Tom Facchine – Why Muslims Fast-Mohawk Valley Community College

Tom Facchine
AI: Summary © The speakers discuss the importance of fasting during the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for a long term need for children to have children and communicate with other species. They emphasize the need for food and water, as well as fulfilling three levels of human satisfaction: gratitude, clarity, and attraction. The importance of healthy eating and attraction to build friendships and connections is emphasized, as it is a part of Islam culture. The segment also touches on the importance of fasting and experiencing reality to build empathy towards others, as it can lead to group dynamics and friendships.
AI: Transcript ©
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First things first, somebody here

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is coming in. Okay, first of all, thank you very much for having me, I always enjoy coming out to the colleges and things COVID I have not been to PCC as much as I would have liked. But we're here, we're allowed to be here without masks, and so very, very happy. I'm looking forward to playing a bigger role in sha Allah, this event and further events to come.

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Without further ado, this talk is mostly geared towards people who aren't Muslims, because people who are Muslims, okay, we know why we fast, generally speaking, but it can be hard to explain it to somebody who's not a part of the faith. And actually, I think that even the Muslims in the room, I think you might learn something about fasting or you might kind of look at fasting through a different sort of perspective after this talk, hopefully. So I'll begin with the name of a lot of this for now I've handed it over. So that's Thomasville Illa, beginning with the name of Allah, and most merciful, and all praise is due to Him.

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Fasting Ramadan, is one of the main pillars of the Muslim faith. Okay, it's 30 days long, from the crack of dawn to sundown, we go without food, without water. And without, we have some young years here, so I'm gonna say * for 30 days. Okay. Now the first reaction that you always get, when you explain this to somebody is what?

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Not even, not even water, right to the point where now we have t shirts that we print out, you've seen it right? Not even water, or sometimes exclamation point, not even water. Right? So this seems very strange to somebody who's not kind of familiar with the Islamic faith. And it can be kind of like, okay, why are these people torturing themselves? 1.7 billion people on the face of the earth, a large amount of them are doing this every single year. For the majority of their lives. It seems hard to believe it seems inscrutable, it seems like it might be just subjecting ourselves to torture. And the reason why I oppose to talk from this angle is because you can't understand why we

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do this, unless you take a step into our whole entire worldview. Right? Because fasting isn't just about not doing this or not doing that. It's about an entire worldview and entire belief system that makes this something that is not just a thing that we do, or that we feel like we have to do, but something that we actually look forward to doing, and something that we miss every single year when it's gone. And if you ever participate with with fasting, or if you are around Muslims fasting, they'll always say as soon as Ramadan is over, it's like, Man, I miss Ramadan. Right? We can't understand this until we get into the worldview a little bit, and it all starts and pardon me for

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taking it way back. But it all starts with our beliefs about Allah. Allah is the name for God, and the Islamic faith, just simply the name for God. We believe it's the God of Abraham, the God of Moses, the god of Jesus, the god of job, all your normal, Old Testament prophets. That's our God too. But we call him something different. We call him Allah, we believe that's his name.

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What do we believe about Allah, we might believe things about a law that are slightly different from what some other people believe. We believe that Allah is completely perfect in every way, that he is self sufficient. He's eternal. He's omniscient, He's omnipotent. And he's completely unique and singular. There's a very, very short chapter of the Koran that every single Muslim knows by heart, that he may have Shame on him once he Bismillah him off, man, it Wafi boohoo Allahu Ahad, Allah who saw mad let me only the 1am you gonna do Allah may, Allah who for one I had.

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This whole chapter is about Allah. That's it. Just a couple of lines. It says that what say that Allah is singular, one, unique.

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Allahu Sama, Allah is the one that everyone else depends on and he doesn't depend on anybody else that may lead. He does not give birth, he doesn't have offspring. Well, um, you will lead and nor was he birth or nor did he have a beginning, what I'm equal level for what I had, and there's nothing like him.

