Monday, January 08, 2007

Intellectual Evolution of an Individual

Why is it that long hot showers can stimulate one's mind in ways that nothing else - not even ingesting large amounts of chocolate - can? I've always wondered... hmmmm...

Anyway! What was I going to say again? Oh yes... the intellectual evolution of an individual: It's something that I started thinking about this morning in the shower, while I was wondering what to write about for my next blog post.

Over the last couple years, I've found that I've changed quite a bit. I used to be extremely idealistic and ambitious, thinking that I'd be able to change the world all by myself (or at least, by myself and my handful of friends). I also thought I knew pretty much everything that I needed to know in order to change the world (ah, the arrogance and follies of youth!). I spoke in fiery, passionate tones about correcting the problems in society, uniting the Muslim Ummah, and taking over the world... (seriously!)

But then I started to change... as I began to read more about Islam and the world around me, as I began to start really listening and learning to the wonderful Muslim women whom I used to spend time with, as I began to actually discuss these things in earnest, I gained a great deal more insight into what's really needed for someone to change the world. Which at first scared the living daylights out of me (and still does, occasionally), but now I've stiffened my resolve and am determined to try and do whatever little I can, insha'Allah.

The first phase of my 'conversion' from idealism to realism was focusing solely on the Muslim community, evaluating its problems and trying to figure out what I could to help solve them(which wasn't much, unfortunately). I tried to read a lot about Fiqh, and I was majorly into learning about the system of the Islamic State during the time of the Prophet SAW and the Khulafaa' ar-Raashideen (there was one reeeeaaaallllyyyyy good book I read, called "On the Political System of the Islamic State". I forget the author's name, though).

Now I'm going through the second phase. While my primary focus continues to be on the Muslim community and its problems, I'm also trying to learn more about the rest of the world, especially the Middle East. I'm reading up on important periods of history (just finished learning about the Iranian Revolution) so that I know what the historical background of today's political conflicts is.
To balance the political history stuff, I'm working on reading up on 'Aqeedah and the details of basic things in Islam (currently concentrating on Salaah and the perfection of its performance, as well as things related to it such as wudhu, the athaan, etc.).

Today insha'Allah I intend to begin phase 2 1/2: Keep on reading up on the political and Islamic stuff, but also work harder at school (which I've neglected for the last few months due to my depression over moving and being lonely) and help my mom out more at home. I know I should already be doing that sort of thing, but you know how things can get...
Now, I don't know how successful I'll be at it (I have a very, very bad habit of procrastinating and being lazy), so I'll be needing your du'aas! :)

I've decided that I'll see how phase 2 1/2 goes before I try to go onto phase 3: ACTION!!!!!!!!!

All righty... I guess I'd better go and start implementing phase 2 1/2 now! :P

Your little sister in Islam,


Anonymous said...

asSalaamu alaikum wa rahmatuAllahi wa barakatuh,

OMG sister!!!!!!!! you converted!!! shame on you for converting to realism from idealism!! :) LOL

Yes those good ol' days of our idealistic dreams. Truly it did develop us though alhamdulillah.

as for me, I am never going to give up idealism 100% or 'convert' (LOL) to realism 100%. i will try to strike that balance inshaAllah since true beauty comes in the compromise.

your sis,


M2Timechange said...

Assala mu 'alalikum warah matullahi waba rakatuh

An Exposition Detailing the Method Used in Refining the Character

The traits of character causes the soul to be healthy, while any deviation from this equilibrium constitutes a sickness and a disorder within it, just as an equilibrium of the humours of the body leads to its health, and an imbalance entails its sickness. Let us therefore take the human body as our metaphor, and proceed with our discourse as follows. The soul, in being divested of ugly traits and qualities and given virtuous and beautiful ones, is like a body, which may be cured through the removal of diseases and the restoration of health. Just as the basic constitution is usually in equilibrium, which a transforming disorder afflicts through the effects of food, air and other circumstances, so also every child is born in equilibrium and with a sound innate disposition: it is only his parents who make of him a Jew, a Christian or a Zoroastrian; that is, it is through familiarity and education that ugly customs are acquired.

