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Avail yourself of the concessions in your humanity 14 June 2010

Posted by MOZAFFAR in Misc.

One of the challenges to piety is the age old challenge of the “ought” versus the “is.”  On the one hand, we speak of piety according to what people *should* do.  On the other hand, we speak of piety according to what people *do* do. 

In the case of the former, we speak of how people should conduct themselves in a particular situation.  We speak of idealistic behavior.  Ideals that every human should aspire to, though no human can reach.

In the case of the latter, we speak of how people will inevitably conduct themselves in particular situations.  We speak of the human behavior as something wrestling with appetites and limitations.  We speak of realities that every human falls into, in the course of seeking the ideals.

Both sides have their strengths.  Ultimately, one might work better for you than the other.  You can look at the person and generation of the Prophet -p- as the greatest of generations in whatever capacity it was great, that should be mimicked, but cannot ever be successfully repeated.  Or, you can look at the person and generation of the Prophet -p- as a generation of living, breathing humans, with human traits and needs, like your own.

But, know that both sides have their weaknesses.  The idealists place demands upon themselves that are inhuman.  An idealist would consider abandoning the world, and fasting the whole of the day, while praying the whole of the night; such an idealist risks failing to fulfill the rights he owes to his self, his body, his family, and his society. What is the lot of such a person, save disappointment and frustration?

The realist, on the other hand, runs the risk of taking too simple and slow of an approach toward personal improvement. It is one thing to be honest about a person’s perceived limits, but something else to exaggerate them.

But there is one element where a realist is better than an idealist: accepting and practicing concessions in piety.  There are simple concessions in piety that are *prescribed* to the believer.  If you fulfill the prescribed forms of prayer, then when traveling, abridge them accordingly.  When you are fulfilling the forms of fasting, then pause them when ill or traveling. The realist is more quick to accept them.  The idealist accepts them based on obedience of the Divine or His Prophet -p.
The point here is that we have aspects of our tradition that are in place to allow us to exhale.  The tradition itself is, by design, a mercy.  But, even within the tradition we find mercies prescribed within the standardized mercies, when dealing with particular situations.  There are times in our lives when we have to pause from our normal routines and practice an abridged or modified schedule. This might happen in times of mourning, sickness, travel, and even drowsiness.  What is the common prescription for the drowsy person? Sleep or pray? Sleep.
But, the common believer might be well aware of the concessions.  The point I’m making is that in matters above and beyond the basic call of duty, it is easy to fall into excessive idealist behaviors that become unhealthy for our well-being.  When you tax your system excessively, your system will respond.  When you engage in practices that are excessive, your internal system will compel you to engage in *other* practices that might be just as unhealthy, but with the hope of finding balance.  Meaning, it is hard to find a person who practices just one excessive practice.  To compensate this excessive behavior, the same person will probably have at least one or more other practices.
So, your challenge is to figure out how to let your system “exhale.” And, the first, basic step, is to accept and practice the concessions in the tradition.  If you are permitted to do less, then do less.
And Allah knows best.


1. Rachid Alhiane - 14 June 2010

Jazak allah kair

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