Quranist ponders about Minimalism
For many years I have followed “Flylady” Marla Cilley’s advice on Flylady.net for how to keep the home running something like clockwork mostly by abandoning perfectionism, decluttering, forming new habits to create personalised routines and concentrating on one task at a time using a timer to prevent becoming sidetracked and to increase productivity. More recently I came across Leo Babauta’s blog MNMlist.com which is dedicated to his journey through Minimalism and the minimalist approach to life. What drew me to minimalism in particular to start with were the author’s tips on how to reduce clutter and make small living spaces seem more spacious.
I was intrigued to learn that Babauta is also the author of “Zen Habits”, a blog which listed Lifehacker in the “Top 50 Productivity Blogs” . The “Zen Habits” blog title is inspired by “Zazen” (which in Zen Buddhism is a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind, and be able to concentrate enough to experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment. Thanks Wikipedia!) Babauta makes no claims to being a Zen Buddhist or a Zen Master nor indeed a monk of any sort; he simply “loves the simple philosophy of Zen Buddhism, finds peace in zazen, and loves the minimalist aesthetic.”
My initial impression of minimalism was from an aesthetic and practical standpoint, and I will admit to say, slightly superficial. I needed more space, I wanted less clutter. Cue: flashbacks of Eddie from Absolutely Fabulous gasping to Patsy “I want surfaces Dahling, surfaces!”
Having read more about Minimalism as a lifestyle practise, there are many points raised in Babauta’s posts that strike me, a Quranist, as very compatible with some of the teachings of the Quran, on a far deeper level than the visual pleasures of the smooth, cushionless couches, the bare bookcases and the empty vases of minimalist interior design!
Summary of Minimalism
From what I can summarise, a practising minimalist will try to simplify and reduce down every part of his or her life. Buy less, own less, do less, use less. Clothing is reduced to a few items that you actually wear. In with the essential, out with the non-essential. Possessions and belongings are given away unless vital. Cleaning, travel, pretty much all activities are all questioned to see if there is a simpler, more economic, less consuming or more environmentally friendly way of doing things.
Ok…but where does the Quran come into all of this?
Conditioning the mind and soul
On a spiritual level, a minimalist may try to overcome “Lust” or desires to acquire new possessions, by not giving in to cravings for materialistic objects as described in “On Wanting Stuff“. This reminds me of Quran 25:43 Hast thou ever considered [the kind of man] who makes his own desires/lust (huhawahu) his deity? Couldst thou, then, [O Prophet,] be held responsible for him? More obviously, possibly, is the command to “sawm” (2:183) which is the Arabic word for abstinence or fasting.
Back to basics
“Rethinking necessities” reminds me of our quranic obligation to consume but do not be greedy or wasteful – in 74:6 and 7:31
Don’t live beyond your means
A huge problem in today’s society is the lending and borrowing of money that people struggle to pay back. Credit cards, loans, mortgages are difficult to avoid but are a slippery slope into depths of misery and distress for many people. A minimalist will try to avoid further debt and reduce existing debts where possible. Buying is not the solution reminds me of the concept of not living beyond our means and spending out of what is provided for us. see verses 2:254; 16:75; 22:35; 34:39; 35:29;) Not to mention the issue of “Riba”(traditionally interest or usury), a controversial subject which has opened up a niche market to the opportunists responsible for so called “Islamic Finance”… but that’s another story! (more on this in the Newsletter)
Security is a post about possessions and materialism, and how we should not or indeed do not need these things to feel secure. This is a concept mirrored throughout the Quran (see verses 7:169; 8:67; 27:82; 28:60; 38:32 to mention just a few). The word in “Quranese” (Quranic Arabic) denoting secure is “amin” and features many times The triliteral root hamza mīm nūn (أ م ن) occurs 879 times in the Quran, in 17 derived forms, including amin, iman and mu’min.
The lesson of patience, anti-procrastination, planning, forethought, mindfulness, positive thinking, (I love this post entitled “Wash your bowl” ) are present in the following Quran verses
13:24 “Peace be upon you for what you have been patient for. Excellent indeed is the final abode.”
8:46 And pay heed unto God and His Apostle, and do not [allow yourselves to] be at variance with one another, lest you lose heart and your moral strength desert you.50 And be patient in adversity: for, verily, God is with those who are patient in adversity.
30:60 So be patient, for God’s promise is true, and do not be dissuaded by those who do not have certainty.
The Quranese word for Patience is Sabr
compare the post “Distractions” with Quran’s emphasis on taking time to ponder, reflect and the preparation for “salat” – to me this shows we are focussing on concentrating on the task at hand.
29:64 This worldly life is no more than fun and distraction, while the abode of the Hereafter is the reality, if they only knew.
6:32 This worldly life is nothing more than games and a diversion, and the abode of the Hereafter is far better for those who are aware. Do you not understand?
7:51 The ones who took their system as diversion and games, and were preoccupied with this worldly life. Today we ignore them as they ignored their meeting on this day, and they denied Our signs.
A minimalist does not feel the need to pig out, enough is enough, small amounts and natural, pure and whole foods, which may even be raw or vegan. (see “Minimalist Eating“) The Quran instructs us to eat without being wasteful or indulgent.
6:141 He is the One Who initiated gardens; both trellised and untrellised; palm trees, and plants, all with different tastes; and olives and pomegranates, similar and not similar. Eat from its fruit when it blossoms and give its due on the day of harvest; and do not waste. He does not like the wasteful.*
7:31 O Children of Adam, dress nicely at every temple, and eat and drink and do not indulge or waste; He does not like the indulgers and the prodigals.
