Feb 5, 2010, 8:37 PM
Spirituality is the proverbial fifth-element of religion, and as such, it opens up a path that leads to God. This path is anchored in the earnest orthodoxy of religious practice. The orthodoxy of a religion is the rich soil that nurtures the tree of the spirit. Through there are many Holy Scriptures and many Holy messengers, signifying that the spiritual highway has many lanes, they are all rooted in common essential core. While ordered to recognize all other prophets and religions, the prophet Muhammad and therefore his followers are commanded to remain anchored in the certainty of the final message and be fully immersed in its Truth. But being the ultimate religion, and by providential design, Islam has a natural disposition for religious tolerance. The followers of Islam must zealously guard this Divine gift. It is a gift not to be merely acknowledged. It must be conscientiously honored. The Quran inspires us to such a supra-awareness and, being directed to the heart that recites it, calls the multiple and fractured nature of man to the abode of true Peace and Unity.
FIRST AND FOREMST
It is customary in Islamic practice that the Divine messengers be mentioned with respect and reverence. Texts written by Muslims customarily attach the abbreviation “PBUH”, meaning “may peace be upon him” every time any Divine Prophet’s name is mentioned. Prophets as God’s chosen are first and foremost amongst God’s creatures in rank and proximity to God. To know and respect the proper place and rank of anything and everything is part of spiritual conscientiousness. By offering our respects and our prayers of peace for God’s own emissaries we are imploring God to unlock the doors to our own guidance. Praise belongs only to God and blessings belong to those who have earned proximity to Divine Glory and Majesty. We gain no worth expect by discernment. We can gain no peace except by first wishing it for the deserving. We also acknowledge that those who have lived in full alignment to the Divine Will never “die”. These, the purest of the human spirits are the “truly successful”, bestowed d blessed with Divine peace. My God accept that every reference to a Prophet in this manuscript is preceded and followed by an imploration of peace upon the Prophet. My we thus join the Chorus of Truth.
Limitless in His Glory is thy Sustainer, the Lord of almightiness, [exalted] above anything that men may devise by way of definition! And peace be upon all His message bearers. All praise is due to God alone-The Sustainer of the worlds. (37:180-182)
May there come a time when this prayer becomes the earnest expression of a heart filled with gratitude towards the Divine and towards all those who bore His Message.
THE STRUGGLE OPF THE SOUL
This article is about spirituality from the Islamic view-point, it is not about religion. Spirituality and religion are inseparable but they are not synonymous. Spirituality is an extra dimension of religion. This dimension is the path to God anchored in the earnest orthodoxy of religious practice. The orthodoxy of a religion is the rich soil that nurtures the tree of spirituality. Under the shape of this tree is the repose of life. The tree itself manifests the consciousness of the soul. Frithjof Schuon, the Sufi Scholar of the 20th century and an advocate for the “transcendent unity of religions”, lays out, in his inimitable precision, the struggle facing the soul:
What are the great troubles of the soul?
A false life; a false death; a false activity; false rest.
A false life: passion which engenders suffering;
A false death: egoism which hardens the heart and separates it from God and His mercy;
A false activity: dissipation, which casts the soul into n insatiable vortex and makes it forger God, who is Peace;
A false rest or a false passivity: the weakness and laziness which deliver up the soul without resistance to the countless solicitations of the world.
Islamic Spirituality, as we shall see is about Sincerity (ikblas)-Sincerity of thought, sincerity of purpose and sincerity of action. Sincerity eases the struggle that Frihjof Schuon defines.
ALL SINCERE PATHS LEAD TO GOD
There are many Holy Scriptures as there are many Holy messengers. It follows therefore that the spiritual highway has many lanes. To quibble with this, from within the perspective of any one religion is to be sanctimonious rather than spiritual. Within this sanctimony lies the danger of constricting the “heart” and thereby missing the Truth. Yes, within religions there are human innovations and resultant “half-truths” and sadly some of these innovations were for the benefit of those who invented them. Yet the word of God is discernible as it is living and immutable, be it as “Divine Word-made-flesh” in the case of Jesus Christ or “Divine Word-made-Book in the case of the last prophet, Muhammad. The last Word-made-Book is the Holy Quran. The Quran does not refute or deny other messengers with Divine mission; instead it claims and represents culmination and finality to the essential message of all prophets, starting with Adam. “Last” implies a “first” and “prior”, the Quran is clear and explicit about the spiritual unity of their missions. The multiplicity of religions, notwithstanding man’s propensity to err, is not man’s error. It is God’s Will and is repeatedly stated:
For every community there is a messenger (10:47)
For each of you We have appointed a law and traced out a path and if God had so willed, He would have made you one community. (5:48)
True, that the verses preceding this last verse (quoted above) point to a measure of erosion of prior revelations (given the disputes amongst their respective followers), yet there lingers in these messages an essential core, as would be implied by the statement “confirming the truth of whatever truth there still remains of earlier revelations”
And unto thee [O Prophet] have We vouchsafed this Divine Writ, setting forth the truth confirming the truth of whatever there still remains for earlier revelations and determining what is truth therein. Judge, then, between the followers of earlier revelations in accordance with what God has bestowed from upon high and do not follow their errant views, forsaking the truth that has come unto thee. (5:48)
The prophet Muhammad and therefore his followers are commanded to remain anchored in the certainty of the final message and be fully immersed in its Truth. To be immersed is to be no place else.
In another verse, as if to discourage fruitless debate and thereby possibly impugn other messengers (a danger for the novice believer), the Quran states that not all the names of all the messengers were disclosed to the Prophet; the “holier than thou” attitude constricts the heart, and handicaps the spiritual quest.
We have sent messengers before you. About some We have told you, and about some We have not old you. (40:78)
And verily, the faithful, and the Jews and the Sabians and the Christians-Whoever believe in God and the last Day and act piously, no fear shall come upon hem nor shall they grieve. (5:69).
To be continued