Sunday, April 15, 2007

Quotes 2

Category: SOUND

"The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenatrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties - this knowledge, this feeling ... that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself amoung profoundly religious men."
-Albert Einstein

Some of the best insight into American civilization:

"The essential difficulty of pedagogy lies in the impossibility of
inducing a sufficiency of superior men and women to become
pedagogues. Children, and especially boys, have sharp eyes for the
weaknesses of the adults set over them. It is impossible to make boys
take seriously the teaching of men they hold in contempt."
-H.L. Mencken

(a pedagogue's a teacher btw)

"Experience is a poor guide to man, and is seldom followed. A man
really learns little by it, for it is narrowly limited in range. What does
a faithful husband know of women, or a faithful wife of men? The
generalizations of such persons are always inaccurate. What really
teaches man is not experiences, but observation. It is observation that
enables him to make use of the vastly greater experience of other men,
of men taken in the mass. He learns by noting what happens to them.
Confined to what happens to himself, he labors eternally under an
insufficiency of data."
-H.L. Mencken

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule--and both
commonly succeed, and are right... The United States has never
developed an aristocracy really disinterested or an intelligentsia
really intelligent. Its history is simply a record of vacillations
between two gangs of frauds."
-H.L. Mencken

"The theory behind representative government is that superior
men--or at all events, men not inferior to the average in ability and
integrity--are chosen to manage the public business, and that they
carry on this work with reasonable intelligence and honesty. There is
little support for that theory in the known facts..."
-H.L. Mencken

"The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.
The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
-H.L. Mencken

"The men the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth."
-H.L. Mencken

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."
-H.L. Mencken

Of course, his critical athiest eye which helped lead him to these views is also responsible for his own admitted prejudices against all manner of other institutions, including religion and other things. But it's a good look at America by a good example of an American intellectual upholding it's own principles.

"Amongst those in Heaven, the greatest in the sight of God, are those who reflect upon the Divine beauty and greatness of God, day and night."
-Rasulullah (peace be upon him) (Tirmidhi)

The very strength that protects the heart from injury is the strength that prevents the heart from enlarging to its intended greatness within. The song of the voice is sweet, but the song of the heart is the pure voice of heaven.
-Khalil Gibran

Love until it hurts. Real love is always painful and hurts: then it is real and pure.
-Mother Teresa

I have now reigned above fifty years in victory and peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to be wanting for my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: they amount to fourteen. O man, place not thy confidence in this present world!
-Abd-ar-Rahman III, Amir and Caliph of Al-Andalus (891 - 961 A.D.)

"There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter."
-Max Planck

"I was made to love three things in your world: women, scent, and the coolness of my eye in the prayer."
-Prophet Muhammad(saw)

"So behave that the odor of your actions may enhance the general sweetness of the atmosphere, that when we behold or scent a flower, we may not be reminded how inconsistent your deeds are with it; for all odor is but one form of advertisement of a moral quality, and if fair actions had not been performed, the lily would not smell sweet. The foul slime stands for the sloth and vice of man, the decay of humanity; the fragrant flower that springs from it, for the purity and courage which are immortal."
Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

"Even if a dog dies hungry on the bank of the river Euphrates, I think that on the Day of Judgement I shall be asked, 'O Umar, why did a dog die hungry during your rule?'"
-Hazrat Umar(ra)

Hell: I am higher in dignity because I shall accommodate great tyrants and proud people, including the rich and the high placed dignitaries.
Heaven: I shall accommodate the weak and the poor.
God: You are Paradise, the token and target of my mercy. Through you shall I send down my mercy on whom I please.
God: You are Hell, the token and target of my wrath and punishment. Through you shall I send down my punishment on whom I displease.
God: I promise that I shall fill both of you. I shall fill Paradise with those on whom I send down my Mercy and shall fill Hell with those on whom I send down my punishment.

"Every utterance that comes forth does so with the vestment of the heart from which it emerged."
-Hikam of Ibn Ata'illah
[Commentary: It is said, that the tongue translates what is in the heart. If the heart is confused or sick, so are the utterances. If the heart is wholesome and pure, then the utterances are real and appropriate. If you contemplate deeply what is being said, you will come to know the state of the speaker and the extent of his connectedness to the Truth and his position with Allah.]