And just as the body is not initially created complete, but rather moves towards completion and strength through its growth (provided by nourishment) and upbringing, so too the soul is created deficient, with its completion and perfection being present in a latent form, and will only become perfected through training [tarbiyah], the refinement of the character, and being nourished with knowledge. Just as when the body is healthy the physician should establish the canon which will maintain this health; and when it is ill he should restore it to health: similarly, when your soul is pure, clean and of good character you should strive to keep it in this way and strengthen and purify it yet further, and when it is not, you should struggle to make it so. And just as a disorder which changes the body's equilibrium and brings about its sickness may only be treated through its opposite (if it proceeds from heat then through something cooling, and vice versa); similarly, the ugliness which is the heart's sickness can only be treated by education, that of avarice by giving money away, that of pride by self-effacement, and that of greed by forcibly restraining oneself from the thing one craves.

The curing of a sick body requires that one endure the bitter taste of the medicine and persevere in renouncing certain things one desires; and in like fashion, in the treatment of the heart's sickness one must endure the bitterness of struggle and steadfastness - this is even more the case, in truth, since one can escape a bodily illness through death, whereas the sickness of the heart (and we seek refuge with God!) is a sickness which abides even after death and for all eternity. A cooling medicine will not be sufficient to effect the cure of a disorder caused by heat unless it be administered in a certain measure, which will vary according to the severity or mildness of the complaint and the length of time for which it has been present. It is essential that there be a standard measure for this by which the efficient amount to be given may be known, since if the wrong quantity is administered the disorder will be exacerbated.

The opposites with which the traits of character are treated must also be provided with a standard measure: just as the quantity of medicine used is taken in accordance with the sickness, so that the physician will not give any treatment until he knows whether the disease is caused by heat or cold, and has ascertained the degree to which the temperature is high or low, and will only then turn to the conditions of the body and the weather, the profession, age and other circumstances of the patient, and will then, in accordance with all this, begin his treatment; so also the guiding Shaykh, who is the physician of his aspirants' souls and the treater of the hearts of those who wish for guidance, should not impose any specific duties and forms of self-discipline upon them until he has learnt about their characters and ascertained the diseases from which they suffer. Were a physician to treat all of his patients with a single medicine he would kill most of them; and so it is with the Shaykh who, were he to charge all his aspirants with one kind of exercise, would destroy them and kill their hearts.

Rather, attention should be paid to the illness of each aspirant, his circumstances, his age, his constitution, and the capacity of his body to perform such exercises, which should be prescribed on this basis. If the aspirant is a beginner, and is ignorant of the provisions of the Law, he should first be taught about ritual purity and prayer, and the external acts of worship. If he is occupied in gaining money from forbidden sources or is regularly perpetrating some wrongdoing, he should be asked first to forsake this. And when he is made outwardly beautiful through acts of worship, and his members have been purified from external transgressions, the Shaykh should look, through the evidence provided by his states, to what lies within him in order to ascertain his character and the diseases of his heart. At this point, should he perceive that he has wealth in excess of his needs he should take it from him and give it in charity in order to empty his heart of it and to prevent him from being distracted?

Should he perceive that frivolity, pride and self-esteem have taken hold of him he should instruct him to go to the marketplace and beg, since self-esteem and love of authority can only be broken by humiliation, of which begging is the most intense form. He will require him to persist in this for a period until his pride and self-esteem are destroyed, for prides, and also frivolity, are among the illnesses which lead to destruction. Should the Shaykh see that the body and dress of the aspirant are usually clean, and that his heart inclines to this and is pleased with it, he will give him a job as a latrine attendant and cleaner, and instruct him to sweep filthy places, and to remain in the kitchen and places where there is smoke until the attachment he has to cleanliness departs. For someone who cleans and adorns his clothes, and makes requests for clean patched garments [muraqqa'at] and coloured prayer-carpets is no different from a bride who spends the entire day decorating herself. There is no difference at all between a man who worships himself and one who worships an idol: inasmuch as one worships anything other than God one is veiled from Him.

