The Life of Deen or Way of Righteousness is sincere advices from the spiritual elders and from those who have sound knowledge and who are gnostics of God (aref'billah). There is a saying of the Messenger of God, salutation of peace and divine blessings upon him, where he said, "The Deen is Naseehah."
When he was asked 'towards whom?' the blessed Messenger said, "To Allah, His Book, His Messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and the general people."
The Arabic word Naseehah is advice, spiritual counselling, sincere recommendations. Another shade of meaning of Naseehah is purification. In the resourceful Yahoo Group called The Sufi Notes, it's moderator Dara Shayda has posted few very useful resources and advice towards the preparation of Ramadan. May they be beneficial for us all and help purify our intention, state and practice during this Ramadan.
As the blessed month of Ramadan is approaching, which is the month of refreshing our spiritual aspiration, provide much needed nourishment to the soul and prepare ourselves to the sure journey back to the Creator, it is a time to contemplate over our shortcoming, reform ourselves and to concentrate ourselves to be worthy to be in the Presence of the Lord, the Beloved, the Real.
Sidi Dara Shayda wrote the following (compiled from the thread on Preparation for Ramadan 2012):
Fasting is a STATE of human spirituality, it is not merely abstaining from food and water.
A reader wrote to me, this person is a heavy smoker and fasting is almost impossible. Suggestion to the person was to reduce unnecessary speech and avoid anguish and hurtful thoughts.
Next thing I know this person took a break from Internet.
This is correct fasting, though the person is eating and drinking, he or she place their mentality in the state of fasting.
This person is cultivating their heart so the actual physical fasting becomes simply ornamental to beautify the individual's trek on the Path.
Ramadan requires preparation, I cannot just fast, as the Prophet peace be upon him practised the faster needs preparation and training.
These are good recommendations preparing for Ramadan:
1. Speaking when spoken to, reducing phone conversations, text messaging, online wasting of time ...
2. Eating simpler foods, specially for those who are getting older, our bodies do not need much eating, slices of bread with cup of tea can energize a large man work well for quite a few hours. Pleasure eating is the root of much evil in North America.
3. Avoiding harsh thoughts and angry speech
4. Avoiding unnecessary shopping, browsing product catalogues and so on
5. Politeness and gestures of friendship with neighbours
Today passed by a cemetery. Asked myself: Other than physiological and mechanical aspects of my form, what is the difference between me alive and these servants under the ground?
Answer came, two differences:
1. I can undo my foul deeds, at least I have a chance with good intention to undo what evil my hands crafted. But they are cut-off from this life. What they did, tyrannically, shall be unchanged! No probability of any undoing.
But for me there are much worse than these foul deeds:
2. The words I uttered to listeners, with much much more effort than #1, I might be able to change and re-say or apologize for. But the dead are incapable of changing a single word they said when alive.
In our religion of Islam, intoxication and lewd sexual behaviours are sadly the focus of all what we hear from our scholars, in comparison to the harm of our words the evils of these actions are minuscule.
Say I got drunk last night and did what an honourable man should not do, what shame!
But infinitely more shame if I said words that broke someone's heart, specially a loved one. No comparison. Worst shame!
Abstaining from food and water in Ramadan delivers a message to our Nafs (Self): You are designed by Allah for other functions as well, can you see your Self busied with other than daily consumptions and struggle to accumulate?
For example, if you do not find your Nafs (Self) capable of calling your loved ones, your children, your friends or colleagues and mend words and re-start with a clean slate, then all is lost for Ramadan. It is more spiritual for you to spend the time in a SPA eating and drinking and enjoying life, than the throes of useless ineffective fasting.
An American woman in her 70s, just moved back to Canada, wrote to me and gave me some Naseeha as following:
She lived in USA with her wealthy husband and in a large house and so on. Until he became ill of old age and before he passed on he asked her a question:
Can you take any of our money or houses or jewels with you to the grave? I cannot.
She told me those words struck a chord with her. He passed on, may Allah ease his journey, and she is now living in Canada in a small room by herself with a dog.
Naseeha for Dara this Ramadan, for him to see the light:
Sit back and look at all things around, and all the people around, can you take anything into the grave? can you take any companion into your grave Dara?
Answer is no, nothing, except blossoms of Jasmine.