"There are two kinds of people in this world that go around beardless: boys and women, and I am neither one."
-Greek saying

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Islam, Iman, and Ihsan

Category: STRONG

To say "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger" and to do the 5 basic pillars. To follow Islamic law (Fiqh), which is the key here. It's kind of like Shariah... but for the individual person. This isn't just limited to the 5 pillars, but all personal Islamic laws (basically, all the literal injunctions in Qur'an as illustrated by Prophet(saw)'s example).
Sources: For Sunnis (orthodox Muslims, who follow Islam through the Prophet(saw)'s example), it's from living jurists who follow one of the four Sunni schools (Madhabs) of Law (Fiqh): the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i, and Hanbali schools.

Doctrine ('Aqeedah).
To actually believe in God (Tawhid), the Unseen, Revelation, Prophethood, Day of Judgement, and Destiny (Qadar, whether good or evil). Wikipedia: "literally meaning "to learn", "to fully observe one's faith" or "to learn one's faith", and lexically meaning affirmation and confirmation in the heart."

- Tawheed is the key here. It means truly BELIEVING in the Oneness of Allah. The best way to understand that is to understand what that is NOT. Which is shirk. Any and all shirk (even all the little shirk that we're preached regarding in all those sermons/lectures/etc.) will negatively effect Tawheed, even NEGATE it. Where does shirk start? With intention (Niyat). There's of course the big shirks, worshipping other false gods, assigning Godlike traits to humans (distinguishing between saying someone has an attribute of God vs. someone REFLECTING an attribute of God, the latter is an alright, higher level of understanding). But the other shirks are summarized easily in this: Mahmud ibn Lubayd also said, "The Prophet (peace be upon him) came out and announced, 'O people, beware of secret Shirk!' The people asked, 'O messenger of God, what is secret Shirk?' He replied, 'When a man gets up to pray and strives to beautify his prayer because people are looking at him; that is secret Shirk." You get the gist of it. Technically speaking, athiests do have a god... themselves. So avoid athiestic thought, which is so easy to slip into (not remembering God when doing something, then you do it for yourself, and start getting into dangerous shirk territory). Even with acceptable Tawheed, having some Self-Centered thought left behind will later on block any further spiritual progress beyond this point. Do not think that you are safe from shirk.

- Anyway, Iman contains all the articles of belief within the religion, in addition to all the laws/injunctions/etc. from the first part, Islam. This is why society becomes a factor and everyone gets stuck here. If you cannot apply even the Sacred Law (Islam, or Fiqh) to yourself, then you flirt your way into Iman, you can't really complete Iman. And even if you do manage to somehow start embodying most of the basics of Islamic law sufficiently for the soul (I'm using ambiguous terms, but really... the rule of thumb is to try for 100%), you have to then believe in the things here which is a civilizational conflict. To believe in God, Prophets, Heaven/Hell/etc. goes against the philosophical underpinnings and principles of Western civilization. So not only must you embody a life adhering to alien 'laws' (personal laws, for yourself), you then have to change your perception of the world from everyone else. This is so difficult, not just literally in Western civilization but anywhere on the globe right now. To hold onto your Iman right now, is to try and hold onto that ball of fire with your hand.

- And there are differences in Aqeedah! For instance, that popular movement in Pakistan, 'Jamaat-e-Islami', based on the teachings of Maulana Maududi is HUGE. It's big also in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. It won 11% of the popular vote in Pakistan and and has 53/272 people in the Parliament thing there. But guess what? It's been excommunicated (in fatwa) from Sunni Islam by senior Hanafi/Maliki/Shafi'i/Hanbali clerics. Why? Maududi's teachings violate basic principles of Aqeedah. To believe in the incorrect ideas regarding Heaven/Hell and all these other things that don't even concern us yet, WILL have an effect on your Iman, which DOES concern us right now. With deviant or perverted Iman, you can't even move onto Ihsan, you'll wind up locking yourself into some kind of zealous, dogmatic, mindset if you try to press on (deviant spirituality). That's dangerous. And how many of us even know what basic Aqeedah even is, let alone some of these differences between other people? Lawlz. I was lucky, my mom's family is strictly Hanafi and knowledgeable about it so my mom raised me with the basic principles correct according to that school (Deobandi Hanafis follow Maturidi school).

Sources: Varies. Most all current Sunni movements follow the Ash'ari and Maturidi schools of 'Aqeedah, but there were plenty of older ones that came and went that I personally like to read up on. It's mostly philosophical bickering/arguing.

