Purpose

While doing a quick round up of the eminent theorists from some major schools of thought in Psychology, Dr. X told me why he thought Viktor E. Frankl’s psychoanalytical system left a “working” space for religion, not just a symbolic, sympathetic one, as you might find with his more popular counterpart, Carl Jung, and his brethren. I was familiar with the growing fascination among boys over Frankl but wasn’t able to read him before. Dr. X’s eloquent synopsis was something that came in handy.

He said that Frankl’s system was unique in a way that it would begin to treat a patient by stressing him more instead of trying to relieve him of it. And it worked as miraculously as the tenth century Chinese inoculation where they injected the patient with the same virus they wanted to protect him from to immunize him from future viral attacks of the sort. However, the way in which Viktor E. Frankl stressed his patients was surprising. His psychotherapeutic method began with insisting the patient to find a meaning in life, hence his best-seller book, Man’s Search For Meaning (Have you read this book yet? Please do. It’s enlightening!).

That brings me to my topic. At some point in our lives, we all wonder if there is any purpose to this meticulously elaborate drama of life. We ask ourselves, for example, where do we fit in the grand scheme of universe? What does it mean if we lie on top of major ecological chains as ultimate beneficiaries of all that universe has to offer – why exactly does this universe seem to be at our service? These questions have substance and they demand answers just as substantial. Everything that matters hangs delicately on these questions.

We, as human beings, have an innate tendency to find our answers – to know the reason of our creation, to shake sense of all that is out there in relation to our own self and its connection with the universe. We are sometimes referred to by the evolutionary scientists as the only intelligent design that inhabits the universe. Of several hundred million different species of Earth and counting, it’s really flattering to know this but it has its downside: we can’t just wake up in the morning and leave to make a living unless we have figured out what is it that we want to live for. Even a jackass is smarter than us in that it just grazes away when it has to and doesn’t really need to grapple with this conundrum.

During my discussions with people, i have discovered that the very term “purpose” induces great anxiety in most of them and they don’t want to pursue the discussion any further. While they might have their own reasons to do that, the reason I’ve been frankly cited at times is that purpose, in its own cold, calculative and mechanistic manner, tends to kill freedom. And its totally understandable. If you wake up in the dead of the night hungry as a wolf and aim for the fridge with a clear purpose in your head to eat something, you definitely won’t be much amused with a Santa Claus, should you find one, standing in his chariot blocking your way. In fact, you might as well walk right through him! That’s the case with purposes. They block a significant number of exciting possibilities from entering your life. But then, you have to ask yourself what’s more important after all? Finding your destiny or living ‘one hell of a life.’

The decision, ultimately, rests with you.

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Scum

Once upon a time, the only place whores were allowed to exist was the red-light district. Things have now changed – poverty has shoved them outta their bordellos into your streets like zombies in an apocalyptic break-out. Once upon a time, you sought them; now they seek you. They inhabit your dark alleys and public toilets, nurturing mortal viruses and whispering salacious utterances the dark melody of which you are familiar with but don’t pay attention to. And precisely for this very reason that you don’t pay attention, they have now stormed your bus terminals, railway platforms, markets and what not, seeking what’s legitimately theirs, offering you in place what’s not yours.

Their moans echo in your urban nights like the fuming cries of your laboring wives, except that they are cheaper to silence. Their rates rise and sink with the moon at night, so does their womanhood, so does your lust. You feast upon their starving bodies in order to feed their burning stomachs. You are too generous, and they? They are just scum.

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I feel it necessary to mention here that i don’t advocate immodesty or obscenity anywhere; particularly not in writing because it’s timeless and stays there long after its creation. But I feel things like this should be discussed more often. Taboo needs to be redefined. Talking about ‘bad things’ is not necessarily bad. Doing them is.

Void

When God created us, he left an aching void in us that could only be filled up by His love. Therefore, mankind embarked on a painstaking journey to find Him back and since nobody had actually seen God or knew what He looked like, the only tool they had to identify Him was the love-void inside of them: whatever filled that void up was to be the God!

As long as His Beauty transcended the reach of their senses, they kept searching for it until they caught a reflection of it somewhere. Every time that happened, the caravan would halt there, closely inspect the thing that’s apparently exuding the Light of God, term it as mere illusion, discard it (or carry it as a relic) and move on. The ancient journey stretches to and continues up until our time.