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So this is our understanding. And there's a lot of overlap with other understandings of who God is. But there's also some points of departure.

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And the biggest point of departure is when we talk about the details of what it means to be self sufficient. Okay, we believe that self sufficient means that God is not

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only eternal no beginning no end, but also that he is free from any sort of need whatsoever, which is why if you're looking to put your finger on the biggest difference between Islam and say Christianity, we would probably say its incarnation, categorically as Muslims, we reject the possibility of incarnation. Why? Because to us to have to incarnate yourself would indicate a need. And we believe that Allah is completely free from me. If Allah wants to achieve something in his creation, he is able to do it without having to be incarnated, God trying to proselytize, but I'm trying to help you understand. This is our belief, and this is where we're coming from.

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Why is it significant to fasting, okay, let's go into who we believe people are, you and me, we are the exact opposite of everything we just said about Allah.

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So people, if Allah is eternal, Allah has no beginning Allah has no and guess what you and me are here for such a short, a pathetically short amount of time. It doesn't matter if you live to your 60, you live to your ad live to your 100.

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In the grand scheme of things, it's an extremely, extremely short amount of time, and we're constantly moving towards that. And every single day that passes is another day off of your life. It says every single individual is a bundle of seconds, or has a number on them that they can't see. And every single second that ticks by with the clock, a part of your life just went to

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the fact that we that that's our existence. That's us, you are me, human beings. Here today gone tomorrow.

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It defines us in some really important and fundamental ways. It creates two necessities, we have two fundamental needs as human beings that come from this reality.

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One of them is a short term, individual need. And the second is a more long term collective need. The first, the short term, individual need is what you're all doing right now. food eating, right? We delay our own individual demise, every single time we fill up our plate. That's a fact. We are completely dependent upon food and water tried to go without it, you won't last long.

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But there's another need that we have the fact that we have an end the fact that we're going to die, and that is reproduction. We have to have kids as a species. If we don't have kids, we're not going to be around for long, you'll have a single generation of human beings. And then after that generation, guess what stories over mass extinction

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we delay our collective extinction as a species, by having spouses having children, the whole nine yards.

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These are the two fundamental human needs, bring it back to the need for food and the need for progeny, offspring, reproduction, whatever you want to call it.

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Each of these needs has a corresponding urge. That's right. Imagine if imagine if

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you never felt hungry.

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You would see people fallen over maybe even passing out maybe even dying, because they forgot to eat. Have you ever seen an individual like that? Have you ever come across somebody who just died because they forgot to eat? I've seen people shaking their heads. Yes. You've seen someone just forget to eat and die? No.

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They'll just not alone. This isn't your class. Right? Like, no, you have hunger you get hungry. Right? Yeah. So your hunger reminds you that you gotta eat? You can't just forget about it. Okay, that's what keeps you alive. The fact that you have that urge inside of you that hunger, like oh my god, like I have not eaten since then. And the morning what is that at 630 I haven't eaten dinner yet. I gotta go fill my plate. That urge is inside of you to ensure your survival.

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There's something in addition to the thing on the inside.

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That he's put it that we believe as Muslims, we believe these things are gifts given from the Creator. Okay, so you have the urge on the inside, but you also have incentives on the outside the food you're eating right now. Is it good or is it bad?

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It's good. You sure?

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Okay. She likes the food. Taj Mahal is fantastic. I love all this stuff was great. It is an external incentive. The fact that it's delicious. It pulls us to it. We want to go fill up our plates. I might have seconds I might have thirds. I'm like try the mango lassi. I might go for dessert. Because it's delicious. It didn't have to be delicious. Right? There couldn't you could think of a situation in which food exists and you can eat food and you can continue to survive but food might not taste like anything. It will be a cruel world. It will be a cruel reality but it's possible

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But that's not the way it happened. And we as Muslims believe that Allah didn't let it happen that way that he gave it to us as a gift, he gave us the urge inside to want to go eat. And he gave us the external incentive, the deliciousness, the flavors, the tastes, the textures, all the things that you love about food, so that you can go and enjoy yourself.

