Why A Helping Hand Is Always Better Than Praying Lips

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With the current crisis going on in Gaza, Iraq/Syria, and all around the world, I often hear statements like “Please make dua (prayer) for them”, or “Pray for the destruction of the oppressors”, and think to myself: “What good is a prayer without action?”

We have imams supplicating their hearts out at the weekly Friday prayer, imploring God to restore the condition of the “Muslim Ummah” and pleading God to help the Muslims. But that doesn’t seem to do anything whatsoever. The atrocities keep happening, and the “Muslim world” keeps plunging into deeper issues.

Why?

Well, let’s see! Because we’re not doing anything about it!

Prayer, as I understand it, is your self-talk with God to provide you a direction towards your goal. To act as a constant reminder, a motivator even. An example would suffice for the skeptic. Ask all your friends and family to pray that you pass an exam, but do not put any effort into studying the material. Do you reckon you will pass? No one does that, because deep down inside you are perfectly aware that it is doomed for failure. So, why persist in this dogma when it comes to the well-being of others?

As long as prayer inspires you to actually do something, or increase your empathy with those who are suffering, it can be considered useful. But in and of itself, prayer is not a magical mantra that would automatically set things aright. From a very early age, we’re brainwashed to pray for this and pray for that. Most of us are not taught activism, unfortunately! Hence, this type of mindset breeds lazy individuals who put everything in the “hands of God” in the face of oppression, greed, and tyranny.

So, what is the problem exactly? Has God stopped listening to us? Or, could it possibly be that we’ve forgotten the vital aspect that WE were supposed to be the vicegerents (Khalifa) of this earth (2:30)? Certainly, you would not ask your boss to do something that was delegated to you!

God has endowed us with body, mind, and soul. Body to be mobile, active. Mind, to ponder and come up with solutions. And Soul, to feel the pain of others. We are assigned a role to help humanity and have been given the necessary tools to collectively achieve this goal. But, what do we do in return? Ask God to intervene somehow to restore order. How ironic! And how utterly ungrateful we have become…

The prophets, our supposed role models, did not pray all day long asking God to put an end to the oppression of human beings. No, they were intelligent beings who knew that prayer without action is a mockery of the “self”. Musa (Peace be upon him) is the prime example for this. An ordinary man with practically no following whatsoever decided to face the tyrant Firaun one on one. With his utmost dedication and determination, he freed the children of Israel from the oppression of Firaun.

These are the role models we have to revive, if we are to improve the sanctity of human life. This is what we call following the example of the prophets. Following their character! And, here too, we have deviated from the right course. Instead of following their character, we try to imitate their personality by dressing up like them. But, I digress.

In conclusion, we have to stop acting as if God will take care of everything eventually. This is not our purpose as human beings. Sure, prayer is a great practice — as long as it is complemented with activism. Contribute your time, your resources, to the well-being of others. Only then will we reach self-actualization. And only then can we hope to have a clear conscience.

 

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Be Altruistic!

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God has given us an amazing gift in the form of life, what are we doing to give back?

Our prime purpose in this life is to give, to benefit humanity in some way. The Quran repeatedly emphasizes the importance of spending in “the way of God” to help those who are not as fortunate as we are. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is stressed more than this! When we distribute our resources with others, we perform the real act of Shukr (giving thanks!) and acknowledge the fact that everything we temporarily own, and the means through which we earned it, ultimately comes from God!

But, my concern is that we have become too focused on ourselves, even when we are giving away. I observe that most Muslims pay more charity in the month of Ramadan because it is a “blessed month”  so that they could debit as many rewards (sawab) as they can in their account. This type of mindset hinders spiritual growth, my friend. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not implying that your service is considered null in the eyes of God or anything of that sort. I am simply asking you to tweak your paradigm a bit. 🙂

The purpose of giving is just that: giving! No more, no less. We should do good to our fellow humans simply because it is the right thing to do. It is what the soul yearns for! Expecting “rewards” for our service makes the whole process unnatural. It’s no more about benefiting others anymore, it becomes self centered. The ego comes in: “What can I get from this?”

I realized this truth some time ago, and I believe it is crucial for all of us to understand this to evolve as spiritual beings. An example would suffice: A mother is selfless. She loves her child because she feels that way, not because she wants someone to take care of her in old age. Although a good upbringing will bring comfort to her when she does get old, her intention of loving the child is not based on that. Furthermore, observe nature. It is selfless, too! A tree gives, but does not ask anything in return.  Nature is self-less, and so should we!

So, in conclusion,  don’t fret over accumulating rewards or recognition for yourself. Help someone just because they need your help, because they deserve it! In the famous words of Rumi: “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy!”

