Dimensions of Spirituality in Islam-

*The following is a small excerpt from a paper I wrote, If you are interested in the full text or works cited, please ask. *

While one’s morality is the manifestation of guidance, their intuition is the result of acquired knowledge and introspection. In the Alchemy of Happiness, Al-Ghazali states “Nor are such intuitions confined only to those of prophetic rank. Just as iron, by sufficient polishing, can be made into a mirror, so any mind by due discipline can be rendered receptive of such impressions”.  The acquisition of merely any type of knowledge does not guarantee profound intuition. Rather the knowledge must be sufficient in that it is from the right cloth and of the right length of thread, i.e. the right quality and quantity; this is for the individual seeking knowledge to discern. Furthermore, in alluding to a mirror, it suggested that the internalized knowledge must then be reflected outwardly in character, as knowledge without action is only a dead letter.

One’s morality may be greatly influenced by their culture. Culture is the enactment of ideologies and often varies geographically. The generational teachings that constitute a culture may serve various agendas, either contributing to objective achievements or in the oppression of a scapegoat. I will not make a case for what makes a culture right over another, but it is worth highlighting than an individual may exercise autonomy in choosing which aspects of a respective culture they wish to follow, with recognition of the associated implications. In the cultural context, knowledge is useful in preserving the integrity of traditions, while also preserving dignity in the face of oppression or ignorance.

 It is narrated in the authentic book of the prophetic tradition, Bukhari and Muslim, that during an Eid celebration, Ethiopians celebrated outside the prophet’s mosque with spears in their hands, dancing to the rhythm of leather drums. The prophet’s companion, Umar ibn al- Khattab was inclined to interfere in the joy of the Abyssinians, as their means of celebration was not aligned with the celebratory practices Umar ibn al-Khattab was conditioned to through the Arab culture. The prophet ﷺ seized the interference and stated to the converts, “Play your games, sons of Arfida, so the Jews and Christians know there is latitude in our religion”. The prophet ﷺ made a point to bring his wife Ayesha to enjoin in observing the celebration—lifting her on his back so that she could witness the celebration clearly and so that they could bond in appreciation of the Abyssinian culture.

In doing so, the prophet ﷺ made clear that the Arab tradition was not a prerequisite for adhering to the Islamic faith, but rather, that Arab customs are lawful within the premises of Islamic law, and that the customs of any other culture are religiously valid when they are in accordance with the Quran and the messenger’s teachings.

In Islam, many Muslims believe that abiding by the teachings of Islam is paramount; however, this does not mean that individuals reject all aspects of their culture. Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, an American Muslim theologian indicates that Islam is a vast tradition and like a river, a means of purification for the heart and soul, reflecting the patterns of the bedrock it runs over. Just as water runs on top of the bedrock, Muslims believe that religious observation rank above cultural obedience. It is up to an individual who wishes to practice Islam to discern which religious and cultural practices they choose to participate in. In Islam, it is believed that every person will be held accountable for their actions on judgment day, and so many Muslims discern between culture and religion on the premise of what serves them best in the pursuit of attaining heaven as outlined by the Quran.

Eschatology | Sufism | Black Panther

I spoke with a kind sister earlier this morning. About travels and love. About the afterlife.

She told me that Ancient Kemet (Egyptian for the land of the blacks) were concerned with the preparation of the afterlife. On her journey, she had noticed and asked about broken stones near the pyramids. She was told that the people of that African civilization did not build their houses strong because they were meant to stay behind and perish along with their bodies. It was the pyramids they built strong because that is where their being, their soul, would be preserved in the next life.

I told her that I am confused by people that have no sense of the afterlife. For if I were to not believe in the next realm, I would live each day with a dim purpose and anchor of sorrow keeping me in bed. This life is not meant to serve our expectations or calm our soul. While there are many beautiful moments on this earth, the blessings are in doses, and the reality of this life was not designed to sustain the mortal.

The concept of an afterlife is cross-cultural. It is religious and it is spiritual. In any believer’s mind, the awareness of an afterlife makes struggles endurable and the blessing feel like glimpses of the greater reward. Knowledge of the afterlife allows one to detach. Ali Ibn Abi Talib said “Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.”

