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Since it’s Ramadan, I thought I’d share some notes relating to the benefits of fasting, eating less etc, from “Breaking the Two Desires” class we had with Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad on the Rihla this year.
- The way of the fitra is to keep things in balance.
- The 2 main desires are: gluttony (obsession with food) and lust (sexual desires)
- The dangerous of sins is gluttony, for by means of this desire, Allah expelled Adam and Hawa from the abode of permanence to the abode of humiliation and neediness. In so far they had been forbidden the tree, but their desires overcame them and they ate from the tree. Desire for food is the primal desire which kick starts the whole process of what expelled Adam out of al-Jaanah in the first place.
- The belly is the fountainhead of desire and the seabed of sickness and defect. It is followed by the desire by sexual relations. The desire for food and physical relations is followed by strong desire for status and wealth, as these provide more opportunities for sexual enjoyment and gluttony. Once we have stuffed ourselves with food, we fill ourselves with other desires. By acquiring wealth and prestige, the vice of ostentation, boasting, pride and arrogance then follows. This then leads to hatred, rancor, envy and other things; which then leads the person who has these vices into oppression and other ugly acts. All of this comes from not paying attention to the stomach and what goes in it.
- The halal we eat, the adab and attitude towards food is very important. We need to get our attitude right towards food and then the other things will all fall into place.
- Get two things right:
1. Eat what is in front of you and be less fussy
2. Don’t be obsessed by food and desire less
If you get these two things right, you will find the rest of the deen will become a lot easier.
- Imam al-Ghazali talks about the sunnah of food and eating in the Ihya, but its something which we do not want to think about.
- We are not designed biologically to eat in a 5 star hotel! We are designed to eat less…
- The holy Prophet salla’Allahu ‘alayhi wasalam shows us the alternative. His way is a way of zuhd, and not being very interested in a whole lot of food.
- Fasting helps, eating not too much helps, and not being inwardly attached to food helps overcome the beast within us.
- We need to be less interested in what is provided, and more grateful for what Allah ahs provided us, i.e being in that maqam of shukr.
- Allah created our bodies in balance, but we have eating disorders and dieting disorders. People over-eat for many reasons, such as anxiety, fear. The disorder in this world is to do with gluttony.
- Allah created enough for us to eat but due to greed, we are destroying the planet by eating too much!
- The holy Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wasalams’ hunger was so great that he would tie stones to his belly. The sacrifices he made when he could have been the lord of the Queresh are unimaginable, and he only made those sacrifices for us. Where as we can be in this hotel and all we do is complain about the buffet!
- The lives of the awliya have always been focused on the principle of eating less. It’s the quality of the awliya.
- Through fasting, we are constantly knocking on the door of paradise.
Imam al-Ghazali talks about the benefits of fasting/eating less and making the stomach hurt (Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad went through these benefits in detail but I have summarised only a few below)
1. Purification of the heart and helping one’s perception to be more penetrating. If you don’t eat so much, you will be more perceptive; your basira (insight) will go much further. Ramadan is hard work, but towards the end of it, we do feel that things in deen are coming to us with more ease. We can feel we are detached from duniya and the hunger you feel, you get used to it so you don’t even notice it much or think about it. You are no longer distracted by hunger, and are in a state of greater purity.
2. Brokenness, humbleness and ending of pride and exuberance. The pride we get into after eating good food, if we are hungry our pride is broken. We experience this in Ramadan. In Ramadan if you have been fasting for 10-12 hours, it is harder to be proud, we are broken a little bit. Pride is deadly of the deadly sins and hunger helps suppress that.
3. Through hunger we do not forget Allah’s trials and tribulations. The one who is always full ignores the one who is hungry and ignores the reality of hunger. However, when we fast, we empathise with those who are hungry.
4. Breaks everyone of the desire for sins, and helps control the nafs- the beast that is within us.
5. Helps us worship more.
6. No need to earn so much if we eat less. If you eat less, you can spend less, and that extra money you are saving can go towards sadaqa.
- Imam al-Ghazali talks about rejecting the imbalance, he doesn’t say abandon food completely but instead watch what we eat.
- Ramadan is all about sabr- patience.
- To be in a maqam of aboodiya (servanthood) shows us that we are always in need of Allah.
- Allah is active in every moment. He is constantly creating and re-creating. Everything is the unique consequence of Him.
- Allah didn’t just wind the clock at the beginning of the time and sat back to see everything unwind; our needs which we are not even aware of, He fulfills them.
- The benefits of physical discomfort like eating less is that we are in a constant state of absolute need, absolute dependence on Allah. He doesn’t need us, but we need Him for everything!
- When we start to recognise everything is from Allah and He is al-Wakil, we will find tranquillity. People who have always been in hardship will always be in a state of calmness and ease, then those who always have things their way.
- Sometimes to be woken up, we need to be slapped!
~ Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad, ‘Breaking the Two Desires’ class, Rihla 2011, Bursa, Turkey (Paraphrased)
More gems to follow inshaAllah ta’Ala……
(Photos courtesy- Ibrahim Varachia. Please keep him in your prayers. Please do not re-use or save the photo without permission. )