Our unconscious mind is a mysterious, intricate web of memories, lived and default. The Promise of Alast عہدِاَلَست is one such default memory that’s not actually lived by our bodies (although our souls were made witness to it in The World of Souls i.e. عالمِ اَرواح), is weak and hazy and lacks objective details like all other memories – but amazingly, it has a surprising capacity to override much stronger memories in order to storm our conscious mind to remind us that we have a Beloved to seek. The dormant yearning, thus catches fire. The torture it brings is familiar to us all.

Our love-void is like a massive black hole consistently drawing us into anything that resembles God in the least. It could be anything from purity to strength to character to beauty because God alone is the origin of all likable attributes. Even if we encounter a single one of these traits, in the least of degrees, in somebody or something, we might feel immensely attracted to them because of our predisposition to fill up the void in ourselves, and start loving them. We can love them for as long as they stay true to our idea of God. Obviously, none but God fulfills this promise. So there come disappointments and the love eventually fades away with time as we start again to seek His Beauty until we find someone else. Only this time round, we make sure they last longer in the face of our godly ideal.

People ask if the journey ends somewhere. No, it doesn’t. They’ll keep asking for more. At least, that’s the case with the perfect lover and the perfect Beloved: no one can love Allah more than Muhammad (S.A.W.) did, yet in His last days He used to say, “Forgive me, God, I couldn’t know Thee as I should have.” You see, he yearned for even more of His love.

Don’t you hate your Nafs ever. It’s something that eventually gets you to your destination. What happens when you place an obstacle in a fast moving river. The water initially stops, gathers around the obstacle and its level begins to rise. The river gains greater strength near the obstacle until it either breaks it apart or sweeps it along. Same goes for Nafs. While attempting to resist our pursuit of Beauty by engaging us in distractions, it only manages to be an obstacle in the course of the free river of Love flowing inside of us. Every time that happens, our river stops for a while, we feel that we are missing something important though we might not know exactly what it is and we may even fall into depression. But ultimately we break away the obstacle and come out stronger and nearer to God in the journey of love. That’s how it goes. Had there been no obstacle, there would have been no progress either, see?

Last and the most important question: How can you gain His love in this world? There’s a mystic saying about it: there are as many paths to God as there are human souls on earth. However, there are some baby steps that we can take. Read about the people who actually gained His love. Drop your guard for your inner sense of Beauty in order to let it guide you freely. But above and beyond everything else, read Allah. He, of all the beings, knows how do we get to Him and He has made no secret of the Path. The opening chapter of Quran, Surah Fatiha, consists solely of the supplication that addresses this fundamental need of ours: اھدنا الصراط المستقیم i.e. Guide us to the right Path and it seems like, as Dr. Israr says, the whole of Quran that follows, is a divine response to this supplication.

So it’s definitely well worth a read. But what happens when you first open it? I’ll hopefully write on this later and I’m quite positive you’ll be able to relate!

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P.S. This was originally written in response to a host of questions posed by an old fellow who grew up mainly in a liberal atmosphere but felt a growing void and a yearning for the divine inside of her. I just wanted to connect the two using Iqbal, Dr. Israr and Dr. Rafiuddin. Another thing that i had in my mind while writing this, was a casual discussion with a fellow blogger. Please feel free to comment, add, discuss or correct!

Seek the Ordinary

There is a growing frenzy for the ‘extraordinary’ in our world. Appearance has overshadowed the Essence. The god of capitalism is actively creating a parallel universe of false images. Time has quickened its pace and people feel the strain to have to catch up to leave their print. If time were slow or the god of capitalism not fast, people might have some space for the ‘ordinary’ in their lives. Now there just isn’t any.

God intended beauty and happiness to surround man in His world. The commercial god, however, wants mankind to run after them. In order that people seek what they already have, they should be told that they don’t really have it. The commercial god, therefore, makes use of his ungodly satellites to curse people into believing that certain things are devoid of Beauty and certain actions are devoid of Love. And that love is finite and should be selectively bestowed. And that happiness is the sense of fleeting satisfaction that vanishes as soon as you begin to suspect it’s actually there.

I see a dismal situation: Denying the true idea of Love and Beauty to the people of a loving and beautiful God creates a mega-vacuum in the society. This vacuum, in turn, drives all the commercial machinery, allowing it to create even more powerful ones. More convincing illusions are created, more people believe them to be true and more lives are lost seeking the non-existent Meaningless.