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Moving on to the other need, I'm going to try to keep it PG.

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It's enjoyable. Okay, fulfilling that urge the second need that human beings have to pair up and to reproduce to have offspring. Last time I checked, this is something that people enjoy. Am I right?

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Okay, I think I'm right. All right. Okay. It didn't have to be that way. It didn't have to be that way. The whole process could have been set up to work the way it works now. But maybe you never felt attraction to somebody else. Maybe you never felt motivated to go pair up and have a spouse. Maybe you never even enjoyed that. Right? It all could have been set up that way, but it's not. And as Muslims, we believe that that has purpose that Allah made the urge inside of us. And Allah put out the incentive on the outside to make it something that we would go and do. And more than that, since we're talking about reproduction, not just the feeling, but also the relationship isn't the

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relationship, one of the most beautiful things of life, to have a romantic relationship with somebody, somebody that you trust, somebody that you can confide in somebody that you can share this world with? Isn't that one of the most beautiful things in this life? Obviously, yes, it is. It didn't have to be that way. But it's it is that way.

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So we believe, as Muslims, and I'm getting too fast, we're almost there. That we have these two fundamental needs hunger and reproduction.

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Allah gave us these two fundamental urges, hunger and attraction. And he made it appealing.

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So that we would go out and satisfy these urges and continue to survive and continue to thrive.

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But because these things are enjoyable, or they're not food tastes good. It's a beautiful thing to have a spouse or to have a romantic relationship, they can be carried to excess.

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It's possible that they can be carried to access.

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When does it get carried over into access? We believe when you stop being grateful for it,

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because we believe that it is a gift. It didn't have to be this way. It was gifted to us, out of mercy, out of love, out of compassion. And so the duty upon us is to be grateful for it.

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What happens if we're not grateful for it, two things usually happen either we take too much, get a stomachache.

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You can't sleep tonight, you've had too much food, or we take it in the wrong way.

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You take it with greed. You've hurt yourself or you hurt other people

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in the way that you satisfy your needs and urges.

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And then when this happens when you stop being grateful when you take more than you need, and when you take it in a way that might hurt others, it can become an obsession.

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These two urges that we have.

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Hunger can become gluttony,

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attraction can become lust.

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So now that brings us to fast.

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We believe as Muslims that fasting is a moral technology of the self, body and soul. And that fasting directly targets these two principal urges that we have.

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It makes them discipline. It makes them focused, and it makes the fulfillment of those urges productive rather than destructive.

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Our physical body depends on survival by satisfying these urges. But we believe that in addition to that our spiritual self, our soul

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will survive depending on our ability to discipline them.

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Because in Islam, we have several purposes of life. What's the purpose of life, not just one.

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There are multiple purposes of life. What do you think is the purpose of life? Let's go back here. Why are we here? What's the purpose of life?

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who wants to throw anything out? Go give me any answers. Let's make it interactive. I know people

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very purposeful. Why are we here?

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Well, you can give me like a real lame answer if you want to be happy. Yeah.

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Make a little hoppy. Okay, yeah, that's that's for the good Sunday school students. Good job.

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What else?

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Okay, are you guys are talking to the Mac? Come on?

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Give me something like you know, come on I work with college.

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Yeah. achieve your goals. Okay, nice. Thank you. That's something else

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make a positive difference. Fantastic stuff on those four guys. You don't have to be afraid I'm not gonna call your mother's.

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No I could.

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Okay, so in Islam, we have different levels, okay. As to what our purposes in life base level level one the foundation is it has to do with livelihood. Okay, this is like, what you're doing your your goals, right? If it's career goals, your family goals, right? You want to get this degree, you want to get married, you want to have a house in the country, you want to do these sorts of things. You want to be happy. This is level one.

