of our souls which is adoration of Allah and wonderment. It means tosubmit to who I am on this level beyond time, space and personality, rather than who “I”, ego, am. As Muslims we know that the very word “Muslim” means one who submits, and Islam itself means submission. Submit is a verb, encompassed in surrender, and requires constant action. There isn’t a place of submission you reach, beyond which you can coast as if that’s the end of it. No, every instant requires our intention to submit and striving to master our nafs so that they take us deeper into surrender rather than away from it. They almost got me today but Allah is ever-generous and merciful. I didn’t want to write this post today and was thinking about what reason I could use to feel justified, and what would I tell Wazina? Cracking open my Rumi book was Allah’s door to remembrance. Ya Allah, make us of those who remember you in all things. Amin.