The Man Who Has Played Role of God Sets Out To Study Him


In the Name of God: The Eternally and Extremely Loving and Caring

“I have always been fascinated by God.”

So says Morgan Freeman, the Academy Award-winning actor known, among many other things, for playing the role of God in films such as Bruce Almighty. Now, he sets out on an amazing journey to study God and how He is worshiped all across the globe.

Premiering Sunday April 3 on National Geographic Channel, “The Story of God”:

seeks to understand how religion has evolved throughout the course of civilization, and in turn how religion has shaped the evolution of society. Although in our current geopolitical landscape, religion is often seen as something that divides, the series illuminates the remarkable similarities among different faiths, even those that seem to be in staunch contrast. This is a quest for God: to shed light on the questions that have puzzled, terrified and inspired mankind, not to mention Freeman himself.

Said Morgan Freeman himself about the series:

Over the past few months, I’ve traveled to nearly 20 cities in seven different countries on a personal journey to find answers to the big mysteries of faith. I’ve sung the call to prayer at a mosque in Cairo, taken meditation lessons from the Buddhist leader of the oldest line of reincarnating Lamas, discussed Galileo with the head of the Papal Academy of Sciences and explored the first instructions for the afterlife rendered in hieroglyphs inside the pyramids. In some places I found answers, and others led to more questions. The constant through it all is that we’re all looking to be part of something bigger than us. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we certainly are.

Read the rest and see the trailer at http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/commonwordcommonlord/2016/02/the-man-who-has-played-role-of-god-sets-out-to-study-him.html#ABXaEfev1udQvV1A.99

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Keeping Ramadan Alive the Rest of the Year


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved LORD

This was published on the website OnIslam.net.

Almost invariably it happens a few days after the end of Ramadan: the letdown.

Fasting is finished; the nightly prayers are over; the group gatherings to break the fast have vanished. We can eat, drink, and be merry again when the sun is shining. And that special feeling you have in your heart–the one that keeps you going despite your hunger and thirst–gradually fades away.

The spiritual high evaporates, and all you are left with are the bad habits you tried to shed during Ramadan, but mysteriously rear their ugly heads once it is over.

Ramadan is supposed to increase your faith and God-consciousness:

“Believers! Fasting has been prescribed for you–as it was prescribed for those before you–so that you may be conscious of God.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:183).

The point is not to be an angel for Ramadan and a demon at other times. The lessons learned and spiritual benefits gained during that month are intended to carry over for the rest of the year until next Ramadan.

Yet frequently they do not. Is there anything we can do about it? Absolutely and here are five ways we can try to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive and well throughout the rest of the year.

Good Habits Kept Up

More than just denying oneself food and drink, the fast of Ramadan is a complete body-and-soul fast. Although this should be the behavior of the believer at all times, when one is fasting, he or she should take special care not to harm anyone, curse anyone, or do anything wrong. In fact, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said:

“Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions [while fasting], God is not in need of his leaving his food and drink.”

Well, once Ramadan is over, these good behaviors should continue.

For instance, if you took the opportunity of the month of Ramadan to try to curb talking about other people, why not continue to refrain from doing so after Ramadan is over? We should continue to go to the mosque for congregational prayers. It is so amazing to see the mosque–which was packed just a few days earlier–stand almost completely empty during Isha’, or night prayers, after Ramadan. If we can go to the mosque each day during Ramadan, we can get there every day during the rest of the year.Smoking is prohibited during daylight hours during Ramadan, which makes it the perfect opportunity to quit cigarettes. Yes, the nicotine in tobacco smoke is more addictive than heroin, and it is one of the most difficult addictions to beat. But if you can go without smoking for 14-17 hours a day during Ramadan, you can go without it for the remaining 7-10 hours. Ideally, there should be no Muslims who smoke, given the fact that they have to stop doing so for most of a month every year. Sadly, the reality is quite different. Many, many Muslims smoke, and it saddens me–especially since I am a lung specialist who sees firsthand the devastation wrought by cigarette smoking–to see groups of men outside the mosque immediately light up the moment sunset arrives.

