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.
Ramadan is the month in which it is said the Qur'an was revealed to mankind. Like most scripture, the Qur'an is essentially providing principles, commands, prohibitions, and parables to its reader for the purpose of elevating and moving them closer towards God. To me, one of the most remarkable aspects of it is the insight it gives the readers towards ethical conduct. Verse after verse speaks about the importance of good character and gives specific instruction on the type of behaviors that are not necessarily tangible, but still have heavy consequences nonetheless if adopted and acted upon. Things like refraining from lying, cheating, and gossiping and embracing principles of honesty, generosity, diversity, and excellence are often mentioned.
It is not to say that Islam has ownership of these values, but to me it makes sense that what we hold to be revelation from the Divine would make mention of them.
When I was around 16 years old I started to go through a process of exploration in regards to my own spirituality. I was fortunate to meet warm individuals who embodied a different type of kindness than I had been used to when dealing with religious community. It wasn't that people were necessarily mean to me, but no one also was deliberately nice. I think it's important to reflect on -- not doing wrong and doing right are both important to do.
As an undergrad at New York University, my relationship with my sense of spirituality started to become less confusing and more concrete and the balance that I saw in the Quran in regards to ritual, practice, and development of the spirit and character was amazing. I was fortunate to find the below list of principles on character and ethics derived from different verses in the Qur'an and it really spoke to me, so much so that I still look back to it today more than ten years later. The principles are paraphrasing the actual verses as opposed to being direct translations, but the citations are provided for those who would want to take a step further and read the actual verses. It's important to note that I didn't put this list together and unfortunately I am not sure who did.
As you read through the list below and perhaps spend this month of Ramadan listening to the Qur'an and reading it yourself, take heed of the meaning of the verses and perhaps use them as a metric for yourself. 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 and make us ready to take on the challenges that are in front of us. The Prophet Muhammad was known as being trustworthy and honest before he was known to be a prophet. It's easy for one to "look" like him but sometimes we forget the importance of acting like him. And essentially he embodies the message that he is the messenger of so a great starting point would be turning to that message itself.
This list is by no means exhaustive but just a starting point. I hope it is as beneficial to you as it has been to me.
1. Respect and honor all human beings irrespective of their religion, color, race, sex, language, status, property, birth, profession/job and so on. [17/70]
2. Talk straight, to the point, without any ambiguity or deception. [33/70]
3. Choose the best words to speak, and say them in the best possible way. [17/53, 2/83]
4. Do not shout. Speak politely, keeping your voice low. [31/19]
5. Always speak the truth. Shun words that are deceitful and ostentatious. [22/30]
6. Do not confound truth with falsehood. [2/42]
7. Say with your mouth what is in your heart. [3/167]
8. Speak in a civilized manner, in a language that is recognized by the society and is commonly used. [4/5]
9. When you voice an opinion, be just, even if it is against a relative. [6/152]
10. Do not be a bragger or boaster. [31/18]
11. Do not talk or do anything vain [23/3, 28/55]
12. Do not participate in anything paltry or contemptible. If you pass near such a futile play, then pass by with dignity [25/72]
13. Do not verge upon any immodesty or lewdness whether surreptitious or overt. [6/151].
14. If unintentionally any misconduct occurs by you, then correct yourself expeditiously. [3/134].
15. Do not be contemptuous or arrogant with people. [31/18]
16. Do not walk haughtily or with conceit. [17/37, 31/18]
17. Be moderate in thy pace. [31/19]
18. Walk with humility and sedateness. [25/63]
19. Keep your gazes lowered devoid of any lecherous leers and salacious stares. [24/30-31, 40/19].
20. If you do not have complete knowledge about anything, better keep your mouth closed. You might think that speaking about something without full knowledge is a trivial matter. But it might have grave consequences. [24/15-16]
21. When you hear something malicious about someone, keep a favorable view about him/her until you attain full knowledge about the matter. Consider others innocent until they are proven guilty with solid and truthful evidence. [24/12-13]
22. Ascertain the truth of any news, lest you harm someone in ignorance and afterwards repent of what you did. [49/6]
23. Do not follow blindly any information of which you have no direct knowledge. (Using your faculties of perception and reasoning) you must verify it for yourself. In the Court of your Lord, you will be held accountable for your hearing, sight, and the faculty of reasoning. [17/36].
