Spiritual Experience, Closed Doors, Competing Cosmologies
Issue 862 » October 2, 2015 - Zul-Hijja 18, 1436
Al-Araf (The Heights) - Chapter 7: Verse 172
And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], "Am I not your Lord?" They said, "Yes, we have testified." [This] - lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, "Indeed, we were of this unaware."
An important concept relating to the concept of human nature from an Islamic perspective is 'Fitra'. It refers to the primordial state of man; his natural condition and disposition. The optimistic view of human nature is rooted in this concept. Islam posits the natural state of man is a positive and 'good' state; one in submission to Allah. This is related to the idea that all souls made a pledge with Allah before earthly existence, acknowledging Him as their Lord. Even before we were born, or were conceived, our souls met with Allah. The spiritual aspect of every human has therefore already experienced the 'Divine'. The defining experience of man in the Islamic perspective then is not his physical aspect, but his spiritual aspect. This spiritual aspect of man is what the Quran, along with all spiritual traditions, appeals to. Charles C. Morris (1979) comments that if early childhood experiences are considered to impact strongly on an individual's life (even if only unconsciously) as suggested by Freud, the impact of such an experience going back to a time even earlier, of course would be fundamental. According to an Islamic point of view this explains the instinct in all individuals for right and wrong, although in some it may be buried more deeply than others.
Spiritual or religious experience is therefore more a form of recognition than discovery. The religious emphasis is thus more on the inner experience than an externally imposed experience as part of us already knows the truth. Due to the initial experience of union with Allah, a part of the individual seeks that union again. This quest is often begun with a search for the meaning of life. According to the Quran, the eternal aspect of each individual, the soul, is on a journey and passes through various stages in life. The end point of this journey though, as was the beginning, is Allah.
"Psychology from Islamic Perspective: Contributions of Quran to Contemporary Psychologists." - Abdolbaghy Rezaeitalarposhti
When we miss a plane, lose a job, or find ourselves unable to marry the person we want, have we ever stopped to consider the possibility that it may have been for our own good? Yet it is so difficult to look beyond the surface of things. It takes great strength to see beyond the illusions, to a deeper truth—which we may or may not understand.
As a result, we end up staring indefinitely at the closed doors of our lives, and forget to notice the ones that have opened. When we can’t marry the person we had in mind, our inability to look beyond may even blind sight us from someone who is in fact better for us. When we don’t get hired, or we lose something dear to us, it’s hard to take a step back and notice the bigger picture. Often Allah takes things away from us, only to replace them with something greater.
Even tragedy may happen in this way. One can imagine few calamities more painful than the loss of a child. And yet, even this loss could happen to save us and give us something greater. The Prophet said:
If the child of a servant (of Allah) dies, Allah says to His Angels: ‘Have you taken the child of My servant?’
The Angels reply: ‘Yes.’
Allah says to them: ‘Have you taken the fruit of his heart?’
They reply: ‘Yes.’
Then Allah says to them: ‘What did my servant say?’
The Angels reply: ‘He praised Allah and said: ‘To Allah do we return.’
Allah tells them: ‘Build a home for my servant in Paradise and call it Baytul Hamd (the House of Praise).’[Tirmidhi]
When Allah takes something as beloved from us as a child, it may be that He has taken it in order to give us something greater. It may be because of that loss, that we are admitted into paradise—an eternal life with our child. And unlike our life here, it is an everlasting life where our child will have no pain, fear, or sickness.
But in this life, even our own sicknesses may not be what they seem. Through them Allah may be in fact purifying us of our sins. When the Prophet was suffering from a high fever, he said: “No Muslim is afflicted with any harm, even if it were the prick of a thorn, but that Allah expiates his sins because of that, as a tree sheds its leaves.” [Bukhari]
In another hadith the Prophet explains that this applies even to sadness and worry. He says: “Whenever a Muslim is afflicted with a hardship, sickness, sadness, worry, harm, or depression—even a thorn’s prick, Allah expiates his sins because of it.”[Bukhari]
"Reclaim Your Heart" - Yasmin Mogahed
The use of Quranic text and prophetic practice to support opposing patriarchal and egalitarian cosmologies illustrates the malleability of these texts as well as the influence of idealized cosmology-driven expectations on the selection and interpretation of source texts. In the pre-colonial period, the uncontested reign of one patriarchal idealized cosmology resulted in generally monolithic interpretations of the prescription of wadribuhunna in Quran 4: 34. No pre-colonial exegete or legal scholar proposed that it was unacceptable, immoral, unethical, or forbidden for husbands to hit their wives. They all interpreted the imperative wadribuhunna to mean that husbands could hit their wives, although most of them chose to qualify this prescription by describing the beating as non-extreme (ghayr mubarri). Still, they were all able to imagine and rationalize a situation in which it is appropriate for a husband to hit his wife with just cause in an ethical manner. Being familiar with intelligent and strong women and witnessing male abuse of power did not make legal and exegetical scholars question the husbandly disciplinary privilege in marriage. No pre-colonial exegete or legal scholar offered an alternative meaning for wadribuhunna other than “hit them,” even though they demonstrated methodological ease with multiple interpretations of other words and phrases in the Quran. Within the text of Quran 4: 34 itself, for example, they offered numerous meanings for terms such as fear (khawf), wifely nushuz, and the second imperative of abandonment (wa-hjruhunna).
In contrast, in the post-colonial period, competing idealized cosmologies have led to multiple interpretations of wadribuhunna. Some post-colonial scholars have interpreted wadribuhunna to mean that husbands can physically discipline their wives, while others hold that they may not hit their wives at all. This creative variety is the result of picking one cosmology and defending it against other cosmologies. In all of these interpretations, the Quranic text and prophetic practice are called upon for authority and support. The philological structure of the Arabic text of Q. 4: 34 remains intact, but its meanings are highly contested and shaped by multiple influences. Post-colonial scholars, especially progressive and reformist scholars, display a keen awareness of gender-egalitarianism and also human fallibility regarding abuse of unchecked power. Although there was no room for such considerations in the pre-colonial patriarchal cosmology, there is much more space to interact with these ideas in a world where patriarchal and egalitarian idealized cosmologies jostle for supremacy.
"Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition" - Ayesha S. Chaudhry, pp. 219-221