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Level two is being grateful for it. We call that worship. We think that worship is how you're grateful. And we don't people get it twisted. We don't worship because Allah needs us to worship Oh, no, no, no. We worship because we need to worship we have to stay grateful for what we're giving.

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And there's a third level beyond that.

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We could call it duty. We could call it custodianship. We could call it stewardship. Basically, this whole creation, we're in this responsibility you might have to your neighbor, to the kids to the community, how are you going to facilitate their livelihoods? How are you going to facilitate their gratitude?

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It's not just about you.

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And we believe as human beings and Islam that we have a unique gift to facilitate positive things for other people and other creatures.

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So these are the three levels we got livelihood, we've got gratitude, and we've got facilitation, custodianship, however you would like to define.

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Why did Allah give us these urges? What's the nature of these urges?

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Are they bad? Are they filthy? Are they dirty? Are they divine? Are they sacred?

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We believe in Islam, that they're needed,

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that they are the raw material that you've been given and gifted. In order to

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fulfill these three purposes of life. It's like seed money and you're the entrepreneur.

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You can take it and do what you want with it. You can stay at level one, if you want. Just put all of it into your livelihood, you can hit all three levels and be maxed out. You can waste it all away, that will answer the question as to was this thing good enough?

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We don't think on the one extreme that these things are bad or taboo.

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We don't think that wanting to have that attraction is a taboo, that attraction to another human being is a filthy thing or a shameful thing. No, not in its in and of itself. In fact, if you satisfy the urges that you've been given, in Islam, it can actually be an act of worship. The Prophet Muhammad himself said, peace and blessings be upon him. That * with your spouse is an act of charity. Charity, not in the sense that you have pity on them. But in the sense that it's a good deed.

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There's some other things that I think I'm going to skip over due to some of the members of the audience but you get the point.

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But on the other side, we can't say that these urges that we have are completely sacred and divine, and we can't ever question them or we can't ever rein them in.

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Because they're so enjoyable, that you can cross over into the point of stopping, ceasing to be grateful, taking too much

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for taking it away that harms you or other people. So we're going to look at now how fasting interacts with these two things. The two urges hunger and attraction.

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When we satisfy our hunger when is it good? What does it look like to satisfy our hunger in a beneficial way? In a grateful what? And what does it look like when we're satisfying our hunger in a not so good way?

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satisfying our hunger is something that Allah says in the Quran over and over again is a fundamentally good thing. A lot actually points to the existence of different types of plants and different types of animals and all the variety of flavors and tastes and textures that we have as a sign

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even the dietary restrictions that we have in Assam are very few

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the foundational guidance is that you're allowed to do it until you have proof that you can

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and we're encouraged to enjoy it over and over again in the Quran. From Allah Himself. When does it go wrong? What does it look like to fulfill this urge in a way that

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is not so good that crosses the limits number one, opulence and waste

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hola Santa Clara Mercado wasabi wallet socially for in the hola you have been mostly faith. That means eat drink, but don't waste a lot doesn't love those

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The waist.

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So we look at the table, right corner.

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How much of the food are we eating?

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We in half we in fourth? And where does the rest go? Where do the leftovers go? Are they going to end up in the trash?

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This is something that crosses the line.

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Another way it can go a foul is exclusivity and unequal access. I want people to guess here in a snap religion of a sniff. What is the evilness foo in our religion? or what have you think it is? I want to hear especially if there's someone who's not the most important guests about this. What do you think is the most evil food in the religion?

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Yeah, the most haram thing. There's levels. Yeah, for good guests completely wrong.

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Snakes? No, no, another to guessed wrong. Yeah. Alcohol. Now the good guys also completely wrong. Yeah.

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the Prophet Muhammad said himself. The Most Evil food is a wedding party, where only the rich folks are invited. And all the poor folks are left excluded.