Fast Throughout the Year

I must admit that this is the most difficult one for me to follow, but I must mention it anyway. The fast of Ramadan is obligatory for every adult Muslim, but there are numerous other fasts that Muslims are encouraged to undertake throughout the year, and we should try to participate. For instance, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, encouraged Muslims to fast six days of the month of Shawwal, the month after Ramadan. The reward is equivalent to fasting the entire year. In a few months, the season of Hajj will begin, and those Muslims who do not perform the Hajj are encouraged to fast the day of Arafat, when all the pilgrims will be standing on that plain and begging God for forgiveness. We should fast that day. For Ashura, the day that commemorates the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt, Muslims are encouraged to fast that day as well as the day before. (Ideally, Muslims should fast the first nine days of the month of Dhul-Hijjah, when the Hajj occurs.)

For the very ambitious, the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to fast every Monday and Thursday, and if one is able, he or she could follow this Sunnah, or tradition of the Prophet. The very, very ambitious could even fast in the tradition of the Prophet David, peace be upon him; fasting every other day. If this is too much, perhaps we can fast one, two, or three days each month. Whatever the number, we should try to fast outside of Ramadan to help keep the spirit of the month alive in our daily lives.

Qiyam Praying

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims gather together and perform the Isha, or night prayer, and then special devotional prayers, called Tarawih, in congregation (together these are called, qiyam, extra devotional night prayers). It is such a wonderful time, and it is perhaps–after actually getting to eat and drink–the best part of Ramadan. We are all together in the mosque, and we get to hear the entire Qur’an recited if we go every night of Ramadan.

Why not, at home, have your own “mini-Tarawih”? You can either read what you have already memorized, or you can read from the Qur’an itself. If you continue this throughout the year, it is quite possible to finish reading the entire Qur’an many times over. This is an excellent way to keep the feeling and spirit of Ramadan alive.

Charity

Ramadan is also the month of charity. It was said that the Prophet, already the most generous of men, was even more generous during the month of Ramadan. Along with teaching the believer discipline and spiritual focus, the fast of Ramadan is a potent reminder that there are millions of people around the world who must forgo food and drink involuntarily, out of sheer poverty. As a result, Muslims are frequently motivated to give to the poor during Ramadan, and the reward for an act of charity–already substantial–is multiplied many times over in the month of Ramadan. Muslims often discharge their obligatory annual alms tax, the Zakah, during this month.

Yet that does not mean we should be stingy and miserly throughout the rest of the year. We should continue to be generous even when it is not Ramadan, perhaps devoting a little bit of what we earn to help the poor. You could even open a donor-directed fund or a charitable gift fund at a brokerage firm and invest your donations so you could give more. If you want to be even more ambitious, you can start your own charitable endowment, an essential aspect of the classical Islamic tradition that has unfortunately gone by the wayside in modern times.“Haven’t Seen You Since Last Ramadan…”

Another beautiful aspect of Ramadan is the frequent invitation to people’s homes for iftar meals after sunset. Here, Muslims gather and break their fast together. Many times, it is an opportunity to see friends (and maybe even family) they do not normally get a chance to see during the rest of the year. Well, the same theme applies: if you can do it during Ramadan, you can do it at any other time as well. Why not keep up the contacts made during Ramadan throughout the rest of the year? Have monthly gatherings at each other’s homes or at a favorite restaurant. Let it not be another year when you say to a friend, “Wow! I haven’t seen you since last Ramadan!”

For Muslims, the month of Ramadan is the most wonderful time of the year. The benefits and beauties of this month are boundless, and–even though I can once again drink my 24 oz. French-Irish-Vanilla-Chocó-Crème Coffee chino in the morning–I always feel a tinge of sadness when Ramadan is over.

Yet we can keep the spirit of the month alive and well throughout the rest of the year. For that is the whole purpose of the fast, isn’t it- to be conscious of God.