Citing the news published by theStar.com, titled, "A veterinary emergency raises the question: What is my dog’s life worth?" Sidi Dara writes:
"No one shed one tear for the 100,000 libyan casualties of Nato war, and Canada is tilting towards the suicide machines and right to choose the moment of death, while the pet's are not allowed to die of natural causes.
People around me sob for their pets, spend fortunes on their medical bills, while their sons and daughters are in need and while local orphanages bloating with unwanted children.
Perhaps this Ramadan it is a good time to sit down quietly and wait for Allah to show the way to live like a human being, eat like one, spend like one, love like one and finally die like one."
The loss of the child is unbearable, but I understood form the mother that the loss was doubly harder sine the last thoughts and words with her daughter were not peaceful.
Ramadan is a good time to weed these defects of our Nafs (Self) and cleanse our mind and our tongue INSHALLAH. To go hungry and thirsty is easy, to keep the words soft and thoughts beautiful very hard, almost impossible for most of us."
Specialized Fasting of the Muqinin ( The People of Certainty- those with no doubt)
Muqin is a person who has reached the high rank of doubtlessness with regards to the Divine Beingness. This person is above and beyond the confinements of human logic and reasoning that allow for doubting and probabilities.
May Allah The Sublime grant you success - Know that regular fasting amongst the fasters is that of their corporeal form (i.e. abstaining from eating and drinking) while the specialized fasting of the Muqinin (The People of Certainty) is the fasting of:
1. The Qalb (Heart) in abstaining from the preoccupations & musings of the world
2. The ears, the eyes and the tongue in abstaining from transgression of the Hadd (Divine Limits)
3. The hands and feet in abstaining from exerting force upon, and striving towards the causes and instruments of the Nahy (Divine Prohibitions)
He who fasts in such a manner has fully grasped and comprehended the passage of his time each day and the occurrence of each hour - living his entire day in full Dhikr (Remembering the Divine). It is of such that it has been said: "The sleep of the faster is Ibādah (Serfdom & Worship) and his breath is Tasbih (Praise & Adoration)". (This specialized form of fasting in which the heart empowers the Murid (Seeker) to savour each moment of his life regardless of the external conditions. Today we hear millions saying: “Life is passing me by” or “The week just went by so fast” or “My life is all wasted”. This peculiar form of fasting is the definite cure for the wasting away of human life. It can be practiced by anyone anywhere anytime and at any age!)
The Exalted, the Mighty - Allah, has coupled the notion of hearing Bātil (Falsehood, Vanity) or speaking offensively with that of eating Harām (Unlawful Provision)! Were it not for the Harām (Unlawful) within what is heard and spoken for the listener as well as for the speaker, Allah would not have conjoined them with the notion of eating Harām (Unlawful), which is one of the Great Sins.
Allah The Sublime has said: “(They are fond of) listening to falsehood, of devouring anything forbidden” (Qur'an [5:42]) and again: “Why do not the rabbis and the religious learned men forbid them from their (habit of) uttering sinful words and eating things forbidden?” (Qur'an [5:63]).
Indeed a slave preserving & observing the Hadd (Divine Limits) set by Allah remains as though fasting in presence of Allah even after he breaks the fast, by eating or by sexual intercourse, due to the virtue of continuous compliance (with the limits). Whoever fasts by abstaining from food and sex but continually transgresses the Hadd (Divine Limits) is not considered a faster in presence of Allah - for his Nafs (Psyche, Self) is not fasting, for what he has missed of the fast is dearer to Allah than what he has complied with. (There is nothing dearer to Allah than preserving & observing the Hadd (Divine Limits). (Hadd is a limit set for human behavior e.g. do not steal. In Islamic tradition fasting requires the faster to abstain from both food & sex during the fasting hours of the sunrise to sunset.)
The example of someone who fasts by merely abstaining from food yet leaves the rest of his limbs ungoverned is the example of a person making ablution by merely ‘wiping’ over the limbs ‘thrice’ then praying, his prayer is void because all he succeeded in doing was to maintain the number (three) of wipes while he abandoned the obligation of ‘washing’—Failure of functionality. The example of someone who breaks the fast by eating but remains fasting with his limbs by preventing the Nahy (Divine Preventions) is the example of a person making ablution by washing his limbs only twice, abandoning the number of rinses, so he has perfectly performed his prayers by acting upon the knowledge (of how to perform ablution and prayer). The example of someone who fasted by abstaining from food and sex and preserved his limbs from all sins is the example of a person making ablution by washing his limbs thrice meeting the necessary requirements thus performing the prayers in the most perfect status as stated by Allah: "Fulfillment of the best for him who does good"( Qur'an [6:154]). And as was said by the Prophet—peace be upon him—"This is my ablution and that of the prophets before me, the ablution of my forefather Abraham and indeed Allah said: “The nation of your father Abraham” (Qur'an [22:78]), in other words it is upon you to fulfill and follow him (Abraham). (In Islamic tradition the worshiper makes ablution prior to prayers by rinsing the limbs thrice each. Makki is setting an example of an invalid behavior as opposed to the perfection of an action or a ritual.)
