Monthly Archives: August 2011

This year’s Idul Fitri is about (my!) family

[Bahasa Indonesia]
Come to think of it, every year’s Idul Fitri has been, is and hopefully will always be about family for me.

Earlier, I tried to look at my note on my discussion with some friends about Idul Fitri, hoping to find something to write on and about Idul Fitri. But nothing sank in. Nothing from the note inspired me to write anything. Perhaps, that was not it for me for now.

But yes, family! I love my family. I think they are just perfect for me, no matter how inexplicable sometimes they (we) may be.

These last few days, all my brothers (2) and my sisters (2) with their family gathered at Mom’s house. Some stayed for the nights. The house assistants, which usually help out with the house chores, had all gone back to their hometown for the holiday. So it was just us, the family.

I saw something that I have not seen this for some time, as it was often tricky to gather everybody for such a (relatively) long period of time.
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Stories are just stories, tears are simply tears

[Bahasa Indonesia]

Friends, colleagues, acquaintance, or even strangers share stories with one another. People come to me (and vice versa, I come to them) to express what is in their or my heart, stories of happiness, joy, restlessness and complications in life.

I was looking at this fact a couple of nights ago. If what is going on outside of me reflects what is inside of me, then what is with this sharing of restlessness. Am I that restless and complicated that I need other people’s stories to reflect that to me? My heart sank a bit. I went silent and tried to hear the response to how I was feeling.
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The Night of Decree (2): verse-by-verse

[Bahasa Indonesia]

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Compassionate.

We have sent it down in the Night of Decree.
Do you know what the Night of Decree is?
The Night of Decree is better than one thousand months.
The angels and the Spirit come down in it by their Lord’s leave to carry out every matter.
It is peaceful until the coming of dawn.

QS Al Qadr (97):1-5

These verses become most popular during the Ramadhan month, as a popular exposition of the verses is that the Night of Decree (Arabic: lailatul qadr) happens on the odd dates of the last ten days of Ramadhan (so 21, 23, 25, 27, 29).

While I do not doubt the possibility of obtaining the blessing of Night of Decree during those dates, I do believe that the verses carry a universal, deeper and more expansive meaning to all human being, regardless of our background and beliefs.

What I am about to write is a personal reflection and sharing of personal thoughts based on a conversation I had this morning.

(QS97:1) We have sent it down in the Night of Decree.
(QS97:2) Do you know what the Night of Decree is?

We – The Koran sometimes uses “We” (first person plural) for God when it wants to emphasize the involvement of creation in the verse. This means that (1) there needs to be an effort from the creation (read: human) side and (2) it happens when duality becomes one. Only when we realize that there is only His Being, that our Being is truly His, that this would happen.

It – The verse does not explicitly say “Koran”. It says “it”. Some scholars says this “it” implies “Koran”, and some says that it refers to “The Truth”. Whichever meaning we apply, the Moslems do believe that the Qur’an as a perfect reflection of the Truth, a complete, ultimate guide of life.

Night – a spiritual symbol for silence and stillness.

Decree
– God’s degree.

God would send down The Truth to His creations who are in silence and stillness, allowing the creations to know what God has decreed on themselves or others. Only those whose heart is in silence and stillness would be able to know His Decree.

QS Ali Imran (3):189-191 provides explanation on those who are in stillness and silence.

(QS3:189) To God is the sovereignty of heavens and earth, and God is capable of all things.

This is an affirmation of the fact that it is God who governs heavens and earth. Hence, decrees and powers are His as well. If we are to live in this world, then we need to abide by His Decrees.

(QS3:190) In the creation of heavens and earth, and the difference between night and day, are signs for those with intelligence.

The words for what’s usually translated into “those with intelligence” are “Ulil albaab”. The word albaab is plural for lubb, the kernel of the heart, the deepest part of the heart. Only those who live by the kernel of their heart can truly understand the signs (of God).

Who are they?

(QS3:191) Those who remember God while standing, and sitting, and on their sides, and they ponder over the creation of the heavens and the earth: “Our Lord you did not create this without purpose, be You glorified, and spare us the retribution of the fire!”

