TOPIC ONE – UNDERSTANDING ACTIVE SPIRITUALITY
The first frontier lies within. Before we can interpret or attempt to change our outer world, we must first understand our inner world. Why do I exist? Who am I? What is the meaning of life and what is my place and responsibility in it?
If we do not answer these essential existential questions, we run the risk of acting in discord with ourselves and worse – creating discord in the very environment we seek to change for the better through our activism.
Any foundational understanding of Islamic spirituality begins with a discussion of the heart (qalb).
The heart (qalb) is our most precious gift from the Divine. It is the fountainhead of our spirituality. The heart is the locus of all our normative cognition and judgement – right and wrong, ethical and unethical, good and bad. Second, it the seat of emotional experience – love, hate, hope, fear, gratitude and others. And third, it is the reservoir of will and resolve, volition and striving.
The heart (qalb) was created to grace us with the opportunity to connect with the Divine, the infinite in Majesty and Beauty. Through the heart, we are able to know the Divine, experience the Divine and desire to seek the Divine. And since the Divine is the source of all virtue, the heart (qalb) is the compass by which we perceive virtue, experience it and strive to actualize it.
These three functions of the heart (qalb) illustrate its primacy in every endeavour. Allah says, “It is not the eyes that are blind, but the hearts in the chest (22:46),” and the Messenger (sallallaho ‘alayhi wa sallam) told us of an organ, the heart, which if rectified, the entire body would be rectified; and which, if corrupted, the entire body would be corrupted (Bukhari).
The first link between spirituality and activism should now be obvious. It is the spiritual heart that is the birthplace of all words, deeds and all activism.
If our hearts are clouded, veiled or obscured from the Divine, how will we know virtue and vice, in a world where virtue and vice is often inverted, and where vice is frequently ribbon-wrapped in the attractive garb of good; how will our hearts find their inner tranquility and contentment by connecting to the Divine in the midst of the struggles and strivings in our activism; and how will we find the resolve and inner strength to act ethically and virtuously in the face of pressures and challenges.
We will not be able to stand whole and true. We will shatter from within.
A heart distant from the Divine will perceive truth as falsity and falsity as truth. It will incline not to justice but to obvious and subtle injustice. It will become anxious and fearful in times of difficulty. And it will lose its resolve and steadfastness in the face of temptation.
If our hearts are not connected to the Divine, our activism will be unhinged – normatively, spiritually and practically. A well-known Muslim activist once recently confessed: All this work – and I feel spiritually dry and barren within.
There is no inherent disconnect or contradiction between Islamic Spirituality and social or political activism. In fact, Islamic spirituality is not only relevant but essential to all forms of activism. This podcast with Shaykh Riad Saloojee will present a paradigm for a spiritually-inspired activism where activism achieves what it was always meant to be: a vehicle for nearness to the Divine through genuine individual and social ethical change.
This series will comprise of seven discussions that will explore 1. The foundations of Islamic spirituality; 2. The spiritual ethos that is the basis of all activism; 3. The ailments of activism unhinged from spirituality; 4. The laws that govern activism; 5. The importance of “inner,” spiritual activism for beneficial “outer” activism; 6. Vignettes from Prophetic activism; and 7. An application of how spirituality must inform true environmental activism.
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