Fr TAYYIB Audiobook, forward by Mufti Menk
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Chapter nine, understanding why we fast in Islam.
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If you ask the Muslim in the street, why we fast, the most common reasons they give are that it helps us to remember our blessings, and to sympathize with people who do not have food to eat. Oh, and because the Prophet peace be upon him used to do it, and it is one of the pillars of Islam.
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Beyond that, knowledge gets a bit sketchy.
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So what is the Islamic idea of fasting, actually about?
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fasting helps us to sympathize with the poor? Sure, that's one of the reasons but not through suffering as such. And neither is it the main reason, and this is a common mistake which needs addressing right away.
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Empathy is feeling like others do. And sympathy is understanding their situation and having compassion for it.
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Both empathy and sympathy are gained by reflecting more deeply on the plight of the person you're thinking about. And by reckoning with what they have, compared to what we have.
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In other words, fasting is a consideration of our gratitude to Allah.
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Do we realize that Allah has provisions are merely lent to us. And part of our test on Earth, is to see if we actually think about those who has not given the same provision.
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Do we hold what we have, will see the greater wisdom in passing it on to others.
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So we gain empathy and insight by focusing on the true connectedness of all fortunate and unfortunate people, enhancing our gratitude for our last provision, and then deciding to pass on such provision, because it was never ours in the first place.
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These things require thought and reflection on our part, but not suffering as such.
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This method stays with us.
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The memories become written on our hearts.
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It's a calm and reflective way of understanding.
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If on the other hand, we were to only sympathize with the poor through suffering ourselves. Suffering is a mere temporary emotion.
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Again, coming mostly from the nuts. Suffering has some benefit in the short term. But emotions are quickly forgotten after they're relieved. Besides which, suffering is not guaranteed to grow empathy at all.
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It could equally breed resentment and greed on our part, making us all the more anxious to hoard food and treasure it for ourselves.
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So fasting is not about suffering and resenting a lack of food.
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If it is approached properly,
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hunger is really not an issue at all. In fact, people who fast the right way actually feel less hungry, the longer they do it Alhamdulillah. Later, we learn exactly why this happens, and how to make it happen.
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And fasting certainly isn't about putting your health at risk, while going about your day, by becoming dehydrated or losing your mental sharpness. Again, if it's done correctly, there are 1000 very real benefits to fasting that go far beyond the apparent calorie control. And there are additional benefits on mental functioning on emotional stability, and resistance to disease. Again, borne out by very clear scientific data.
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What we eat and how we eat, sits on top of another layer of guidance on how to conduct ourselves during fasting and in life in general. So that Islamic approach is in place all the time. Well before and after I'm done, and fasting outside run down to
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number one is actually a time when we concentrate on the fasting as a means to gaining closeness to Allah.
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It is a period of spiritual stocktaking. It's not so much a boot camper, as we have come to treat it, but it's a yearly sanctuary for the mind and body.
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In another on, we're told to make specific time to focus on several things to reflect more deeply on our spiritual life. Trying to get deeper into connecting with Allah and spending more time in gratitude and service to our spiritual path
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to regain the quieter, more gentle strengths which get drowned out by
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The noise of everyday living
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to refrain from any behavior which is excessive or intense to learn moderation, Grace and modesty,
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to re examine our behavior, refraining from excess, and from habits which creep up on us, cutting those out
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to relearn patience by delaying gratification, putting off the pleasures of food and sex and other immediate highs
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to spend greater time reflecting on the provisions of Allah, giving thanks and asking for forgiveness.
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And to reset our direction and refresh our sense of purpose.
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We are told to take them down as a gift of cleansing the soul and the body.
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When you think about the mental benefits of fasting, losing excess weight seems like a worthy but distant second compared to this.
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But what about the times outside Ramadan? Well, the point of all these exercises in Ramadan is so that we can find them easier to do outside of them.
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Learn moderation, learn good conduct.
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Islam advocates for fasting twice a week, ideally of Mondays and Thursdays following the prophets advice. During those times we should also reflect on our conduct and behavior as we do in Ramadan. Could it be that applying the full rules of fasting twice a week? observing the guidance on moderation, reflection so on will improve our sense of fulfillment and well being?
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Well, the answer is obvious. Of course it will.
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So this two days per week pattern happens to coincide with the most popular of the secular fasting methods. They call it the five two diet, meaning eating normally for five days and fasting for two days of the week. medical literature confirms this is the most suitable for a longer term approach to health, which is neither too difficult nor too dramatic.
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But does the weight come off and stay off? Could it be that this is actually going to keep us healthy.
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Until recently we didn't quite know or pay attention medically. Now we find out that it does stay off. And it continues to improve health risks. Over and above those of reducing weight.
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There are yet more benefits, which happened in the world around us as a result of the choices we make on matters of health and food. Islam considers the whole system. We start by asking, Where did the food come from? Was the earth harmed in making it? Is the process wasteful? How about the livestock? How have they been managed? It is just as forbidden to eat stolen meat as it is to be willfully cruel to animals, whether livestock or any creature. There's a huge body of work in Islam, which looks at how we should consider the earth and all the things within it as part of our greater loan from Allah. After all, the Earth is the origin of our food. How should we source our food? How
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should we take care of the lands and the seas and the livestock it goes far deeper than Hello O'Hara. Our decisions slowly will move to a better place when we consider them in the light of fasting. And what it asks us to do. We consider everything from what we have on our shopping list to how we share things with others, or how we care for the environment. Interestingly, it turns out that the food raised in the multi way actually contains ingredients more conducive to our good health. Animals literally have better quality, meat and fat, and the plants are more robust and free from micro toxins and deficiencies from artificial over farming.
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And as we learn the fasting process directly combats our risk of cancer by initiating a series of processes, which the body uses to scavenge extra chemicals and extra waste substances.
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Cleaning the body up in effect
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we'll look at this later.
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End of Chapter
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About Tarek Kareem Harris
Tarek Kareem Harris, better known as Dr. TK Harris – MD DpOL (Oxon). Dr Harris is medical doctor who specialises in everyday mental health and wellbeing in Islam. He is ever thankful of his friend Mufti Menk, who introduced his work to the public.
He trained medically in Edinburgh and Oxford some 25 years ago and first worked as a heart surgeon, where he became fascinated as to how stress and bad news caused problems like heart attacks. He found his true calling in examining how the mind and body affect each other, and turned to neuroscience. He has been a neurospsychiatrist since then, helping thousands of people regain their mental health without financial cost to them.
Tarek Kareem Harris, later returned to Oxford to do study advanced organisational leadership, and began helping high-functioning people to thrive in their chosen fields using performance coaching methods. He studied the connections between the sciences of happiness, mental wellbeing and mental illness, and how they connect to Islam in everyday life.