by Hiussain Haidery & Dr. Shegufa Shetranjiwalla-Merchant
(This article was first published on the website www.72martyrs.org )
The hard part of the process of seeking insightful learning is not the acquiring of knowledge with a receptive mind, but the unlearning of ingrained ways, the breaking of habits that have become second nature and the questioning of accepted dogmas. Harder still, is to do all of this without flagellating one’s self with guilt. Though this journey is fraught with emotional labour, it is ultimately liberating. The destination is finally devoid of confusion.
If the new process of learning is a path to unlearning false religiosity and seeking spirituality, then a plethora of avenues need to be explored with a set of fresh eyes.
Before seeking the truth via external answers, a way to explore is through self reflection. Some of the things to ponder are: Did I follow an entity that guided me to the path of the Whole, the Complete or did I follow an entity that kept me distracted with a rhetoric of their narrow self? The former will encourage continued self reflection and the latter will explain the motivations and machinations of a systematic administration for profit. It is important here to differentiate between a good administrator and a spiritual leader. Administrative skills do not equal spiritual guidance. Sometimes to those who receive a short term economic benefit from the administration, may believe it to be a miracle for them because of the veil over their heart. To those who learn from them, remain deceived by the worldly degrees and intellectual justification.
The path to continued self reflection should allow one to consider some of the following deeper thoughts. Was faith ever an anchor for me? Did what I follow allow me a deeper look beyond customized religion? Did I simply follow a recipe and a prescribed procedure for blind faith? Importantly, was there anything spiritual about the rituals that were prescribed? Did the ritual try to subjugate me with a punitive judgement? Did I believe that such a judgement that is devoid of mercy befits my benevolent Creator? This reflection will slowly unfold the myth of the ideologies followed in ignorance. As new learning emerges new insights are developed. Did I have faith in the first place? Did I lose a religion I never really had? Am I even guilty of abandoning a religion I never had anyway?
On a note of caution, these exuberant insights can lead one on a hasty rebound towards a new search for meaning and answers. Sometimes the low hanging fruit for intellectual gratification and worship is Science.
The sincere seeker of truth is then faced with the dilemma of choosing between science and religion because of the preconceived notion that the two are at loggerheads with each other. This notion has been promulgated by religious bodies in the past to ridicule and persecute those who question the theories proposed by religious books and leaders. This has not helped the seeker who wishes both domains to peacefully coexist and be in harmony with each other.
The dichotomy arises from our faith as Muslims, that the source of all knowledge is our One Creator, to whom we humbly submit. The Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h) has taught us that seeking knowledge is obligatory for every man and woman in Islam. Islam asks us to introspect, ponder, study, question and reflect. We have been bestowed with intellect to do these as a clear sign of our Creator’s favour. Science enables that methodological approach to observation and structured study of the phenomena and laws of nature. It allows the expansion and application of that knowledge from physical, medical, environmental and astronomical sciences to seek the truth and fulfill one of the highest religious duties and explore the purpose of our existence. Science is a wonderful asset for man to evolve and continue seeking.
As much as Science can help us appreciate the magic of symmetry and discover the growing number of observable characteristics of the universe, yet, it is unable to characterize the unseen elements residing in faith, belief and divine judgement. The Quran reveals various tangible scientific aspects of this universe and implicitly guides the seeker to the secrets of the hereafter. It keeps the mystery alive for the seeker to live a fruitful life through this plane of transition into eternal existence.
However, it is easiest to believe that the answers not found in the former ideology must be logically and easily accessible through scientific theories. Beware of this pothole without the knowledge that the Big Bang theory begins with the assumption of spontaneity. Science too is constantly evolving, unfolding, discovering and learning. And it needs to do this with the humility to unlearn.
For those who seek Science as the new god to worship, as an escape from the gods that they had earlier associated with and then become disillusioned by, should consider themselves still on a path of seeking. It is important to safeguard from becoming a slave to Science.
It is also easy to be blindfolded by the elite intellectualism that comes with study that lacks faith in the unobservable. The trap is in trying to seek all answers through Science as the only route and fail miserably.
Sometimes the truth one seeks is so simple and omnipresent that it evades the eye that is limited to seeking it through a single entity.
Science and Spirituality are an integrated whole, not disparate competing parallel spheres of contradicting knowledge. They may be used dubiously for benefit to claim mastery or superiority of knowledge. However they are interdependent and one is required to express the other.
Science is a language for the Spiritual to express itself. Just as Math is an essential language to compute the laws of Physics, chemical equations are necessary to balance stoichiometry and Art is the instrument to express cultural richness, Science is an expression of Spirituality. Science explains the laws of Nature, makes them accessible, but it is incapable of creating them. The laws exist. They ARE. Therefore, looking at a branch of scientific knowledge be it Astronomy or Biology with a concave lens is looking at it without the context and the nuance of the whole Spiritual system.
Guidance is sought through Learning. It is a slow and patient process. Knowledge and Wisdom emerge from this learning. The more you learn, the less you know! The cycle of seeking continues. Each individual can strive to earn this gift of Wisdom, become conscious and prepare for the hereafter.
LIFE is only a part of the spiritual cycle guided by the Divine. And those guiding you to the Divine are already chosen. They will find you if you allow them to be received!
May you be sought by the ONE you seek!