Spiritual Activism Riad Saloojee

Pride and arrogance (kibr) were Shaytan’s cardinal sin. In fact, his pride and arrogance caused him to become Shaytan – the one damned and distant from the Divine.

A profound lesson for each of us is that Shaytan became Shaytan because of his lower self (nafs).  This is itself an evidence and proof that our foremost danger resides within us.

A further potent lesson for each of us is that Shaytan was very near to the Divine.  He had deep, experiential knowledge of Allah and spent company with the noblest of angels. But even with all of this, he fell from grace to become the most bases and despised of all creation. 

While it was his act of disobedience that led to his downfall – he rejected the Divine command – the source of his folly was not the act itself. His lower self (nafs) was filled with pride and arrogance (kibr).  When commanded to prostrate to Adam, his lower self (nafs) did not permit him to obey Allah.

Pride (kibr) is a terrible, cardinal sin.  It is to deem oneself superior to others and to deny the truth.  The Messenger (Allah’s choicest peace and blessings be upon him) taught us that one with a mustard seed’s worth of pride would not enter Paradise.

It was the pride (kibr) of the Shaytan that caused him to rationalize the Divine command in an irrational way. He posited that he was better than Adam (peace be upon him) because of their differing material make-up. His reasoning was flawed and flowed from the ideological caprice (hawa) of his lower self (nafs).

As we learned previously, the existence of ideological caprice (hawa) makes it very difficult to recognize our faults because we believe ourselves to be correct.  And because of this, our intellectual caprice (hawa) is a very malignant barrier to repentance (tawbah).

This idea of rejection of truth is central to understanding the illogic of pride (kibr).  A person with pride and arrogance (kibr) finds it very difficult to accept their faults, receive advice or have anyone disagree with them. When truth is presented to them, they rebel, deem themselves faultless and attribute fault to others.

In the field of activism, our lower selves (nufus) are often fed at different levels by status, leadership, praise and prestige. This forges a sense of inner privilege and elitism – even at the most grassroots level of activism.

We start to ringfence our selves; we avoid those who are critical of us and sidestep those who counsel us. After a while, the Muslim community, and those we serve, are seen to be too retrograde for our “progressive” vision. We insulate and isolate ourselves from people of knowledge and our teachers. In a revealing statement, the Messenger (Allah’s choicest peace and blessings be upon him) noted that leadership and power is a “wonderful suckler and a terrible weaner.”

If I choose not to live within the sphere of the purification of my lower self (tazkiya), the disease of pride (kibr) in my heart (qalb) is a given.

No matter how bleak it looks on the outside, I should never forget that the fall from grace begins from 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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"Whoever guides someone to goodness will have a similar reward"-- The Prophet (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)