Last Day of Ramadan


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved LORD

It is amazing that it is finally here: the final day of the month of fasting. Indeed, it did seem to go by quickly, yet at the same time, however, the days of fasting seemed to never want to end. I am not going to put on a show for you: this year’s fast was quite difficult. The days were very long, and as they went along, I would seem to move in slow motion in the afternoon. I must admit that I am a bit excited to be able to eat and drink during the day once again.

Yet, I did my best. I tried to remain faithful to the fast as much as I could. And even when I did stupid things (like play golf in 98 degree heat) while fasting, never once did I even think about breaking my fast. I stuck with it as best I could because, for my entire life, the Precious Beloved stuck with me through thick and thin.

And so, as Muslims the world over are (or will be) celebrating the end of the month of fasting, I turn to the Precious Beloved in prayer:

Kind and Beautiful, Gracious and Merciful, Majestic and Mighty Precious Beloved LORD OUR GOD.
The end of the month of fasting has now come, and I turn to your Beautiful Face to ask Your pardon.

Forgive me, O LORD, for all the times I wished I was not fasting, because of the depth of thirst and pain of hunger.
Forgive me, O LORD, for all those times that I could not stand up in the night in prayer because of weakness, or fatigue, or laziness
Forgive me, O LORD, for all the times I did not fast completely as I should have fasted, even though You have given me so much
Forgive me, O LORD, for all the times when I did not fully live up to the standard by which You have asked me.

Precious Beloved LORD, I tried my best to be the best servant I can be, and I know I could have done better for Your sake, my Lord. And so I ask thee, my Beautiful Beloved Lord, to forgive me and accept me into Your Holy and Honorable Fold. I tried my best this year, O LORD, and so please accept me and my fast, my prayers, my charity, and my night vigils.

Beautiful Beloved LORD, I love you so very, very much because You have been so beautiful to me for my whole life. And because You, O Beautiful LORD, loved me first when I was nothing. LORD, thank you for every single thing in my life; LORD, thank you for Your Love; and LORD, thank you very, very much for the fast. Please make me a better person because of it.

A Birthday Prayer


In the Name of the Kind and Beautiful Precious Beloved Lord

Today, by the grace of God, is my birthday (DON’T EVEN THINK about extracting from me my age…). I offer up this prayer on this day:

 

Precious Beloved Lord,

Today, You have blessed me with another year of life

Today, You have blessed me with another year of breath and movement

Today, You have blessed me with another year of enjoyment with my family

Today, You have blessed me with another year to bask in the light of Your Love

Lord, my Beautiful God, forgive me for all those times in the past year that I have fallen from Your Grace

Lord, my Beautiful God, forgive me for all those times I have fallen short of Your Call and Way

Lord, my Beautiful God, forgive me for all the ugliness I have shown You for all of Your Beauty

As I traverse another year in Your Love, I ask that You bless my path

Bless my travels, bless my time, bless my family, bless my writing

Bless my practice of medicine, bless my practice of Your faith

Lord, let my next year be better than this one that has just passed

And Beautiful Lord, forgive all my sins that I have yet to transgress against Your Beauty

And if my journey were to end in the next year, please, my Precious Beloved:

Let me come back to Your Glorious Face happy and joyous,

Let me enter into Your Presence to dwell therein forever and ever

And let me, once again, see my beloved Booboo in all her glory and beauty.

In Your Most Holy Name I ask this. Amen.

A Prayer at the End of Ramadan


In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

Most Precious, Beautiful, Kind, Loving, Merciful, and Gracious Lord; O God, our Precious Beloved Lord; Ruler of the Heavens and the Earth; Kind Guide to all those on Your Path:

Lord, the month of fasting has come to an end, and as You know, I cannot say that I will not feel happy. This year has been particularly difficult for me to complete. I have strained at the difficulty of having to wait for the long (and frequently hot) day to finish before I can finally eat and drink. Then, I strain at having very little time to eat and drink before I have to stop again.

I feel terrible for my straining this past month. You have been so Beautiful, so Kind, so Merciful, so Compassionate, so Wonderful to me for all these years…and I strain when I have to fast the day for only one month out of the year. I feel terrible, Lord, for it is clear that I am also not truly free.

