Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan for the third year in a row, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
Being sad is one of the hardest things to deal with. Since Ramadan I've felt sad at various times. I've had community members and students who have lost loved ones and I've felt a different kind of sadness seeing them in grief. The father of one of my students, Wally Omar, passed away last week, and when I got his message late in the evening I teared a bit and said a little prayer for him and his family. Yesterday, a friend reached out telling me that he was planning on moving away soon and I felt a different sadness at the idea of his moving away. Immediately after a friend that I hadn't heard from in quite some time told me she had made a life decision that I didn't expect she would have, and I felt sad as I thought to myself I could have been a better friend to her and hadn't been around as much. A culmination of all of these feelings led to me spending yesterday in somewhat of a funk. But that's okay because I am a person. And people get sad sometimes.
I don't think being sad is necessarily an indication of one's faith, especially not a weakness of it. We tend to beat ourselves and each other up over simple expressions of our emotions. Our attempts then at overcoming the emotion become that much more difficult as we start out with a frame of understanding that says we are doing something wrong by acting human.
Anas bin Malik, may God be pleased with him, narrates:
We went with the Messenger of God, peace be upon him, to the blacksmith Abu Saif, and he was the husband of the wet-nurse of Ibrahim (the son of the Prophet). The Prophet took Ibrahim and kissed him and smelled him and later we entered Abu Saif's house and at that time Ibrahim was in his last breaths, and the eyes of The Prophet started shedding tears. 'Abdur Rahman bin 'Awf said, "O Messenger of God, even you are weeping!" He said, "O Ibn 'Awf, this is mercy." Then he wept more and said, "The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord, O Ibrahim ! Indeed we are grieved by your separation."
An important step in dealing with our sadness is being able to identify where it comes from.
Once you figure out where it's coming from, you want to figure out what you're going to do about it. Outlets that you build have to make sense for you. Having a process by which you recenter yourself after being thrown off your routine is so important. For some this can be having someone to talk to, for others exercise or cooking. I know people who will write, find solace in prayer, or clean their whole house. Coping mechanisms and solutions will vary from person to person just as the causes for the sadness will vary from person to person. Ask yourself what your outlets are? If they are not healthy and make no sense or are non-existent, take the time to re-evaluate and figure it out. If need be, solicit the help of someone who makes sense to think it out.
When we find someone that we care about going through one of these phases, our initial reaction is to try to help in whatever way we can. Some things to be mindful of:
You and I aren't robots. We don't have a button that we can push that suddenly makes us happy and stops us from being sad. We can't control our emotions in that sense but we can control the decisions and actions that yield certain emotions, as well as our responses to certain emotions once they transpire. I will get sad sometimes. I just need to figure out ways of dealing with that, the first step of which is realizing there's nothing wrong with it so that I can then do what I need to do to deal with it.
While I break my fast with with friends and family, the men and women of Guantanamo will have their fast purposely broken far away from any family -- some being detained now for almost a decade.
The month of Ramadan consists of 30 days of fasting. Each of those days serves uniquely as a potential source of benefit, and none should be undermined in its respective value.
Built into our tradition is a prayer the purpose of which is to help us make decisions through turning to God. The number of people who I have seen who try it and don't really know how it works is quite large.
What's important to realize about Malala is that she isn't standing up just for her own rights, but for the right of others. And even after she was given accommodations for herself, she continues to speak for those who aren't able to have their voices heard.
Ask yourself honestly, when was the last time you reached out to a person that you hadn't seen in a few days or weeks or even last Ramadan but not this one? When we fail to check in on or include each other, we are potentially hurting one another more than we realize.
There is a sense of achievement that should stem from completing a day's fast during the intense heat and long hours of the Summer, but the process and challenge of the fast can yield much more than that.
Everyone knows that giving is good and the helping people out is good, but we rarely emphasize what the etiquette around that might be and how to do it well. Many of us give, but not many of us give to the best of our ability.
It's unfair to young boys and men that we don't expect more from them. They end up being quite immature, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and lagging behind in their personal emergence of adulthood, especially when compared to their female counterparts.
Abdel Rahim just wants a blanket for his daughter-in-law - let's give him and the rest of people of Syria that and much more.
Being sad is one of the hardest things to deal with. Since Ramadan I've felt sad at various times. I don't think being sad is necessarily an indication of one's faith, especially not a weakness of it.
Not all of us are meant to be the one that leads the prayer or gives the sermon, but are goodness is not associated necessarily with positions or titles like that. Our sense of character is what will open doors for us in our growth.
An expert in any arena started out as a novice, and you and I in our paths towards reaching our full potential are no different. Our respective journeys towards a mastery of our skills and acquisition of our credentials, degrees, licenses, and titles starts always with a step one.
Many of us tend to give more during Ramadan. Be smart about your giving. Look to support those who have sensible ideas, are visionary in their scope, and have the skills to get done what they are telling you they want to do.
Throughout the Qur'an we find verse after verse that tells us to be kind to orphans and to treat with affection, care and dignity. We should all take a moment to reflect on what is keeping us from being of better assistance to those children who have no parents or families.
I am an advocate for creating new spaces in the Muslim community. Spaces that cater to the silent majority and are built off of a model with multiple entry points. Spaces that are not reactive to the existing apparatus, but are well-thought out and proactively built.
At times we don't realize how hard our hearts have become. The pursuit of complacency becomes our goal rather than the pursuit of contentment and we sacrifice things that would bring us everlasting comfort in pursuit of those things that simply give us the facade of comfort.
Huma Abedin is more than just her Islam. The extremely reductionist approach that many journalists and media outlets have comfortably taken when dealing with Islam and Muslims is getting pretty ridiculous at this point.
Instead of waiting until you get married to figure out what marriage means to you, start the conversation now. From other relationships in your life, understand yourself and what makes sense for you.
If you are blessed to be a father, don't let any of it pass you by. Start as soon as you find out you are expecting.
In these last few days of Ramadan, reflect deeply on what you really need and how you can play a role in encouraging a better mindfulness of our treatment of rest of creation.
We have something unique alhamdulillah and it's important for us to grow it. The credentials, resources, and personalities that we find within our community uniquely position us to do a lot. We are poised to build many of the institutions and organizations that our community is in need of.
What's more remarkable to me is that most of those who gave will probably never meet those who they gave to. The motivation wasn't because of kinship rooted in socially constructed value, shared culture or common heritage.
In these last nights of Ramadan, gatherings unlike any other time of the year are taking place. Men and women from all walks of life remove from themselves the shackles of the material and for a moment seek to feed only their spirits.
In a few days Ramadan will be over. It'll be tougher to fast, but you should still fast. It will be harder to eat and pray together with friends, but you still should. It will be more difficult to give to those in need, but your giving should never stop.
Four different women I met during Ramadan asked me to pray for them and to ask others as well. In these last hours of Ramadan, I would ask that you all join me and keep them in your thoughts and prayers as well.
For those celebrating the Eid ul-Fitr holiday, Eid Mubarak. May your day be blessed and full of joy. For those not celebrating, may your day be blessed moreso. It doesn't have to be a holiday to feel uplifted. We don't need always need reasons to be happy, as we usually do to be sad.
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