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Islam and Spiritualism

This is symbolized in the famous story of Rabi’ah Basri, the noted lady sufi saint. One day she was carrying burning flame in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. When people asked her why are you doing this, she replied I want to set fire to paradise with this burning flame and put our fire of hell with this bucket of water so that people stop worshiping Allah for greed of paradise or fear of hell. A true worshiper would do that for neither but for its own merit. Qur’an is wonderfully balanced book in terms of its symbolism and flat descriptive language. An ordinary reader benefits from it as much as one who has achieved great heights of knowledge. The rationalists found it as much useful as blind followers but there was great difference between the two in terms of its understanding. The m’utazila (rationalists of Islam), the Isma’ilis (those who believed in hidden meanings along with literal) and the sufis understood the Qur’an very differently from other literalists (zahiris). For zahiris (literalists) paradise and hell have been described in vivid details in physical sense, like a place where there will be eternal gardens with canals of milk and honey flowing therein etc. and hell with burning fire causing great physical pain and nothing can rescue them from there. Both would be eternal. The whole description is quite tempting about paradise and that of hell inspires great fear.  Description of hell is so fearsome that one can start trembling. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

Islam originated in a society which very badly needed higher morality. In Mecca, the birth place of Islam, there was several material and spiritual problems. The Surah Fatihah, referred to above, describes Allah, not only Compassionate and Merciful but also as Rabb al-‘Alamin i.e. one who is sustainer and perfector of all his creation i.e. all the worlds (entire universe). He sustains all without any discrimination, even for those who do not obey Him and those who follow this or that faith. The Allah does not impose any restriction of faith. Deen is one and has been sent in different forms to different nations and no faith tradition is thus superior to the other. This is a universal approach which leads to acceptance of all religions as all of them emanate from Allah. Unfortunately this universal approach of Qur’an is not accepted as universally as it should be. Had it been accepted there would have been no conflict in the world. Religion becomes more of an identity than spiritual doctrine and identity leads to competitive spirit resulting in conflict. Thus Qur’an promotes not only inclusive approach but also acceptance of all religions with equal respect. Thus Qur’anic morality goes beyond tolerance to respect and inclusivity. This inclusivity and universality leads one to high morality. Intolerance which one finds in practice has nothing to do with Qur’anic teachings. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

It happened for the first time in the history of the unity of God that from the intellectual phase the matter of tauheed ushered in the phase of revolution through the Prophet of Islam (PBUH). Makkah was conquered in the 8th year of hijrah (migration to Medina) and Kaabah was purified of idols. Soon, tauheed dominated the entire Arab. And within a very short period of time it so happened that nature worship either was abolished or was relegated to the corner after being ineffective. The main aspect of this revolution was religious and was established in the world by the followers of Islam. Its second aspect was what can be called its secular aspect. What is called the western civilization is in reality the secular edition of the revolution based on tauheed of Islam. The direct consequences of the job of removing nature from the position of god by Islam was that the process of research and inquiry into nature was started. This process had already been started by the Muslims of Baghdad and Qurtuba but the total task was accomplished by the Europeans after the crusades. -- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam Edit Desk)

According to the prediction of Hadhrat Muhammad (PBUH), it was in this period that the incident relating to Gog and Magog occurred. It appears that the wall Zulqarnain had constructed was a physical wall that worn out after a specified period of time. Gog and Magog will mix with people. In other words, it will be the period of their interaction with general people. After that the incident that is mentioned in the hadith is their devouring everything and drinking the water of the entire world. That refers to the latter period when they will have conquered nature and bring about the industrial revolution. As a result of this industrial revolution, they got the opportunity to exploit the world. The verse No. 18 of the Quran mentions the first phase of Gog and Magog and verse No. 21 mentions the second phase of Gog and Magog. Therefore, it could be aptly said that Gog and Magog have three phases--- the period of confinement, period of interaction and the period of scientific and industrial revolution. -- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam Edit Desk)

