Cosmic Struggle and The Longest Nights by Jameelah X. Medina


Jameelah MedinaSince my college years studying Spanish mystics and their numerous writings, I have secretly been fascinated by the summer solstice. Years later, my hidden fascination with the winter solstice began. For exactly one year now, I have exclusively been using Nature as my pharmacy. Perhaps, paying more attention to nature has allowed me to relate my experiences with Leylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) and understanding of the story of Jacob wrestling with the “man” all night (Genesis 32:24) to what I felt leading up to and during the winter solstice. While Leylat al-Qadr and Jacob’s night struggle have no direct relation to the winter solstice, I still relate them when I think of my own struggles with my higher and lower self and with my daily goal to be a better me than the day before.

As a Muslim, Leylat al-Qadr is the night I look forward to toward the end of Ramadan. It is filled with blessings and power. Looking for it feels like knowing my sweetest, beloved relative is coming to visit but not knowing her time of arrival. That night is spent in deep reflection and filled with prayers as it is a night the Qur’an tells us is better than one thousand months in which the angels all come down to witness. Then, there is Jacob’s cosmic struggle that lasted until dawn. The Bible and Talmud tell us that he triumphed over divine and men in that long struggle, after which he is renewed by being called “Israel” (he who prevails over the divine) instead of Jacob. Lastly, there is Winter Solstice (Yule). This is a long night welcoming winter but focused on renewal, rebirth, personal power, and setting intentions.

I have always felt like candles are reflection of my soul and loved to use them everywhere in the house every day until my daughter was born (I was afraid of her burning herself). Ramadan nights, especially Leylat al-Qadr, always began with lighting candles in the prayer room, the foyer, and hallways. When learning about Winter Solstice, I saw how important candles were. Soon after, I realized how I had stopped doing New Year’s resolutions and began penning resolutions on or just after Leylat al-Qadr. All of these nights, represent beautiful cosmic struggles for me because: 1) during Leylat al-Qadr and all of Ramadan,  reflect on how I have fallen short of my previous year’s worship goals but take advantage of the blessed night ; 2) Winter Solstice is a time where I can remind myself of what the Quran promises, “ease after hardship” and it is a time celebrate the darkness when it is usually something that is feared instead of revered; and 3) the ups and downs, eases and hardships of life are like the sun and moon, the day and night, the divine and (wo)man, Israel and Jacob. Life itself is like one long night in which we wrestle with divine and mundane in ourselves.

Jameelah X. Medina, Ph.D., is an educator, author, and orator. Her latest book, ABCs of Living a Good Life: 26 Things I’ve Learned along the Way, is available for free on her website:www.jameelahmedina.com. She is also the owner and operator of Dr. J’s Apothecary where she makes all-natural products for health and wellness.

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Categories: General, Islam, Ramadan

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15 replies

  1. Hi, Jameelah,

    Thanks so much.

    You don’t know how *thrilled* I am that you have chosen these two particular passages from the Revelations; one from Genesis and the other from the Quran.

    Both of these passages refer to the same Vision, referred to as the “Tree of Life” in Genesis 3:24; the Vision of the “Son of man” in Daniel, the Gospels and the Revelation of John; and the “sidrah tree” and the “Night Journey” in the Quran. And, interestingly enough–something that is, of course, *detested* by the misogynist monotheistic theologians–this is also the same Vision received by Hagar in Genesis 16:13 (and also described by Mary in the Gospel of Mary found at Nag Hammadi.)

    And this understanding that there is a Revelational continuity between the Torah, Daniel, the Gospels (including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary) and the Quran is CRUCIAL to both resolving the conflict over Jerusalem and attaining genuine Peace.

    Michael

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  2. It’s really outstanding the way you are able to reflect on these divine signs and text to relate to your inner being and striving to be a better person everyday, very inspiring. The Biblical text which you highlighted on, I don’t understand, could you please explain the meaning and the way you were able to relate it to your inner being, thank you.

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    • Abdullahi, thank you. The verse is, “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” It is part of a longer story that is often talked about regarding Jacob being engaged into a “cosmic struggle.” Most reflections determine that the “Man” with whom he struggled was an angel, while some feel that they were various angels. Others even make other sense of it as in the angel/s struggling with Jacob’s highest self and lower self. Since Jacob prevailed in this struggle, his name was changed to Israel. Personally, I feel much more connected with the story by imagining myself in a cosmic struggle like Jacob with my highest self prevailing over my lowest self. I do not see the night as a literal, dusk-to-dawn thing but more as a dark time meaning a time of inner turmoil that leads to growth and progress (day). I hope this helps.

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  3. This post reads like poetry. Stirring and beautiful. Thank you!

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  4. I resonate with your beginning, thanks Jameelah. When I was in art school in college I was also reading Spanish mystics, marvelous, lovable visionaries like St. Teresa of Avila, and Saint John of the Cross. As I got older I also found my way into a nature mysticism embracing both sides of the moon, named the Tao Te Ching, and which I still follow and care for greatly!!

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    • That’s awesome, Sarah! Interestingly, as a freshman in college, I took a semester on “Eastern Religions” and reading and learning about “Taoism” broke up and loosened pieces of my outer shell.

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  5. Beautiful, opened up it would make a perfect sermon. Maybe one day you can make it to Toronto Unity Mosque and give it as a sermon to us in person!

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  6. I am interested in how you have been using Nature as your pharmacy. Can you say a bit about that, please? Thanks

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    • Iris, sure! Starting in winter solstice in 2013, I resolved to find a natural way to manage my asthma. I was tired of being on steroids every 2-3 months, daily steroid inhalers, and also using my rescue inhaler way too often. I had been wondering about the power of essential oils, but did not know where to start. A woman came into my life and told me about a blend of oils to try for asthma. I bought the oils in Dec 2013 and have never looked back. From the first night I used them and a diluted variation on my toddler, we have not had any breathing treatments, steroids, or even had to use the inhaler! I was amazed and thank the universe for opening my eyes…

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      • Then, one-by-one, I started researching essential oils and then fresh herbs for uses to manage other ailments and conditions and even have replaced all harsh chemicals in my home with my own all-natural and safe concoctions. So now, I make my family’s toothpaste, deodorant, facewash, lotion, antibacterial ointment, mouthwash and on and on. I believe my brief bio at the end of my posts has the link to my Dr. J’s Apothecary blog where I post information and recipes for all-natural stuff. There is so much info online and I have stacks of medical journal articles I’m still reading about aromatherapy and topical uses of essential oils and herbs.

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