By Andrew Booso
Aside from fastidious academic notions of the ‘West’, it is satisfactory for us to define the ‘West’ as “Europe and the largely English-speaking nations of North America, Australia and New Zealand”. The spirituality of Islam is a profound experiential reminder to human beings about their origin, reality, and ultimate destination. This call to the heart of things, quite literally, is the meaning of man. The beautiful religion of Islam is not the preserve of the Arabs, the Indians, the Turks, the Persians, the Africans or the Asians (in the American sense); but, rather, it is a universal call to universal man, and the West has every right to it. However, the West has, of late, been largely exposed to a warped view of Islam that often borders, and sometimes crosses, the limits of what appears to be psychological pathology; and which has hardly any glimpse of the touching spiritual tradition of Islam. All of this is all the more tragic when one considers how meaning and spirituality itself have been ravished by the tidal waves of unfettered materialism. In the process, this race towards materialism has not quenched the inner yearning of many in the West for meaning; a fact that has also meant that the failure to fill with the void with the spirituality of Islam has led to many pseudo notions of spirituality that are unable to provide a sip, never mind the full measure that man’s true nature requires.
Islamic spirituality is a vast science founded on the final revelation of God to man, the Qur’an, and the way of the final Messenger of God, Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him). This call obligates faithfulness in its widest sense, to the letter and spirit of the law. The Sacred Law is the wise dictate of an All-Merciful Lord, Who said in the Qur’an: And [He] has not laid upon you in religion any hardship [22:78] and Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you [2:185]. The Qur’an is a spiritual healing: O mankind! There has come to you a counsel from your Lord, and a healing for what is in the breasts, and a guidance and a mercy to the believers [10:57]. The result of spiritual healing is the salvation that is the goal of man, as the Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) is quoted as having said: My Lord!…abase me not on the day when they are raised, the day when wealth and sons avail not, save him who brings to Allah a heart that is whole [see 26:83-89].
Giles Fraser has articulated the modern Western understanding of ‘spirituality’ as ‘not about believing in anything too specific, other than in some nebulous sense of otherness or presence. It offers God without dogma’. Now one sees that Islamic spirituality is actually quite opposite to this. However, one should not see the contrast to the modern norm, as presented in Islam, as being an inhibiting of one’s freedom of expression. Indeed, the truth is that it is the liberation of any fancifulness that is, of a necessity, harmful to the true spirituality craved by every person, including those of the West. God says truly in the Qur’an: Those who believe and whose hearts find tranquillity in the remembrance of Allah. It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts find tranquillity [13:28]. It is the remembrance of The Truth that bequeaths contentment, and not any pseudo spirituality nor attempt at merely entertaining and amusing one’s self to death.
Finally, it is a sad fact is that most Western non-Muslims have not had true exposure to Muslim people who uphold such an exalted character. When one talks to Muslim converts who have been deeply touched by such pious souls, one is further reminded of the necessity of teaching Islamic spirituality, so that more may partake of this wonderful feast that has filled so many of our very souls with joy for knowing our God and His final Messenger (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him). And the praise is all God’s!