The study of the Quran and hadith shows that some prominent signs will appear before the end of history that will be like the final warning for man. After the signs have appeared, God will signal the angel Israfeel who will blow the soor and suddenly the world will usher in its eternal phase from its temporary phase. That is, it will be the end of the period of deeds and the beginning of the period of judgment. Gog and Magog have been mentioned on two occasions in the Quran (Al Kahaf-94 and Al Anbiya-96). The mention of Gog and Magog is also found in the books of hadith (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Ibn e Maja, Masnad Ahmad). Similarly, in Bible too, Gog and Magog find mention in books like Ezkiel. Gog and Magog are mentioned in other religions as well. For example, in the sacred scripture of Hinduism, Puran, Gog and Magog are mentioned as Koka and Vikoka. A lot has been written about Gog and Magog in hadith and the Quran. -- Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam Edit Desk)

Given the skepticism against some aspects of the Qur’anic message highlighted by this writer, I would like to substantiate the claims by drawing on a duly authenticated recent Qur’anic exegetic work that is endorsed by al-Azhar al-Sharif.

It takes a few words to criticize and question the integrity of a discourse but may require yet another and perhaps bigger discourse to defend it against the criticism. For a Muslim, the matter of 'defense' becomes immensely important if the discourse focuses on the message of the Qur'an. I have therefore been prompted to post the following detailed rejoinder to the article published in New Age Islam earlier. It is a little longish, but given the urgency to highlight the egalitarian and universal dimension of its message, I hope, New Age Islam readers will appreciate the need for it. – Mohammed Yunus, Author of The Essential Message of Islam for New Age Islam.com

Ajmer: The city of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti here wore colours of harmony on Wednesday with people from various communities celebrating Eid-ul-fitr. Devotees flocked to Idgahs in and around the city but it is the shrine of the Sufi saint where a large crowd was seen from early morning to enter the Jannati Darwaza, which was opened for the devotees on the occasion. In Ajmer, Eid is celebrated not only by the Muslim community but also by different communities offering prayers and greeting each other with 'Eid Mubarak'. "Before offering namaz [prayer] in a masjid [mosque], we have to see that no poor is left hungry and it is the duty of every devotee that he should ask them for their needs," said S F Hussein Chishti, a khadim [custodian] at the dargah. -- Marina Montanaro (Photo: The Door to Heaven, Jannati Darwaza)


Islam is based on the principles of kindness, mercy, compassion, justice, and doing good works. These principles are seen throughout the texts of the religion – the Qur’an and the Hadith or examples of the Prophet – as well as in Islamic history. The Prophet was kind and compassionate to all creatures. Ibn Mas’ud reported: “We were travelling with the Prophet and he stepped off to the side when we saw a small bird with her two babies, and we took them. The mother bird came over and began fluttering in the direction of the Prophet. He said, ‘Who made her miserable by taking her two babies? Return them to her.’ When the Prophet explained the importance of kindness we returned the baby bird.” Cruelty to animals is strongly condemned in the Qur’an and the Hadith of the Prophet and punishments are provided for it. Compassion for animals is a basic part of Islamic law, history and culture. The Muslims established the first animal welfare organization and animal shelters and Islamic history shows that animal welfare was an exalted Islamic value. “Aisha rode a camel and she began to struggle with him. The Prophet said: ‘You are obligated to be kind.’-- Maneka Gandhi 

The points raised in the later part of the article regarding the classical Islamic law’s insistence on fasting and even praying five ‘fixed’ times in a mosque, covering the entire body of women, physical sighting of moon etc. are indeed becoming too taxing for a vast majority of Muslims in today’s fast-paced world, and anachronistic in historical context. Moreover, the focus on these ritualistic and symbolic aspects of Islam is reducing this ‘glorious faith’ that, in its early centuries, swept the world and earned the admiration even of its enemies to a cult that is being increasingly despised, isolated and marginalize this day. It is also relegating the Muslims to a cultural ghetto dictated by rituals and symbolism that is alienating it from the rest of the world.

