Humanity Is Equal To Spirituality
We humans are delicate cognitively and we have no other option but to regularly review our opinions and beliefs. An imperative part in carrying out this process is to share our views politely with others and to respect theirs, no matter how wrong they may seem to us initially.
When our opinions become our pride and we feel too high to admit that we were wrong even after we have realized the flaws in our perceptions of the past, it is then when the process of learning stops in our lives.
Being flexible in our opinions does not mean that we are unstable, it simply means we are admitting that we can always be wrong. We may get caught in religious and non-religious extremism once we start presuming that the opinions formed by us cannot be untrue.
Respecting others opinions, sharing ours politely and then reviewing them again and again is the only rational way I have found to educate my mind impartially.
Humans are generally arrogant
There are two major ways mentioned in scriptures through which evil forces spread evil in a society and make individuals go against the Almighty, they are obscenity and ego. If anyone wants to check how biased and arrogant he is, he should simply notice himself when he is having an argument with someone, if his mission is just to point score, and he doesn't admit even when he realizes during an argument that his arguments were wrong, then he needs to work hard to get rid of his biases.
Generally humans are arrogant, may they be so called Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, atheists, agnostics etc.. We all think that we only know the truth and others are just wrong or unintelligent and that we know everything or we have better opinions and beliefs than others. Believers also think that God is only on their sides, so called Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus etc all have this arrogant belief, generally. They forget that God is the God of the whole universe, not of one small community.
However, once we realize that we can always be wrong and that we cannot learn everything in this one small life, we get rid of our arrogance and we start learning. We then look for the truth in places where we least expect it to be. Our goal should be to learn till we die and for that we must get rid of our egos.
Once we do that, we will still stand up for something we consider to be true but then we will also listen to what others have to say and we will review our opinions and beliefs regularly. We all start with subjectivity, then it is our choice whether we move towards more and more objectivity or not, through reasoning, by staying honest and by reviewing opinions and beliefs regularly.
Arrogance is one of the biggest impediments to learning more and more. It not only takes us away from love, from our fellow human beings but persistent arrogance takes one away from the Almighty. What remains behind then if God leaves you astray?
The Perfect God spoke imperfect humans' language?
Some people argue that how can the All-Wise, Almighty God write things about Him, the universe and His expectations from us in simple and straight forward scriptures in the language spoken and understood by humans. They would argue that why didn't He write something that was as complex as the universe, and that the universe is so complex that it isn't intelligent to look for answers in mere books that are really simple and could have been written by humans. It is a valid argument, however, we can use two analogies to understand why God revealed things in human's language.
First of a mother and her child, there is at least a 20 years age gap between them but she adapts her language to the intellect of her child, she teaches her child in simple and straightforward words, and we don't ask mothers that why are they speaking in such a way. Second analogy is of elementary school students, the syllabus they study is simple enough for them to understand, you don't give university syllabus to children and we don't ask from teachers that why are they speaking in children's language, because it is evident that they are making things easy to understand for their students.
I would like to mention here that we do not need scriptures to know God or morality, neither did the messengers come to introduce it. Scriptures and messengers came to revive the innate morality in places that were overtaken by evil, it came to make it clear to the seekers of good that what that good exactly is. A person who will act upon the innate guidance will always remain in the shadows of God's blessings no matter in what circumstances he lives, even if he is 1 out of 100 and the rest 99 become evil.
Religion doesn't claim it introduces morality or God, it simply reiterates it, reintroduces it, revives it, to make it easier for the seekers of good. It is the second version of God's guidance, first being the innate guidance. Religion is simply a reassurance. And it is the job of a truth seeker to purify religious beliefs by separating man made beliefs from the divine ones as humans have always corrupted the message. And God promises that if someone intends to do that, God Himself will help him reach his goal.
Therefore, my humble request to all those who don't have confidence in scriptures would be to at least read them once with an open mind. We all read fiction and all sorts of things, I think it is quite a serious invitation when people are suggesting to us that there are books which are giving answers to questions related to life, Hereafter and the Creator of the whole universe, and I think it deserves our time for research.
No one can guide us until we really want to be guided
The stories of prophets and their immediate addressees that are there in different scriptures, we find many common things between them, like you will find a group of people who stepped forward, not only accepted the message of God presented to them by the prophets but also helped the prophets in their missions.