“The grateful person eating has the same status as a patient faster” Narrated by the Prophet peace be upon him.
During the time of the Prophet, two women fasted struggling with thirst and hunger till they were at the point of death at the end of the day. They sent a dispatch to the Prophet seeking permission to break their fast. In response the Prophet sent them back a bowl saying:" Tell the women to vomit what they have eaten into this bowl". One of them vomited blood and much meat and the other woman did the same, until the bowl was filled up. This bewildered the people (since the stomachs of the women were supposed to be empty), the Prophet then explained: "These two women were fasting in abstaining from what is allowed by Allah for them (food & drink) while they broke their fast by not abstaining from what was forbidden by Allah for them: They sat one next to one another backbiting people and this (the content of the bowl) is the meat of the people (they were backbiting). (In Qur'an backbiting is equaled to the eating of the flesh of the people: “O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?” (Qur'an [49:12]))
Abu Dardā’ said: "How wonderful! The sleep and the breaking of the fast of the clever people dishonors the moron’s fasting and a single particle endowed with Yaqin (Divine Certainty) and righteousness is preferred over the mountains of worship performed by the ignorant who is deceived by this evanescing world". (Clever people are those worshipers who understand the spiritual meaning beyond the physical actions and the ignorant worshiper is lost within the surface-manifest of the physical actions, even though his actions (worships) are numerous.)
All that is forbidden for you to utter is forbidden for you to listen to, and all that is forbidden for you to do is forbidden for you to look at or think about : “you would be like them” (Qur'an [4:140],( this verse is about blasphemy, ‘them’ refers to those who ridicule the Divine Words, the one who listens to "them" speaking is equal to them).
Fasting is similar to repenting since both require patience. Repentance covers up the loathsome actions committed in the past; it requires patience for that which has passed of foul habits and the parting with bad habits requires safeguarding the limbs that were the conduits for loathsome deeds. In the same way, fasting is protection against the fire (of Hell) and a virtue of those who rank amongst the righteous! When the faster applies patience, he safeguards his limbs against the sins, but when he commands his limbs towards sinful actions his situation is similar to a repenter who is on the verge of breaking his promise (not to do the sinful actions); his repentance is insincere and his fast less than virtuous as you can see in the words of the Prophet peace be upon him: “Fasting is the protection against the Fire (of Hell) do not impair it (the protection) with lying or backbiting”. And again in his words: “During the day when one of you is fasting do not be obscene or foolish, and if it (devil, Nafs (Psyche)) abuses him (by commanding him to evil), the faster should say, “I am fasting””. In other words, the day of fast and the day of non-fasting should not be the same i.e. preserve the sanctuary of the fast.
And in other Prophetic words: “Fasting is a ‘trust’ so each one of you must preserve what is entrusted upon him”, the preserving of this trust is that of safeguarding the limbs (against committing evil).
Similarly, as the Prophet was teaching the verse: “Allah doth command you to render back your Trusts to those to whom they are due” (Qur'an [4:58]): he placed his hands over his ear and over his eye and said: “The ear is a trust and the eye is a trust” and this is the figure of speech when the faster says: “I am fasting”. Namely he (the faster) remembers the trust that is being carried and the fact that he is to return it to its rightful owners. He who preserves a trust hides it (e.g. covering the eyes not to see evil); if he shows it, in the absence of a valid reason, he indeed has betrayed the trust since the consignor did not allow for it to be revealed. The reality of preserving a secret is forgetting all about it; for a secret to be lost, its vault should be fortified. Therefore the reality of fasting is to forget all about the fast itself and not to wait for the time to break the fast i.e. busying the fasting with transience (Feel the fasting to be a continuum of staying away from evil, thus forget about the very act of fasting and completely ignore the transition of breaking the fast).
