The Fast but not the Furious
Sh. Fayaz spoke about the two virtues of Ramadan being fasting and zakat (i.e. obligatory giving of a portion of what you own monetarily to those in need). During Ramadan, the two goals we have is (a) to ask for forgiveness, and (b) to earn compensation for good deeds.
The Sheikh spoke at length regarding fasting, especially around the topic which we have all heard of: over-eating! It's not only within Islam, but also within Christianity that it is stated that gluttony leads to lust. Within Islam, if a person is unable to marry, they are recommended to fast to control any feelings of desire or lust. So basically, by giving into our carnal desires to eat and overeat and indulge, we are basically opening the door for other not-so-great things (aka sins!) to happen.
Sh. Fayaz spoke about a saying from a well-known scholar (whose name I can't recall, but I'm sure it's on the Ilm Intensive's website) which goes as follows: "For you to remove your hand from your plate when you are still hungry is more valuable than standing the entire night in prayer". The explanation the Sheikh gave around this makes sense, since it is obligatory to regulate our intake of food while it is recommended to perform night prayers.
Let's expand a little more on this eating during Ramadan concept. I have heard, many times over, about how people basically spend from dusk to dawn eating to their heart's content! And I don't solely mean the main meal, I mean busting out the Roti rap everyday, the Pakora polka, the Samosa salsa, and the Fatyr foxtrot! How often do we eat these foods EVERYDAY before dinner? So why do we do it during Ramadan?
For a similar analogy, dieticians and nutritionists recommend NOT going grocery shopping when you're hungry. Why? Because you're much more likely to purchase foods that are not good for you! The same reasoning can be applied to when we break our fasts. I mean, really, do we need appetizer after appetizer after appeteaser after appeteaser?! If we are following the footsteps of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), we should break our fasts with dates, a few sips of water, pray Maghrib, and then eat according to the following: until our stomach is full of 1/3 food, 1/3 water, and 1/3 air. And NO, that doesn't mean going back for seconds and thirds and then belching out loud with an "Alhamdulillah" to justify it!
Related to the above is this idea that the Iftar dinners we host have to resemble a Las Vegas hotel buffet line. I mean, really?! Sh. Fayaz is right, when was the last time you were invited somewhere or you hosted an event and there was actually a shortage of food?! So instead of turmoiling over the amount of food and the variety of dishes and side dishes and desserts, etc etc, how about we all try to keep it simple yet ensure there is enough food without over-cooking too much? :)
And by the way, eating dessert is not a Sunnah! (Thank you Sh. Fayaz for clarifying this!!) So to all of those Aunties out there who insist on forcing gulab jamun and baklava down our throats, please don't!!
Ok, I think we all get the point about food during Ramadan. Now regarding Zakat, the one HUGE thing I took away is (and this is according to scholars, and there are differing views, so don't get mad at me!!)...
Zakat must be given to a person, and not to an organization (because there's no guarantee that every single penny of your zakat will be given to a person who meets the recipient criteria), and no, donating to build a mosque does not count as zakat.
I also learned that there are 3 categories related to zakat: those who can afford to give it, those who receive it, and those who can do neither. The latter category is the most difficult to be in, and includes those who may have a house and car to their name but literally only a few dollars in their bank account and are living pay-check to pay-check.
Sheikh Fayaz gave more information regarding what is obligatory to pay zakat on and what isn't, and these are all included in a Fiqh book that he mentioned was on the website. Also, he strongly recommended reading a book entitled "The Virtues of Ramadan". I'd rather not expand on it since I don't have even close to a little of the information and background needed to discuss it.
In conclusion and on a serious note, Ramadan is much more than solely about not eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. There's a strong spiritual and mental component that is most likely more challenging to control and improve upon. However, we need to take advantage of this month and try to carry forward with us the strong emaan (belief) and practice we Inshallah will receive. So to close off this entry, the following is something Sh. Fayaz quoted from a Hadith:
Value youth before old age
Value health before sickness
Value free time before being busy
Value wealth before financially stricken times
Value life before death
Inshallah, I'm going to aim to make this the best Ramadan yet!! So who's with me?!
Ramadan Mubarak! :)