AMILA Retreat – Ramadan Day 4 & 5 – Part 1

“Thus, if he keeps death constantly before his eyes, this acts as a cleanser for the soiled matter encrusting his heart.”

Last year I had heard about this retreat that was supposed to provide a great space for dialog and reflection on Islam through some of my good friends.

But due to the fact I didn’t have a job at the time and I was a freshly minted college graduate – my mom said focus on getting a job and think about this retreat next year…. so Alhumdualillah thats what I did.  So here I am at Point Montara Lighthouse and Hostel for the AMILA retreat.

I had no idea what to expect but I just kept an open mind about it.  The retreat location at the Point Montara Hostel – absolutely beautiful setting, sparking clean hostel with awesomely friendly staff and so nice considering we basically flooded the place with Muslims.

All the people attending were given four different readings – three from the book, “Purification of the Heart,” – chapters Love of the World, Antipathy towards Death and Iniquity as well as from the book,” In the Prophet’s Garden,” a selection of hadith for the young – the chapters on the Day of Judgment and Paradise and Hell as our topic was Remembrance of Death.

Each of these readings revealed beautiful gems of knowledge that both challenged me  at times and reaffirmed my iman. Such as the reading on the love of the world.  I have been recently thinking about how many possessions I have and what is really giving me satisfaction when it comes to consumerism and life.  So when I read the lines, “We should love such things that are a means to seeking God’s pleasure and mercy in the next life,” it really resonated with me.

I was also pleasantly surprised to read the Prophet (pbuh) prohibited vilification of the world. He said,” Do not curse the world, for God created the world, and the world and the world is a means of reaching [knowledge of ] God.”

I have met many a Muslim going for a hermetic  life style.. and Islam isn’t about that.  Feel free not to sleep on the floor but on a nice comfy bed and enjoy tasty food!

On a personal note I think its nice to have nice stuff – but I have noticed that consumerism is an addiction – one I too am fighting – I find myself looking at items that I have no use for at this stage in my life and I have to tell myself no.  I also have then tendency to want to “stock up” on things because – its cheaper and it means I don’t have to worry about running out and getting than item later- or who knows I might need that _______ in a week or its just cool or the latest and greatest.

But I have to question – has stocking up become hording or being a pack rat?  I have many things that I keep “just in case.”  Other things I keep because they are have a memory or achievement attached to them – that I can’t see myself getting rid of yet.  So.. that is something I am thinking about.  Later about that in another post.. entitled 100 items.

“Thus, if he keeps death constantly before his eyes, this acts as a cleanser for the soiled matter encrusting his heart.”  Upon reading that line – I thought, ” What will people say of me at my death? What will I have achieved?  If I died now would I have regrets?  I am not sure what I will have achieved if I died now or what people would say about me.  I know I would regret not making Hajj, marrying or having children.  I would regret not having made a long lasting positive impact on at least one community.  On the other hand, I would be ok with my death and I have no fear of it.  I would submit readily and without qualm should my death come now or at some later date.

” But the world’s most powerful leaders , after finally achieving what they so badly coveted, tasted death,”  indeed this chapter goes on to point out that the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh), sought to be closer to him in order to learn more about their obligations and increase their nearness to Allah.  They didn’t seek illusory power – status, wealth etc they sought a power greater than themselves.

Indeed according to the text, desire for temporal power is a move away from Allah.  SubhannaAllah.  It says a lot about individuals in positions of power in governments and corporations around the world.  It also makes me question my motivation for certain actions and where I am with my softness of heart and nafs.

I took comfort in what one of the speakers quoted an Imam – sadly due to my slow transcription skills – I missed the name – said, “For him whom, two days are the same is the loser.”  The speaker went on to say we should see a difference in each day and improvement or an increase awareness of what we need to work on each day – even if there is no actual movement towards change.

Remembering death gives us perspective and lightens any burdens an individual maybe experiencing.   It also helps to to detach our hearts from this world before our bodies do.

People often ask.. what did they leave behind?  The angels ask, What did they send ahead?

I loved the part in the chapter on iniquity that said, “Attaining nearness to God does not involve wronging others.  On the contrary, access to the source of all power requires a character that is selfless, compassionate and sensitive to the rights of others.”  The truly pious are those who put others before themselves.

This tells me just how far I need to go.. when I still have feelings of wanting to be the first in line or worried that I won’t get my way on some issue.  If we put everyone else first – we would indeed purify our character’s and hearts to a point that would benefit and change the whole world.   What a world that would be!

More in the next post inshaAllah

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