24. Never think that you have reached the final stage of knowledge and nobody knows more than yourself. Remember! Above everyone endowed with knowledge is another endowed with more knowledge [12/76]. Even the Prophet [p.b.u.h] was asked to keep praying, "O My sustainer! Advance me in knowledge." [20:114]
25. The believers are but a single Brotherhood. Live like members of one family, brothers and sisters unto one another. [49/10].
26. Do not make a mockery of others or ridicule others. [49/11]
27. Do not defame others. [49/11]
28. Do not insult others by nicknames. [49/11]
29. Avoid suspicion and guesswork. Suspicion and guesswork might deplete your communal energy. [49/12]
30. Spy not upon one another. [49/12]
31. Do not backbite one another. [49/12]
32. When you meet each other, offer good wishes and blessings for safety. One who conveys to you a message of safety and security, or offers a courteous greeting to you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or (at least) of equal courtesy. [4/86]
33. When you enter your own home or the home of somebody else, compliment the inhabitants. [24/61]
34. Do not enter houses other than your own until you have sought permission; and then greet the inhabitants and wish them a life of blessing, purity and joy. [24/27]
35. Treat kindly:
-And those who have been left alone in society [4/36]
36. Take care of:
-Those whose hard earned income is insufficient to meet their needs
-And those whose businesses have stalled
-And those who have lost their jobs. [4/36]
37. Treat kindly:
-Your related neighbors, and unrelated neighbors.
-Companions by your side in public gatherings, or public transportation. [4/36]
38. Be generous to the needy wayfarer, the homeless son of the street, and the one who reaches you in a destitute condition. [4/36]
39. Be nice to people who work under your care. [4/36]
40. Do not count what you have given to others, nor afflict them with reminders of your generosity. [2/262].
41. Do not expect a return for your good behavior, not even thanks. [76/9]
42. Cooperate with one another in good deeds and do not cooperate with others in evil and bad matters. [5/2]
43. Do not try to impress people on account of self-proclaimed virtues. [53/32]
44. You should enjoin right conduct on others but mend your own ways first. Actions speak louder than words. You must first practice good deeds yourself, then preach. [2/44]
45. Correct yourself and your families first [before trying to correct others]. [66/6]
46. Pardon gracefully anyone who commits a bad deed out of ignorance, and then repents and amends [6/54, 3/134]
47. Divert and sublimate your anger and potentially virulent emotions to creative energy, and become a source of tranquillity and comfort to people. [3/134]
48. Call people to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful exhortation. Reason with them most decently. [16/125]
49. Leave to themselves those who do not give any importance to the Divine code and have adopted and consider it as mere play and amusement [6/70]
50. Sit not in the company of those who ridicule Divine Law unless they engage in some other conversation. [4/140]
51. Do not be jealous of those who are blessed. [4/54]
52. In your collective life, make room for others. [58/11]
53. When invited to dine, go at the appointed time. Do not arrive too early to wait for the preparation of meal or linger after eating to engage in bootless babble. Such things may cause inconvenience to the host. [33/53]
54. Eat and drink [what is lawful] in moderation. [7/31].
55. Do not squander your wealth senselessly. [17/26]
56. Fulfill your promises and commitments. [17/34]
57. Keep yourself clean. [9/108, 4/43, 5/6].
58. Dress in agreeable attire and adorn yourself with exquisite character from inside out. [7/26]
59. Seek your provision only by fair endeavor. [29/17, 2/188]
60. Do not devour the wealth and property of others unjustly, nor bribe the officials or the judges to deprive others of their possessions. [2/188]
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.
Follow Imam Khalid Latif on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KLatif