Sheema Khan: Going to the gym can be combined with faith. For some, the human body is seen as a trust from God. Therefore, one takes care of that body. For example, there are many teachings in Islam about maintaining one’s health (dietary laws), recommendation of eating habits and personal hygiene. Physical exercise is part and parcel of that trust. Unfortunately, the trend in some Muslim countries (especially in the Persian Gulf) is towards obesity, due to neglect of these very teachings.
Lorna Dueck: Guy – even though I may fail, despite good family or community support, there is more to equip us: the “new in Christ” part that Christians take very seriously. It means that you bring your failure and admit it to Jesus, to God, and ask for help. We ask for forgiveness from our Creator. Supernatural exchange happens and there is a new beginning. This is a daily (sometimes hourly) battle, depending on the issue and consciousness.
Peter Stockland: Moses led the people through the wilderness for 40 years, yet was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Did he fail? He brought God’s commandments to His people, and served his Lord with all his heart. I’m thinking “failure” isn’t what we should worry about.
Sheema Khan: I agree, Lorna – forgiveness and renewal go hand in hand. And for Muslims, remembrance of God throughout the day is key. Whether through the five daily prayers, or the invocations/supplications mentioned at mealtimes, leaving/entering the home, starting a task (we begin in the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful), etc. – all provide ample opportunity for daily renewal. Muslims are also encouraged to follow the example of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) who would ask for forgiveness at least 70 times a day (as reported in the authentic narrations of his life).
Guy Nicholson: Do you make resolutions? If so, do you see them as linked to your faith?
Sheema Khan: I personally do not. In fact, seeking to change one’s behaviour for the better is a year-long endeavour, through small, consistent steps. The five daily prayers help in this process. For some, fasting during the month of Ramadan offers the biggest opportunity to change. During that month, one naturally contemplates the plight of others, renews one’s faith and enhances gratefulness for all of the blessings in life.
It is also during that month that many people pay the zakat – the obligatory 2.5-per-cent tax on net wealth – to the less fortunate, as a means of purifying one’s wealth, and as a reminder that wealth is a temporary gift to be distributed fairly. Sometimes, people will give up smoking or other bad habits during Ramadan, then maintain the newfound resolve to completely rid themselves of such habits.
Peter Stockland: I set goals rather than making resolutions. And they are made with an effort to be attentive to how I best serve God.
Lorna Dueck: I don’t think I can call mine resolutions; I’ve become too experienced in failed ones to bother. But I did do a lengthy spiritual exercise to launch January, keenly aware I was stepping into a new, unspoiled year. I see Christianity as a journey of daily renewal; my resolving for newness was deeply tied to my faith. I wrote down three pages of things I had been thankful for in the past year – it was good year – and then I picked a focus for 2012, and chose Ephesians 3: 14-17 to seal it.