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February 17, 2021

Misconceptions about Spirituality – the main cause of the problems of Ummah

Basics – to serve as points of reference

Allaah SWT created human beings so that they live in complete servitude and submission to Him. He could have pre-programmed them for this lifestyle as He has pre-programmed everything else in the universe, except for people and Jinns. Instead, He granted them freedom to make and execute decisions, but along with freedom, he also bestowed them a pre-packaged system of life, called Islam (the lifestyle of submission) so that they voluntarily adopt and live by it. He put them in this temporary universe to test who submits to Him and lives by Islam, and who rebels by behaving in any way other than Allaah’s prescribed way of Islam. Had He pre-programmed people, everyone would have been following the same standard, without any variation. One of the major benefits of granting freedom is that everyone can perform at their own level. People have an opportunity to take their submission to the most excellent level as well as they have the opportunity to become most vicious rebels.

Whatever attitude a person adopts, it applies to him or her as a single entity – a person, regardless of the variety of roles and activities the person may be engaged in during his life. Although human beings are made up of a body and a soul, both are absolutely inseparable or indistinguishable from each other in any way or respect whatsoever, until death. Thus, a person is not a sum of two identifiable parts wherein each part has a different role, a different need, a different objective or different maintenance requirements. Rather, it is a single entity that is created for slavishly submitting to Allaah SWT seeking His pleasure as a whole. It is that single entity that is addressed by the revelations of Allaah SWT. It is that single entity that has been given commands as to what to do and what not to do. None of His commands or teachings are for either body or soul, but for the single entity called “person”. It is that single entity that will be raised on the Day of Judgment such that even the finger pores will be made exactly as in this world. And it is that single entity that will be held accountable and rewarded or punished.

According to the Islamic belief, Allaah is the One and Only Lord of that single entity who must live in this world by the Allaah-given single system of life (Deen of Islam) for one’s whole life as a single unit – not one or more of its segments, portions or aspects. This is the Islamic concept of Tawheed (1) – One God and one Deen for the whole life of the whole person. This Tawheed is what Allaah taught Adam to live by, but Shaytaan (2) vowed not to let people live by it. And whenever, human being lost this concept of Tawheed, Allaah SWT sent a new messenger to bring people back to the true concept of Tawheed.

Thus, a person who decides to submit as a single entity to Allaah totally, voluntarily, wholeheartedly and enthusiastically for his whole life, adopting Islam as the primary basis of decision making in every aspect of his life is the one who has truly accepted Allaah as his One and Only Lord and has voluntarily adopted the slavery for which Allaah had created human beings. In other words, he is the person performing Allaah’s ‘Ibaadah (3). Allaah is pleased with those who adopt this slavery and perform this ‘Ibaadah. The better a person performs this ‘Ibaadah, the more Allaah is pleased with him. Although Allaah does not expect perfection from people, because perfection is beyond human capability, He does expect continued efforts to improve, despite making mistakes. In other words, He is most pleased with the slave who continues to pursue excellence in this total slavery in all of his individual and collective/societal aspects of life, even if he keeps making mistakes and seeking forgiveness along the way. Thus, the goal of a Muslim is to maximize the pleasure of Allaah through complete slavery in his whole life as a single entity.

Because slavery (‘Ibaadah) of Allaah can be performed only through living by Islam, it means that pleasure of Allaah can be attained only through striving for the objectives for which Allaah granted us Islam.  Considering that Allaah loves justice and excellence, the Deen He bestowed to people was designed to guide and help people in:

  1. Pursuing personal excellence in ethics, conduct, interactions and performance of everything a person does through a process of continuous improvement called “Tazkiyah”; and
  2. Establishing fairness, justice, balance, moderation and resulting peace collectively as a society.

These are the two primary objectives of Deen for which He bestowed Islam and sent His messengers. Dedicatedly striving for these objectives is called Jihaad.

According to the essence of Islam described above, the Qur-aan and Sunnah are very clear that human actions can only be divided into two categories (4): Good deeds and Bad deeds. If an action is performed with sincere intent of obedience to Allaah seeking His pleasure and is in accordance with the Qur-aan and Sunnah, it is a good deed. Otherwise it is bad deed. There is no other classification of Human actions in the Qur-aan or Sunnah.