People develop a tendency to deny the spirit, deny its exigencies and as a result, there is a growing void in the society that can swallow it up whole. Here, have a glimpse into this void: You see that the corporate culture promotes confidence, boldness and expression. As a result, we are already left with a limited number of shy, quiet and inert people. A time will come when we won’t have any just like we don’t have Caspian tigers, Dodos and Eastern Cougars on our planet anymore. Also, a time will come when digging for the real faces under layers of permanent organic cosmetics will become as impossible as guessing the original contours of a plastically engineered face – thanks to the endless streaming of ‘supposed beauty’ by the ungodly satellites. The worldwide advertisement agency will utilize our left-over originality and plot how to make maximum money out of it. People might move to Mars to get easy land allotments, invent high wattage heat pumps for survival and give birth to Martians.

Human race is on the verge of extinction, people.

Lets find our way back to life. As ordinary people, we can not slow down time or stop the god of capitalism. They will stay and they will do what they will. The only thing we can do is to realize that all the beauty and happiness we really need is by our side, breathing delicately in the most ordinary of the books, faces, streets and shores, waiting patiently to be discovered. If ordinary people seek the ‘ordinary’ in their ordinary lives, extra-ordinary things can happen. A belief in that will restore Life on Earth.

 

Love grows like weed in your backyard. It needs no water, no sun, and more often than not, its unwanted. Smoke it once and it pumps itself in your veins, in the red gossamers of your bloodshot eyes, in the vaulted archways of your god-damn heart. It fills you up and keeps oozing out until the whole world rolls up and fades away in a distance and nothing, absolutely nothing, is the same anymore!!

My Guide

The Sabres were notorious in the college for running a daunting pace in rigid flight-formation at 6 am each morning (except Sundays), and the rule for the freshers was too simple to be misunderstood – lead us and if you stop, you’ll be run over by us.

I still remember my first cross-country vividly. Merely an eighth grader then, i told my guide that i would literally die if i ran any farther. A strong runner himself, guiding me through the long, snaky track of my first cross-country, he informed me quietly that nobody had ever died running. He was right. I made it. Alive.

The sophomores were appointed as guides over freshmen in their first year as pre-cadets, and though they retired from this responsibility after a year, i continued to look up to my guide for many years to come. There were many reasons for that. Most important of them all being, unlike most seniors, he would not treat me like a bloody junior. Naturally, when you are away from home and parents and a life that’s normal, at an age as tender as twelve, there is a vacuum inside of you so unfathomably great that it draws you into anyone who is least bit nice to you. This explains why i could not imagine running a cross-country without him. Besides, he had always made the ordeal look so easy. I don’t know if he always ran like that but ever since i started to run with him, he ran at a stride manageable for me to match – strong yet magically peaceful. Running with him always meant finishing at a decent place and saving your lungs some suffering.

The years kept rolling by and we gained enough seniority to be allowed to run independently from the flight formation. So we often broke off in the start and ran ahead. And so did all the elites of the college. Though our paces had gained greater strength over the years, somehow we still fell short of what was needed to be the top-notch elite. Over these years, i noticed one thing though: running with Azeem had grown increasingly easier – almost effortless. I never told him that though, out of his reverence and besides, there was some kind of comfort in running by his side, so i let the things the way they were running on the track.

One morning, when i spotted him running in his usual, favorite place – the geometric center of the broken pack, i hastened towards him, matched his stride and fell into the blissful meditative peace that he always carried about himself. That morning, my legs felt like freshly greased hinges, though – too fluid, too runny. A couple of wannabes blasted past us. I felt my adrenaline surging so i asked Azeem if he could pick up the pace a bit. He struggled but didn’t sustain it. Assuming that he did not want to run any faster, I asked if he would like to increase the length of his stride at least. He looked at me, gave me a subtle nod, opened up his legs and soon he was flying. What else could i want! I opened up mine and before long, we were overtaking the elite of the elite. I almost felt like a raven gliding – effortlessly navigating a step behind him through the throng, overwhelmed by the joy of our newly discovered speed.

The track had a rigid hierarchy firmly established by years of cross-countries which had taken place on it and though upsets kept happening, they were often very small and everybody generally finished where they had been over the years. Now imagine you manage to destroy that revered hierarchy and are being gaped at by boys in total awe. It was euphoric. It didn’t last long, though. Azeem slowed down to a slog, all of a sudden. When I looked at him questioningly, my worst fear materialized: he was grimacing in pain. The only thing he said to me was: keep that pace.