They are those who remember (zikr) God literally all the time, who never take their gaze off God, those who contemplate over the universe. Note that the contemplation comes after the remembrance of the heart.

Such contemplation and remembrance will lead to the awareness of the reality behind all creation, to see things as they are. It would bring about realization that nothing is created without a purpose, that all is but a movement of love, His.

These hearts could not help but glorifying God, to negate Him from all negative supposition. And these hearts’ greatest and only fear is to be distanced, to be away, from Him and hence to see mere creation without being able to see the reality behind it.

These hearts would know the true meaning of “wherever you turn, there is God’s presence” in QS Al Baqarah (2):115.

(QS2:115) To God belongs the east and the west, so wherever you turn, there is God’s presence. God is Encompassing, Knowledgeable.

To these hearts, shirk is not just worshiping other ‘gods’ (other than the one that we believe in), it is to even think that we exist per se as independent individuals and to see any creation without acknowledging God’s presence there.

Let’s return to QS 97.

(QS97:3) The Night of Decree is better than one thousand months.

If the stillness and silence, the realization, were to be experienced, it would be better than any other moments in life put together. It is a moment of union.

After that, life in this plurality would be seen with different eyes. Our greeting and interaction with life would have a different color, different quality.

(QS97:4) The angels and the Spirit come down in it by their Lord’s leave to carry out every matter.

Angels – a symbol of goodness.

Spirit – Spirit of God. The kernel of our self, the Godly qualities within us.

Our life would be filled with goodness. The godly qualities would be dominant in our thoughts, feelings, words and conducts.

(QS97:5) It is peaceful until the coming of dawn.

And if this is so, then salaam, peace of perfection. Such peacefulness, happiness would continue on until one day, everything would be clear, enlightenment. Then what we do would be based on what is right, not on like or dislike. Everything would be with complete permission from Him. We cannot help but do what is right, and what is right is what has been Decreed.

Although the above obviously describes about the special of the special, Koran is guidance to all. Hence, it is for us as well.

In these verses, there is an invitation to increase our remembrance of God (zikrullah), to accept His decree, not to judge as all is His, and to ask Him for guidance every step of the way: ask Him, how would he see this? What would you like me to see in this? And God willing, the Night of Decree would be ours to experience. I do believe this is possible. He is that compassionate. Amen.

Note:
The word “qadr” has the root: Qaf-Dal-Ra = to measure/decree/determine/stint/straiten, to have power, to be able, a measure, means, ability, a term/decree, doom, destiny, measured, decreed.

The word “taqdir” shares the same root as qadr and means: knowledge, law, measuring decree, judgment, ordering.

Source: Study Qur’an.

The Night of Decree (1): A message for you and me

[Bahasa Indonesia]

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Compassionate.

We have sent it down in the Night of Decree.
Do you know what the Night of Decree is?
The Night of Decree is better than one thousand months.
The angels and the Spirit come down in it by their Lord’s leave to carry out every matter.
It is peaceful until the coming of dawn.

QS Al Qadr (97):1-5

These verses become most popular during the Ramadhan month, as a popular exposition of the verses is that the Night of Decree (Arabic: lailatul qadr) happens on the odd dates of the last ten days of Ramadhan (so 21, 23, 25, 27, 29).

While I do not doubt the possibility of obtaining the blessing of Night of Decree during those dates, I do believe that the verses carry a universal, deeper and more expansive meaning to all human being, regardless of our background and beliefs.

What I am about to write is a personal reflection and sharing of personal thoughts based on a conversation I had this morning.

The world is God’s way of telling us who He is, who we truly are. It is God’s way of showing the Truth. It is possible for everybody to realize this. Not everybody, however, see this or make the effort to do so.

Only those who have stillness and silence in the kernel of their heart can really see His Signs, to see things as they are, according to God’s original intention and Decree.

These are the people who remember God at all time, never take their gaze from God, and contemplate over the universe. Such contemplation and remembrance will lead to the awareness of the reality behind all creation, to see things as they are. It would bring about realization that nothing is created without a purpose, that all is but a movement of love, His.

