Monday, August 28, 2006

Removing Distraction

We are now well into the month of Sha'baan and in less than a month will enter the month of obligatory fasting.

We all lead very busy lives, but in order to improve ourselves spiritually we need to learn how to do one thing: remove distraction. In many ways, that is what Islam is all about. Our prayers are about removing distraction of our daily lives to focus several times a day, even briefly, on what matters. One of the great powers of the hajj is that you are removed from your daily worldly life and your sole focus becomes something else, something spiritual, something greater than you that by comparison makes your daily life seem meaningless; for a time, you get pure focus on the Big Picture.

Fasting removes a lot of distraction from our lives, it helps us focus on the spiritual self by decreasing focus on the physical self. But some people turn the month of Ramadan unfortunately into the exact opposite - focused on eating and socializing with some prayers thrown in.

There are so many prayers and other good things to do year round but there are a great many unique to the month of Ramadan that if we let the opportunity slip by it is gone forever. Yes, perhaps we may live to another year, but the opportunities of that year are gone never to be regained.

To get more out of the month, we may not be able to decrease our work hours nor may it even be appropriate to do so - work can be worship. But we can work on removing or at least decreasing distractors - TV and radio chief among them. We can also work on removing bad habits whatever they may be.

The key to success is often to commit to something small and stick to it. When it is easy, then add something else small, but just keep building. If we have backpedaled in some areas, we can try to move forward from wherever we are now.

The Prophet reminds us, especially in Ramazan, to perform the great act of worship, meditation. This is because the servant’s transcendence that accompanies it is even stronger during the special times and the special places of worship. One of the most significant outcomes of praying in these places and times, is the submissive meditation which was a delight to the Prophet (s.a.w) about which he had this to say: “And raise your hands to Him in prayer during the times of your meditation, because it is the best of all times in which Almighty Allah mercifully looks unto His servants He answers their prayers a whether whispered or said aloud’.

Another important aspect of the month of Ramadan is emphasis on reading Qur'an. Let us not just hear a chanting but meditate on meaning and learn from it. Reading the Qur'an is a great way to remove distractors - the Qur'an focuses on what is important, and in turn paying attention to it will keep you focused too.

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