Be Careful Little Eyes: Day 10 of Ramadan

 

One thing I’ve learned about Ramadan is that it’s not just about abstaining from food and drink. That is only the tip of the iceberg.

When I sat down with Yaseen before Ramadan started, he explained to me that it is also a fast of the eyes, mouth, and ears.

What does this mean?

It means that one takes special care not to see, say, or hear things that are not pleasing to God.

I am reminded of the Sunday School song that I learned as a child: “Be careful little eyes what you see, be careful little eyes what you see, for the Lord above is looking down in love, be careful little eyes what you see.” Subsequent verses include “Be careful little ears what you hear,” “Be careful little hands what you do,” and “Be careful little feet where you go.” I never cared for the song much as I grew up, mostly because I didn’t want to be restricted in my freedom and liberty. The idea of God watching from above like a security camera also gave me the creeps.

But Ramadan has forced me to take a new look at the wisdom found in this simple song, and to see it from a different angle.

The point is not that we should be careful what we do lest God strike us down, but that we should take care to act in such a way that is consistent with God’s intentions for us. In other words, we must live up to God’s hopes and dreams for us!

And too often, it is the things we do with our eyes, mouth, and ears that pull us away from God’s will.

For example, Yaseen told me that if I am walking through Wal-Mart and see a woman with too little clothing or provocatively dressed, I am to avert my eyes. He said that this is the thing I should do on a normal basis, but that, especially during Ramadan, I must be aware of such temptation.

So I have tried to be conscious of what my eyes are doing, and was surprised to learn that my eyes do indeed wander. Not only that, but our culture is saturated with media images of scantily-dressed, airbrushed and burnished bodies. They’re on television, on billboards, in magazines at the grocery counter – everywhere!

We are fed a diet of unrealistic body images which have the dual consequence of making us feel less-than-acceptable because we don’t look like “that” and causing us to entertain lustful, objectifying thoughts in our heads.

Islam does not ask us to ignore natural attractions or the pleasure of beauty, but implores us to keep our attractions in their rightful place, and to show respect to both men and women.

I heard a Muslim woman speak on this topic once. She challenged men who were quick to look at pornography or lustfully gaze on women: “Would you want someone to look like that at your mother, your wife, your daughter, your sister? Don’t you know that every woman is someone’s daughter, or wife, or mother? Don’t you know that every woman is truly your own sister in God’s eyes?”

But it’s not only about sex. This admonition to watch one’s eyes also applies to anything else that distracts us from putting our attention on God. This includes television programs, sports, movies, and long hours on the Internet.

So I have accepted the challenge to think about what I see, and to remember that I have a choice of what to look upon.

Not only that, but I am also to consider the words I say. According to Yaseen, we are to restrain ourselves from “useless talk, backbiting, slander, abusive speech, false speaking, obscenity, hypocrisy and enmity.” This might prove to be even harder than turning our eyes away from tempting images …

If we are honest, we will confess that there is an over-abundance of this kind of speech in the public square. During the election season, people say some of the worst things about fellow citizens – and it’s not just the politicians. We chime in with our opinions as well. We love to abuse our 2nd Amendment right of freedom of speech, by making all sorts of charges, accusations, and slander against others.

What if we kept ourselves from snipping at others behind their backs, and instead, complimented them? What if, instead of criticizing others, we offered words of encouragement and support? What if, instead of using language that is coarse and blue, we strove to speak in love to one another?

Perhaps it would be easier to speak this way, if we also refused to listen to such kind of talk from others. Gossip and backbiting doesn’t go very far, after all, if there are no ears to hear it, and then pass it on.

Again, this is the way we should behave all year round, not just during Ramadan, or while we are fasting. But having a specific time set apart for the explicit purpose of fasting with our eyes, mouth, and ears reminds us of what God requires of us.