The problem lies with the Muslim intelligentsia. They ask the orthodoxy and the Ulama to deconstruct ritualism and symbolism in Islam without realizing that they will never do it being the architects and sole custodians and beneficiaries of these theological developments. If they want a ‘reform’, they must challenge the orthodoxy and ulama on their own turf by taking the trouble to make in-depth study of the Qur’an. They will then realize that it has limited and elastic space for rituals and symbolism and expounds a wide range of social, moral, ethical and universal paradigms that can enable them to cope with the challenges of 21st century realities. -- Muhammad Yunus

Related Article: Need to Modify Various Islamic Rituals & Practices


Muslims should consider modifying some of their religious practices and rituals in order to bring them in line with realities of the modern age. Such a step is needed to ensure a better future for the coming generations of Muslims. Followers of Islam and those of Judaism and Christianity, share a common belief that in order to deserve a handsome reward a place in heaven after death- people should live life on earth as prescribed by God through various prophets. Obviously, such religious rituals were designed according to the prevailing socio-economic conditions and cultural traditions of the society which existed at that particular time period. For instance, Prophet Mohammad ( p.b.u.h), taught his followers, mainly nomad Arab tribes, how best they could put into practice the five pillars of Islamic faith namely, belief in God (shahda), prayers(salaat), charity (zakaat), fasting during the month of Ramadan ( Saum) and annualpilgrimage to Mecca ( Haj).-- M. Husain Sadar

Former President Gayoom said the Fasting in the month of Ramadan is a spiritual cleansing that comes through reflecting on our actions, life and creation. Gayoom said that the believers must continuously be in the state of obedience of Allah, firm upon and steadfast upon the religion of Islam, so that he or she is not of those who worship Allah only during one month or only in one place. He added that rather, the believer knows that the Lord of Ramadan is also the Lord of other months, and that He is the Lord of all times and places, so he is steadfast upon the religion of Allah until he meets Him while He is pleased with him. -- Shaheeda Saeed (Photo: Former President of Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom)

Eid is a day of forgiveness, when we overlook differences and remember that one of Allah’s 99 names is Al Ghafur, a manifestation of His attribute as the Forgiver. Prophet Mohammad made it clear that God extends his mercy and forgiveness to those who forgive others. Union with family, relatives, community and friends is not just about sharing food, but spending quality time and strengthening relationships. -- Sadia Dehlvi


Taubah is not merely the negation of the past; it is essentially a contract with the future. Taubah is personal in that no one else needs to know about it. Taubah deals with the wrongness of the act and satisfies the conscience of the individual concerned. This process of repentance and forgiveness started with Adam.  There is the whole history of it in Sura 20, verse 115: “Before this We made a covenant with Adam. But he forgot his part. He was of poor resolve!”-- Khwaja Mohammad Zubair


Ramadan is a time for intensive worship, reading of the Quran and purifying one's behaviour by engaging in charity and other good deeds. It is an opportunity to bond with friends and family. Islamic scriptures say that those who abandon their loved ones will not enter Paradise till they make peace with them. Getting together for Iftar meals is encouraged as a blessing so that families and friends make time for each other. Ramadan is a gift from Allah for fasting and prayer that reminds us of the primordial covenant made with the Supreme. The Prophet said that Ramadan is the month to visit the poor, the sick and share their sorrows, adding that the best Islamic tradition was to clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Islamic traditions assert that while giving charity, one should smile and be humble, allowing the hand of the receiver to be above the hand of the giver. -- Sadia Dehlvi