Sometimes spelled 'Ahsan', or 'Ehsan'. It means "perfection" or "excellence" in religion. From Hadith: "[Ihsan is] to worship God as though you see Him, and if you cannot see Him, then indeed He sees you." This is made up of basically spirituality (Ruhaniyat), piety (Taqwa), and mysticism (Tasawuf). The key thing here is Tasawuf because it's a thing you do, while the others are things you achieve. They're all kind of related.
- Ihsan is often considered the inner dimension of Islam, while Shariah or Law (both personal and societal, Iman and Islam), are like the outer dimension. Says Imam Malik (ra): "He who practices Tasawwuf without learning Sacred Law corrupts his faith, while he who learns Sacred Law without practicing Tasawwuf corrupts himself. Only he who combines the two proves true." If you make it here, you have achieved respect for Islamic law (Islam), belief free of disbelief and shirk (Iman), and now this (Ihsan) is the way you purify your Self and achieve sincerity and purity of intentions and actions (because anybody can appear to be externally going through the motions, but God isn't fooled). Abolishing Self-worship. I like to say Self-centered or Selfishness, but these have such a wide scope of definitions but definitely the more extreme forms of Self-centeredness and Selfishness are the same as Self-worship or Self-glorification. The roots of this are actually in simple Psychology (ego and all that).
- There are movements like Tabligh-i-Jamaat which try to disseminate the expertise of these people through wide exposure. Many Sufi Shaykhs travel and give speeches on personal growth (Islahi Khutbat) and you can find such types of sermons/lectures all over the place online, especially from famous scholars of Fiqh (Maulanas, Muftis, etc. who also had spiritual education). Despite the fact this is the most esoteric part of Islam, the sheer potency of it demands that at least some of it be used effectively on people to help them, in line with Ruhaniyat. You'll see people like Hamza Yusuf (I think he's the most popular Sufi in America atm) give essentially watered down, precision-targeted bits of information to the youth in an effort to jump-start them when they have dead batteries.

- Tasawuf: The definition of Tasawuf according to Al-Ghazali is to purify the heart and dedicate it to Allah without turning your attention to other than Allah. It is simply expressing spiritual faith in physical practice. This is basic Sufism. Dhikr, fasting, etc. Says Imam Al-Junayd, "We did not acquire this level of Tasawwuf just by talking about it; but rather, we acquired it through spending the nights awake in prayer, experiencing hunger from fasting the days, and going against our worldly desires."

- Taqwa: "There are five signs of righteousness: a gentle disposition and a soft heart, shedding tears of regret, ascetism and not caring about the world, being unambitious, and having a conscience." -Shaqiq al-Balkhi (ra). What gets you to this? God-consciousness. This is a result of Tasawuf as well. Usually Taqwa is defined colloquially as simply fear-of-God, but that means essentially the same thing. If you have a conscious feeling of God being right there, as much as you love Him (and probably feel comforted in times of trouble), you'll be pretty scared. It's the next step up from thinking that you see Him or that He sees you. It's feeling it, because He really is there. Being this pious/righteous is very unnatural for a human being with his ego. A child will rarely if ever be an angel when his mom or dad isn't around. But if the mom or dad is terrifying enough (unlike children we know the implications of why we should fear something that much greater than us) and right there, he/she will behave completely differently. But God is ALWAYS there. So a strong sense of Taqwa can help push and cement a personality into this stage of piety/righteousness.

