The following is a short audio excerpt on the monthly class, Life of the Prophet, at Middle Ground. At the end, we discussed how the world was changing at the birth of the Prophet and the advent of Islam.
Taj al-’Arus al-Hawi li Tahdhib al-Nufus by Ibn ‘Ata Allah al-Sikandari (al-Iskandari)
The Bride-Groom’s Crown Containing Instructions on Refining the Self
“The master of nature is vainly believed to be an adequate substitute for self-mastery.” – Reinhold Niebuhr
In his work, Sufism For Non-Sufi’s, Dr. Sherman Jackson writes,
“…part of Islam’s essential struggle from the very beginning was to identify good, substantively sound spirituality and distinguish it from and elevate it over bad, misguided spirituality. In sum, not all spirituality was or is good.” – Sherman Jackson
What is the function or purpose of spirituality from a Muslim perspective?
- Inspire us: to do good, to do self-help, in all things which inspiration is required.
- Elevate our morals: the world pulls at us asking us to merely adapt, not to transform.
- Imbue us with “devotional confidence and resolve” to connect with God, worship God and put God front and center of our lives.
Spirituality and antinomianism:
- “one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation”;
- one who rejects a socially established morality;
Spirituality in the Muslim tradition should also perform two functions:
- Affirm the supernatural.
- Eschew the superstitious.
من علامة الاعتماد على العمل نقصان الرجاء عند وجود الزلل
“Amongst the signs of leaning on one’s own handiwork of deeds is the loss of hope in the presence of mistakes.”
“Amongst the signs of relying on deeds is the loss of hope in the presence of mistakes.”
The scientists and the atheists get it wrong. They fixate only on the capacity for organisms to adapt, and in doing so they reduce all organisms to the same playing field. But clearly the human being has not only been able to adapt but it has been able to transform.
Our ability to achieve greatness is not determined by our biology: it is determined by our spirit (something animals lack). This is due to unique nature of human beings having the Spirit of God blown into him.
إِذ قالَ رَبُّكَ لِلمَلائِكَةِ إِنّي خالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِن طينٍ
فَإِذا سَوَّيتُهُ وَنَفَختُ فيهِ مِن روحي فَقَعوا لَهُ ساجِدينَ
“Your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am going to create a human being out of clay. When I have formed him and breathed My Ruh into him, fall down in prostration to him’!” Qur’an, 38: 71-72
وَالَّتي أَحصَنَت فَرجَها فَنَفَخنا فيها مِن روحِنا وَجَعَلناها وَابنَها آيَةً لِلعالَمينَ
“And she who protected her private parts. We breathed into her some of Our Ruh and made her and her son a Sign for all the worlds.” Qur’an, 21: 91
ثُمَّ سَوّاهُ وَنَفَخَ فيهِ مِن روحِهِ ۖ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمعَ وَالأَبصارَ وَالأَفئِدَةَ ۚ قَليلًا ما تَشكُرونَ
“…then [God] formed him [Adam] and breathed His Ruh [Spirit] into him and gave you hearing, sight and hearts. What little thanks you show!” Qur’an, 32: 9
Animals don’t worry if they’re too fat or skinny. They can experience hunger but they do not think of transforming themselves.
Therefore Muslims are here not just simply to adapt or assimilate but to transform and to realize.
Transforming from a quiet piety, where one is merely observant of God, (adaptation to the modern American environment where religion is a quiet and conformist religious experience), to one based on knowledge, particularly where knowledge leads to action.
One is not merely satisfied to complete one’s prayers and other duties in the quiet privacy of one’s home, but one’s knowledge of God and His Messenger compels one to act:
- aggression and oppression of the weak.
There are a great many who would love for things to remain the same: a weak, impotent and intimidated Muslim collective who will not challenge society. A weed has no greater friend than an absentee gardener.
أَنَّ رَجُلاً، سَأَلَ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَىُّ الإِسْلاَمِ خَيْرٌ قَالَ – تُطْعِمُ الطَّعَامَ وَتَقْرَأُ السَّلاَمَ عَلَى مَنْ عَرَفْتَ وَمَنْ لَمْ تَعْرِفْ
“A man asked the Prophet ﷺ “Which Islam is good/best?” The Prophet ﷺ replied, “To feed the poor and greet those whom you know and those whom you do not know.” Sahih al-Bukhari #12
Meaningful Prayer – Meaningful Life: the approach:
Takbir: you enter into an intimate moment with your Lord by stating, “God is greater”.
The Opening: no matter what you’ve done, what’s happened to you, what difficulty or tragedy has been visited upon you, “All praise belongs to God”.
Intimacy: use of the word “Lord/Rabb” connotes an intimacy, a closeness with God. In fact, God has instructed us to declare His glory through a personal expression, “how amazing is my Lord the Exalted”.
- Allah is the owner of all the worlds;
- Allah is in charge of all the worlds;
- Allah has full authority;
- Allah has full prerogative: He guides whom He wills and misguides whom He wills. This should fact alone should spur us to never being complacent with the relationship we have with Allah;
- Allah has full maintenance of all the worlds;
God’s Chosen: there is a difference between hearing and listening. God hears all but God declares that He listens “to those that praise Him”. When we wonder if God is answering our prayers let us consider if we praise Him. Every unit of prayer we are reminded that “God listens to those that praise Him”. The question and the challenge is: do we earnestly mean it or do we harbor subtle and secret resentments about that while God decrees:
Be leary of harboring political thoughts about Allah;
God Is Greater: do not become self-congratulatory in your statement of, “O’ our Lord, to You belongs the praise”. Even if you conclude or concede that God is praiseworthy, “God Is greater” than that.
Bowing: an ancient gesture meant to acknowledge and revere;
وَإِذ بَوَّأنا لِإِبراهيمَ مَكانَ البَيتِ أَن لا تُشرِك بي شَيئًا وَطَهِّر بَيتِيَ لِلطّائِفينَ وَالقائِمينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجودِ
“And We located the position of the House for Ibrahim: ‘Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who circle it, and those who stand and bow and prostrate.” Qur’an 22: 26
وَيلٌ يَومَئِذٍ لِلمُكَذِّبينَ
وَإِذا قيلَ لَهُمُ اركَعوا لا يَركَعونَ
“On that Day, woe to the deniers! When they are told to bow, they do not bow.” Qur’an, 77: 47-48
The Prostration: let the distractions of the world fall away:
- You cannot see God so sight is of no use here;
- Without our sight beguiling us, we come closer to understanding God by allowing the other senses to come into play;
- Open yourself up, expose yourself, put yourself in a vulnerable position so you may venerate God;
Sitting: a pause. A moment of silence. A reflection.
للَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِي وَارْحَمْنِي وَعَافِنِي وَاهْدِنِي وَارْزُقْنِي
“O Allah, forgive me, have mercy on me, guide me, heal me, and provide for me.” Sunan Abu Dawud, #849
Witnessing: every two raka’at (units of prayer) we testify to our faith again. We bear witness to the oneness of God.
How can we then live our lives outside of the salah (prayer) like we’re inside it.