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How much do you hear about alcohol? How much do you hear about poor I was gonna hear about crocodiles and this and that the other.

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That's not the worst thing. In our religion. The Most Evil food in our religion is where there's not equal access when there's exclusivity, because that's oppression.

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If your food is not achieving justice, if it's excluding somebody, if it's hurting other people,

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that's not good.

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That is being ungrateful for the gift.

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And if you go to Muslim culture, and Muslim tradition, usually these holiday feast, we have holiday feast, we have wedding feast, we have, you know, if you have a kid, a child, you throw a feast. And these things were public events. They weren't like private in the in the, you know, in the VFW hall or something like that? No, you actually would have them in public places, so that even the poorest person in your community, they knew that if somebody had a baby or somebody got married or whatever, you could go and get a meal.

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That's part of our tradition.

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So fasting is designed to tame this urge, and to stop these excesses.

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Now somebody could ask, Why do you have to starve yourself? Like, couldn't we read a book about this and figure it out?

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And the answer is not really. Because experience is the best and most powerful teacher.

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If you've ever had a car, for better yet, if you've ever not had a car,

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let's put it this way. If you have a car, you will never understand the struggle of someone who doesn't have a car until your car breaks down and you don't have a way to replace. Try. Go into the grocery store without a car, try going to your doctor's appointments without a car. All the things that you depend on, you're not going to get it until you take a walk in those people's shoes. Experience is the best teacher.

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And so by fasting, the whole point of fasting is that we guess what? feel hunger? Yes, we want it. Give us the hunger even when you don't water.

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We want to feel the hunger. Why? Because it's going to develop appreciation and gratitude.

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We should become more mindful, and intentional and intentional about what we eat, how much we eat, how often we eat, and every single Muslim feels it after you fasted 30 days for Ramadan, that first day when you're out.

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You might pick up some food and listen to your mouth and say, Wait a second, hold on. Something doesn't feel right. Am I right? Am I fasting today? And this will last even like a week after Ramadan. And then you have to think like okay, no, no, I'm done. I'm done. I'm done. Ramadan. I'm not fasting anymore. Yes, I can eat. That moment slows you down. It makes you think about the thing that you're about to put in your mouth. And it makes you wonder, do you really need to eat right now?

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What are you about to put in your body?

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Fasting, build solidarity and empathy with the poor. And the results should be mercy and goodness towards them. The Prophet alayhi salatu salam said, Whoever passes the night, he sleeps at night, and he has a full stomach when his neighbor next door, has an empty stomach and is hungry. He doesn't believe in me.

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Notice what he didn't say. He didn't say if a woman doesn't wear hijab. He doesn't believe in me.

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He didn't say if a man doesn't wear doesn't have a beard. He doesn't believe in me. He said if you go to bed full and you know your neighbors hungry you don't believe

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The rhetorical question is, how could you sleep

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knowing that your neighbor is hungry?

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That shows a lack of faith.

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Okay, so when is satisfying the urge of hunger good, there's three levels of corresponds to the three levels. We talked about the purposes of life level one, two, eating goods, eating righteously, we would say is when you're eating what's good, what's clean, what's pure, and you eat it, in moderation.

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Level two is when you're grateful for it. When you share it.

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We express as Muslims our gratitude and several ways one is we say Bismillah. Before we eat, that means in the name of Allah that's supposed to slow you down. You shouldn't be saying this Mala in the Name of Allah, and then you're cramming down, you know,

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crushing plates, right? It should, it should make you think. And then when you're done, you should say Alhamdulillah, thanks for you to Allah, thanks to the one who provided this food.

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In Muslim traditional culture, we used to eat off the same plate. If you go in different places in the Muslim world, everybody's got individual, I don't see anybody eating off the same plate here. Right. Usually, if you go to different places, you have one big plate, and you have to eat off one plate. Strange.

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Sounds a little unsanitary, especially in COVID times.