Therefore, anyone who pays attention to anything in his dress, apart from its being from a legitimate source and ritually pure, in a way which turns his heart towards it, is occupied with his own self. It is one of the subtle aspects of discipline that if an aspirant does not permit himself to renounce frivolity or some other trait at all, and will now allow himself its opposite all at once, he should move from one blameworthy trait of character to another which is less harmful, in the manner of a man who washes off blood with urine, and then rinses off the urine with water, if water would not have removed the blood; and like a schoolboy who loves to play with balls and sticks and suchlike things, and then is progressively drawn from such play by being encouraged to improve his appearance and to wear fine clothes, and then from this by being encouraged to seek influence and authority, and then by being encouraged to long for the Afterlife. The case of the man whose soul does not permit him to abandon his illusion all at once is similar: let him move on to a lesser form of this vice. And so it is with the remaining traits.

Should the Shaykh see that the aspirant is usually under the influence of greed for food, he should oblige him to fast and to reduce the amount he eats. Next, he should instruct him to prepare delicious meals and serve them to others without tasting them himself, until his soul becomes stronger and he becomes used to forbearance, whereupon his greed will have been subjugated. And he should see that the aspirant is a young man longing to be married, but cannot afford to do so, he should instruct him to fast. Should this not do away with his sexual desire, he should tell him to break his fast with water and no bread or vice versa on alternate evenings, and forbid him to eat meat or any other thing with his bread, until his soul is reduced to submission and his sexual desire broken. For the beginning of aspirancy there is no cure more effective than hunger. If he sees that his is a predominantly irascible disposition he should oblige him always to be gentle and quiet, and should make him serve and keep the company of an ill-mannered man in order that he might train his soul to tolerate him.

One of the Sufis habituated his soul to mildness and freed himself from excessive anger by hiring a man to insult him in public: he forced himself to be fore bearing and to suppress his anger, continuing in this way until his nature became characterised by a proverbial gentleness. Another of them felt the presence of cowardice and faint-heartedness in his soul, and, wishing to acquire the trait of bravery, made it his practice to put to sea in the wintertime when the swell was at its roughest. The ascetics of India treat laziness in worship by standing up all night on pillars. And one of the Shaykhs at the outset of his own aspirancy, finding that his soul was lazy during his night devotions, for this reason forced himself to stand on his head all night so that his soul would willingly accept standing on his feet. Another treated his love of wealth by selling all that he owned and throwing the proceeds into the sea, fearing that if he gave it to other people he would be afflicted by self-satisfaction and a desire to be seen doing this. These examples should teach you the way to treat hearts. It is not our intention to mention the medicine for each sickness, for this will be done in the remaining Books; rather what we intend to do here is to draw the reader's attention to the fact that the general technique consists in doing the opposite of everything that the soul inclines to and craves. God (Exalted is He!) has summed up all of these things in His statement:

And whoever fears the standing before his Lord, and forbids his soul its whim, for him Heaven shall be the place of resort (Qur'an, 79:40,41) The important principle in the spiritual struggle is to carry out what one has determined upon: if one determines to renounce a desire, then the means to pursue it will be made easier; this is a trial and a test from God, and one should therefore have fortitude and perseverance. If one habituates oneself to violating one's own resolution the soul will come to take pleasure in this and will be corrupted. Should it happen that a man does violate his resolution, he should compel his soul to accept a punishment for this, as we have already mentioned in [the section on] the chastisement of the soul in the Book of Self-Examination and Vigilance: if he does not intimidate it through the presence of a punishment it will defeat him and make the following of the desire seem good, and this will corrupt his self-discipline entirely.