This concept is certainly not foreign to my tradition as a United Methodist Christian. For one, the Bible contains clear practical guidelines for living lives of purity and holiness. In I John 2:15-17, for example, we read, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, was concerned with helping Christians live more holy lives, and he encouraged regular fasting. But for him, as well, the fasting was not merely about food and drink, but about putting aside sinful distractions: “We abstain from food with this view, that, by the grace of God conveyed into our souls through this outward means of fasting, in conjunction with all the other channels of his grace which he has appointed, we may be enabled to abstain from every passion and attitude which is not pleasing in his sight. We refrain from the one, that, being enabled with power from on high, we may be able to refrain from the other.”

And so the fast continues, not just from food and drink, but from all those things which keep us from God.

Advertisements

31 comments

  1. growingwoman

    mashallah. I find every year fasting gets easier in the sense I am not so focused on food, and more challenging because I am more able to focus on things and want to focus on keeping my fast in my behavior.

  2. galih

    I am muslim from indonesia, did u know indonesia is a biges muslim arround the world….say ah lan wa sah lan…from poeple Indonesia

  3. happy

    assalamualaikum wr wb

    I as Indonesian people that in fact, as the country with the largest Muslim population in the world are very proud of what you are doing
    as we know many Americans who think about the religion of Islam oblique, hopefully with what you do can open their eyes about the religion of Islam that actually very beautiful and loving peace.

  4. kukuh

    hey my name is Kukuh, i’m from Indonesia. really, i’m very proud of you 🙂 thank you very much for join ramadhan with us.

  5. indhiika

    Subhanallah holy god almighty I read a brief item about you in http://dunia.news.viva.co.id/news/read/339908-cara-pastor-as-pahami-makna-ramadan. I was amazed and impressed on you the attitude of religious tolerance that you are doing to the Muslim month of Ramadan in Dallas, and I hope you are doing such tolerance could be created not only in Dallas but also in other cities and states that there are many religions, including Islam. Such tolerance can bring all the people in this world toward peace without the need for civil war, religious strife as is the case today. hopefully I can only pray Almighty GOD bless your family on your attitude. Assalamu’alaikum i’m Fadhli Yurdhiika from cirebon-Indonesia

  6. Heri Bimantara Husni

    I know i’m not a holy man,but as a moeslem i wish God always blessing every step in your life
    As we knows,every religions in the world always order their followers to fasting . Cause it could be strengthen your faith to HIm and very good for your health….
    Thanks for your good intentions,Sir
    Keep ‘walkin’ in the right way
    God bless you

    H.Bimantara Husni
    A moeslem from Indonesia

  7. Abdul

    Wes,
    I just wanted to tell you how moved your blog has made me. God Bless you and I hope that I will have a chance to break bread with you soon.

    Thank you!

  8. Khalid

    Wes: Now I feel you have really understood the essence and the purpose of Ramadhan. I am not sure if you have taken up the challenge of the eyes, ears and tongue from day one but even to start of from Day 10 for a person who is fasting the “muslim way” for the first time is amazing. I am really impressed.

    I loved the “mother, wife and sister example you heard from a muslim woman. Its not only America but the entire world is exploiting women in the name of liberty and freedom. Hope things would change if people really take the will of God seriously and implement in their lives.

    Still a long way to go – Another 20 days of training and continuing this fight with our desires and Satan for the rest of our life Insha Allah.

  9. Meg Swaid

    The most important part of the “sawm” i.e. fast is that you do what you have described above. There are people who are unable to fast due to diseases like diabetes or due to pregnancy. They are exempted from that part of the fast but not from the other i.e. the fast of avoiding all things that are unpleasant to Allah. And it is important to not only avoid unpleasant things but to replace them with good things. I usually turn to You Tube and there are movies there with subtitles that are about the lives of the prophets. Ramadan is a great time to bone up on those stories…kind of like Christians do around Easter time with such movies as the Ten Commandments. Feel free to email me if you cannot find these and I will send you some links. This is also a great way to pass the last hours before breakfast when your energy might be low and your patiece waning. There’s nothing like the patience of prophets to remind us of how important patience is to all people. Salaams and keep fasting!