*( Side note, the study of the afterlife is called eschatology, and eschatology also happens to be the first word I’ve said that my dad did not previously know. He reads a lot so he was quite shook that I was teaching him a new word lol. I think we were eating breakfast and it must have been a Saturday morning or something)*

My deity is not anthropomorphic. My religious guidelines are not facilitated by another human. This journey towards truth is from an innate hunger. It is out of longing for a better understanding of myself through an understanding of my creator.

I’m going to be very real. My five daily prayers have been quite hard for me as of lately. For those who don’t know, Muslims pray five times a day because each prayer is an opportunity to gain repentance and mercy. We are born sinners, go ask J. Cole. It is not about being perfect, it is about constant reflection throughout the day. “The five daily prayers provide expiation for whatever occurs in the time between them. Imagine a person has work and there are five rivers between their house and their workplace. They would go to the workplace and work as much as Allah willed, becoming dirty. Then, whenever they came to a river, they would bathe, what would remain of their dirt? It is like this with prayer; whenever one commits a sin, they supplicate and seek forgiveness, so they are forgiven for whatever has preceded it.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The daily prayers are not time-consuming. Definitely, do your research if you’re intrigued by its etiquettes. But back to my point, I have been missing some and slacking and it’s really not OK with my standard of self.  In response to this struggle, I’m trying to explore the meaning of the words I recite and the love that surpasses the fear I have of the one I pray to, God. I am trying to be more fearless about praying in between bookshelves in the library and not giving a care for any passerby who notices my forehead in prostration on the red winter coat I lay on the floor in front of me (your girl is not putting her face near that gross dank college library floor, oh no honey lol).

I’ve been attracted to Sufism, in its essence. Not the cultural adaptations that have been made to it. Not the men who spin in circles and beat drums, not the singing in prayers. None of that. Respect to that, but that’s not the Sufism I am referring to here. The way of a Sufi is the way of the companions. It is a way of detaching from the material and worshipping out of love. It is a way of discipline and a way of beauty. There is a distinction between the Sālik, one who observes Sufism, and Hizb-un Halak, one who belongs to a sect that will perish. I am not one for sects that deviate from the word of God. I don’t believe in manmade divisions. However, when I speak of the Sufism, my close ones confuse if for a sect of Islam, or for an entirely different practice. No, the way I see it is the way scholars I trust teach it. Sufism is a science within Islam, a lens in which to see Islam through. It emphasizes on learning through experience, learning through the personal connection in prayers late at night. Truly, the Sufism I’m talking about is not distinct from Islam, it is just an element of it. The only reason I bring up the term Sufism is that I am starting to identify with the ideology of learning through dhikr itself.

The theologian Imam Al Ghazali, born 1058 in Iran, used the metaphor of honey to highlight the authenticity of experiences and good company.  “If somebody asks you what honey tastes like, the best way to help him understand is to give him a spoon of honey. You can describe it as being sweet and not like sugar or fruit, but that it is distinct. The best way to ‘taste’ an experience, is to be in the company of its people.”

On another note, I saw Black Panther some hours ago. First off, beautiful film. It was incredibly inclusive of how strength and intelligence were portrayed. The chief general was a woman, and so too were the king’s warriors. Representation is so critical, not just for the young children who are nets to the contents of mass media, but to the 20-year-old women like myself. I loved princess Shuri. With her incredible intelligence and forward thinking, she practically built the civilization as it stood. Not to mention that Nakia’s desire to serve others is a reminder that we must always take what we have in our left hand, pour some into our right hand, and share it. Love Love Love. Spoiler alert, but my favorite LOL line was something like “Say one more word and I’m going to feed you to my children *the character laughs* joking I’m vegetarian” I literally LOOOOOled.  If you’ve seen it, lol you know which scene that was from. If you haven’t, go to the theater and support. The film took the “savage” image painted of the African people, wrapped it in a glass bottle, and shoved it down the oppressor’s throat. Every character had class and dignity. The historical reflection was integral and not sugar-coated. I can appreciate a good script, but I can love an honest film. Wakanda ❤

If I’m going to somehow create some common thread between my comments on Sufism and my takeaways from the Black Panther, it is this: I want to love through experiences and remember what connects a people before I think of what divides them.

Peace and Blessings,

Karima Osman