“Spiritual Junkies” by Shahwiqar Shahin

I get calls to attend or help organise Islamic events. With some events, they bring over scholars from a land far, far away, drawing in the crowd – feels like a circus at time. I look around, listen and I keep asking myself, “What’s this all for? What purpose? What end?” There comes a point, when I begin noticing groups of people coming again and again; the same group who seem to get a “spiritual fix” listening to the scholars from a land, far, far away, later going on for a healthy dose of fried chicken and chips to clog their arteries and bottles….buckets of coca cola’s finest….nay…Muslamic cola, to satiating the liver. Spiritual stimulation of the mind, body and soul at its finest.

This self-abuse needs to stop.

Not one to knock it all, throwing the baby out with the bath water, if used right, Islamic events, any faith based event for that matter, can be used to great effect; raise funds for projects, initiatives or individuals as well as raising awareness of concerns in the local community (Think globally, act locally….come back to that later in another post). If used appropriately, it can bring about real change.

But if you want to talk, just talk – get a camera, film yourself and put yourself on YouTube, spread your word to the world, not to a select few ‘yes-people’ or groupies. It’s not hard, it’s cheap, it’s quick, and it has impact.

The thing is…..the groupies who look for that “fix”. We all want that “fix” but with a dollop of substance I guess. Sometimes, I feel we all yearn for that prolong stimulus…a “kick” that keeps us going. Like a safe space or a thought that makes it all worthwhile, gives us meaning, a purpose to do what is good, to do the right thing. Sometimes, these prolonged fixes can be dangerous, but when it’s good….magic happens.

Serial, short-term fixes are not the solution; feels good at the moment, but this dependency, this need to “latch on” is not healthy…this “fix” ought to be self-sustaining, come from within; adds meaning…purpose to one’s life, something you cherish. This purpose, this drive, can be very, very appealing to others looking on, where they say, “I wouldn’t mind a bit of that”.

Stop the pushers!

People observing that drive, watch what they have, listen to the purpose in their voice – giving off that ’empowered’ vibe around them (like a Super Saiyan), but in their own terms, coming from within, a drive that gives them something to live for, to commit their life to, a purpose that leads others to watch and say, “I wouldn’t mind a bit of that”……and so on, and so on….

Stop the pushers!

I was watching Man of Steel the other day – and I was thinking; you have Kal El, he has two fathers, Jor-El and Jonathan Kent, and they both have ambitions for their son. Jor-El wants his son to be the saviour of the human race and to be an example to them; Jonathan Kent on the other-hand wants his son to be a good man, not “Superman”, but a good man who changed the world for the better. Two different ambitions for their son; you’d think, “Aren’t they the same thing?”. I don’t know….what I do believe, Kal-El did not just become “Superman”, it something grew into, he needed to grow into , to come to terms with his own way. He did not just wear the cape, grow his beard….(sorry – wrong example)….fly around, show-boating his gifts. Superman is not a trained monkey, bringing the show in town, with audiences clapping, he had a purpose, he embraced what he had, on him own terms, and did something positive with it.

No…..DC Comics ain’t your thing…… ”

….there are signs in all this for those who think about it.” Qur’an (2:164)

…let’s look for signs then, in books, in society…all around you, up in the air, “Is it a bird? Is it a plane?….”….under a rock…..OK then…..Jesus (Peace be upon him) [i] & [ii]…..

We have Jesus (PBUH), born from the Virgin Mary (PBUH), went on to walk on water, turn water to wine, bring the dead back to life (now that’s power kid)….but all this plays second fiddle to Jesus’ (PBUH) real power, his greatest gift; as Christians would have his believe – his humanity which people can relate to and his ability to forgive.

From what I read about Christianity, Jesus (PBUH) forgave even the most savage of people, like the Roman soldiers peddling his lot to those in the crowd, the criminals looking at him is disgust, the religious leader (smh), judging him, mocking him, acting all sanctimonious with a ‘told-you-so’ look to him and the crowd; and the crowd, cursing him out, humiliating him, swearing at him (you think Justin Bieber got it bad).

Jesus (PBUH), as Christian’s believe, looks down upon all them all and says: “….forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34)

Now, that’s what I’m talking about! Hit them right where it hurts, the heart. This act is an act…the act that has penetrated the hearts of people. Even today, one billion individuals vouch for this magnanimity, this generosity of spirit.

No….Christianity not your ‘cup-o-cha’…..OK….Muhammad (God’s blessings, peace and salutations be upon His beloved messenger) [i] & [ii].