You will also find people who not only rejected the message but persistently fought against the prophets in different ways. One thing which can be derived from these stories is even prophets couldn't let many believe in God or God's message, on the other hand it would also raise questions in one's mind like why would some accept the message and some not.
I want to mention here that prophets' mission was not to convert people but in scriptures we are told that their mission was to present the message of God so conclusively to their immediate addressees that there remained no doubt in what was right and wrong. (It is another topic).
If we look at the lives of the companions of prophets who accepted and helped the message of God, we find that they already had adopted a just behaviour in their lives before the message came to them. They had respected the other form of divine guidance i.e intuitive guidance/old revelations, and when they came across another version of that divine guidance i.e new revelations, it wasn't difficult for them to accept it.
In scriptures we are informed that God helps those who want to be on the right path, He takes them into light from darkness, and God only blesses those with more guidance who respect the guidance they had received before no matter in what form or quantity. The people who rejected the prophets, they were already unjust, arrogant, envious etc before prophets invited them to God's way.
One may find it hard to believe that a person can go knowingly against the truth, but to prove that people may and do go against something they consider to be right, we can use an example of a diabetic patient when he loses his patience and takes sugar in his diet confessing that avoiding the sudden (but temporary) pleasure was not easy at that particular moment of time.
Therefore, no one can convert or make us go on the right path. We can receive God's blessings and guidance only if we choose to go on the right path. Once we start going the right way God Himself promises that He will help us and will guide us to the truth.
Does God really exist?
This question bothered me sporadically throughout the first twenty years of my life, not much though, but in my late teens some serious doubts developed when I was just into my spiritual awakening. I always felt closer to God and I was getting more and more closer to Him until I interacted with some agnostics and atheists online. Speaking to them created some serious doubts in my mind, and I just said to God, I am going to doubt your existence, I will keep the possibility of all the answers and options open, but if you are there just guide me, I promised that I will stay honest and humble, and it just took a few weeks and I got all the answers gradually.
An emotional believer would think how could you doubt God's existence and etc, but I know that was the best time of my life. It isn't unacceptable to God if we ask Him questions with humility and honesty, He guides all those who want to believe, with that I don't mean who want to believe blindly, but I mean those who want to look for the answers honestly, if you won't ask the questions how can you expect to get the answers? Arrogance and dishonesty cannot attract the guidance and blessings of the Almighty. I am not saying all doutbers are arrogant and dishonest, God blesses the honest doubter, and I am not saying that I am a perfect human being, but I stayed humble and kept on looking for the answers and kept on getting them gradually.
My journey was from some certainty to uncertainty to some certainty to complete assurance. We wouldn't have many doubts if there weren't evil forces around who want to cast doubts in our minds, again I am not saying that atheists etc are evil, but there are indeed evil forces around, including the deliberate and arrogant rejectors of the truth. We can't know who they are as God alone can see through the hearts. Sometimes a person may seem evil but many times we are proven wrong, so the intelligent and God fearing way would be to not keep prejudice against anyone.
Questioning is not wrong as long as one is honest and humble, without questioning any belief is wrong, a belief in no God included, that is also a belief and nothing more. We must continue asking questions from God all our lives with humility if we want to reach higher levels of spirituality, of which there is no limit. Some may say, then why don't you share those answers with us, which is a valid question, but it is not that easy and it is not that difficult, but I can guarantee, if one will stay honest and humble and will keep on looking for answers, he will find them gradually.
Sporting a long beard and wearing a gown doesn't make one a pious and knowledgeable person.
People coming from outside Mecca etc didn't use to recognise prophet Muhammad alaihisalam at first glance when he used to be in gatherings because he was that simple, contrary to the expectations of the visitors who thought the leader would look like the kings on the thrones wearing flashy clothes. He was unlike the so called religious leaders of today, who concentrate on their and others external aspects of the personality more than the internal ones.
You shouldn't think that if someone has a long beard and is wearing some gown has to be a knowledgeable and pious person. It is also a misconception that people who study in religious schools are impartial on religious matters, they are not even impartially taught generally, they study one school of thought texts from the beginning till the end, seldom strong personalities would develop and challenge the blind following culture and would look at other schools of thought in an unbiased manner.
It is like how things are in modern secular schools, students learn just one way of life and only strong personalities choose their own path at the end.
I want to convey in this note that it is a misconception that to get an opinion regarding religious matters we should give priority to how one looks, whereas we should look at how one conducts himself, how knowledgeable and unbiased he is, etc.