With such awareness, one could not possibly help but glorifying God, to negate Him from all negative supposition. And these hearts’ greatest and only fear is to be distanced, to be away, from Him and hence to see mere creation without being able to see the reality behind it. These hearts would know the true meaning of wherever you turn, there is God’s presence.

If the stillness and silence, the realization, were to be experienced, it would be better than any other moments in life put together. It is a moment of union.

After that, life in this plurality would be seen with different eyes. Our greeting and interaction with life would have a different color, different quality. Our life would be filled with goodness. The godly qualities would be dominant in our thoughts, feelings, words and conducts.

And if this is so, then there will be peace of perfection. Such peacefulness, happiness would continue on until one day, everything would be clear, enlightenment. Then what we do would be based on what is right, not on like or dislike. Everything would be with complete permission from Him. We cannot help but do what is right, and what is right is what has been Decreed. We would live in harmony with Life itself. This is, I believe, why you and I are here in this world. It is our purpose in life. May God make it easy for us.

If you read thus far, chances are you recognize what I am talking about, despite your background or belief systems. Isn’t it amazing how universal the message is? Now, if you want to get into details, let’s look at each verse in this post.

Picture taken from here.

Fasting: an exercise of non-action

[Bahasa Indonesia]

One question I had before the first day of Ramadhan this year was: what does the word mean, Ramadhan? Well, other questions followed: Why do we (read: I) fast during Ramadhan? What is the meaning behind the fast? So I started to Google.

Understandably, there were a lot of hits on the word. Too complicated. Rather puzzling, I must admit. I read on. Let what sink in me sinks.

And what sinks was the word “fast” itself. The Arabic word for “fasting” is siyam, which means, to leave something or to avoid it. The obvious was abstinence of appetite (eating and drinking) and sexual intercourse from dawn to dusk.

A second level, the fasting for the select few, as Al Ghazzali puts it, is that of keeping the ears, eyes, tongue, hands, feet, together with all the other sense free from sin. (“sin”, now that’s another interesting word to contemplate on.)

Even ‘higher’, is the fast of the elite, which is the fast of the heart from bad thoughts, worldly worries and anything else that may divert from anything but thoughts of Allah.

At this point, I thought, “wow, now how do I do that?” An ironic question, as the answer seems to be the exact opposite: The reality of fasting, according to Ibn ‘Arabi, is non-action, rather than action. It consists of abandoning things that break it. I suppose the word “siyam” gives the obvious clue: to refrain.

That is a word that has been so attractive to me for some time: to refrain. Perhaps because I have been moving so much most of my life. And I feel that somehow there is a better way. Non-action is far more attractive to me than action. Not in a lethargic sense, but more on a stillness meaning, to simply be and to allow whatever wants to arise arises. To me, this means allowing Him to express Himself fully through me and through things around me. To fill this heart with the Light of God.

How wonderful it would be if we (read: I) could achieve this: To empty our heart from other than Him. And that is the only thing we need to do: to refrain, to empty ourselves. To refrain from everything that may divert our focus from Him. When it is empty, then God obliges Himself to fill our heart with Light.

And when that happens … I bet you, one cannot help but being grateful and praise Him (whoever Him means to you).

No wonder the Koran gives such a high value to fasting in Ramadhan, the month when the Koran was first brought down to the Prophet Muhammad as “guidance for all” (QS 2:185) and that fasting may raise our spirituality, bring us ‘closer to God’ (here’s another contemplation, what does “closer” mean?)

I am a long way from there. But I do find what Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil al-Haqqani says about this refraining exercise as practical tip, “Everything except Allah Almighty and His Pleasure must be put out of your heart. Every time you are by yourself, you can look into your heart to see if you are with your Lord or with someone or something else.”

It is indeed a good tip/exercise, every time I look into my heart, what do I find there?

All of my notes are more my notes for myself. And this one is no different. It is a beautiful reminder and invitation for me. As Bulent Rauf, the consultant of Beshara School, put it, an honest appraisal of self, which will lead to humility and realization of our place in this world and how to be.

To find that place in the middle and stay there, stay very still. To return.

Picture was taken from here.