In summary, people can succeed in the test for which they have been put on earth only by: Voluntarily accepting Allaah as one’s sole Master/Lord by completely adopting His Deen for one’s whole life as a single entity, thereby maximizing Allaah’s pleasure through an ongoing pursuit of personal excellence and through striving for the establishment of justice and excellence in the society by means of collectively implementing the Islamic system of life.

The above-mentioned concepts of Tawheed, ‘Ibaadah, Deen of Islam, goal of life and objectives of Deen were the key messages that all messengers of Allaah preached, practised and implemented. Whenever Shaytaan succeeded in corrupting and spoiling these concepts in people’s mind, Allaah SWT sentanother messenger to set them aright, until Allaah preserved their accuracy in the Qur-aan and in the Sunnah of His final prophet and messenger ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

How do these basic concepts get corrupted?

How does Shaytaan succeed in corrupting people’s understanding of such fundamental Islamic concepts? We know that Shaytaan misleads people in little steps, whereby initial step seems to be such an innocuous little change that does not seem to matter or appear problematic. He starts by making people perceive body and soul as if they are two distinguishable parts, which distinction in itself seems not only quite innocuous but also logical. However, the next step is division of human actions into “spiritual” (relating to soul) and “carnal” or “non-spiritual” (relating to body or physical world) -- a distinction totally unknown in the Qur-aan and Sunnah. This un-Islamic distinction becomes starting point of many Fitnahs, as will be demonstrated in the following paragraphs.

The first pervasive fitnah that emanates from this division is that the understanding of all aforementioned Islamic concepts becomes corrupted. People adopt the attitude that a “spiritual” action such as Salaah or Sawm belongs to Allaah, pleases Him, is good, is Ibaadah and is a religious action. On the other hand, a non-spiritual or carnal action such as earning a living or spousal love belongs to people’s needs and are counter-religious, worldly matters. Now suddenly, the concept of ‘Ibaadah is corrupted, instead of every action in obedience of Allaah being an act of ‘Ibaadah, only “spiritual” acts are considered ‘Ibaadah. Even religious scholars have opted to differentiate between ‘Ibadaat and worldly affairs; while no such differentiation existed in Islam. In Islam, the most “carnal” act such as love between spouses when practised according to Islamic teachings is an act of ‘Ibaadah while as “spiritual” an act as Salaah offered to show off is a bad deed and an act of Shirk.

Even the concept of Tawheed is not left unscathed. Allaah Who is supposed to be the Master of all of a person’s affairs, is now restricted to be the Lord of “Spirituality”. The emptied spots regarding the lordship of a variety of worldly matters is given to different gods who rule over their own territory. These gods include a person’s own ego and desires, family and children, community and society, relatives and friends, culture and traditions picked up from different societies, spiritual leader and religious scholars, celebrities and idols, fashions and fads, biases and prejudices, etc. When Muslims talk about Tawheed and Shirk, they only think about idols, or even if they think beyond idols they stop at the deceased prophets and righteous people. Hardly anyone thinks of many other gods being worshipped by the most people in the society.

The objectives of Deen are totally replaced by the desire for “maximizing spiritual upliftment”.  The objectives of personal excellence and establishment of Justice and peace are totally abandoned. The concept of Tazkiyah becomes corrupted to mean “spiritual purification and growth” instead of a continuous process of purifying oneself from evil thoughts, bad habits and offensive personality traits and of growing oneself in good personal qualities and pursuing excellence in one’s conduct and all of one’s actions. When the objectives of Deen are forgotten, the concept of Jihad also becomes confusing and corrupted.

When the objective becomes maximizing spiritual upliftment, then people start accepting any method or way that they thinks will lead to spiritual upliftment regardless of its form or source. This open the doors for the adoption of all kinds of Bid‘aat (innovations, heresies) and Un-Islamic views practices. So much so that accepting rituals of other religions as “means to the same end”, which in turn leads to the conclusion that Islam is not needed for reaching God or attaining salavation.

The concept of Deen becomes ruined because people think Deen has to do only with “spiritual” matters, the rest are the matters of Dunya (worldly matters) where people can do whatever their worldly expediencies dictate.  Thus, suddenly, the Deen which was a complete way of living in this Dunya (world) becomes segregated from and a competitor to its subject matter, the “Dunya” (world). Now people talk about balancing “Deen” and “Dunya” and in their presumption of doing so, usually end up sacrificing everything of the Deen that comes into their way of Dunya goals or worldly objectives. The life that should have been Allaah-centred, becomes Dunya-centred. People hardly have any times for Deen. Even those who are religious and who those become serious about practising Islam focus on ritualistic, so-called “spiritual” activities, instead of dedicating their lives for the objectives of Deen. This way Islam ends up becoming merely a religion comprising of a set of rituals of worship, which in turn creates another serious problem.