How my opinions changed
Initially when you are going through a spiritual awakening, it can be really annoying for others. I used to be very judgemental about others opinions, I thought I knew everything about religion and spirituality and that all those who didn't believe like me or had different opinions than me were ignorant and that I had to save them, I was quite annoying only I realize now, I know that if I wouldn't have gone through that phase I wouldn't have learned so many things, but I do feel bad that I hurt others.
Thank God I know now that in the end it is just my opinions, my interpretations, my understanding, and that God doesn't reveal anything on me and I don't have a prophet to contact directly with, so therefore I am going to share my opinions politely, I am going to look into what others are saying, I will disagree politely, I will review my opinions, I will debate in a gentle manner, I am going to learn till I die and most importantly I will seek God's guidance humbly every single day of my life.
I am not saying that I am an angel or I am better than anyone now, just that if religion didn't make one a humble and gentle person, in other words a good human being then there surely is something wrong with one's understanding of spirituality, religion and God.
Believers generally think they worship different gods
Believers generally think they worship different gods and that their prophets proclaimed different religions. There came a time few years ago when after interacting with some non-believers some serious doubts developed in my mind about God's existence let alone religion, and one of the ways how God assured me was to make me realize that the differences in so called religions are all man made, otherwise all the prophets proclaimed absolutely the same message, and their rituals were same too, that is why you would see that pilgrimage (Hajj) is performed the same way as was performed by Prophet Abraham (alaihisalam). This is one of the examples on which believers in Qur'an unanimously agree upon.
If we look further we would find that Prophet Muhammad (alaihisalam) didn't introduce new concepts or rituals generally, he just purified the established ways of worshipping God, and revived the ones which were forgotten or forsaken. Contrary to the perceptions of many believers in Qur'an, Prophet Muhammad (alaihisalam) didn't even introduce five times prayers, all prophets after Prophet Abraham (alaihisalam) prayed five times. When we look at it deeply, we realize that the differences were only cultural between the prophets and when those differences stretched to centuries they became different sects of the religion of God. However, only followers are to be blamed for it, no prophet ever claimed that he had a different message than other prophets.
It is like some would say, don't call God or Khuda, it is Allah, when clearly they all mean the same. It is like how in some languages we are referred to as children of God (an expression that would sound different in its original form), and when it kept on getting translated, it became the son of God (something like how an urdu speaking grandfather would address his grandson by calling him "bayta" son).
We should keep in mind that when translating something, it is very hard to translate it perfectly, that is why you would find many different translations of Qur'an, at times different translations of certain verses can sound radically different. But that doesn't mean if we try we can't get to the message in its original form. It takes sometime though, we have to be really open minded, we have to learn everyday and invoke God for guidance regularly.
Two nation theory?
Two nation theory? What about one million sects theory? Is there unity anywhere? A person who discriminates will never be able to live anywhere, no matter how many partitions occur, a person who believes in humanity will never discriminate no matter where he lives.
Yes, I grew up with discriminatory beliefs, but they were just related to religion, and I was indoctrinated, but I rejected them the moment I broke the shackles of ignorance and emotions. Where is unity in Pakistan or anywhere else in the world? Don't we sit in gatherings and abuse and make fun of other ethnicities and religions and sects?
I have no shame in proclaiming that I now don't differentiate between a Pakistani and an Israeli, or a so called Muslim and a so called Jew, or Pakistani or an Indian, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Shia, Sunni, this and that, yes I have no problem with their beliefs, I embrace all, I have no problem with their ethnicities, I see humanity in all.
My point is, did getting a separate homeland stopped the hatred, it was just another man made boundary. We can use countries for identifying ourselves, God says in scriptures that He divided us into nations and tribes so that we may recognise each other, not to despise each other.
The problems are not ethnicities, beliefs, countries, problem is the evil within us, we have to fight that to live with peace, not to divide the humanity further.
Let us stop dividing people, and let us think about humanity. I know it is not possible to eradicate discrimination and hatred from the world completely, but we are only accountable for what we will do and say, therefore, I must say this. And we must do what we can.
My First Step
January, 2006, marks the commencement of phase two in my life. It all started about one month before, when the thoughts of dying without being prepared for the hereafter forced me to admit to the Almighty that I was not ready to come before Him.
The days went by and nothing much noticeable happened until the evening of the 15th when while watching television, I heard the voice of my conscious saying to me something like “you know what you should be doing.”