  10. Ed

    Dear Pastor Wes,
    I came across your blog from some facebook posts and I must say that I very much enjoyed reading your writings and honest down-to-earth reporting on how the fasting in Ramadan is making you feel and impacting your awareness. I also browsed through your older posts and am really impressed and pleased to learn of your open, thoughtful, thought-provoking and graceful attitude towards many topics. Unfortunately some American Christian circles (and GOP circles) have taken a very dangerous turn towards extremism and contempt towards the “others” so to speak to the point that it’s no longer recognized as Christianity but you on the other hand are a breeze of fresh air Pastor. And by the way I think the fasting you’re doing is probably the closest to the fasting that Jesus peace be upon him did. And I’m glad the Imam told you the real deal of fasting that it’s not just abstinence form food and drink, there is much more to it. If I may share this with you, Imam Al-Ghazali (Inner Dimensions of Islamic Worship) who was one of the most prominent Muslim Scholars classified fasting into 3 levels:

    1- The fast of the ordinary person consists of the abstinence from food, drink, marital conjugal relations, arguing etc .
    2- The fast of the select few is that of keeping the ears, eyes, tongue, hands, feet together with all the other senses free from sin.
    3- The fast of the elite is the fast of the heart from bad thoughts, worldly worries and anything else that may divert from anything but thoughts of Allah.

    As we already finished (so fast) 1/3rd of Ramadan, we change gears into higher levels of fasting and closeness to God and awareness.

    I’m also glad you’re giving the Qur’an a chance and I hope you enjoy the Chapter of Mary when you reach it. May God bless you and guide you and guide us all.

    Your brother in Humanity
    Ed

  11. Tom Bolton

    Reblogged this on Hopeful and commented:
    Wes Magruder posted a thoughtful piece on Ramadan and fasting. He starts out:
    “One thing I’ve learned about Ramadan is that it’s not just about abstaining from food and drink. That is only the tip of the iceberg.

    When I sat down with Yaseen before Ramadan started, he explained to me that it is also a fast of the eyes, mouth, and ears.

    What does this mean?

    • Khalid

      Tom – Yaseen is the Imam of the IACC Plano Mosque. Wes has regular conversations with him to understand Ramdhan and Islam in general. In his previous posts he has introduced Imam Yaseen to everyone.

      Thanks
      Khalid

  12. Dana

    I pray you will have a successful fast and that God pours on you Mercy from Himself. I converted to Islam 20 years ago but I still remembered that song when you brought it up. Protecting the eyes/ears/mouth/limbs is protecting the heart for if it is filled with other than God, how can it hope to receive God’s blessings. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Dana
    Ramadan in NYC

  13. Samina Azhar

    Greetings from Pakistan! And thanks for bringing us all closer together. I, as a Muslim, am already thinking what ‘I’ can do to express my solidarity with my Christian brethren that goes beyond mere lip service. Ramzan is a beautiful month full of blessing – it ‘has’ to be experienced in a Muslim country too… the grace can literally be felt in the air! Hope you get to experience that too!

  14. toto

    don’t forget to share 2.5% of your wealth to peoples who need it, insya Allah, Allah SWT will give you more than you thought.

  15. Fasting in California

    Thank you for sharing your Ramadan experiences. I am not “officially” a Muslim (was raised Protestant), but I married a Muslim man and have 2 awesome Muslim children. As my kids were growing, I realized that, by living in America, they knew more about Santa Claus than Islam. I talked to my husband about it (he doesn’t pray 5 times a day or fast much during Ramadan), and I decided that if I wanted my kids to know their religion, I needed to bite the bullet and be the one to model it for them. So last year I started fasting. … and, like you, I learned much from it!

    I am fasting again this year and am trying to add in some Quran reading too, although it doesn’t happen often! Fasting is difficult, but not really. Your body gets used to it, and I too notice that I have so much extra “free time” and that it feels like such an amazing PRIVILEGE to be able to eat a meal with my family at night.

