Spiritual stories don’t really have beginnings and I think that’s good because that lends it an aura of genuineness and sincerity that makes it all the more magical.
We’re all spiritual beings, we all chose our paths – took advantage of the Free Will – and hence, wherever we will be when we breathe our last, we will have chosen it for ourselves, but by His Will. It’s like the workings of a car – how you put in the key, start the ignition and the engine starts working, you pull the hand-break and the gear and turn the steering wheel and the car goes in motion. You’re doing these acts because that’s how this car is supposed to work, otherwise, it won’t move forward and you’ll be stuck in the same place. Forever. Who would want that? A motorcycle, however, will have a different mechanism. So, that’s us. Different. Individuals.
We carry out these actions to propel forward and that is our free will.
The fact that this is how we’re supposed to act because otherwise, we won’t be we –individuals with our own spheres – is Destiny. And I guess that’s it.
A revolution may not necessarily be about taking up firearms. It’s about revolutionizing our own life – for in the words of the beloved Carl Sagan, “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” And hence, we hold gorgeous universes within ourselves, don’t we? So, why not revolutionalise this universe first? It is about revolutionalising our own lives in a way that forces people to see Him clearly, through us, to know that every cloud really does have a silver lining, that there really is light at the end of every tunnel, that despite all the unfairness and the cruelty, there are still good people with big, loving hearts. We can’t preach these things. We need to show them and when we do that, we are challenged and we are mocked. History is laden with examples explaining this. Talking about spirituality, and Sufism, and religion are merely reinforcements of armchair philosophy and that will only bring us temporary spiritual relief and make us feel good about ourselves. Sitting in a cave, meditating, thinking about the universe is all so romantic but at the end of it all, when He asks me what I did with the intelligence, the opportunities that He blessed me with, what will I say? We hate to disappoint the people who are dear to us, we don’t want to be responsible for hurting them, so what about the Being that created you? He who loves us more than 70 mothers? In fact, His Existence is an example in itself, isn’t it? Not just through the attributes of Mercy, Forgiveness, etc, but let’s just look at His love, the love that has been compared to that of a mother’s love. Our moms are so protective of us, aren’t they? They want to be around us 24/7, be there always so they can watch out for us. They are the first ones to rush to us and tend to us if we fall down and hurt ourselves. And then look at God: He knows that we need to learn to get up ourselves, that unless we fall, we won’t know what ‘pain’ is and if we don’t know ‘pain’ we won’t know what ‘relief’ and ‘joy’ are and if we don’t know those, we won’t be able to ease things for others because then why should we? I guess He really does want us to learn how to fish so we are self-sufficient, He doesn’t only want to feed us. We get furious when we feel our prayers going unanswered. But He wants us to learn through experiences because when He did tell us and when He gave us the manual – the Book – did we make use of it, did we learn from it? A relevant example that one can relate to is regarding the laws of inheritance. How many of us follow it as we should? Hardly. And then there are bloody disputes over tangible, temporary things like property, and they go on for generations after generations and relationships are lost and a myriad of other crappiness happens. Why? Because when we didn’t follow the Manual He gave us, He made us experience it because come on, we practically asked for it! So, He’s teaching us parenting, too; hold a child’s hands when you cross the road, but don’t hold it so hard that it starts hurting the child.
So again, when He asks me what I did with the intelligence, the opportunities that He blessed me with, what will I say? Aren’t I supposed to make use of it to help His people? But that, too, I can only do when I’m strong enough myself! And it is to reach that position of strength that we’re supposed to bring about these lifestyle changes, what we call the ‘outward change’. Because sometimes, in doing that, you wage a war on your nafs and on your lower self, and only when we overcome that can we hope to move forward because trust me when I say, dear you, that breaking your nafs is truly the biggest battle you’ll ever fight. It could be anything – fasting, waking up early in the morning, headcover, giving up anger or miserliness or greed or exorbitance, almost anything – but it’ll teach you what words can’t describe. And this is how outward change works. Just like how I must practically live like a socialist to be a real drop in this ocean of social and economic inequity and inspire others to do the same, I must also practically live my spirituality to be a real mentor to ensure that by giving up on all that hinders my spiritual growth, by being kind, and helpful, and loving, by killing my lower self, by establishing my connection with Him, because along the way, you’ll learn just so much.
Outward and inward changes walk hand in hand; often one runs ahead of the other and pulls the other one forward. That’s just how it works. It’s your own war against your nafs, against your lower self. Let His Oneness make you whole.
With each passing heartbeat and with each passing breath, you will learn that the most difficult and yet, the easiest thing to do when one lies alone in the middle of the night with a lonely, broken, wailing heart, is to say, “Thank You, God!”. You will learn that your own voice sounds as strange to you as you do to those around you. You will realise that often, the people closest to you will not understand you, will misunderstand you, and will hurt you, but you must forgive them and be gentle because in doing so, you are actually making sure that you can spend the rest of your life in peace, not being unjust to the people who unconditionally love you. You will realise and experience how optimism and gratitude works. It’s not like you won’t know how tough things can be or how hard life can be. You truly will! You will live to see a lot of unkindness, a lot of inhumane acts, unfortunately. You’ll probably witness a lot of human suffering but you will still believe in love, and gentleness, and optimism, and most importantly, in Him. I know it’s a bloody system that kills you slowly, makes you despise everyone. But that’s the thing! A constant connection with our true, inner selves is what we need. And that’s what fully embracing Him means – inward and outward. It’s easy to turn bitter and pessimist after this life plays with you. It’s challenging to remain – or in most cases, turn – gentle and hopeful. But hey, that’s all we have because this life really is temporary and the sooner we learn to invest in our souls, the better it is. The sooner we realise that a beautiful heart is immortal, beyond the changes of age and time, the better it is. For everyone.
The C.S. Lewis quote that you read at the beginning of this post, dear reader, is how we should be, how I should be. We can’t hope to change others unless we change ourselves. We can’t complain about how cruel the world is unless we ourselves are making an effort to be kind, and compassionate, and forgiving.
And all of this brings us back to spirituality – practical spirituality – and Sufism, and why we need it. Because when you’ve spent all your life living according to a philosophy that has left you feeling restless and lonely – like an old, empty church, covered with weeds, built to a god who has long since been forgotten – as your soul reverberates to one lonely chord echoing through again and again, then it’s because your soul is demanding – or rather, begging you – to cleanse it, to reach out to Him. That’s the only way all of us can get to the Grand Kingdom – His Kingdom – without losing sight of what is relevant in this world. I’m going to be a doctor, I’m going to be a homemaker, and amidst all these worldly responsibilities where I’m not only sustaining my body but am also trying to help out others, how do I hold onto my spirituality, how do I reflect His Light? This is how; a constant guide.
I need a teacher to explain science to me. I need someone to help me fix the car because I’m not an expert there, I only know how to fix a broken bone or how to manage diabetes because as a doctor that’s my area of expertise. When I’m a novice here, I need someone to hold the torch for me as I find my way. It’s very relevant because armchair Sufi philosophy won’t help us get to Him. We need to practically do something to get there, whether it’s how to control our lower selves or how to ease the distress of His people, or best: both. So, when you’re sick, you go to a doctor. When you’re spiritually needy, who do you go to?
Life is very beautiful if we look at everything as a manifestation of His Being. And we all really want that till our last breaths; to enjoy the beauty around us, the miracles of love and life that we see around ourselves every day, the little joys and smiles. And because there is absolutely no other way, this is why Sufism, dear readers!