I decided to start offering prayers (Sala’t) regularly and also, I initiated the process of learning about religion. I knew it would be tough but I took the first step. It has been four years now and I have had some shifts in my way of thinking since then because I employed an open-minded approach towards learning.
I had questioned the existence of God in my childhood as well, but a bigger doubt developed when about a year ago, I interacted with some atheists and agnostics on the Internet. I humbly turned again to the Almighty and His response was evident(intellectual evidence).
Frequently, we inquire about the truth behind our existence, about death and about the different realities of the universe, but until we really make a move towards those answers, we can’t really get them.
It is essential that we must be on one side or the other, and not just hang somewhere in between, where we are unsure about the worldly life as well as about the hereafter. Employing a half measured approach towards the case in point can only make us confused personalities.
Every now and then, we find people discussing causes of unrest in the society. Religious and non-religious, both have a say on this, the former would state the absence of religion to be the cause and the latter would refer to the corruption of certain individuals, etc.
Whether you are a religious or a non-religious person, you would tend to put the blame on others, and hence, this is the biggest problem of the society. Once we start pointing fingers, we forget about ourselves.
Weaknesses are in everyone, but when we spend most of our time discussing the flaws of others, we sink in the counterproductive debate, and subsequently we cannot find solutions to the problems. This way, not only our personalities but also the society around us becomes stagnant, one way or another.
If we really want a change, then we must begin looking into the flaws of our inner self. Once we start doing that, we would not only eradicate the immoral attributes from our personalities gradually, but the ones who live around us would also benefit from it, thus we would make this world a better place to live in.
Women and Children
It was not long ago when my limited religious knowledge had turned me into an exclusivist. Children in the mosques used to annoy me while they unknowingly disturbed the discipline and I used to give emphasis only on how a woman should cover herself because in my fragile opinion at that time, majority, if not all, of the acts of indecency stemmed out of women's indecent clothing.
I was in the very early stage of learning, in fact mostly following knowledge that I had inherited from my immediate society, but I kept my mind open and kept looking for better arguments.
Then a time came when I started enjoying the presence of the cute little ones around me in the mosques, and I became a feminist after realizing how much discrimination is there towards them in our society due to the non genuine religious traditions.
Religious knowledge that we inherit from the society, which hasn't passed through the filter of our intellect does make us uncivil to some extent but the rationalized religious knowledge would always make us compassionate towards the humanity.
I don't claim that the process of learning has stopped in my life, nor do I claim that I can never be wrong, but I do claim that the right religious knowledge would always bring the right change in our personality.
Why do people criticize Javed Ahmed Ghamidi?
In Pakistan, Mr. Ghamidi is condemned by most of the religious schools of thought. I can empathize with those people who criticize him for his views on religion as not long ago I was one of them.
There are two things I would like to mention here.
When I was in my teens, I had a perception that whoever sports a beard and does not lower his garments below his ankles is a pious man. In other words, generally we look at a person's appearance to get an idea whether that person is close to God or not.
Secondly, it is generally believed that whatever is the popular view on religious matters around us, is a reliable one.
However, during my research on religion I understood that our appearance merely doesn't take us close to God. Messenger of God (peace of God be upon him) followed the same culture which was already being practiced in Arab, if ever he criticized something it was related to arrogance and indecency.
Secondly, I understood that when there is not a prophet on land, religion becomes a very personal matter, and we must make sure that what we are following is what God expects from us. And to do that, we have only one option, to keep on reviewing our beliefs till we die, and not accept a belief just because it is popular..
Therefore, two of the reasons why people don't appreciate Mr. Ghamidi are the above ones. They feel how can a person without a beard and whose opinions are not popular amongst the scholars of our country be right in what he says.
Personally, I got acquainted with the personality of Mr. Ghamidi in two ways. One, through his lectures and interviews and secondly through his student who has remained very close to him and is himself one of the most knowledgeable and humblest scholars I have ever met, Dr. Khalid Zaheer.
Arguments presented by Mr. Ghamidi in his different lectures initially disturbed my thought process to a great extent as they were quite different from the views on religion I held at that time. But gradually, they not only calmed me down, but also satisfied my doubts about the existence of God and the reality of scriptures to a great extent.
Last, but not least, one of the reasons it does not stop me from listening to a scholar just because others suggest I not, is that I always keep in mind that there were also unfortunate ones who stopped other people from listening to prophets. Of course, it shouldn't imply that I am comparing those condemned people by God with my dear countrymen.