I know that You understand that fasting is difficult, and that is why You have pledged to reward us for it. Nevertheless, I feel terrible for not having fasted with a huge smile on my face, with happiness that I am not eating and drinking for Your sake. Perhaps I ask too much of myself, but when it is for You, I think it is worth it.

So, my Beautiful Precious Lord, I ask that You look past my straining and accept the fasts that I tried so hard to faithfully fulfill . Please look past my weaknesses as a human being, my hypocrisy that I live each day, and accept my striving on your path. Please accept the fact that I did thirst and strain at having to fast, but that I tried to do it for You. Please accept my recitation of the Qur’an during the holy month of Ramadan. Please accept the cycles of prayer that I offered for You during this month. Please accept the night vigils that I tried to perform for Your sake.

Lord, please forgive my shortcomings during this month. Please forgive the many sins that I committed during Ramadan. Please forgive the mistakes that I made while I was trying to be good to You. Please look past all the ways I fall short of Your Way and accept me into Your Presence and Garden.

Lord, do not let the blessings of this month, which I took for granted, to pass by me when the days and nights of holiness are long gone. Please, do not take away all that Grace, and Mercy, and Beauty, and Kindness, and Graciousness once the calendar continues on. Please continue to show me that Most Beautiful Face that You have always shown me and continue to bless me for all my life, for all my time.

O God our Lord, I wish I had been better during this Ramadan. I wish I had fasted with a big smile on my face. I wish I had no feelings of dread as the month of Ramadan approached. I wish I jumped for joy when I found the month of fasting upon me.

I didn’t.

Nevertheless, O Lord, I tried my best to fast because it was You who told me to do so. I did my best, my Lord, so please accept it from me.

O God my Lord, I love You. I may not show it in the best way, but I really do. I know You know this, but I like to say it anyway. And I know You love me, because if You didn’t, You would not have given me life when I was dead. And so, my Lord, I will try my best to stay true to your path for all the days that I live.

My Precious Beloved Lord, the month of Ramadan is over, and I cannot say I won’t be happy to have that cup of coffee when the sun is rising high into the sky. I cannot say I won’t be happy to be able to play golf and drink coffee or diet soda at the same time. I cannot say I won’t be happy to be able to eat before the sun sets. But, please, Lord, accept me with all my weakness, all my frailty, all my hypocrisy.

I am trying my best, O Lord, so please accept me. And I end with one of my most favorite passages of Your Most Holy Word:

Limitless in His glory is thy Lord, the Lord of Almightiness, [exalted] above anything that men may devise by way of definition! And peace be upon all His Message-bearers! And all praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds! (37:180-183)

In Your Most Holy Name do I say this, Amen.

Why I Found "You Found Me"


In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving


I was a little nervous when I looked to add the song to my library. Whenever I consider adding a song to my iPod, I do research on the song: I look at the lyrics; I research the meaning of the song, if such information has been published. The sounds, melodies, and music of a song attract me to it, but then I want to make sure that the song has an important message, or, at least, is not vulgur or against my sensibilities. I try to do this as much as possible. Such was my process when I looked at “You Found Me,” by The Fray.


The song has haunted me ever since I purchased it. As lead singer and pianist Isaac Slade said in an interview, “You Found Me is a tough song for me. It started from just a song with a lot of hate towards God.” In another interview, he said: “If there is some kind of Person in charge of this planet – are they sleeping? Smoking? Where are they? I just imagined running into God standing on a street corner like Bruce Springsteen, smoking a cigarette, and I’d have it out with Him.”


Now, I am not comfortable with this premise: “having it out” with God. In fact, I am even more uncomfortable with his depiction of God in this song: I found God on the corner of 1st and Amistad…All alone, smoking his last cigarette. The anthropomorphism is a bit too much for me. But, this is not my view of God, but his. And when he meets God, he says “Where you been?” in a manner, in my imagination, that is confrontational. That is not how I would meet God.


