Saturday, June 27, 2015

Press TV — Practicing Jihad al-Nafs during Ramadan

The month of Ramadan is the most sacred month for Muslims. It is the month in which the Quran was revealed to the emissary of Allah.
During this month and from dusk to dawn, Muslims are commanded to refrain from food, water and sexual activity. Through abstinence from one’s needs and desires, man is taught self-control and purification.
In the Arabic language Jihad al-Nafs means struggles against the inner self and one’s desires. Ramadan, therefore, is the ideal time to strengthen one’s spirit.
Jihad al-Nafs is considered as the major struggle as it is much more difficult than fighting in the battlefield, for in the struggle against the self, one has to constantly battle enemies inside himself. In this episode we look at the significance of Jihad al-Nafs in Ramadan?
Jihad means "battle" or "struggle" in Arabic. Nafs means "self" in the sense of limited individuality. Life is a "battlefield" on which a person struggles with oneself to overcome individuality manifesting as self-interest and self-importance instead of love and humility. It is a battle against shaitan, the tempter. Psychologically, it means doing battle against one's own "demons."

Islam is derived from the Semitic root SLM. It means "peace" as in Arabic salaam and Hebrew shalom" (salem). The term islam also signifies submission to the Most High and obedience of divine commandments, that is, divine law — shari'a in Arabic and halakha (הֲלָכָה) in Hebrew. The consequence of submission is peace, both for individuals and society.

Press TV (Iran)
Practicing Jihad al-Nafs during Ramadan


Ralph Musgrave said...

“During this month and from dusk to dawn, Muslims are commanded to refrain from food, water and sexual activity.” Well whoopee.

Most sex takes place in the evening or at night, so no big sacrifice there. And how about mariners or members of the armed forces posted to some distant war: they go without for weeks or months.

As to food and drink, a decent breakfast before sunrise then a decent evening meal wouldn’t bother me one iota. Contrary to the suggestions in the above article, I’d far prefer that to “fighting in the battlefield”.

Tom Hickey said...

The externals are symbolic. They are to remind believers that the struggle against the individual self, or ego, is 24/7 365 days a year.

The problem with both religious scriptures and symbolism is that they get to be naively taken as the reality instead of that which toward which they are pointing.

BTW, Lent has a similar significance in Christianity as do the Ten Days of Repentance (Hebrew: עשרת ימי תשובה‎, Aseret Yemei Teshuva). Hebrew teshuva means returning, as in returning to God i.e., turning away from the worldly.

This is captured in the Gospel of Thomas, Saying 27: ""If you do not fast as regards the world, you will not find the kingdom. If you do not observe the Sabbath as a Sabbath, you will not see the father."

The real fast is fasting the mind from wanting. This is the basis of internal renunciation, which perennial wisdom holds is a necessary condition of spirituality. It is not a matter of giving up stuff but rather a reordering of priorities from the actually trivial but apparently important toward the actually important but apparently trivial. From this standpoint, what is actually important is that which the religious scriptures and symbols point to and hint at, in comparison with which the scriptures and symbols are trivial, although less trial than worldly baubles.

Sin is defined as that which separates from God (universality). Egocentricity is "sinful" since emphasis of "I," "me," and "mine," separates a person from universality. In Sufism, for example, the individual self is the "veil" that hides the divine presence residing in the heart. The struggle with the self is a process of cleansing the heart. The aim is "conversion of the heart" that results in "knowledge of the heart" as "the opening of the eye of the heart."

While Sufism is Islamic mysticism, Shi'ites are aligned with Sufism, whereas fundamentalist like Wahhabis are opposed to it as heresy.

The level of collective consciousness is determined by the level of awareness of universality that is manifested in individual and social behavior, which translates into culture and institutions. Peace is directly proportional to the level of awareness of universality expressed, for example, in love.

John said...

Not eating or drinking for about eighteen hours? Sounds pretty tough to me. I can't go a couple of hours without thinking about some tea and biscuits, let alone going without breakfast and lunch.