Hujjatul Islam, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, The Revival of the Religious Sciences (Ihya' 'Ulum ad-Din) Translated by Shaykh 'Abdul Hakim Murad (may Allah reward him for his effort and initiative)

Taysiir said...

Good Luck!

M2Timechange said...

Recapturing Islam from the Terrorists

"Muslims cannot deny forever that doctrinal extremism can lead to political extremism. They must realise that it is traditional Islam, the only possible alternative to their position, which owns rich resources for the respectful acknowledgement of difference within itself, and with unbelievers."
by British convert to Islam, Abdal-Hakim Murad, 14 September 2001

As New York turns its gap-toothed face to the sky, wondering if the worst is yet to come, Muslims, largely unheeded by the wider world, are counting the cost of the suicide bombings. The backlash against mosques and hijabs has been met by statements from Muslim communities around the globe, some stilted, but others which have clearly found an articulate and passionate voice for the first time. In comparison with the pathetic near-silence that hovered around mosques and major organisations during the Rushdie and Gulf War debacles, the communities now seem alert to their cultural situation and its potential precariousness. Many of the condemnations have been more impressive than those of the American President, who seems unable to rise above clich├ęs. The motives are twofold. Firstly, and most patently, Sunni Muslims have been brought up in a universe of faith that renders the taking of innocent lives unimaginable. By condemning the attacks, we know that we defend the indispensable essence of Islam. Secondly, Muslims as well as others have died in large numbers. The Friday Prayers in the World Trade Center always attracted more than 1,500 worshippers from the office community, many of whom have now surely died. The tourists, who spent their last moments choking on the observation deck, waiting for the helicopters that never came, no doubt included many Muslim parents and their children.

But the Western powers and their fearful Muslim minorities, both battered so grievously by recent events, now need to think beyond press-releases and ritual cursings. We need to recognise, firstly, that there has been a steady 'mission-creep' in terrorist attacks over the past twenty years. Hijackings for ransom money gave way to parcel bombs, then to suicide bombs, and now to kiloton-range urban mayhem. It is not at all clear that this escalation will be terminated by further anti-terrorist legislation, further billions for the FBI, or retina scans at Terminal Three. America’s tendency to assume that money can buy or destroy any possible obstacle to its will now stands under a dark shadow. Far from being a climax and the catalyst for a hi-tech military solution, the attacks may be of more historical significance as an announcement to the militant subculture that a Star-Wars superpower is utterly vulnerable to a handful of lightly-armed young men. There could well be more and worse to come.

We must ask Allah to open the hearts of the Muslims everywhere to recognize that narrow-mindedness and mutual anathema will lead us nowhere, and that only through spirituality, toleration and wisdom will we be granted success.

The most appropriate du'a' for our situation would seem to be: 'Ya Hayyu Ya Qayyum, bi-rahmatika astaghiith', which is recommended in a hadith in cases of fear and misfortune. It means: 'O Living, O Self-Subsistent; by Your mercy I seek help.'


AnonyMouse said...

M2Timechange: Thank you for the essays, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't post them all here in my comments' section...

Julaybib said...

It took me years to shake off the kind of idealism that comes from being ignorant and arrogant. Now I am idealistic for a completely different reason - I think I have a pretty clear idea about what is wrong with the world (war, exploitation, self-interest), and I know what is good and right (the values taught by Muhammad (aws)). I don't know what to do, precisely, except to say what I think, learn and try and put my own house in order, which is pretty messy. But maybe, one day, some folks who have discared self-interest for the love of God alone and who know what their doing might do something to REALLY change things. And insha Allah, on that day, I'll be fit to join them. Even if it is just to make the tea!



Inspired said...

asalamu alaikum

I'm going through the same phase sis....It's just that it took me a looong time to figure it all out while you've realized it at a young age. I'm pretty pessimistic right now though and that's definately NOT where I want to be at!