Ramadan Reflections (day 7): Compassionate Rage

compassionate rage pic

Like Wazina, I’ve been wrestling with how to make sense of the Zimmerman verdict, especially how to understand it in the context of Ramadan. The question I ask myself is how do I hold all my rage, grief, and compassion, and still function? We were in the midst of a lovely iftar gathering when we got news of the verdict. The rage coursing through me would surely have been enough to overturn a car, yell and scream and break some things. I daresay all of us in the room went through some serious contortions to maintain our self-control, contortions people of color are adept at through hundreds of years slavery, colonialism, ruthless capitalism, etc. Someone asked “why hold on to the rage?” a question which sparked anger. As a black woman in America, I am very clear that my anger is scary to white folks. Just last year, I caught sight of the nearly-automatic pacifying smile I adopt with white folks I don’t know to signal “peaceful, everything’s alright”, the residue of training which had our ancestors know that “if the white folks alright, we’re alright, we’re safe.” And so even in the face of a crazy, nonsensical verdict that once again reminds us of how the criminal (in)justice system consistently devalues the lives of black and brown bodies, I find myself struggling with what to do with my rage.

The grief, too. What about Trayvon’s family?

It is also true that fasting is not just from food, drink, sexual activity and smoking. Shayka Fariha encourages fasting at this level:

There are as many forms of fasting as there are organs of perception and sensation, and each of these has many different levels. So we ask to fast from all that Allah does not love for us, and to feast on what the Beloved loves for us. Let us certainly fast from the limited mind, and all that it conjures up. Let us fast from fear, apart from fear and awe of Allah’s majesty. Let us fast from thinking that we know, when Allah alone is the Knower. Let us fast from thinking negatively of anyone. Let us fast from our manipulations and strategies. Let us fast from all complaint about the life experiences that Allah gives us. Let us fast from our bad habits and our reactions. Let us fast from desiring what we do not have. Let us fast from obsession. Let us fast from despair. Let us fast from not loving our self, and from denying our heart. Let us fast from selfishness and self-centered behavior. Let us fast from thinking that only what serves us is important. Let us fast from seeing reality only from our own point of view. Let us fast from seeing any reality other than Allah, and from relying on anything other than Allah. Let us fast from desiring anything other than Allah and Allah’s Prophets and friends, and our own true self. Essentially, let us fast from thinking that we have any existence separate from Allah.

What is required to maintain this level of fasting? Part of what helps me is to broaden my perspective and remember. What I know is that I don’t know or comprehend the inner workings of creation. What I know is that things unfold as they are meant to, as Waz said. I don’t know the purpose the unfolding of this case means in the larger view of creation. I know I want to be as faith-full as I can in this life. I know part of what that means is  to strive with my mind, body, and goods for the triumph of love in this world. I know part of that means finding healthy ways to express not just my own rage and grief, but to contribute to the collective exorcising of historical trauma and the rage and grief that accompanies it. I believe it is possible to express such intense emotions and legacies in service of our own goodness and striving and compassion and love and hearts.

For me, it is also to pray for our humanity, for forgiveness, for wisdom to do better, for hearts that break and then heal bigger.

Whoever recommends and helps a good cause becomes a partner therein: and whoever recommends and helps an evil cause, shares in its burden: and Allah hath power over all things. (Surah An-Nisa–4:85).

 

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