Friday, September 12, 2014

Attitude Adjustment for Ramadan

A’uzu Billahi Min ash-Shaitain ir-Rajeem.
Bismillah ir-rahman ir-raheem.
Al Hamdu Lillahi Rabbil ‘Alameen.
Wasa’atu Wassalamu ‘Ala Muhammad wa ‘Ala Alihi was Sabhihi was Sallim
Ahmaduhu subhanahu wa Ta’ala wa ashkurhu wa Huwa Ahlul-Hamdi wath-thana.
I praise Him (Allah) the Exalted One and the High and I thank Him. It is He who deserves the praise and gratitude.
Ah-hamdu lillahi nahmaduhu wa nassta’eenuhu wa nasstaghfiruhu, wa natoobu ilayhi, wa na’oozu billahi min shurouri anfusina wa saiyaati a’maalina.
Praise be to Allah, we Praise Him and seek help from Him; we ask forgiveness from Him; we repent to Him, and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and from our own bad deeds.

The name of my khutbah today is “Attitude Adjustment for Ramadan”

Ramadan will be starting tomorrow.  A lot of us have expectations for the month. Some may be looking forward to it, the time of spiritual renewal, introspection and increased prayers. Others may like the sense of community from iftar dinners and tarawih prayers. Some may be dreading the fasting period with the long hot days of summer and disrupted sleep cycles. While we may not share the same expectations for Ramadan, we all have expectations, and with those expectations comes a certain attitude, or a mind set. We have in our minds how things are going to play out and we have an attitude that corresponds with that outcome: hopefulness, happiness, socialbility, or dread.

In Surah 8, “The Spoils of War”, there is a big discussion about attitudes, and how these attitudes color our perception. This surah was revealed soon after the Battle of Badr, and there are ayahs which state that the God gave the Muslims a relaxed frame of mind before the battle in ayah 43:

When Allah showed them unto thee in thy dream as few in number, and if He had shown them to thee as many, ye (Muslims) would have faltered and would have quarreled over the affair. But Allah saved (you). Lo! He knowth what is in the breasts (of people).“

What I think is interesting about the Battle of Badr, is that when the Muslims started out on this expedition, they thought it was going to be a straightforward caravan raid. However, the caravan was diverted and the Muslims soon found themselves facing a much larger armed force of Quraish. The Quran says in ayah 42:

When ye were on the near bank (of the valley) and they were on the yonder bank, and the caravan was below you (on the coast plain), and ye trysted to meet one another ye surely would have failed to keep the tryst, but (it happened as it did, without the forethought of either of you) that Allah might conclude a thing that must done; that he who perished might perish by a clear proof, and he who survived might survive by a clear proof. Lo! Allah in truth is Hearer, Knower.”

Despite what the Muslims thought they were signing onto, God had different plans for them, and they had to, with God’s assistance, adjust their expectations and their attitudes accordingly. God wanted this battle to happen, as it says in Quran ayah 44:

And when He made you (Muslims) when ye met (them) see them with your eyes as few, and lessened you in their eyes, it was that Allah might conclude a thing that much be done. Unto Allah all things are brought back.

Sometimes we pick our own battles, but sometimes God picks our battles for us.  For example, something that has happened to me and to many of us here, and if it hasn’t happened to you yet, don’t worry it will, is that many of us have certain expectations for Ramadan and then something unexpected comes along which is completely beyond our control and that changes everything. It could be illness, travel plans, or some kind of emergency. At this point, it is very easy to feel “I have failed at my Ramadan.” Our expectations have been completely crushed and it is easy to take on a defeatist attitude. I would just like to say, “Please don’t feel that way. God has certain plans for your Ramadan, and those plans may not correspond to your plans. That’s ok, now you know it is time to readjust your expectations and your  attitude.”

One year, I was hit with some pretty serious health issues half way through Ramadan, and I was unable to finish out the month. I thought I had ‘failed’ my Ramadan. What I didn’t understand at the time, but which I learned much later, was that I learned some very valuable lessons during that Ramadan. The most important was the illness really showed me, in clear focus, what my life priorities were.