Had this situation been presented to me (as outlandish as that is to me), I would not have been confrontational with God. I would have just collapsed into His arms, crying into His shoulder, soaking His shoulder and arms with my tears, muffling my screams in His chest.


Perhaps the beginning of this song is too much disrespect for God, and that should preclude me from even listening to it. I can understand this feeling. God is so Holy, so Transcendent, so Precious that he should not be treated this way in a rock song.


But, I tried to see beyond this and listen to the conversation that this person had with God, a conversation which many, many people have with God every single day. So many people ask God, Where were you when everything was falling apart? That question is even put forth in Biblical scripture: “My God, my God! Why hast thou forsaken me?” In fact, this question has led so many people to abandon faith and the belief that there can even be a God. That’s why I listen to this song: to confront this question and conversation and see how I deal with it.


I wanted to hear Isaac Slade ask God:


Where were you when everything was falling apart?
All my days were spent by the telephone that never rang
And all I needed was a call that never came


He continued:


Lost and insecure, you found me, you found me
Lying on the floor surrounded, surrounded
Why’d you have to wait? Where were you? Where were you?
Just a little late, you found me, you found me


He then continues in his complaint to God: about losing a very important person in his life, the one person – according to him – is the only one who’s ever known/Who I am, who I’m not, and who I wanna be/No way to know how long she will be next to me.


He goes even further, telling God:


The early morning, the city breaks
And I’ve been calling for years and years and years and years
And you never left me no messages
You never sent me no letters
You got some kind of nerve taking all I want!


He then asks again:


Lost and insecure, you found me, you found me
Lying on the floor, where were you? Where were you?


Although God, Who has given the singer the gift of life, has every right to cast him down as an insolent ingrate, knowing my Precious Beloved, He would not. He would simply listen to his complaints and let him vent, even if it is horribly disrespectful to do so.


I mean, the singer is fortunate enough to be alive and well enough to rail against God; he is fortunate enough to have survived his world falling apart; he is fortunate enough to be able to speak to God about his misfortunes and tragedies, even though God knows it all better than he does himself. Still, God just lets him scream out to Him.


And there is another side to this conversation: perhaps God did leave him messages, but the singer didn’t bother to check them. Perhaps God did send him letters, but the singer threw them away as “junk mail.” Perhaps God did call him on 1st and Amistad, but the singer never bothered to pick up the phone. We don’t know that, because the singer doesn’t tell us.


Still, the question, or problem, of evil has perplexed the faithful and unfaithful for centuries. The premise goes: if this world is run by an All-Powerful, Benevolent God (which it is), then how can this All-Powerful, Benevolent God allow so much suffering and evil to occur? As I said, this very question has led so many people to lose faith in a God altogether.


The way I see it, the Director knows what He is doing. It will all make sense in the end. Now, I cannot even begin to explain the reason behind all of the suffering in our world today, but I have faith that we are in Great Hands, and it will all work out in the end.


Indeed, this is a very difficult situation about which to write: I don’t want to be tested with calamity. Whenever I think of the story of the Prophet Job (pbuh) and the enormous test he endured, it sends chills down my spine. I would never want that to happen to me.


But, at the same time, our family has been touched with calamity, and I have tried my best to be patient and faithful to the Lord. He knew what He was doing when our daughter succombed to the ravages of septic shock. All I can do is accept that outcome and be patient, hoping for reward from Him and a holy reunion with her in the Garden of Bliss.


That’s why I would never have said to God: You got some kind of nerve taking my daughter from me!


Far from it!


All I would have done is look at His gleaming face and collapse into His soothing arms. And I know that I would have found nothing but restful tranquility and soothing comfort.

Devotion to God Demands the Golden Rule


In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving

Strapping a bomb to one’s chest and killing himself and scores of innocent people along with him can no way be a true fulfillment of God’s love. If anyone claims thus, it is a result of sick and twisted thinking and reasoning; the result of a diseased and satanic heart. Devotion to God does not trump the Golden Rule; devotion to God necessitates the Golden Rule…

Read the rest of the post here.