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, says Shaykh Riad Saloojee.
Islam provides a view of human reality that is cogent, holistic and practical. This view is always sensitive to both the constant and changing needs of the human experience. It is from the remarkable and miraculous beauty of Islam that all elements of the human identity are fused together seamlessly.
The spiritual heart
The spiritual heart, with its need for timeless truths and values; the intellect, with its need to conceive and chart a course for a life of freedom and happiness; the senses and limbs, with their energetic need to do, to affect, to change – all have their place.
Heartless spirituality, runaway reason, and barren, mechanistic action have no place in Islam.
By the passage of time. Surely, mankind is in loss. Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience. (Qur’an 103:1-3)
The fire of belief
The seat of belief is the heart. The heart is the locus of normative perception, experience and will. It is the fire of belief that sparks all movement and action.
The overflow of belief with its normative ordering of our world – the experience (and not mere rational conceptualization) of Divine oneness (tawhid), and the desire, momentum and resolution generated by this – gives birth to action.
That action, the work of goodness, is the emotional and physical manifestation of the exigencies of tawhid and its values of justice, equity, kindness, moderation, love and generosity. This work is first manifested within me, in my worship and my relationships.
If I do not change, I cannot be an agent of meaningful change in others and the world around me.
Each of us is key
This goodness, if true, must ripple outwards, touching my most intimate circles and then further, to affect my environment – family, neighborhood and community; the social, economic or political.
I seek to impact my surroundings for the better for I am one thread in the social fabric. I need and am needed. I affect and am affected. Each of us is a key in the door of another.
And thus I counsel to, with, and for truth and the values it engenders, because it is an essential aspect of Divine Majesty (jalaliyya); and I counsel to, with, and for patience and the values it engenders, because it is an essential aspect of Divine Beauty (jamaliyya).
Spirituality and activism
At every level, we cannot conceive of a spirituality that does not necessitate action. We can not fathom action barren of spirituality. The relationship is integral. Our faith is a unity of the belief of Iman, the action of Islam and the spiritual excellence of Ihsan.
This is how we are meant to live: in active spirituality and spiritual action, and for those engaged in more public advocacy, spiritual activism.
In the next article, “Bleeding Heart”, we will take a closer look at the locus of spirituality, the spiritual heart, insha’llah.
About the Series
This written series will pair with a new, forthcoming podcast, Spiritual Activism by Shaykh Riad Saloojee. He will present a paradigm for a spiritually-inspired activism that is 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 explore the foundations of Islamic spirituality, the spiritual ethos that is the basis of all activism, the ailments of activism unhinged from spirituality, and an application of how spirituality must inform true environmental activism.