umm Abdillah, Radio Islam Programming | 2015.07.27 |10 Shawwal 1436
Could what we’re witnessing in a global outcrop of streamlined Islamic seminars, self-help workshops, intensives, retreats, zikr gatherings, and intellectual religious courses have negative consequences on our holistic development as practicing Muslims? To grasp the intricacy of such a viewpoint, we need comprehend that being “Muslim” refers to a practical application of Islam, not just the study and comprehension of the Truth, emotions relating to the Truth or what we urbanely refer to as having the “feels”. While the knowledge of our rich intellectual Islamic legacy is important, more paramount is the knowledge of how to practice Islam and actually PRACTISE, writes Umm Abdillah.
The Difference between Imaan and Islam
While these terms can and may be used interchangeably, Islam is to surrender to Allah, submit to Him, worship Him and serve Him. It is a matter of action - action of the heart and the body. Imaan on the other hand, is to believe, confess, and acknowledge; it is a commitment of the heart involving the action of the heart. There is no true Imaan without Islam, and vice versa. In other words, belief without action is of no use, nor is action without belief of any value. In a like manner, the only way Imaan can increase is via good deeds, and it thus decreases with evil deeds.
Getting the “Feels”
The above concepts explained, it is not a prerequisite of Imaan to have the ‘feels’ while practicing Islam. This is what a lot of us wait for before action – the right “spiritual atmosphere”. The practical tenets of Imaan like salaah/dua, zakaah, Fasting and Hajj, reciting Quraan, obeying parents, seeking a halal sustenance etc. have to be carried out regardless if your heart is in it or not. Drawing nearer to Allah happens through actions, not through feelings.
Allah tells us in part of a Hadith Qudsi: “My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with nafl works so that I shall love him.”
We aspire for the “feels” because we get a spiritual high of feeling close to Allah.
But here, Allah tells us that the way we draw close to Him is through the religious duties He has made obligatory on us, and then through anything extra. He does not say: “You draw close to Me through a spiritual feeling you get and that’s how you know you’re actually close to Me.”
We are such a blessed ummah that Allah does not require us to experience feelings and emotions - something we have little to no control over, in order to be close to Him. Allah has empowered us to take action in managing our side of our relationship with Him. If we are taking these actions, we are already near to Him, insha Allah.
Flitting from listening to one Sheikh to another, or from one seminar to another, one zikr majlis to another, while motivating and encouraging, may well turn out to be Shaytaan beguiling us that this is enough to keep us on the right path. Sadly, its not. Further, it can make us arrogantly complacent that we “know” how to practice Islam the best way, or the only way!
Intellectualism is a must
The courage to question our certainties, and our paradigmatic frames of reference is a must. How intellectual Islamic tradition was used to deal with the challenges Muslims face, and how it was relied upon to respond to specific crises, is an important part of our intellectual legacy. Likewise, parts of our intellectual legacy are questions and discussions on our major luminaries, what their ideas were, and their influence. What are the implications of our intellectual legacy for interfaith dialogue and relations? What is the impact of the Islamic intellectual traditions on contemporary Muslim thought? How does our Islamic intellectual tradition affect the broader world?
We all agree that the dark ages of human civilisation and advancement have always coincided with the absence of vibrant intellects and intellectual maturity in the discussions of the abovementioned. That said however, Islam values not just natural intellectuality and curiosity, but spiritual maturity. Repeatedly, Almighty Allah reminds us that He can be known through the intellect, and that the intellectually mature can comprehend who He is. This “spiritual intellect” however can only grow through AMAL – The DOING of what He has commanded. Not the mere discussing, debating, scripting or unpacking of polemic mastication’s of our Faith.
The Middle Way – Humility (adab) and Action (amal), not flitting from one “spiritual” seminar to the next
Just as the intellectual element of Deen is a must, many narrations related to the departure of knowledge reside in the failure to act on it.
Sahaba (r) have narrated: We were with the Prophet (S) and he said, “A time will come when knowledge will be snatched from my ummah, and they will be unable to benefit from it.” A man asked, “O Messenger of Allah, how will Allah seize knowledge from us when we recite the Quran and teach it to our families? The Messenger of Allah (S) responded: “Can you not see that the Torah and the Bible are with the Jews and Christians, yet do they benefit from them in any way…”
What we learn is that the paths that lead to Paradise en-route Allah’s eternal pleasure are not reliant on mere intellectual discussions or the satisfaction of the “feels” for Islam, an specific orator, a particular Sheikh, or a particular halaqa, or franchise of Islam. We can’t be beguiled that our obligation to practicing Islam is fulfilled by rushing off from one halaqa to another, or one seminar to another, or one retreat to another.
May Allah grant us understanding, moderation and beneficial knowledge, such that leads us to worship Him as He deserves to be worshipped. Ameen