- Ruhaniyat: This isn't talked about much. Because people (even Sufis) rarely use a word to describe this. Since this is all about knowing/feeling, not words. The only official definitions I find around are 'soulfulness' or 'spiritualness'. This is basically like the intensity of the soul's manifestation. The Ruh in Islamic philosophy has several levels, this would be like the deepest levels manifesting themselves through the rest (which include the lowest, your physical makeup). When you get 'burning' inside... this is it. It's like spiritual awakening, your soul is almost literally waking up and manifesting itself. In Transpersonal Psychology, it's kind of like a 'Spiritual Emergence'. This can range in intensity, from simply a spark to outright MADNESS as if one were struck by a lightning bolt from the Heavens. Please note, this has absolutely nothing to do with normal kinds of 'madness', it just might be confused therewith by Western specialists in Psychology since they don't have terms to understand this idea outside of the Transpersonal arena. The best 'secular' definition I could find from Wikipedia: "The term "Spiritual Emergence" was coined by Stanislav and Christina Grof (1989) in order to describe a gradual unfoldment and appearance of psycho-spiritial categories in a persons life. In cases where this spiritual unfoldment is intensified beyond the control of the individual it might lead to a state of "Spiritual Emergency". A Spiritual Emergency might cause significant disruptions in psychological, social and occupational functioning, and many of the psychospiritual problems described above might be characterized as spiritual emergencies (Lukoff, 1998). Besides the psychospiritual categories mentioned by Turner (1995) and Lukoff (1998), Whitney (1998) has also made an argument in favor of understanding mania as a form of spiritual emergency." That still doesn't really explain Ruhaniyat. =\ This has been known in Sufism as the phenomenon when a Shaykh or Master kind of 'spiritualizes' his Mureed or Apprentice. It's like in Rumi's poetry, where he describes the 'burning heart' of a Shaykh alighting the heart of a Mureed like you would alight one candle with another already lit candle. You can describe this burning as love too, pure love or pure faith. It's just raw 'soulfulness'... light. I described the common principle of this in the speeches/lectures/teachings of Sufi Shakyhs above. This is purely 'feeling'. When you hear a lecture by a good scholar about personal stuff (rather than Law) and you feel revitalized beyond what you normally would from a lecture. A revitalization that almost makes you look around and see things differently. That's like a very tiny spark of this. It can also happen by an act of God. Which can be low in intensity, or again... like a lightning bolt. In the latter case, 'Spiritual Emergency' is definitely more apt a description than simply Spiritual Emergence. A lightning bolt-like case would be like when after much meditation, Ibn Sina felt he figured out existence. He ran naked through the streets of Baghdad shouting 'I am not me. I am God.' (What he actually meant was 'I am not me. And everything that is, is God.') This is accompanied by 'knowing'. This distinguishes it from simple madness. Your Qalb (spiritual heart) is a source of knowing and intelligence. If it's real soul activity, the other parts of Ihsan, and even Iman and Islam are suddenly solidified in a strange way. You get the sincere intention to figure out Islam if you don't know already... in fact, you'll soon figure out where to look if you didn't already know (the four madhabs), and your Iman gets 'fixed up' in that you have clear solid beliefs in those things of 'Aqeedah. I'm describing the really intense, very very rare forms of this soulfulness here, but you can get tiny sparks of it which are not uncommon. And these can come at any stage of Islam/Iman/Ihsan. But if Islam and Iman are not perfected, they won't stick... at best the person might get a sudden awakening or englightened period where their Islam or Iman is amplified into correctness, but it will stall out and die until the foundations are perfected (thus the word, 'Ihsan', or perfection). When you get 'sparks' of it, you won't hesitate to figure out the Deen and implement it, you'll be like a person on a mission. But ya, to rehash... this will help solidify all the previous levels of the Deen before here. This really shouldn't have been given the most attention out of anything here, but this is so tough to explain. Another way to put it is that this is kind of like being 'in the zone' with regards to Deen (and other things). A believer who has achieved this properly and ultimately (usually some kind of Sufi with a spiritual guide), his perception of things is a bit different. They can trust their feelings because their feelings are coming from the soul (through the Qalb). It's like they look at a mass of garbled text (to represent random information one might come across), and suddenly the letters assemble into proper sentences (it's like the 'truth' self-manifests out of anything). It's knowing... from the inside. I'm only going on about this cuz it's such a lofty ideal to keep in mind as motivation at times.

Sources: The most 'root' sources are from living masters of one of the four main Sufi orders that have survived intact, the Qadiri, Naqshbandi, Chishti, and Suharwardi tariqas. This is not knowledge that can be contained in a book, this is only contained in breath and experience. At the very top level, this functions like Master/Apprentice (think Star Wars' Jedis...).

