Archive for June, 2007

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Enlightenment

June 30, 2007

I’ve taken some interest in various forms of new-age spiritual enlightenment. It is not that I think they will enlighten me, but rather that I hope to gain some understanding of what draws people to them.

To clarify, I’m interested in new western groups (not necessarily cults) that often focus their attention to a guru or adopt some elements of eastern thought (whether it be yoga, Buddhism, etc).

One thing that strikes me immediately is the overemphasis on the self by many of these groups. Whereas traditional eastern spirituality focused on defeating the self, much of new-age spiritual thought seems to focus on uplifting of the self, to the point of almost deification.

Self-help, as it is called, soon becomes self-worship. That is one side of the coin. The other side is the self-enlightened guru who deserves even more worship from his followers because his “self” is even higher than theirs. For lack of better terminology, I’ll call this the “Oprah-syndrome.” (not to say that Oprah is a cult leader — geez, it’s just an analogy!)

The new-age guru is not an ascetic, far from it. He/she is usually rich, in some cases, filthy rich (and I use the term filthy in the sense of “dirty money”).

Although the truer forms of new-age spirituality certainly do have elements of bettering society, protecting the environment, and general good will, too many fall short of this, only to be trapped in self/guru worship.

In a sense, it is akin the business pyramid scheme (although this is a spiritual pyramid scheme), where only those at the top reap the benefits. Those at the bottom work diligently to recruit more like themselves, with the promise of becoming like the Oprah…I mean the guru. When they do not, they become disillusioned and usually leave the religion or cult. Nevertheless, they are easily replaced with new recruits.

Islam is not immune to the infection of new-age groups. The Nation of Islam is one that comes to mind (although very little of their focus is on actual spirituality — they still preach the “do-for-self” motto while mostly encouraging the followers to do for the “guru”, in this case the religious leader/minister).

Still, enlightenment can be achieved, and I’m sure there are authentic gurus out there, but there is a sea of misinformation, complex doctrines, and fresh cash to swim through, whereas the path of ihsan (perfection) that comes through submission to God (al-Islam), has always been clear.

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Practice what you preach

June 29, 2007

It has been related that the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him and his family peace) said:

A group of the people of Paradise will get worried about some of the people of Hell, and will (therefore) inquire:

“Why are you in Hell? By God, we did not enter Paradise except through what we learned from you.”

The Hell-bound will reply: “We did not practice what we preached.” (literally: we spoke but did not act).

Nahj al-Fasahah (hadith #70)

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Sir Salman Rushdie of Jahanum

June 19, 2007

Why is anyone surprised or upset that Rushdie was knighted in the UK? I mean, it’s not as though knights have ever been known for their intelligence, wisdom, piety, or bravery for that matter. Isn’t it kind of like a badge of shame that someone whose fame is based on the publishing of intentional insults that he is now only a stooge of the Queen, a queen whose family legacy is one of ruthless imperialism, oppression, enslavement, colonization, and (most recently) state-sponsored terrorism.

Perhaps this is their way of reducing him to nothingness…becoming the deckhand of his pirating secular oppressors. Even politically, he’s an apostate. Was he really hiding from Muslims all those years or from the embarrassment of being famous due to controversy rather than good writing.

And so, I issue him congratulations. Whatever it is he desires from this world, I’m sure he will have it.

Whoever desires the harvest of the hereafter, we give him increase in his harvest, and whoever desires the harvest of this world, We give him thereof, and he has no portion in the hereafter. (Qur’an 42:20)

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Everywhere I go, I see the same

June 17, 2007

…model. As a web developer, I’ve noticed that, although many web sites appear to have happy customers brilliantly displayed on their sites using their products, most of those “customers” are actually stock photo images from sites that sell such photos.

Most of these photos are attractive, happy women holding laptops or other electronic devices. I only wonder, when a web developer may only pay $5 for a hires photo of a model to use as part an advertisement for a site that could make thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, how much did the model make?

In the case of the cover on my book, the woman selling the photo was the woman in the photo. Perhaps that is the wisest course of action.

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Islam in Ancient China

June 15, 2007

I have started a new book by Sachiko Murata called Chinese Gleams of Sufi Light: Wang Tai-yu’s Great Learning of the Pure and Real and Liu Chih’s Displaying the Concealment of the Real Realm.

Yeah, that’s a mouthful. It’s actually two books translated. It also includes Lawa’ih, translated by William Chittick and juxtaposed with the Chinese translation.

Dr. Murata offers plenty of commentary to explain why and how she accomplished the book. Her earlier work, The Tao of Islam, was an attempt to explain Islam through the eyes of someone with a background in eastern philosophy and religion. Interestingly, she was unaware at the time that Chinese ulama had attempted the same thing (and, according to her, much more brilliantly), the earliest of which was Wang Tai-yu’s “Great Learning.”

As the early Muslims of China gradually integrated into Chinese society (and their primary language evolved from Persian to Chinese, it became necessary (in fact crucial) that the general populace was able to approach Islam in the Chinese language and also through the lens of Neo-Confucian understanding.

This required the ulama to not only translate the words but also translate the meaning into Chinese idioms and philosophy. It proved not only that Islam was versatile enough to be translated into any language and culture but more specifically that even eastern philosophy/religion, which is not especially concerned with the specific concept of a deity, was reasonably compatible with Islamic theology. Thus, the Principle of Confucianism was adequate in explaining the concept of tawhid and ultimately the attributes and transcendence of the Divine Presence (Allah, Most High).

I’ve barely started the book, so I’ll post more information when I finish it, inshaAllah.

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The Quest for Realization

June 13, 2007

There are ways to know of God and there are ways to know God. What is known as ma’rifah (awareness, realization) must be achieved through self introspection.

Soon will We show them our Signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that your Lord witnesses all things? (Qur’an 41:53)

The outer self is only the shadow. It is but a vestige of the inner light. That is the greatest sign from the Most High. The signs (ayaat) around us can initiate our reconnection to that spark of light, but for the proof (hujjat) of the Divine Presence, one must look inwardly.

“You think the shadow is the substance.” –Rumi

Oh you who believe, remember Allah, remembering abundantly..” (Qur’an 33:41)

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Global Quest for Spirituality

June 12, 2007

Shaykh Fadhlalla HaeriLast night, the wife and I watched an enlightening video of a lecture by Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri given at Agha Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. The title was The Global Quest for Spirituality. His argument was that we essentially need spirituality (that is, nurturing and development of the spirt or ruh) more than anything else in these times because of the the modernist scientific secular age that we live in. You should definitely watch it if you have time.