Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan, 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 e-mail alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
This morning started in somewhat of a daze. Last night, our Islamic Center at NYU hosted a special all-night service for the 27th night of the month of Ramadan. By the time everyone left and I had cleaned up and gotten to bed, it was around 6 a.m. A few hours later I woke up suddenly, realizing I had not written this article yet, that I probably would be late for every meeting of the day, and the anxiety started to deepen when I reached out to my nightstand to grab my cell phone and it wasn't there. I rolled out of bed and started to think of where it could be. I checked the pockets of my jeans, threw everything off of my bed, under my bathroom sink and in the tub, but couldn't find it.
My sister, Aliya, had stayed over last night, so I asked her and my wife, Priya, if they could help me find it and they asked if I had looked in the clothes I wore the night before and started to look around with me. I then put on my shoes and went to the space where we had our service the night before to see if it was there. I came back to my apartment and started to flip over the sofa cushions, look in the kitchen cabinets, and in a lot of different places. I could sense anxiety creeping its way in and I couldn't understand why Aliya and Priya had stopped looking. I went back into my bedroom and picked up the jeans I had worn the night before and put my hands again in the pockets, but this time more deeply. And I found my phone.
What is it that kept me from reaching into my pocket fully the first time? I had full ability to do so, it would definitely have saved me a lot of wasted time, and the anxiety and stress from not knowing where my phone was wouldn't have come to be. But I didn't do that and then ended up running around foolishly for half an hour.
A lot of times we end up causing detriment to ourselves because we don't take the time to do things as best as we can. Sometimes our emotions get in the way. At other times, our focus is on getting things done, as opposed to doing things well. We get content with doing very little and our "trying" isn't actually trying at all, it's just scratching the surface of our potential. We also can really easily get away with it because the expectation isn't there that we would do more or try harder.
In Islam we have a value that is called ihsan, which is derived from a root that denotes beauty, and can be translated with that understanding in a lot of different ways. Its definition is given to us by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, when he says "(Ihsan) is to worship God as if you can see Him. Because you understand although you cannot see Him, that He can see you." This is to motivate us to strive to do our best no matter what the situation is and not be lax in doing so. To honor the rights that the rest of creation has over us by reminding us that even if no other eyes are on us, the eyes of the Divine are always there. To beautify and perfect our actions and decisions, from the inward and outward, and perform each to the best of our ability. Islam does not teach us to take a quantified approach to our faith, rather it teaches us to take a qualified approach. It's not about how much you do, but how you do what you do. I would argue its also about doing things that you know you can do.
As we are in these last days of Ramadan, many of us who have been observing the month have probably learned things about ourselves and what we are capable of doing that we may not have known before. A few of us also would have known these things, but for whatever reason would decide not to carry on with them.
If this Ramadan you learned you can live without an addiction or substance, don't go back to it. If you found yourself volunteering or doing service work, keep doing it. If you got accustomed to giving in charity, keep giving it. If you invited people to your homes, keep bringing people together. If you frequented the mosque, keep going. If you took the time to sit and reflect, to tend to your needs and take care of your heart, to reconcile the past so that your future would be brighter, then keep it up. Ramadan is a special time, but there are ways to carry it with you. You will be the one that decides if it gets left behind.
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