When I broke off from him, it almost felt like i was betraying the camaraderie of several years. But disobeying him was out of the question. I told myself he had wanted me to do this. So i gained my focus back and ran really hard. That day, for the first time in my life i caught up with Zargham – the most furious runner of the college. Though he sprinted away in the final stretch anyway, having reeled him in from such a lead was some feat!

Azeem had seen the duel from behind and was really happy about it. He said he always knew i had it in me. I asked him angrily why he had slowed down, and that i couldn’t fathom he too had limits. He laughed and said, all flesh and bones had.

That day on, he never ran with me.

But you hear that, Azeem? I call you my guide still!

Mother God

Though God is an ethereal spirit with no sexual connotations to its gender, the debate over His “actual” gender has passionately raged in the recent decades particularly in the wake of the rise of radical feminism in reaction to the timeless patriarchy that had reigned supreme. The reason i am writing this is that this debate is not distant, irrelevant or academic, it rather dictates how we perceive God in our day to day lives, defines our faith and how we act under its influence.

The most prevailing understanding of the gender of God is that God is predominantly a powerful masculine figure. This understanding possibly originated and strengthened over centuries in attempts to explain the attributes of God being Strong (Qawi), Subduer (Qahhar), Avenger (Muntaqim) and Compeller (Jabbar). Though there are other equally important attributes like Jamal (Beauty) that are the prototype of femininity but since these scholarly attempts were made in patriarchal societies so it is not very surprising for male-chauvinistic interpretations to have made their way into the sacred religious texts passed on to later generations. This partially explains why today, we refer to, and more importantly understand, God as a watchful man-guard over the universe though theological descriptions leave sufficient room for alternative explanations.

The question remains: Is God REALLY a watchful man-guard or is He more of a compassionate mother – the love of whom envelops the universe?

Islam has a distinctive edge over other religions of the world in that its Holy Book i.e. Quran has survived literally intact for centuries under conflicting and sometimes, even battling Muslim governments after the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). Karen Armstrong brings to our notice a commonly recited but strikingly overlooked piece from Quran i.e. the very Bism-illah-irrahman-irrahim.

…Nor was God distinctively male. Each recitation began with the invocation: “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate (al-Rahman) and the Merciful (al-Rahim). Allah was a masculine noun, but the divine names al-Rahman and al-Rahim are not only grammatically feminine but related etymologically to the word for womb(!)

It must be a shocking revelation for anybody who recites Quran on a regular basis. In the very tasmiah, God uses one masculine and two feminine names for Him(?)self, which although does not prove that God is predominantly feminine, in the very least points to the fact that God doesn’t want this side of Him(?) to be taken any lightly.

I was scrolling down a forum when i found this gem posted by MariaS.

Some people may say when huwa means “he” and “it” and hiya means “she” and “it” then why is God using huwa if hiya and huwa both mean “it” as Allah says : Qul huwAllahu ahad [Say he is One and Alone]? Answer: In A’rabic grammar, there are certain rules and criteria for feminine gender: 1) If it is feminine in nature like ummun [mother], ukhtun [sister]. 2) If the word ends with an A’rabic word ‘ta‘ like mirwaahatun [fan]. 3) If the word ends ‘badha Alif‘- an A’rabic letter. 4) Pairs of the body like yadun [hands], a’inun [eyes]. As the above criteria are not getting satisfied, by default Allah uses huwa-it.

I am not concluding this piece because i understand that people have different opinions. I do not intend to “establish” anything here neither do i feel the need of doing it nor do i find myself qualified for that. It’s just that i am going through a spiritual crisis where invoking God is, as i see it, the only way out and invoking a mother God feels much easier and more natural. Besides, I feel it’s really important for us to see God in the universe. The watchful man-guard is hard to see, the compassionate mother is hard not to.

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P.S. In case this article interests you, there are some links that i would like you to check out.

Islam and the Divine Feminine

God’s Feminine Side Is Plain to See (slightly offensive but makes the point anyway)

Shekhina: The Feminine Aspect of God

Also, in case you are into literature, Paulo Coelho, in his book “By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept”, makes an overwhelmingly beautiful case for the feminine God.