Written by Dr. Mohd. Asri Zainul Abidin
The human journey to search for the truth is necessary for the pure fitrah (human innate nature). A person who has a sublime soul will not find satisfaction in his heart until he finds the true path that is trusted by both his mature mind and wholesome fitrah.
Even if a person possesses wealth, it will not bring tranquility to his soul so long as he does not find the path leading him to his true God. That is because Allah has disposed in a person’s soul the need to acquire the truth and the desire to live life the way that He Blesses.
If a person deviates from this fitrah, his soul will suffer even though he is wealthy and possesses power. Although he seems to be happy and cheerful but deep down in his heart there is an excruciating emptiness. A person who does not live his life the way that God has stipulated will always feel emptiness in his soul or feel as if his search in life is incomplete. If left untreated, it can turn into a sore cancer.
We always read stories about famous artistes getting involved in drug abuse or celebrities killing themselves. It is not as if they are lacking of wealth, influence or have lost the chances to party. They have actually lost the pure fitrah. Thus, a true faith, an honest religious hold and a life guided by the rulings of Allah are necessary for a soul and function as a remedy for emotional sickness. If a person does not take this medicine, although we can see his sweet smile, but deep down inside his feeling, there seems to be a rebellion of his soul and never ending disturbance to his tranquility. If he realizes this, he will in turn try to search for the truth.
That is the reason behind the stories we usually read about many prominent public figures in the West and the East who try embracing different religions until, in the end, some embrace Islam. If he were not conscious of it, he would try to cure his emotional sickness by indulging in life frenzy getting involved in various activities in his effort to find serenity for his soul.
That is why some people endeavor in pursuing various weird activities like performing self-endangered stunts while riding motorcycles, jumping from high places in a dangerous manner and many more of the same nature. Otherwise, they may get involved in noble activities like the fight to defend the life of a certain animal or plant.
Although some of those activities are very commendable and befitting Islam, but they are in truth in search of something to fill up the void that they cannot comprehend in their souls. Allah says in Surah Taha verse 124 (translated as): “But whosoever turns away from My Message, verily for him is a life narrowed down, and we shall raise him up blind on the Day of Judgment.”
Restriction in life is not because of restricted wealth or power but it is when a soul fails to find the true meaning of happiness. It seems to be suffocated and restless, groping for something that it feels to be missing. That something is actually the light of guidance from Allah.
I read in a ‘white man’ magazine a story that exposed the suffering of Mother Theresa who was a prominent religious figure among the Christians and dedicated her life towards the noble effort in aiding the poor people all her life. However, the letters that she wrote to the Christian high authority depicted the suffering of her soul that failed to feel the presence of the true God in her soul. She seemed to be in doubt over the existence of her God. (Refer to Letters Reveal Mother Theresa’s Secret, cbsnews.com)
Actually, to me, she did not doubt the existence of God. Rather, she was confused between her failure to find the path towards the true God and the existence of God. Her soul suffered not because God did not exist but instead it was because the address that she was after was not accurate. A pure soul is one that searches for the direction towards the true God.
As such, al-Quran tells the story about the holy Apostle of Allah, Ibrahim, when Allah said (translated as): “Lo! Abraham said to his father Azar: “Takest thou idols for gods? For I see thee and thy people in manifest error. So also did We show Abraham the power and the laws of the heavens and the earth, that he might (with understanding) have certitude. When the night covered him over, he saw a star: He said: “This is my Lord.” but when it set, He said: “I love not those that set.” When he saw the moon rising in splendor, he said: “This is my Lord.” But when the moon set, he said: “Unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray. “When he saw the sun rising in splendor, he said: “This is my Lord; this is the greatest (of all).” But when the sun set, he said: “O my people! I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to Allah. For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah.” (Surah al-An’am, 74-79)
That is an example of a pure soul. In the end, Allah appointed Ibrahim as one of His Messengers.
May be this topic is different from my previous discussions. However, I believe that it is important to discuss this topic after realizing that many non-Musims are reading my writings. Based on their spiritual experience, they must admit that there is a need for a person to struggle in searching for the true religion.
Similarly, this is also as important to the Muslims, who have been following this column, whose themes in life are not yet based on the religion. Even though I am thankful of their support but we must realize that Islam is not a mere debate of the minds.
The delighted feelings they have over my previous views, I hope, will bring everybody to come closer to the genuine Islam. Islam is not just philosophy and theory but instead, the genuine Islam must flow through the veins of our life.
In addition to that, one thing to be realized is that one who knows about the truth will not necessarily follow the truth. I have met with many people who agree to what I have written and stated but they said that, “If we accept what you have mentioned, it means that we degrade our status”. Still, I am thankful since at least they admit their agreement. That is indeed the typical behavior of some people. Not all will adhere to the good elements that they themselves understand and know about.