Charity towards man, in its widest sense, is laid down in the Holy Quran as the second great pillar on which the structure of Islam stands. Spending out of whatever has been given to man stands for charity in a broad sense, i.e., for acts of benevolence to humanity in general. For what God has given to man is not only the wealth which he possesses but all the faculties and power with which he has been gifted. The Quran not only lay stress on such great deeds of charity as the emancipation of slaves, the feeding of the poor, taking care of orphans and doing good to humanity in general, but gives equal emphasis to smaller acts of benevolence. And in a similar strain, the speaking of kind words to parents is referred to as an act of charity, and generally the use of kind words is recommended as in itself a charitable deed in many places in the Holy Quran. The Quran also speaks of extending charity not only to all men, including believers and non-believers, but also to the dumb creation. -- Khwaja Mohammad Zubair


In my teenage years of quest and rebellion, I confess not looking forward to Ramzan as it meant adherence to a strict code of conduct. However, on growing older and after understanding the spiritual relevance of the blessed month, I became deeply appreciative of this routine. I now enforce these rules on my teenage son so that he learns to treat Ramzan as an honoured guest, whose arrival we look forward to each year. After sighting of the Ramzan moon, I thank Allah for giving me the opportunity to live through another sacred month. Muslims believe that Ramzan opens a window of opportunities to seek God’s forgiveness and mercy. The Quran says: “Ramzan is the month in which the Quran was sent down as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) and judgment (between right and wrong).” Another verse says, “O you who believe, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you so you may become righteous.”-- Sadia Dehlvi


The idea which has influenced most the climate of philosophical and religious thought is that body and soul are mutually antagonistic, and can develop only at each other’s expense. For the soul, the body is a prison and the activities of daily life are the shackles which keep it in bondage and arrest its growth. In his capacity as the vicegerent (Khalifah) of God, man is answerable to Him for all his activities. It is his duty to use all the powers which he has been given in accordance with the Divine will. He should utilize to the fullest extent all the faculties and potentialities bestowed upon him for seeking God’s approval. In his dealings with other people he should behave in such a way as to try to please God. -- Abul Ala Maududi

Concern about the appeal of atheism and agnosticism in secular American universities is widespread in East Texas, where I was born and which I still call home. ....as an American Muslim, “you feel your faith.” As a religious minority, you are forced to make choices that Muslims don’t frequently have to make in Muslim-majority countries. Islam has its healthy share of disagreements among different scholars and thinkers, but that, again, is due to the imperfect knowledge of human beings. On the other hand, the source material we have, the Qur’an, is perfect and without disagreement or variation, nor has it ever changed. There are thousands of different manuscripts of the Hebrew bible, whether complete or partial, and they all have variant readings. -- Andrew Howie

Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya was qualified to become a qazi or judge and his oratory skills were as refined as his follower-poet Amir Khusrau’s. But he never bothered to pen his profound thoughts. Perhaps, because, as he used to say, “The works of great souls are discussed at large, but no one knows how they lived their life.” For a Sufi of his stature, leading a life with meaningful social and spiritual engagement was in itself an inexplicable divine path. He chose to remain a fellow human being to lessen the struggles of other children of God. Nizamuddin’s enlightenment happened in his early 20s at the behest of Baba Farid. Among the Sufis, the human existence switches between the nafs or the material ego and the qalb, the soul. In the sphere of nafs, we tend to get insecure and hence it triggers mischief, animosity and strife. In the arena of qalb lies the source of eternal joy, peace and happiness. -- Dhritiabrata Bhattacharjya Tato


Islam is indeed about freedom of conscience, justice and liberty. The Pledge of Allegiance is one of the most cherished statements for Muslims, “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” There are several verses in Quraan that assert those values; it’s like coming home for Muslims. Prophet Muhammad delivered the following words in his last sermon, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” Muslims hold this declaration close to their hearts and as American Muslims, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” -- Mike Ghouse