The past few Ramadans, I haven’t gotten sick, but usually a week before Ramadan something happens which ‘softens’ up my attitude. One year, there was a horrible car crash involving two Muslim teens followed a few days later by the birth of a friend’s daughter. These events reminded me of how precious my children are and how we never know how long they will grace us with their presence in our lives. During last year’s June storms, we lost all power and electricity to our home for four days. All the food in my refrigerator had to be thrown out. We worried about the basement flooding. We had a lot more free time on our hands without the screens and without being able to do housework. Losing electricity gave me a greater appreciation for the role of technology in our life and our home.  This year, I was attacked by a dog and got quite a few scratches, bruises, and bites.  I’m still trying to sort out some of these lessons, but I am amazed at my body’s resilience and healing powers.  So I guess what I am trying to say is that there are a lot of lessons to be learned from Ramadan, even if you don’t have the kind of Ramadan experience you expect.

How can we as Muslims best adjust our attitude? What is it that allows us to be influenced by God and let God’s grace into our hearts. I think one key can be found in Surah 8 ayah 55:

Lo! the worst of creatures in Allah’s sight are the ungrateful and who will not believe.”

 Can gratitude influence the ability to believe? This is what I would like to talk about in the second half of the khutbah.


Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala alee Muhammad kama sallaita ‘ala Ibrahim wa ‘ala alee Ibrahim.
O Allah! Send Your greeting upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad in as much as You sent your greeting upon Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim.
Al-hamdu lillahi rabbil ‘alameen was-salutu was-salamu ‘ala khairil mursaleen. Muhammadin al-nabiyil ummiyee, wa  ‘ala alihi wa sahbihi ajma’een.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the universe. May the greeting and the peace be upon the best messenger, Muhammad, the unlettered prophet, and upon his family and upon all of his companions.

“Lo! the worst of creatures in Allah’s sight are the ungrateful and who will not believe.”  To me, this ayah suggests that being ungrateful lays a foundation for disbelief.  In an earlier ayah from this same surah, we are told, “That is because Allah never changeth the grace He hath bestowed on any people until they first change that which is in their hearts, because Allah is Hearer, Knower” 8:53. If this is the case, the most vile creature is the ungrateful one, then the opposite might also be true “the best creature is the grateful one, “ or more to the point, a person who is grateful can acquire the ability to believe.  There is something about an attitude of gratitude that softens up our hearts and allows God to help us more.

In the context of Ramadan, Ramadan is, for some us – despite all the assurances of many blessings, is a chore. It is something we do because we are expected to do it. People tell us to do it. If we don’t do it, we feel like losers.

In my house, the kids do chores. Sometimes they complain about it, sometimes they don’t. But the reason I give my children chores is because the chores they do are actually helping them and the entire family. For instance, when I ask them to unload the groceries out of the car, yes that is helping me, but it is also helping them because that is their food. I can’t cook dinner if the groceries are in the car. By unloading the groceries, I will be able to cook them their dinner. Now does it matter to me if they complain about getting the groceries or if they are cheerful about it? Not really. I am going to cook their dinner whether they complain or whether they don’t complain.  And that is how I think Ramadan is, whether you complain about it or don’t complain, God is going to reward you. How much reward is going to depend on you. But the reward is only one part of the equation, that is the long term effect. In the meantime, there is the life you are living at the moment. Think about it this way: when you are unloading those groceries from the car, instead of complaining about the chore think about how fortunate you are to have food, how fortunate you are to have a car full of food which will be made into a delicious dinner. Think about how many people in the world do not have this luxury and thank God for blessing you and your family in this way.

The point is, if you can open your heart to gratitude, you will be able to open your heart to God, and with God’s help, you can change anything. Yes, sometimes life hands you lemons. There is nothing you can do about it, you got lemons. But don’t let those lemons sour your attitude. Your life doesn’t suck, and God doesn’t hate you. God just has a different challenge for you, and God thinks you can do it. So, accept the lemons, maybe you can even learn something about those lemons, and then pray to God that with His help you will find a way to make some delicious lemonade.

I’d like to close with a du’a. This is from the last ayah of Surah 2, Al Baqarah.

Our Lord! Do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord! Do not load on us a severe test as You did burden on those before us. Our Lord! Do not impose upon us that which we have not the strength to bear; and pardon us and forgive us and have mercy on us, You are our Defender, so help us against the ungrateful  people.

Rabbana la tu’akhizna in-nasina aw akh-ta’na. Rabbana wa la tahmil ‘alayna isran kama hamaltahu ‘ala-llatheena min qablina. Rabbana wa la tuhammilna ma la taqata lana bih, wa- ‘fu ‘anna wa ‘ghfirlana warhamna anta Maulana fansurna ‘alal-ghawmil kafirin.


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