On January 13 2012, my late father, may he rest in peace and light, died of cancer. We know that one in three of us will get cancer some time in our life – it’s a scary prospect but one we must acknowledge. My dad, unfortunately, first got cancer when he was about 41 or 42, which is pretty young. Age, however, is irrelevant: kids get cancer these days.
Every year, there is at least one thing that will happen to you that will firmly remain in your mind for the rest of your life. 2012 produced many memories that will stick in mine. The world didn’t end in 2012, but it was a year to remember. Although, on the surface, this blog may seem about me, it’s not – it’s about all of us, I’m just using myself as a frame of reference.
Changes in my life
I’m not sure if there is a correlation between the death of my father and my mental and spiritual maturity within the last year, but I’ve changed.
- I rarely watch TV, apart from the news. TV is an incredible waste of time and time is incredibly precious. What we see affects our minds and can change our neuroplasticity, so let’s not pretend that we can watch whatever we want and it won’t alter our mood, behaviour or moral comportment.
- I rarely listen to music. What we hear also affects our minds.
- Within the past few months I have quite drastically cut down the amount I eat, especially meat. We eat far more than we need to and the majority of food that we eat is so unhealthy, it’s killing us, literally. There is overwhelming evidence that too many calories and protein from meat is causing all sorts of diseases in the modern world. Many young people my age think that they can eat what they want and they’ll be fine. It’s not true, eating badly will age you in the near future. For anyone who has seen a picture of my mum, she’s a walking example of how a lifetime of exercise and eating right can make you look at least twenty years younger than you are.
- I’ve lost complete interest in football. I’m not sure whether it’s because my team Arsenal are ridiculously poor and keep failing us, or because I see the importance in more higher things.
When I was younger, I was indoctrinated, to an extent, to believe that Sufism was a “heretical sect” in Islam. Sufism is neither heretical neither is it a sect. Sufism, when practised properly and not by psedo-sufis, is the higher dimension of Islam. It emphasises the importance of purifying one’s heart and aligning one’s character with the beautiful comportment of the chosen one, Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Sufism, of course, is what one might call the inner, esoteric dimension of Islam, concerned with Ihsan, or spiritual excellence. Islam, according to the famous hadith of Gabriel, a tradition of the prophet Muhammad, has three dimensions: Islam, Imaan and Ihsan.
I want you to imagine a concentric circle with three rings, like the one on the left. Islam, as it has been explained by the scholars, is the outer ring: this outer ring may even consist of hypocrites, because to follow Islam one just needs to adhere to the five pillars: belief in God and his messenger Muhammad, the ritual daily prayer, giving to charity, fasting and going on the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Now, the next ring is Imaan. This is a level less people are able to achieve and not only requires faith to penetrate the heart and permeate every cell of the body, but one will have faith in everything from the angels to the previous dispensations like the Bible.
The inner most ring is Ihsan, which can be translated as [spiritual] excellence and can ultimately lead to sainthood. When one is in this state, one begins to embody and manifest the attribute of God, the beautiful: One’s actions become beautiful and spontaneously emanate from one’s being.
We were manifested by God in an act of love so that we may recognise His beauty – and so that we may fall in love and know God.
Why have we become so oblivious to life’s higher quests? Why aren’t we constantly searching for the truth? The purpose of religion is to help us escape from our blind, routinised, rut. And the purpose of mysticism is to help us discover our essence.
The modern world has obfuscated everything, turned things upside down and made us think we are the centre of the universe. We’ve been deceived. Once we remember that there are two aspects of religion: the exoteric and the esoteric – all the dogma, rituals and pre-modern explanations of the cosmos and the metaphysical realm begin to make sense to the intellectual.
It is only once we annihilate our arrogance and ego that we can turn inwards and search for the truth.
Look after your parents before they depart, love them and cherish them.
I love you, dad – and I love you all, regardless if you’re a believer or an atheist, a Muslim, Christian or Hindu. At the essence of every religion and, indeed, every person, is the Truth. Discover it.