The most dangerous knife in the kitchen is the dull knife. It’s unreliable and when you least expect it, it cuts you. When you most need it, it slips.I have noticed a growing tendency amongst our communtiy that we are no longer people of extended thought — knowledge you might say — but instead have become people of narrative. I do not say this as a snide remark but I say this with also indicting myself. Narrative is important but without foundational knowledge, we’ll have nothing other than shifting sand to plant the flag of our narrative in.
Everyone’s busy. That’s what I hear. That’s the excuse I’m given. But I also hear, “Shaykh, I want to learn Arabic!” (without showing up to the Arabic class) ; “Imam, how did you learn your Arabic?” (I spent many many long hours sacrificing play time to do thousands upon thousands of drills, etc.). The list goes on and on. And instead of providing opportunities for learning, I believe the last generation of institutions and their scholars/imams/etc., have largely indulged the phenomenon I call Islamotainment. Our gatherings, if we have them at all, tend to range from “chop-it-up” sessions to superficial demonstrations of knowledge that are more about their “wow” factor versus anything transformative. So what can we do?
“When artistic objects are separated from both conditions of origin and operation in experience, a wall is built around them that renders almost opaque their general significance, with which esthetic theory deals. Art is remitted to a separate realm, where it is cut off from that association with the materials and aims of every other form of human effort, undergoing, and achievement.” — John Dewey, from Art As Experience.
A note on “spirituality”:
“(Modern spiritual practices have prompted) a slow, yet irreversible move away from a spirituality that (is) theocentric towards one that is increasingly homocentric.” — Dr. Muneer Fareed.
What do you want to get out of all of this? A reminder on what this course is about. When trying to evaluate this, think of this quote::
إنما يعرف فضل الشيء بثمرته
“The excellence of thing is known by its fruit.” — Ibn al-Jawzi.
What are desires/Hawa and how do they direct our actions?:
اعلم أن الهوى يدعو إلى اللذة من غير فكر في عاقبته
“Know that desires call to rapturous delight without any consideration of its consequences.” — Ibn al-Jawzi.
كم شهوات سلبن صاحبها * ثوب الديانات والمروءات
“How many passions snatched from their companions – the garments of religion and virtue?” — Unknown poet.
Practical approach to improving our iman and spiritual nature – excerpts from The Willpower Instinct:
There is one way to immediately boost willpower: Slow your breathing down to four to six breaths per minute. That’s ten to fifteen seconds per breath— slower than you normally breathe, but not difficult with a little bit of practice and patience. Slowing the breath down activates the prefrontal cortex and increases heart rate variability, which helps shift the brain and body from a state of stress to self-control mode. A few minutes of this technique will make you feel calm, in control, and capable of handling cravings or challenges. Kelly McGonigal — The Willpower Instinct.
It’s a good idea to practice slowing down your breath before you’re staring down a cheesecake. Start by timing yourself to see how many breaths you normally take in one minute. Then begin to slow the breath down without holding your breath (that will only increase stress). Kelly McGonigal — The Willpower Instinct.
Exercise turns out to be the closest thing to a wonder drug that self-control scientists have discovered. Kelly McGonigal — The Willpower Instinct.
Green exercise is any physical activity that gets you outdoors and in the presence of Creation. The best news is that when it comes to green exercise, a quick fix really is enough. Shorter bursts have a more powerful effect on your mood than longer workouts. You also don’t have to break a sweat or push yourself to exhaustion. Lower-intensity exercise, like walking, has stronger immediate effects than high-intensity exercise. Kelly McGonigal — The Willpower Instinct.
McGonical’s insights on “green exercise” reminded me of many of the verses that God talks about in the Qur’an in reference to God’s majesty and power as Creator which often comes in the form of reflecting on God’s Creation:
“In the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and day, and the ships which sail the seas to people’s benefit, and the water which Allah sends down from the sky – by which He brings the earth to life when it was dead and scatters about in it creatures of every kind – and the varying direction of the winds, and the clouds subservient between heaven and earth, there are Signs for people who use their intellect.” — Qur’an, 2: 164.
“So I`ll leave the ways that are making me be what I really don’t want to be, leave the ways that are making me love what I really don’t want to love.” — Nick Drake.