You have the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), born to a noble Arab tribe; orphaned, lost his father before birth, mother by age six. The world he lived in saw him as a good boy, “He’s a good boy, trustworthy, honourable….” Then all of a sudden poof….

With great powers comes great responsibilities…..

God gave Muhammad (PBUH) the responsibility to spread his word; thrust it upon him.

Why me?!

Muhammad (PBUH) kept asking himself, “Why me?!”, dawned on him, then understood, “This is why.” Came to terms with his gift, his blessing; going as far to tell people around him to give credit where credit is due. “This ain’t from me, it’s from Him”. Magnanimous and down to earth, to the core. That’s what I’m talking about.

With great powers come great responsibility….

Let’s be genuinely critical – you can’t deny the scope of Muhammad’s (PBUH) followers, across the earth from Casablanca to Manila – it’s enveloped the earth now. With 25 million Muslims in Europe and around 10 million in the Americas, North and South. So what happened?

With Arabs, I get it – Muhammad (PBUH) dropped lyrics, against poets and soothsayers who got burned – and his message, God’s message as Muslims believe, became the hub of the Arabic language. Easy enough. What about those who don’t speak Arabic?

Outside Arabia, it’s a simple case of “Action speak louder than words”, Muhammad’s (PBUH) deeds, Muhammad’s (PBUH) actions, driven by what Muslims believe to be God’s word and work – he was known as a good man, trustworthy, honourable – examples that changed the world for the better…what a guy!

Like Jesus (PBUH), Muhammad (PBUH) magnanimity and mercy upon people, to all people, penetrated the hearts of people. Even today, one billion individuals vouch for this magnanimity, this generosity of spirit.

With great powers come great responsibility…..I digress….let’s start from the beginning. ….

we need to stop being spiritual junkies. Looking for that moment of euphoria only to come crashing down the next day; it’s dangerous. People start developing tolerance to what they hear, what they read, what they watch. Tolerance towards religious kumbiyaism, not just the extreme form of Hare Krishna/Sufi movements in all our faiths (of the Abrahamic, Dharmic, and neo-Spiritual persuasion. Come to that later….) but also more conservative views, leading to stuff that’s a little bit stronger. Step-by-step increments of short quick little fixes that eventually becomes very difficult to manage – going for that stronger stuff, to the point where either we:

1. Spiritual burnout – disillusioned, walking away from it all, with regret feeling nothing was achieved, or…

2. Lose track of where we are going – spiralling out of control; Tolerance is a bad thing; it’s a very bad thing – It’s virtue without conviction. Like chicken and chips and Muslamic cola.

________________________________________

[i] In the Abrahamic traditions, extending honourific titles to distinguished personalities of their faith is an important practice. Think about how when one is honoured with a knighthood in the United Kingdom, they earn the title “Dame” or “Sir”, one who earns a PhD, they earn the title “Doctor”, a member of the papal earns the title “Reverend” or “Father”, etc…in the same way, Muslim honour their prophets and distinguished personalities of their history, believing they earned their distinguished titles, earned their place in history and therefore make the effort to honour their legacy. [ii]For Muslims it is incumbent upon them to make the declaration “??? ???? ???? ????” when mentioning the Prophet Muhammad; translated it means, “God’s blessings, peace and salutations be upon His beloved messenger”. I have not placed the full statement “God’s blessings, peace and salutations be upon His beloved messenger” after mentioning Muhammad in the body of the article, but instead placed the (PBUH) after his name; this I have done as a way of honouring the Muslim practice and to sustain the flow of the article. As a recommendation for Muslims, I encourage that on occasions when Muhammad (PBUH) is mentioned that they say, “??? ???? ???? ????”, as it is highly commendable to do so. In a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), or as I like to call them, the Gospels of Muhammad (PBUH), one of his companions, Abu Talha ibn Thabit (May God be pleased with him), shared: “One morning, the Messenger of God, Muhammad, was in a cheerful mood. His companions asked, ‘Messenger of God, you seem to be in a good mood; how so?’ The Messenger of God responded, ‘Of course I’m in a good mood. I was just told by Our Lord, God that “Whoever among your community sends blessings upon you, Muhammad, I will take note of their declaration and shower upon them 10 good deeds and erase from their record 10 worrisome sins, thereby raising their status by 10 folds – This is My Acknowledgement; this is My Response to their greetings”.’” – Abu Talha ibn Thabit, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal. By: Shahwiqar Shahins

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