By Belinda F. Espiritu, New Age Islam
8 August, 2015
In the vastness of space, the revolution and rotation of the earth with extreme precision and their being greatly subservient to human beings’ interests are the most wonderful of happenings. One who ponders over these blessings will be overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude to God. (Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Spirit of Islam, June 30, 2015 issue)
The thoughts quoted above from MaulanaWahiduddin illustrates the God-conscious living advocated by Spirit of Islam magazine, a monthly publication by the Center for Peace based in Langford Town, Bangalore. What follows is a content analysis of two issues (June and July 2015 issues) of the magazine which I fortunately received out of the kindness and generosity of the magazine’s editors and publisher. I benefit a lot from the writings of MaulanaWahiduddin Khan, which are easily read and digested as they are delightfully presented in the Spirit of Islam magazine. The articles in the magazine range from one-page nuggets of wisdom to articles several pages long. The magazine advocates for spiritual living and global peace; thus, many of the articles are written to encourage and guide the readers to a God-oriented life while some are meant to analyze and expose the ideology of Muslim extremists who resort to violence. A few significant articles are meant to argue for the adoption of the ideology of peace by explaining the superiority of peace over violence and by propounding the need for a non-political interpretation of Islam. The magazine appeals to both Muslims and non-Muslims since the spirituality of Islam carries universal values and principles.
God-consciousness springs from the contemplation of the marvels of creation spread out all over the earth and the wonders of the solar system and universe. The earth’s rotation on its own axis once in twenty-four hours causes night and day to follow each other, which the Maulana describes as “a wonderful miracle of Almighty God’s power” (June 30, 2015, p. 41). Without this axial rotation of the earth, half of it would have been continuously exposed to the blazing heat and light of the sun while the other half would have been continuously enveloped by night. This marvelous fact, this “wonderful miracle of Almighty God’s power”, points out to the existence of an all-wise, all-powerful Creator who has designed the earth and everything in it for humankind’s benefits and enjoyment. The elliptical shape of the earth’s orbit and the sun’s not being at its exact center result to the occurrence of different seasons in the planet Earth. The extreme precision of the rotation and revolution of the earth is for human beings’ interests, which humbles us and fills us with a deep sense of awe and gratitude to the Great Creator of all things.
A consciousness of this almighty, all-wise, all-knowing God and a God-oriented life is what the Spirit of Islam magazine aims for. This God-oriented life entails gratitude and worship of God, a godly living, the exercise of every virtue, and a constant awareness that this world is temporary and life here is short-lived while the life in the Hereafter is eternal. The imperfect world where we are living now is a testing place and is not our true abode. Our true abode is Paradise in the Hereafter, a world that is perfect and eternal where we will live limitless lives. Maulana says that “People whose record in this imperfect world is found to be good will be promoted and allowed to enter into the perfect world of heaven” (June 30, 2015, p. 24). Thus, life in this world is but a preparation for the next. In another short article entitled “From planet earth to planet paradise”, Maulana Khan says that we should perform such deeds as can make ourselves deserving candidates for the planet of Paradise. To make ourselves deserving candidates for the planet of Paradise, we need to live a life of moral restraint.
In the modern age, the problems that confront man can all be traced, directly or indirectly, to one underlying cause: the separation of man from God. Human beings have acquired many material comforts, but they have lost their faith in God. Material progress has provided humans with plenty of physical nourishment, but it has left their souls to starve (June 20, 2015, p. 29). Belief in God is essential in the modern world which appears to have committed an act of plagiarism in not acknowledging the Creator. Forgetting and disbelieving in God has resulted to the ills and plagues in the modern world such as wars, crimes, global warming, and many other afflictions caused by humans themselves to their fellow humans and to nature. Disbelief results to tyranny towards others, disregard of others’ rights and welfare, and wanton exploitation of nature.
In the article entitled “Plagiarism and the End of Human History” (July 31, 2015 issue), the Maulana writes that the entire human civilization is guilty of not acknowledging God despite availing divine blessings. This has been the case in the scientific world which has discovered a world referred to as the ‘intelligent universe’, or that the universe has an intelligent design. With intelligent design established, the existence of an intelligent Designer is proven. But instead of using the term “intelligent design” of the universe, the scientific community refrains from and even disdains the use of the term “intelligent design” like when a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory made a public statement referring to “Intelligent Design”, he was sacked. The prevailing sentiment in the scientific world is in favor of materialism and empiricism, anything that cannot be proven with the use of the senses cannot be proven to be true; hence, spiritual things and the belief in God are not publicly acknowledged. This resulted to humankind’s achievement of great progress and development of civilization and taking credit for everything, without acknowledging God – an act of “super plagiarism”, an act for which humans have to severely account for before God.
The sad fact is that prosperity and the attending materialistic culture has made people transgressors, to the point of damaging the life-support system on earth to dangerous levels with the phenomenon of global warming. In the face of impending doom, humans must do two things: first, they must lead an introspective life and correct their course to earn pardon on the day of reckoning; second, they must disseminate God’s message worldwide to all humankind. This is still in line with the theme that life on earth is a testing ground for everyone, a preparation for life in the perfect world in the Hereafter – “those who fulfill the criterion of not misusing their freedom would be selected to inhabit the world of God eternally” (July 31, 2015, p. 32).