    I always used to tell my kids things like, “You really should eat your dinner because there are people in this world who don’t have any food!” and now I really understand better what that means. Living in America, for most people it’s a “given” that we can eat and drink whenever we want. We don’t realize how special it is that we are provided that food, we just shovel it down and don’t think twice.

    But when we fast, we feel how amazing it is to sit down with fresh foods and potable water. It really is a privilege.

    I wish I were in a Muslim country during Ramadan, though. It would be so amazing to know that everybody around you was doing the same thing and then to break fast with your entire community all together. It feels strange to me to walk around Target during the day and feel like I have a little “secret” that I am fasting.

    I have turned to Twitter to get the community feeling. I follow the hashtag #Ramadan and #fasting to see all the tweets coming in from all over the world. It makes me feel that community spirit.

    And it was through twitter that I learned of your blog. I look forward to reading your posts every day and will think of you when I break my fast tonight! 🙂

    Good luck to you!

  16. Dayle

    Hi, Wes and friends around the world!
    My husband and I are American Christians living in Libya. I’m excited to say that we, like Wes, have found that fasting during Ramadan, especially while living in a Muslim country, to be a meaningful experience. Almost nightly we are invited to a Libyan neighbor or friend’s home to break the fast. We are also from Texas but closer to Houston. Many Libyans are surprised to find out that Christians fast and that we want to share and honor their faith practice.

      • Dayle

        Hey, Wes – There is a lot of energy surrounding Ramadan in a Muslim country. Days become “nights” and vice versa. The energy relates to cooking special meals and family times. Imagine grocery shopping the day before Thanksgiving or Christmas for 30 days straight. However, because there is also a focus on spiritual disciplines, the impatience that might surround everyone shopping at the same time is more festive. Most people invite another person to go first both in lines and sometimes cars in the street will do this as well.

        As a “foreigner” sometimes Libyans want to serve the ftur at a table with utensils. We have been here long enough now to enjoy a more relaxed and more culturally natural experience. I even get to not only help cook, but help clean. You know you are welcome when you can do these two things.

        The more challenging part of Ramadan for our Muslim friends (We also lived in Morocco during Ramadan 2009 and fasted) is when jobs are challenging. During the summer, while it is extremely hot, often a reduced schedule is implemented. When school is still in session, my Muslim peers often struggle with extreme fatigue, illness from taxing their bodies and emotional distress.

        Like you, we have learned much through sharing this experience with our Muslim friends. As you are communicating so well, the richness and spiritual depth of the Ramdan journey is a very special experience. As a Christian, we have much to learn about sharing, rather than concealing our faith. As an example – my husband will often go to mosques in any given city where we are traveling. What he has found is that even when the mosque is perhaps closing up or even busy, the men who meet my husband will take time to have tea, sit and talk. A question I ask myself is whether, if I worked at my church, would I stop what I was doing to invite a visitor to sit and have tea?

      • Umm Abdullah

        I fasted as a non-Muslim in Kuwait, and it was a very rewarding experience. While non-Muslims experience some aspects of Ramadan, I never knew until I later became Muslim about the special night prayers. I saw people shopping and visiting family, but I didn’t realize that aside from the 5 obligatory prayers, there are special prayers for an hour or two every night. All the mosques are crowded, especially those who have well-known reciters with very nice voices; many of them set up huge tents to fit all the people, including many women. During the last ten days, these prayers start around 1 a.m. and continue until 2 or 3 a.m. They are very moving, especially at the end, when the imam makes supplications for all kinds of things but especially the Muslims suffering in places like Syria, Palestine, Myanmar, Yemen, etc., when people are brought to tears. Then people go home and eat a pre-dawn meal, and then pray the dawn prayer. Working hours are shortened during Ramadan, but even so, sleep is in short supply!

  17. Rahman Khan

    It was a pleasure listening to you and Imam Yaseen on KERA. May you be blessed for your efforts and sincerity. I do pray you get many gifts on EID as well. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s