End. (Credit with original text in Arabic via Untired with Loving)
Sheikh Abdul-Rahman Sullami's 'Defects of Nafs' is the best place for the Murids to self-evalute and self-therapy to find one's own defects for the coming month of Ramadan:
Defect: Busied adorning the appearances and show humility and false-fear of Allah due to the presence of people and yet in the heart there is no fear of Allah, and showing servitude for Allah and yet not feeling Allah's Presence.
TAKING PHOTOS OF YOUR NAFS DURING THE DHIKR OR PRAYERS AND POSTING IT ON THE FACEBOOK CALLING IT DA'WAH, PLACING VIDEOS OF YOUR NAFS ON YOUTUBE TALKING NON-SENSE ABOUT RELIGION OF ALLAH CALLING IT PROPAGATION OF KNOWLEDGE, PLACING THE IMAGES OF YOUR CHILDREN AND HOUSEHOLD TO ADVERTISE YOUR PROSPERITY... MA'AZ-A ALLAHI
Defect: Excessive talking is born from two things: If the person wishes leadership and for that reason wishes people to see him and hear his eloquent speech, or scantiness of knowledge so by talking people are attracted to him.
SPECIALLY FOR THE MURIDS WHO CONTINUALLY 'CUT & PASTE' OTHER PEOPLE"S WORDS AND PRESENT AS THEIRS.
Defect: If the Nafs (Self) is pleased and satisfied it goes overboard in praising the one who satisfied her, and if she is angered and then she blames to the point of trespassing the limits.
IN PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS NOT BEING SO FORGIVING TO THE POINT OF MISGUIDANCE AND ON THE FLIP SIDE AVOIDING CHRONIC ANGER
Defect: Excess of Tamanni and this word means objecting to what Allah has ordained for fate and decree, and longing for some other outcome.
THE PROPHET WAS ORDERED ONLY ONE TIME TO ASK FOR INCREASE OF SOME PROVISION: AND SAY MY LORD INCREASE ME IN KNOWLEDGE.
LONG FOR CLEANLINESS OF HEART AND TONGUE, LONG FOR HALAL PROVISION SINCE THESE DAYS WE ARE ALL EATING HARAM RIGHT AND LEFT WITHOUT EXCEPTION, LONG FOR FEELING THE PRESENCE OF ALLAH SINCE WE DESIRE THE PRESENCE OF OTHERS ABOVE ALLAH'S.
DO NOT LONG FOR AUDIENCE TO LISTEN TO YOU, PUBLISHERS TO PUBLISH YOUR WORDS, TEACHING POSITIONS TO INFLUENCE MINDS... LONG FOR ALLAH TEACHING YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES AND CLEANSE THEM AND GUIDE THEM AND PROVIDE FOR THEM
Defect: Excessive coveting for this world. (Covet for or be after)
Therapy: To know that this world is not a stable place for staying, and indeed the Hereafter is the everlasting world, and the intelligent man works for his final destination not for the journey's rest-places, and the rest-places ends as soon as he commences travel, hence work for the final destination: Know you (all), that the life of this world is but play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting and multiplying, (in rivalry) among yourselves, riches and children [Hadid:20]
Defect: Ambition and anxiety over livelihood/provisions. The Nafs (Self) is anxious and ambitious for acquisition of the provision and yet her provision is but guaranteed by Allah, and scantiness of her anxiety and ambitions for deeds that are made mandatory by Allah. (Deeds that can only be done by the person and no one else can do it on his behalf e.g. another person can perform Hajj on your behalf but you have to pray by yourself.)
Therapy: To know that Allah has guaranteed the sufficiency of his provision, as said by Allah: Allah is, That Which, created for then provided you with provisions [The Rome:40], and as Allah has no partners in creation, Allah has no partners in providing the provisions.
Hatam Al-'Asam said: No one arises at dawn and except the Satan quizzes him: What are you going to eat? What are you going to wear? Where are you going to reside? And I say to him defiantly: I shall eat the death, and wear the cerecloth (cloth the Muslims wrap the dead with) and shall reside in the grave.
- Notes by Dara Shayda, Allah bless him for his tireless service
(+) Read Defects of the Nafs (ego-self) by Sheikh Abdur-Rahman Sullami
Past Years Posts on Ramadan Preparation
(+) Ramadan Inspirations
(+) Ramadan Preparations and Inspirations
(+) Preparation for Ramadan | the quintessential month of fasting