Belief in God leads to a God-oriented living because it produces awareness in humans that they are answerable to God, which makes them extremely cautious in their words and deeds. Persons become complete when they have a deep sense of God-consciousness. They go beyond the materialistic world, live in the higher realms of life, and engage in matters of deep significance. Belief in God also transforms human beings’ thinking. They begin to look at things not in relation to human beings but in relation to God. Maulana says: “To believe in God is to believe in an Almighty being who has access to the innermost recesses of the human mind, and who will take an account of all acts done openly or covertly” (June 30, 2015, p. 34). Belief in God affects the whole being of humans because the conviction that their whole existence is in the grip of God has a complete influence on all of their thoughts, words and deeds.
A reformed life, according to Maulana in “Islam and the Modern Man, part II” (June 30, 2015 issue), is attainable only through sincere worship of God, self-effacement before His greatness and avowal of one’s own insignificance and lack of perfection. In another article, the Maulana explains that belief in God gives a person hope for his future in the next world.
In God’s scheme of things, life is not limited to this world alone; it continues after death as well. When believers are afflicted in this world, they look forward to happiness in the next world. When they despair of the human world, they fix their hopes on the world of God. Thus the distress of a true believer is changed into healthy optimism. (July 31, 2015, p. 31)
The thoughts described above show how human beings should live in this temporary life and temporary world. Maulana Khan continues to teach and enlighten with these words: “Man has no eternal future on the planet earth. Make yourself deserving candidates for the planet of Paradise” (June 30, 2015, p. 14) Death can come anytime. The death that happens every day at any time anywhere reminds us that this present world is a temporary world and the other, the eternal world called Paradise is human beings’ true abode. Humans have been sent to this world to be tested. Thus, a life of moral restraint is the best manner by which human beings can comport themselves in this world and it is also the only guarantee of all manner of religious and worldly progress. For Muslims, the Ramadan, the period of fasting, is a way to practice restraint. Moreover, the practice of zakat is a way to follow the prescription of disseminating the message of God to the world. The practice of zakat, or the alms-tax, for instance, has its equivalent in Christian practice in the form of tithing, with a few denominations being strict about the percentage of income that must be given for the work of God, while many leave the amount of giving to the conscience of the individual Christians. In both Islam and Christianity, the money is given in the name of God as an offering, recognizing that all of one’s possessions are gifts from God. The amount is to be spent for the work of God on earth and for ministry to the poor and needy.
Those who are considered deserving of heaven acknowledge the Truth and are characterized by positive thinking in the complete sense of the term. They do not create any nuisance for others, remain peaceful members of society, and are deeply and genuinely concerned about the welfare of all. Modesty and honesty are their second nature. This leads to the next main theme of Spirit of Islam which is the ideology of peace in the religion of Islam.
Islamisation of Individual, Not State as a Counter-Ideology to Muslim Militancy
MaulanaWahiduddin Khan asserted that Islam should not be a subject of imposition, but rather a subject to be followed. This means that the goal of Islam is for the individual to discover God, lead a God-oriented life and try to spiritually elevate oneself. With this goal, violence would never be used. Jihad will not be associated with any warfare against the state or another state, but will be a battle against the base self, the base instincts, and base desires and thoughts. When Islam becomes associated with a political ideology, the aim is to dethrone the political rulers so that the political system of choice may be imposed on all. This comes with the use of violence, which is not way of true Islam. The objective of Islam, as Maulana argues, is Islamisation of the individual, not Islamisation of the state.
Peace is far superior than violence. Maulana Khan writes in his article “Towards Global Peace” (June 30, 2015) that peace is the only religion for both humans and the universe. Peace creates favorable conditions that would enable humans to strive for justice and other constructive ends. For Maulana, everything else comes after peace, not along with peace. The price of peace is simple tolerance since differences in this world cannot be eliminated. Intolerance leads to violence while tolerance ensures peace.
Peace is a product of positive mental attitude and is in accordance with nature’s plan. Violence is the result of negative thinking and disturbs nature’s plan and the normal functioning of society. Peace is the only secret of smooth functioning in human society as well as in the rest of the universe. Failure to establish peace will result to destruction and annihilation. The formula for peace is to take one’s share without usurping that of others, to fulfill one’s needs without depriving others of theirs. It is to satisfy one’s desires without thwarting others and fulfilling one’s ambitions without denying others the right to do likewise. It is solving one’s own problems without creating problems for one’s fellow creatures. In a nutshell, peaceful co-existence is the only way of existence in this world.
The present Muslim militancy in the name of jihad is a product of wrong interpretation of Islam; it is “a total distortion of Islam” (July 31, 2015, p. 11). There is an urgent need to counter this ideology of Muslim militancy by spreading literature that represents the true ideology of Islam based on peace, and put an end to Muslim militancy. The way to a peaceful revolution is through peaceful thinking which comes from the correct interpretation of Islam and jihad and the absolute allegiance to the way of peace and non-violence, for God Himself is Peace and only a peaceful world will be able to receive His blessings.
Dr. Belinda F. Espiritu is an associate professor of communication and is currently the Coordinator of the Mass Communication Program of the University of the Philippines Cebu. She has done research on Christian-Muslim relations in Manila, Philippines and is interested in the study of communication, religion, spirituality, development studies, peace studies, and democratic participation using new media.