Because of that, Allah disclosed the immoral attitude of the Jewish religious scholars by saying (translated as): “The people of the Book know this (Prophet Muhammad and his truth) as they know their own sons; but some of them conceal the truth which they themselves know.” (al-Baqarah:146). It means that through the knowledge that they received from Torah and Bible, they knew that Muhammad bin Abdillah was a Messenger sent forth by Allah. However, their arrogance or their tendency to guard their own self-interest overshadows their knowledge of the truth.
It is similar with some of our religious groups in that their knowledge about the truth sometimes is not any stronger than their intention to guard their self-interest or normal way of life. For example, I have seen a person with a religious label attached to him who forbids others from performing the tarawih (optional prayer performed only in Ramadan month) prayer for less than 20 rakaat (number of bows in prayers). Moreover, he considers the prayers of those that do 11 rakaat (8 tarawih and 3 witir) as invalid. Even harsher is his statement that deems whoever does not perform 20 prayers as a follower of the young group and is deviant. To that I say, who knows how many people perform the tarawih prayers until 8 rakaat before getting out of the mosques without them knowing about what is the young group and what is the old group. Probably they have other matters to attend to or simply because that is the limit of their ability. Unfortunately, humans tend to have prejudice. Moreover, the tarawih prayer is optional and there is no need to enforce a strict instruction such as that, much less to judge that the prayer is invalid. Then, some people show the person that there is hadith reported by al-Bukhari, Muslim and others indicating that Allah’s Messenger s.a.w performed the tarawih prayer only for 11 rakaat and in another narration, for 13 rakaat. He answered, “I don’t care if there is a sahih (sound) hadith or from sahih al-Bukhari or from sahih Muslim, what is more important is that this is the decree issued in our state.” I sighed deeply. Due to his fanaticism, he rejected the hadith and forced the masses to follow a specific ruling without providing a strong reasoning to it. If he only stated they encouraged 20 rakaat then that would sound more acceptable. What should happen is that because the hadith is very clear regarding this issue, people should be presented with the options. There is no need for bickering. Even more interesting is the fact that he pointed fingers towards others by saying that the young group is being very obstinate about their opinions. Alas! As the saying goes, “He hits others but he is the one crying. He curses at others but he is the one making complaints.” Thus, knowing the truth does not necessarily mean following the truth. He even rejected the hadith bluntly. This is to the extent that when some people heard an Ustaz stating that if the tarawih prayer is performed for less than 20 rakaat then it is invalid, they would quickly cancel their intention to perform the tarawih prayer since they are only able to do it up to 8 rakaat.
All these indicate that a person requires additional strength to execute the duty towards the truth. Consequently, hidayah or guidance exists in various forms. One type is named Hidayah al-Taufiq. It is when after realizing about the truth, a person is subsequently bestowed with the hidayah in the form of strength to follow the truth. That is the reason for us to recite, in our prayers, Ihdina al-Sirat al-Mustaqim (show us the straight way). Why do we still ask for guidance when we are already Muslims and performing the prayers? It means that we are asking for a guidance that can give us the strength to follow the true path. Allah mentioned in surah al-Ahqaf verse 15-16 (translated as): “ ……… At length, when he reaches the age of full strength and attains forty years, He says, “O My Lord! grant me that I may be grateful for thy favor which Thou has bestowed upon me, and upon both my parents, and that I may work righteousness such as Thou mayest approve; and be gracious to me in my issue. Truly have I turned to Thee and truly do I bow (to thee) In Islam.” Such are they from whom we shall accept the best of their deeds and pass by their ill deeds: (They shall be) among the companions of the Garden; a promise of truth, which was made to them (in this life).”
That is how Allah portrayed a righteous person. He is the one who pleads to Allah to give him the strength to be grateful to Him and to perform righteous deeds. This means that without the help from Allah, a person will not be able to realize his duty towards the truth. Therefore, in this juncture of Ramadan, I call upon all the advocators and supporters of the voice of change towards practicing the purer religion to plead to Allah as much as possible , after trying to understand the truth, so that He will give us the strength to not only know the truth but to also hold on to it. It is so that our intent to choose the true path and our characters as the advocators of the truth is radiated from our looks.
If not, Islam will only be seen in the form of philosophical writings without any embodiment and impact in a humans’ life. Thus, the pure and calm soul that should have been molded by the beauty of Islam will not materialize. In the end, this religion will become mere intellectual debates and sharpness of minds. Islam must emerge and set a deep impact in our life. Our faith must abide by what Islam has stipulated and free from any elements of shirk (joining others in worship with Allah), khurafat (superstitious notion) and nonsense. Similarly, the specific acts of worship such as salaat, fasting and hajj must be performed in their original forms as taught by the Prophet without any add-ons. Any form of innovation in worship is like a mockery on the function of the Prophet who was appointed as a role model. Similarly, we should try as much as possible to ensure that our life affair, speech and motion do not violate the rulings of Islam. Similarly, our spiritual being must be barren of envy, the much hated greed, prejudice towards others without any good reason and many more of similar nature. Our soul must always rely on Allah and hope for His Blessing only. A steadfast thinking and a sharp gaze of the mind, if combined with all these, will make us Muslims with a harmonious soul and a reputable life.