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But it's an education, there's a reason for that. If you eat off the same plate as somebody else, you have to be sensitive to their needs. If you eat faster than the other person that actually makes you wait a second, I have to slow down or else I'm going to kill this plate, before they've even had a few bites.

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Level three for satisfying our hunger is when you ensure that everybody has access equitable access.

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Sometimes even that might mean you go in hungry so that somebody else has enough.

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The first thing that Prophet Muhammad said when he reached Medina was feed the people, wildland fire.

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This is about food justice. This is about our food systems, who has access to nutritious food? And who doesn't? And why is this this way.

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Somebody who is grateful for their food is going to take this as an issue, and as an act of worship, to figure it out and to solve it.

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And fasting is what gives us that sense of empathy,

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to develop the will, and the motivation to solve these issues.

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Alright, let's turn to urge number two, attraction. When is it good? When is it bad?

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We believe that

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the good urge of attraction is that it leads us to companionship.

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And there might be other reasons for companionship, of course. But Allah says in the Quran that He created us in pairs, we weren't meant to be alone. We weren't meant to live life off by ourselves. We're meant to be in relationships.

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And particularly, the romantic relationship has a unique potential for tranquillity for happiness, and for comfort. I say potentially, because it can go wrong, of course.

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But if it works, if it works, it is the most unique relationship around somebody to tell your secrets to somebody to go home to a shoulder to cry on somebody to lean on somebody to carry you through your best and worst times.

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Allah says in the Quran that He created us, and he created partners for us for the purpose of finding tranquillity.

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And he also calls it a sign that we might know him by it.

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Now that tranquillity it comes at a cost, nothing comes for free. What's the cost? dependence? Responsibility?

00:28:44 --> 00:28:46

vulnerability, yeah.

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This what that but these sorts of things, even though it asks us to pay something,

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it's what gives it the potential for being one of the strongest and most meaningful bonds on this earth.

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So the fact that we've been given this urge is what drives us to have these relationships in the first place. What does it look like when it's gone wrong? Again, it comes back to gratitude.

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The urge for the attraction, if we're not grateful for it, it's going to hurt us and it's going to hurt other people. What does that look like? Looks like decoupling * and responsibility.

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satisfaction of the sexual nature without any consequences or accountability

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is a result of in gratitude for it.

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Because the last time I checked, it takes two to tango.

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You have to have a second party involved. And if you have a second party involved, you need to be caring to that person. You need to be responsive to that person. You need to be different to that person's feelings. You're not entitled to anything. You have to earn it with your behavior. And being in that sort of relationship demands that you act a certain way and be better

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If we separate those two things, if we can think that we can have our cake and eat it too, we think that we can fulfill the urge that we have, with no responsibility, no strings attached, no accountability, not having to look out for anybody's feelings or well being,

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then we're going to find that we're in a society where * is everywhere. But companionship, vulnerability, and satisfaction is extremely hard to find.

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So what do we believe is the right way?

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We would say,

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again, three levels. Level one is when you're in a relationship with accountability.

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You're in a relationship with checks and balances. You're in a relationship where true intimacy exists, and it forces you to be a better person better than the one that you already are.

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Level two is when we're grateful for it.

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We're appreciative to Allah for giving us this benefit, this blessing. And we're also appreciative to our partners.

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And the highest level is when that love ceases to be transactional.

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We're not just behaving correctly, to get what we want, but out of pure love for that person.

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How does fasting help us accomplish these things because it dulls that sharp edge of desire.

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That sharp edge of desire that might put you in a situation where you're about to take advantage of somebody

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or be in a relationship without those checks and balances to be in an asymmetrical situation.

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Because feeding the body too much makes the hunger worse, but we believe that fasting, depriving it makes the body quiet.

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So at the end of the day, that's the sign of fasting is a moral technology of the self. It takes those two main human drives and it disciplines them. It focuses them and it makes them productive to the individual and to the collective well being

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