Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Good Intentions

24 Ramadhan 1437

One feature of Islamic practice that took me by surprise when I converted was the emphasis on the niat, the formally expressed intention behind particular acts, such as fasting. It isn't enough to fast. One must declare the intention for the fast in advance of the act. And if you forget, as I understand it, the fast is invalidated, or at least in danger of being so. In this way of seeing things, God decides whether your fasting is acceptable, and you are never quite sure if it has been accepted.

What this means in practical day to day terms - and Islam is, above all, concerned with the practical and day to day - is that you can never forget what underlies your practice no matter how foolishly forgetful you might be. So for all the benefits that fasting bestows on the individual you know that is not the point of fasting. The fast is undertaken as an act of worship, one that leads inexorably, sanely outside the self.

I was thinking about this today in connection with Aristotle's notion of Final Causes. To those who can see, all things point in a certain direction. Inexorably. Finally. Sanely.

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