After a while I realized that my reflections were coming up with a theme, but it wasnt until blogger reader Maryam D. in Canada identify it and label it for what it is- living sufficiently. So this years Ramadan reflections are truly about living sufficiently. The remains the focus for me in the future posts I have been conjuring up my thoughts on. But also because I feel that in a time of such economic volatility, so much unrest throughout the world and continuous natural and man made disasters be falling humanity left and right, living sufficiently seems to be something people are having a hard time coming to terms with, atleast here in the West. We are so used to a life of plenty that living that we see that standard of living as our birthright.
Sufficiently, defined as:
1. Being as much as is needed.
2. Archaic Competent; qualified
I brought this topic up especially during my post on Day 2: Iftari’ed Out
where I wrote about what eating sufficiently meant for the Prophet SAW. I want to take the time to expand on that definition to speak from an Islamic perspective on what “sufficiency means” and then go into the spiritual implications of this, without spending to much time on either issues. I would highly recommend you read Imam al-Ghazzali’s
, specifically Discliping Ones Soul.
To understand what it means to live sufficiently, as Muslims we need to take step back and look at what “the world (dunya)” means to us, as described in the Prophetic example:
Jesus (AS) in his own revelations, saw the world in the shape of an old woman. He (AS) asked her “how many husbands have you had?” She replied “Too many to count.” He responded by asking “Did they die or divorce you?” She answered “Neither, I slew them all.” Jesus said “How strange it is that those other fools who saw what you had done to the others, nevertheless desired you and did not learn the lesson.”
Yes, he called us all fools. We got the Prophetic smack down there, but it wasnt limited to Jesus (AS) who referred to the life in this world in an analogy of a assassinating old women who beguiled the inhabitants with her charms, many of the Prophetic traditions hold the world to be of such a nature. But we have a purpose here and not all is bad in this world. Prophet Muhammad SAW said “Just as it is not possible for a person to enter the water without getting wet, it is not possible for a person to engage in the affairs of the world without getting tainted.” So we aren’t required to be perfect, but what is required according to Jesus (AS) is the ability to understand that drinking from the bounties of this world will only make us thirstier, and we will try to quench our thirst in this world until we “perish, and the thirst never passes from” us.
In the Quran we can find God telling us “And the good deeds which endure are better in God’s sight” (19: 76), for which we find ourselves here in this world in the first place. God wants us to strive to be our best, what our nature our inner self, nafs– is in conflict with. We get lost in this world and our life. Imagine being a pilgrim going for Hajj in Mecca where you busy yourself with the logistics and the planning and get there to find yourself only focused on finding a way to get from place to place that soon you forget about yourself, you loose sight of the Kabah, and eventually you loose sight of the purpose of your journy- the Hajj. We loose ourselves in this world all the time trying to secure what we believe is “sufficient” for us.
Imam al-Ghazzali succinctly observed that the root of all we need in life is food, clothing and shelter. God created us and this Earth along with the plants and animals and minerals. We instinctively busy ourselves with these creations, our animal soul, according to the Imam busied itself out of love of these items or their acquisition, or the body with its desire to improve or care for these things. When we engage in a love for these things traits of greed, envy, enmity and such appear in our heart, further entwining us with the world. Being so meshed with the worldly affairs and the subsequent emotions creates the psychological desire, which is a human necessity, to develop specialized branches of work- farming, construction, art- each of which is intertwined with one another. We can’t do each of these specialized jobs so it requires our ability to negotiate, develop relationships and come together. Ghazzali states that “eventually, transactions appear among them from which antagonisms arise, for each person may not be satisfied with his own portion, and they may attack and cheat one another. As a result they find themselves in the need for three more arts: one, the art of politics and rule; two, the art of adjudication and government; and three, the art of religious jurisprudence by which the law of mediation among the people may be known.”
So we busy ourselves with that which we think is sufficient- food, clothing and shelter- but we justify the necessity of these things for satisfying the three basic needs, the three things that are necessary for the body, the body is necessary for the heart, to serve as its vehicle. The heart is necessary for knowing God. So the Prophet SAW says “The world is more of a sorcerer than were Harut and Marut; beware of it!”
You must be wondering what does this have to do with living sufficiently and Ramadan- well if you dont get it, go back up and read this post again. Our hearts are weak and we are designed to fall into the trap that this world is all about. God didn’t want us
to be perfect, he created us to have our weaknesses and our strengths. What is required of us is our ability to self-discipline our souls and body to cultivate good character, to create a just society and to be at peace with this world and its transitory nature.
Fudayl Iyad RA said “I prefer the company of a good-natured sinner to that of a bad-natured holy man.” Our disposition is what helps us to understand what it means to live sufficiently, because living sufficiently is about living a balanced life- ” And those who, when they spend, are neither prodigal nor grudging, and there is a firm station between the two (25:67)”- the path of Islam is narrow and straight, between two extremes. Those who have the power of reason, in excess and involved with bad works, gives rise to deception and hypocrisy, while when its deficient gives rise to ignorance and foolishness. With anger, when in excess you have recklessness and when deficient you have cowardice and lacking spirit. Lust, in excess gives you jealousy and an attraction for this world more toxic then when in deficiency where you are lethargic and impudent and lacking honor. Imam Ghazzali believed that these traits were at the root of what it meant to have a good disposition in which you can walk the straight path, because in sufficient doses each trait offered the characteristic of a Muslim- temperance, modesty, contentment, patience, tolerance, wit, approval, courage, good planning, sound insight and wisdom.