Addendum re: Ruhaniyat (BTW, let's not kid ourselves. You don't have this, probably nobody you know does. We get sparks of light as mystic emotion, that's it. Emotions live and die in the moment and anyone, Muslim or not, can get them. You're not going to run into a person who embodies this (Ruhaniyat), these types of people live a different lifestyle. And when you do (when they give speeches/sermons/whatever), you'll know that they know. You're sure of it. You can see it on their faces. If there's any doubt, then that person is probably just sputtering with sparks if anything. But when someone really has it... it's infectious. You'll know with certainty that they know everything else with certainty, but your knowing will only encompass that. But even then, you have to reach a certain level of basic Islam/Iman before you can even percieve that much, but most Muslims have sincere enough hearts to see the Truth when it's in front of them. Except youth of course... youth misled by the pretty dunya. )

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Belief/Taqwa vs. Imagination

Category: STRONG

For Muslims:

In Islam, it is literally God-consciousness. You are conscious of God. And if you ascribe these original scenarios to God, then what better way to be conscious of Him than if He talked directly to you? (which is what a theist would describe these as)

Remember the Prophets! Muhammad(saw) in the cave when Jibrail(as) first came to him... Musa(as) and the voice of Allah(swa)... Ibrahim(as) and the fire...

Prophet Muhammad(saw)'s was my favorite example. Because he went through it just like one of us would have.

And it was just like those scenarios. Your imagination is screwing with things. You have crazy imagery in your head from when you were a kid of Jibrail(as) carrying down stuff from the sky to the Prophet(saw). That is not what the Prophet(saw) saw. He saw NOTHING. He just, out of NOWHERE, HEARD A VOICE. It just was. He saw nothing, so it was nothing talking to him. THAT was his reaction. The understanding of what happened came to him later, and that understanding fuels our imaginations, but unless we have that raw reaction he had... that consciousness of Allah(swa), and not just imagination, you won't feel 'it'.

Faith is belief. Beliefs are, like Einstein said, like knowledge. You can use them interchangeably in the same mental processes. One in fact, leads to another. Imagination is DIFFERENT. Imagination is not the same as wonderment. Imagination can be triggered by it, or will be, even. But it's also it's own seperate thing and it is not real. That's why children aren't responsible for their beliefs, because their imaginations ARE their beliefs... It's not a question of children believing in God, it's that they'll believe in EVERYTHING (and it's friggin' cute as all hell). In adults though, that becomes disconnected.

Spirituality is objectivity. It's reality. When Allah(swa) had the whale swallow Yunus(as), did He talk to the whale? Whales can't think! They can't understand! It's related in our terms, but if you were there swimming next to the whale you would not have heard Allah(swa)'s Voice whispering commands to it. It was just 'inspired'. But what is that? A whale's brain can't be inspired, inspired is what HUMANS use to describe it. The whale just ate the Prophet(as). That is the reality. If you think about it like that, and try to ponder how Allah(swa) made that happen... then you will feel Him (as in, be conscious of). If you use your imagination to visualize some magical angel flying down from the sky, tapping the whale and being like 'yo eat that guy', then you're killing the feeling. The imagination there is being utilized to rationalize something, not feel what actually happened. Sometimes, you really just have to stop filling in the blanks when you just don't know. Because after knowing, BEFORE imagination, comes belief. Don't IMAGINE Jibrail(as) coming down from the sky with a book in hand, you're not a child! FEEL what happened. Rasulullah(saw) heard that chiming/buzzing sound, and then it's as if existence itself spoke to him, clasped him tightly, and SQUEEZED HIM. That's all you would have seen had you been there! Don't imagine beyond existence, because then you're getting into theory and imagination! Save that for LATER.

If you're in a car driving up a hill. Faith or belief is knowing or expecting or waiting for the city that you know is on the other side. Imagination is just sitting thinking about this random city in your head. You might not even be driving anymore, cuz daydreaming while driving can cause accidents.

Imagination is not bad. It's a wonderful essence of human nature, but it can be tied to different things or used by different things. Do you know what's in charge of yours? Imagination is great. But of course, it's not real... we can get very childlike where the imagination is borderline reality, but it's not the same as him actually FEELING that scenario had it actually happened.

It's like "oh lolz. God is so wonderful, He's probably like this this and that." vs. "zomg, God is right there, I'm afraid I might see Him if i look around too suddenly" (that feeling anyway, you won't actually see Him of course, lol). In both cases, you don't actually see God. In fact, both people might have had the same experiences. But they are different.

Q) Which of these represents the essence of 'Faith'?
A.) Imagining B.) Knowing C.) Waiting

Correct answer is C (other terms could fit too probably). B (Knowing) is no longer Faith. And A isn't Faith either.