Be mindful of the Environment
http://mnmlist.com/reduce-footprint/ This post is about treading lightly on the earth which is a direct Quranic instruction:
-Quran : 25:63 For, [true] servants of the Most Gracious are [only] they who walk gently on earth, and who, whenever the foolish address them, reply with [words of] peace;
Be grateful for what you have
http://mnmlist.com/finding-contentedness/ This is the opposite of wanting more and lusting after the newer, the bigger and the better. We have to make do with what we have and be content with it! If we replace what we already have, we are being wasteful.
2:152 so remember Me, and I shall remember you; and be grateful unto Me, and deny Me not.
7:10 YEA, INDEED, [O men,] We have given you a [bountiful] place on earth, and appointed thereon means of livelihood for you: [yet] how seldom are you grateful!
7:58 As for the good land, its vegetation comes forth [in abundance] by its Sustainer’s leave, whereas from the bad it comes forth but poorly. Thus do We give many facets to Our messages for [the benefit of] people who are grateful!
14:7 And [remember the time] when your Sustainer made [this promise] known: ‘If you are grateful [to Me], I shall most certainly give you more and more;* but if you are ungrateful, verily, My chastisement will be severe indeed!”‘
21:80 And We taught him how to make garments [of God- consciousness] for you, [O men,] so that they might fortify you against all that may cause you fear: but are you grateful [for this boon]?*
23:78 [O MEN! Pay heed to God's messages,] for it is He who has endowed you with hearing, and sight, and minds: [yet] how seldom are you grateful!
29:17 You worship only [lifeless] idols instead of God, and [thus] you give visible shape to a lie!* Behold, those [things and beings] that you worship instead of God have it not in their power to provide sustenance for you: seek, then, all [your] sustenance from God, and worship Him [alone] and be grateful to Him: [for] unto Him you shall be brought back!
30:46 for among His wonders is this: He sends forth [His messages as He sends forth] the winds that bear glad tidings,* so that He might give you a taste of His grace [through life-giving rains], and that ships might sail at His behest, and that you might go about in quest of some of His bounties, and that you might have cause to be grateful.
help others, be charitable
76:9 “We only feed you for the sake of God; we do not desire from you any reward or thanks.”
22:28 So that they may witness benefits for themselves and recall God’s name in the appointed days over what He has provided for them of the animal livestock. So eat from it and feed the needy and the poor.
2:177 Piety is not to turn your faces towards the east and the west, but piety is one who acknowledges God and the Last day, and the angels, and the book, and the prophets, and he gives money out of love to the near relatives, and the orphans, and the needy and the wayfarer, and those who ask, and to free the slaves, and he observes the Contact prayer, and contributes towards betterment; and those who keep their pledges when they make a pledge, and those who are patient in the face of good and bad and during persecution. These are the ones who have been truthful, and they are the righteous.
2:215 They ask you what they should spend, say, “What you spend out of goodness should go to your family and the relatives and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer. Any good you do, God is fully aware of it.”
4:36 Serve God and do not set up anything with Him, and be kind to the parents, and the relatives, and the needy, and the neighbor who is of kin, and the neighbor next door, and close friend, and the traveler, and those with whom you have contractual rights. God does not like the arrogant, the boastful.*
9:60 The charities are to go to the poor, the needy, those who work on their collection, those whose hearts are to be reconciled, free the slaves, those in debt, in the cause of God, and to the wayfarer. A duty from God; God is Knowledgeable, Wise.
count your blessings
16:18 If you count the blessings of God you will not be able to fathom them. God is Forgiving, Compassionate.
14:34 He gave you all that you have asked Him. If you were to count God’s blessings, you will never enumerate them. The human is indeed transgressing, unappreciative.
3:154 Then, after this woe, He sent down upon you a sense of security, an inner calm which enfolded some of you,112 whereas the others, who cared mainly for themselves, entertained wrong thoughts about God – thoughts of pagan ignorance – saying, “Did we, then, have any power of decision [in this matter]?”113 Say: “Verily, all power of decision does rest with God”114 – [but as for them,] they are trying to conceal within themselves that [weakness of faith] which they would not reveal unto thee, [O Prophet, by] saying, “If we had any power of decision, we would not have left so many dead behind.”115 Say [unto them]: “Even if you had remained in your homes, those [of you] whose death had been ordained would indeed have gone forth to the places where they were destined to lie down.” And [all this befell you] so that God might put to a test all that you harbour in your bosoms, and render your innermost hearts116 pure of all dross: for God is aware of what is in the hearts [of men].
This is of course a non exhaustive list and as time goes by, I will, hopefully, God Willing, InshaaAllah, be more aware of my minimalistic surroundings (I am conserving power and typing in the dark and have become acutely aware of my overwhelming need and desire for an Apple MacBook Air with backlit keyboard! I think it is safe to say there is no hope for me, is there???!!!) After I accomplish my enlightenment, I will be able to concentrate on what I am meant to be doing, immersing myself in the joys of washing my plates and bowls as I fantasise about living the simple life of a Zen Buddhist monk, being “at one” with my existence and being grateful for it, unless I get sidetracked again and have flashbacks to the days of AbFab!
::hums to self:: “Wheels on fire…. rolling down the road!!!”