“The example of those who spend their wealth in the cause of God is like sowing a seed that brings numerous shoots, each shoot with a hundred grains. This is how God’s Law of Recompense rewards men and women. God is Infinite, Knower.” Quran 2:261

“You will never attain exponential growth of the ‘self’ unless you open up for others the possessions you cherish. And whatever you spend, God is well Aware of it. [God, the Knower of your own ‘self’, reminds that Paradise is for those who attain self-actualization by giving. 92:18]” Quran 3:61

 

Follow The Voice Within

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If you call yourself a Muslim, but haven’t read the Quran — then the best course of action to take would be to obviously read it. No one is born into a religion just as you can’t be born into a political ideology. I can’t call myself a Communist if I haven’t researched it for myself. Bear in mind, that when you decide to identify yourself as a Muslim to other people, you decide to become an ambassador of Islam. People who aren’t familiar with Islam will usually base their opinion on it according to your actions.

However, even if you can’t get yourself to read it for some reason or the other, the least you could do is follow your conscience. Now, by conscience, I mean the inner voice which never shies away from expressing itself –The Rooh (Spirit/Soul) of God that is within us all (15:29). No one can be spiritually content if their actions are negative. As an example, don’t drink, gamble, fornicate, backbite, lie, spend lavishly, cause corruption etc. If only you happen to avoid such things, then congratulations! You have adhered to many teachings of Islam as well as all the other religions. See, every religion stresses the importance of behaving morally. That is essentially the core of them all. And we all know that you don’t need religion to teach you morals. The soul already knows what’s right and wrong. Just listen to it!

Having said that, it is of paramount importance that you read the Quran sooner than later. Why? Because then you’ll not be as gullible as most religionists usually are. Since you have no foundation of the Quran, “scholars” can basically feed you anything and attribute it to Islam and you won’t know what hit you. That’s why, some of them (if not most!) try to keep people away from reading the Quran for themselves. After all, their bread and butter depend on it! They discourage people from forming their own opinions lest they interpret it ‘wrongly’. Or, the promises of rewards that one gets by reading the Quran in a language he doesn’t even understand! How ridiculous! The Quran is a practical guide on life. The sole purpose of this book is to bring people out of darkness, towards light (14:2).   It is a book that yearns to be understood, and most importantly implemented!     

So if you don’t want to be fooled, read it. After having read the Quran, you will have developed a criterion from which you can judge whether a statement is Quranic or not. That’s where the “blasphemy law” comes in to silence those who speak truth, a law so contradictory to the message of the Quran! (You can read it about it here)

Follow your conscience, think for yourself & evolve!

Stages of Consciousness: My Journey as a Muslim

Spiritual people pass through certain stages of consciousness on their journey to God. I write this to share my journey with you all.

For me, it started off as an unexpected interest in Islam, the religion I was “born” into. I started reading the Quran, and I was hooked. This is what I would call the first stage in the journey – the introduction. You come to know about the stark differences between what God says in the Quran, and what is widely believed by your community and your religious peers. You are judgmental. You take great delight in debating, and proving other people wrong. A sense of superiority reigns over you. You want to save people from the endless doom of the fire. Unfortunately, and I say this with my deepest regrets, most religious people just do not grow past this stage: a judgmental bigot who annoys anyone who holds even a slightly different point of view.

Then, if you’re lucky (and I sure was!), you meet people who challenge your beliefs and ask you logical explanations of why you believe certain things. This is new to you, certainly! Does belief warrant a logical explanation, you think to yourself? You ponder, and come across the many verses from the Quran that advocate skepticism and critical thinking. Now, you have to unlearn the things you have programmed yourself to believe in, and look at it from a rational perspective. It’s very difficult initially, mind you! You’re in tatters! Could God really allow men to beat women, for example? Your inner voice immediately says no.

This is the second stage. You realize that perhaps you, yourself has a lot to learn from others. Differences of opinion are now regarded as food for thought, no longer a front where you could correct others. It is a stage of uncertainty; you feel a hollow void within yourself desperately asking God to provide answers to your endless questions. This agony lasts for a while.

Suddenly, you have a eureka moment. Everything starts falling into it’s place. You no longer accept the translations of the Quran as perfect; instead you interpret the Quran for yourself through a range of different exercises. You realize the inconsistencies that lie within these translations, and thank God for opening your eyes towards Truth.

Fear is no longer a motive for believing in God, unconditional love is. You no longer help other people to get rewards, but simply because they are your brethren in humanity and are in need. And this is where the soul really blossoms! You no longer behave as an “I know it all” bigot, for differences are God’s signs (30:22)! Labels don’t matter, anymore. Only character does. Needless to say, you are no longer interested in endless debates, for you realize that they are only a clash of egos. An inner serenity overwhelms you. This, I believe is the third stage. The farthest I have walked yet.

Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness yet become something so beautiful!

Be water, my friend. Evolve!

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