When rituals are the “religion”, it become important for people to perform the rite exactly conforming to the right form, in the right way with the right moves; thus, making rules of rituals focus of attention, at the cost of spirit and objectives for which actions were obligated. This focus on rules, forms and ways leads to difference of opinions on stupid things, create sects, causes fights and quarrels, and pits so-called Muslims against each other.

As you can see, after corruption of the aforementioned concepts, there is not much left for Allaah. In fact, it is amazing how little is left under the Lordship of Allaah in Muslims’ lives. Under the influence of Western civilization and secularism, we have first divided our lives between individual and collective/societal affairs, whereby God does not belong in collective affairs. For individuals, life is further bifurcated into private and public whereby God belongs only to private and personal affairs, which are further divided into spiritual and carnal, and only the spiritual matters belong to God. But that is not all. God has partners even in this little personal spiritual territory – the spiritual leaders, the religious scholars and traditions of the previous generations.

The corrupted understanding of these concepts wreaks havoc with the character and behaviour of Muslims. Having lost the Islamic criteria of good actions vs. bad actions and the wholesome concepts of Tawheed, ‘Ibaadah, Deen and objectives of Deen, even very religious people renowned for their “spirituality” commit crimes that will put any sensible person to shame. On the other hand, extremely corrupt individuals feels so satisfied that they have performed their “spiritual” duty such as performing Hajj.  All of them feel that they have done their spiritual duties while preserving their Dunya. They have given both God and Caesar their due; hence, everything is just right. This is the attitude that has destroyed Muslim Ummah and brought it to its current state of affairs, as it had destroyed previous Ummahs and brought them to similar state of affairs. The followers of Moses and Jesus incurred Allaah’s wrath and lost their way when they lost major parts of Deen as a result of adopting the division of life into different spiritual and non-spiritual segments and thus losing the Islamic criteria of good actions vs. bad actions and the wholesome concepts of Tawheed, ‘Ibaadah, Deen and objectives of Deen.

If we want to see the condition of Ummah changed, we do not need to invent a new spirituality or modify existing spirituality. We just need to stop using this un-Islamic concept. There is no spirituality in Islam. In Islam, intentions, decisions and actions are either good or evil. A Muslim must do good, rather excel in goodness, and stay away from evil. That is the only criterion about human actions that matters to Allaah.

Yes, Sawm, Salaah, Dzikr (5) and Tahajjud do help us establish closer and stronger relationship with Allaah, thus they are good deeds that link us with Allaah, but they are not “spiritual” deeds. Yes, Sawm, Salaah and Hajj are Manaasik (worship rituals in English), but they are as much ‘Ibadaat as speaking the truth, fulfilling promises, being punctual, giving honest witness, being kind to people, being honest in dealings, dealing with people in the most excellent manner, being loving and affectionate to spouses, being a responsible and involved citizen, etc.

Some people think that there is no harm in using Un-Islamic words such as “spirituality” or “spiritual” if the person is not divvying up life into sectors and if it is using such term only as a convenient way to indicate acts of worship. The reality is that once a term becomes loaded or associated with wrong perceptions, one cannot use it safely without bringing its baggage of misconception along with it. If the Qur-aan and Sunnah avoided the use of this terminology, it must not have been because they forgot (I seek Allah’s refuge from any such notion). If they could convey proper and complete Islamic message without use of such terminology, we should also be able to do so. A user may have freed the concept in his mind from its misconceptions, general public would still interpret it in the way they have always interpreted it and the way they have conditioned to interpret it for ages.

In fact, that is how these misconceptions crept into the Muslims psyche. Although the Qur-aan and Sunnah have never used such terminology anywhere at all, earlier Muslims started using it innocently without realizing the trouble it was going to bring along. They overlooked the reason why the Prophet was so upset when ‘Umar RA asked about adopting some “good” points from earlier books. Their lack of diligence in this respect put the Ummah on the path which they pray to avoid in every Raka’ah of Salaah “Not of those who incurred Your wrath or went astray”.

Posted in Clarifications on February 17, 2021 by Ayub Hamid

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