Whirling is not a trance, but an exercise in mindful presence where the dervish is conscious of several things at once. The whirling dervish’s thought is uncluttered and he is in harmony with the other participating dervishes. He establishes a connection with the shaykh who leaads the ceremony and takes the conscious step of opening his heart to the Divine. While whirling, the right foot is lifted up to the knee while the left foot becomes the axis on which the whole body revolves, anti-clockwise. With each revolution “Allah” is pronounced inwardly. The arms are extended, the right palm turned upwards to receive Divine Grace and the left palm turned downwards, bestowing on the earth the Divine energy that passes through the heart. The dance is divided into four sessions of whirling, each around 10 minutes long, called salaams. The last salaam represents union with the Divine, which is when the shaykh steps forward and recites a prayer, silently. Sufi whirling presents an example of a spiritual tradition where music and movement are the basis of a deeply contemplative practice. It is designed to maximise Divine remembrance which in Islam is the highest of all human activities. The dervishes who meditate in the tradition of their Sufi master Rumi begin their dance with a naat, poetry in honour of Allah’s Messenger: Ya habib Allah Rasul Allah ki akta tui! -- Sadia Dehlvi



THE daily prayers are the easiest way to achieving happiness and fitness. There are abundant benefits of Salat narrated in the Quran. There is a Hadith, ‘Inna fissalati shifa’, verily there is cure in Salat. Prior to offering prayers, a Muslim has to perform ablution. If Wudu is accomplished as per the instructions, optimum vigour could be acquired; this means brushing the teeth, washing the oral and nasal cavities, the face, the hands up to the elbows and feet up to the ankles. Wudu done five times a day not only cleans vital parts of the body but also refreshes them. The Prophet (PBUH) recommended ablution before going to bed. Yoga experts also encourage washing of hands, arms, eyes, legs, mouth and genitals before sleep with cool water for a deep sleep. Ablution stimulates biological rhythms of the body and specifically Biological Active Sports (BASes) which are akin to the idea behind Chinese reflexo-therapy. -- Muhammad Younus

Arrogance (what Qur’an calls istikbar) is the worst trait of one’s character and its worst example is Pharaoh and Nimrod. It was their arrogance which led to their downfall. Qur’an also strongly denounces accumulation of wealth and we see in our own society that those who accumulate beyond all limits, they wield influence out of all proportions and transfer their money to Swiss banks whereas our financial institutions are starved of funds. This also leads to inflation and pushes prices up which cause great suffering to masses of people in our society. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also had great and onerous task of liberating this world from ignorance, superstitions and amoral or even immoral life, he also found time for continuously enriching his inner life. One can say he was in the world and yet not of it. While liberating the world he also undertook to liberate people from lust and greed and enriched their spiritual life. It is very difficult to achieve this balance but great people ensure it and become great role model -- Asghar Ali Engineer

Imam Ali has a pivotal role in Sufi philosophy for the Prophet had proclaimed, “Man kunto Maula va Ali un Maula”, (I am the Master of those of whom Ali is the Master). These words of the Prophet are known as Qaul and inscribed on the walls of numerous dargahs. Sama mehfils, Sufi musical assemblies, traditionally begin with a rendition of the prophetic saying.  Ali said, “When you spat in my face, my ego was hurt and I would be killing you for myself and not for the sake of fighting oppression for the Truth. Taking your life now will make me a murderer”. Moved by Ali’s integrity, the enemy warrior embraced Islam. -- Sadia Dehlvi

Emperor Jahangir was one of the grandest Mughal emperors of India. His army conquered kingdoms and he gave endless riches to hundreds and thousands of men. He held one of the most dazzling courts in the world. Data Sahib was a penniless fakir who wore patchy clothes and remained always short of his next meal. He could give no riches, nothing when alive, let alone provide anything to anybody after death. People still flock to him hundreds of years after his death. They revere him so much even when a mighty emperor lies buried in his grand abode only a mile away as the crow flies. There is no throng of devotees nor does anyone cry there out of emotion. Inevitably, like the king and the fakir, everyone with their riches and rags will descend into oblivion. However, in the final analysis, only goodness and care for fellow beings last, not the awe and majesty of power, imperial courts and treasures. -- Mehboob Qadir

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