Ralph, give it a go for a few days and report back. I know I couldn't do it, and have no wish to for all kinds of reasons - having no need of religion, the damage it must surely do to the human body and being inordinately fond of large hearty breakfasts first thing in the morning, having built up a damn fine appetite after a vigorous morning shag.

Tom Hickey said...

The good news is that if one is not religious it is not necessary in order to get the same results. In fact, if one is religious and performs the external requirements of the observances perfectly, there is the possibility that it will result in self-satisfaction or pride, which is the opposite of the objective.

Spirituality is not necessarily religious and religion can easily become of the enemy of spirituality and often does. In this sense, perennial wisdom is not religious even though it lies at the core of religions in their mystical traditions. A concept of God is unnecessary as Buddhism shows.

While at the core of religions, perennial wisdom is found elsewhere than religion, especially institutional religion, too.

There are even naturalistic approaches such as transpersonal psychology and Jungian analytic psychology that aim at "piercing the veil" that conceals non-ordinary dimensions of possible experience.

Whatever one's path, one of the obstacles is self-inflation over "experiences."

Katha Upanishad 1-III-14: Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the exalted ones, for that path is sharp as a razor's edge, impassable, and hard to go by, say the wise."

Simsalablunder said...

"the damage it must surely do"

It's most likely good for the body. Studies show a rejuvenation of cells and a improved immune defence.

MRW said...

"“During this month and from dusk to dawn"

Isn't this backward? Shouldn't it be from dawn to dusk? You can eat after the sun goes down, and before it comes up. Ditto sex.

And of course, the young, old, and pregnant follow different rules. This must be a real hardship in the water department for those living in the desert countries where it can get to 130F during the day.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the "John" who can't go without food for a couple of hours.

Also, I don't agree with Hickey's glib and facile "perennialism." Sanatana dharma is not about ditching or underestimating revealed religious forms, which after all are--in the eyes of the faithful--given by Divinity, and not a human invention, and there to serve the many, and not a contemplative few--who in any case are far from despising the forms that support them and their entire civilization. Hickey is a pupil of a false mystic and lunatic. Any damned fool can say he is "realized." And many have. They all sound the same, and they all are "above" their religions. There's a sucker born every minute. Authorities who really know their traditions, such as Ananda Coomaraswamy, or the Jagadguru of Kancipuram, or the Shaykh Ahmad al-Alawi (in Islam), would vehemently disagree with Hickey; or as Ramakrishna said, "if that is Vedanta, then I spit on your Vendanta." Also, there is no Sufism (tasawwuf) outside Islam, phony sufis notwithstanding.

As for Buddhism, it is ill-sounding and stupid to say "you don't need God." This is typical tripe. Buddhism certainly has faith in a transcendent reality, or its idea of Nirvana would be meaningless.

However, I agree that Wahhabism is pharisaical. So do all Muslims who understand their religion.

You're correct, MRW. It's from dawn to dusk.

John said...

John, I am the John who can't go a couple of hours without obliging my cake hole.

It's unclear whether you mean Muslims understand Wahhabism is pharisaical, or that Muslims understand Islam is pharisaical? If the former, all the Muslims I've ever met in the UK or overseas (and I've travelled quite a bit in the Muslim world and found nothing but extraordinary hospitality) agree; if the latter, I'd say that's incorrect. But I'd add that to some extent all human beings are pharisaical.

For now it's Muslims who are baring the brunt of the propaganda, that they're somehow different to all other human beings, when not so long ago they were great anti-communist freedom fighters; for two hundred years it was all Africans and Asians who were different and needed civilising; in years to come it'll be the Chinese. Whenever the empire says so, sunshine patriots cry "point me at the enemy of the hour".

Ignacio said...

No drinking in countries where the average temperature during the day at this time of the year is around 40-45 celsius is not the same as not drinking during the day in England. Just saying...