Monday, September 29, 2008

Giving and Getting Back

"Never neglect to give something away every day, even if a small amount, and do this early, for hardships do not corss [the protective barrier of] charity. Never disappoint a beggar who stands at your door; give him even as little as a date or less, for he is a gift from God to you. If you find nothing to give then send him away graciously with kind words and a promise.

When you give a needy person something, smile at him and be aware that it is you who are indebted to him, for he accepts a little from you for which you receive a reward worth more than the whole world. It has been said that a single morsel of food may bring a reward from God greater than Mount Uhud.

Do not let the fear of poverty prevent you from giving charity, for it is the abandonment of charity which brings on poverty. Charity on the contrary attracts wealth. If the pursuer of the world gave much charity it would return to him multiplied."

Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi al-Haddad – The Book of Assistance, from Chapter on Zakat (p. 69).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Another Year, Another Niyyah

"I'm seeking clarity and focus in this blessed month. I pray this becomes an effort we can all extend well beyond Ramdan, insha'Allah!" ...that was, in part, my niyyah (intention) from last year. I'd like to renew that intention again for this year.

Moreover, I'm fascinated (and humbled) by the power of fasting. I think we take it for granted. I know I do. A friend recently told me about the ayurvedic ("life + knowledge") concept of the digestive fire within also being able to digest emotions. If only we don't overtax it by smothering it with food. As we so often do, in Ramadan or otherwise. This reminds me of Rumi's ghazal on fasting:
If the soundbox is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean with fasting,
every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
I believe Ramadan (and all the fasting recommended outside of the blessed month... some calculations of which brings the Blessed Prophet's fast count to 150+ days a year) is a Muslim sabbath of sorts. A time to slow down, reflect, be aware and intentional in terms of our daily habits and relationships. That's what the Compact helps me do.

That said, I'm afraid I've already broken the Ramadan Compact on a couple of items. One "big-ticket" (literally!) from DC to Dubai, where I am now. Another, a smaller purchase, is a book... which I could've borrowed from a friend or the local library. See Dina's post below for more on that.

Make du'aa for me out here in this land of plenty! and I'll do the same for all of you, insha'Allah.

salaam :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Go to your "friend library" for books, magazines, or just...stuff.

Sometimes I tend to get carried away when I think about reducing my consumerism. Some of my most favorite hobbies call for me to buy things, so I find myself limiting the activities I enjoy... but it doesn't have to be that way. I have to remind myself that the purpose of a compact is to:

1. To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of US consumer culture to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc...
2. To reduce clutter and waste in our homes.
3. To simplify our lives.

-SF Compacters

This doesn't mean limiting your life to the bare necessities, just finding ways around doing what you normally do that involves spending. Everyone has their "thing" and I've learned that my "thing" is my fascination with books. I love books. Buying them, reading them, storing them, just looking at them. I would always tell myself "you're buying books to read, not junk to just own" and justify the mounds and mounds of books I buy in a really short time period. It's this obsession that I've realized I need to control and have begun to tame in the following ways.

A few of my friends have this same problem of buying lots of books. We realized that we don't own exactly the same library because of our varying interests, but it was cool to see what the other person has in their library and learn something from what they've read. For example, I would borrow a book from my friend in Chicago, and when finished reading it, would send it to her through the mail or wait to give it to her in person if I knew I was travelling soon. My other friends live close by, so when they come over, they "check out" a few books and return them to me next time they're over or if I visit them. It's endearing to know that you and your friends are offering to each other one of the best gifts in the world: knowledge.

It's a true library system that has been working great for the past few years without any kind of organization. It happens pretty randomly, at house visits or after a conversation about "this amazing book I just read, and you should too." We don't have a mechanism of keeping track of who borrowed which book, we're just trustworthy and considerate of each other's belongings. But I guess if you want to try this library system out and are worried your books will be jacked forever, try creating your own personal library kit to keep track of who has what.

1. Stick a sheet of paper on the last page of the book that has your name and info.
2. Keep a log at home on paper or on your computer to remember who checked the book out last.
3. Write on the paper in the book when you'd like the book back.

You could probably even use this library system with other hobbies, you lend your friend your roller blades and they lend you their ski stuff. Let us know how it works for you.

Happy Ramadan, happy compact, and happy reading!

Monday, September 8, 2008

I've got the power...

In the midst of tropical storm Saturday, I was trying to figure out how to not use disposable products at an upcoming iftar and thinking, "hmm...wouldn't it be nice if I found a set of used silverware at a garage sale that I could just have on hand for parties...hmm." Sheer boredom (and lack of food) told it me it would be a good idea to drive out to the estate sales in Springfield (about 25min away) in the pouring rain, to test out this idea.

And one soggy drive and a 25% discount later:

silverware for 8:

and an insulated carafe for the post-iftar caffeine addicts (ok so its not the prettiest one out there, but the only one for $3 probably):

So not only does participating in the compact give you superhuman powers but good estate sale karma as well ;) alhamdulillah.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ramadan Mubarak!

Click here to sign-up for a buy-nothing Ramadan in 2008!