What is spiritual intelligence?
Spiritual intelligence is the knowledge, the understanding and the consciousness of reality that provides insights into the illusions of the external material world and to name its underlying truths- what it is and how we relate to it. For a Believer what emerges from this is that the ultimate reality is God, the Creator and controller o f the universe. We can say it is this Faith that explains man’s relationship with the Divine, the motivation to love and obey Him so that one lives in conformity to the Divine will, that creates a sense of God-consciousness where one lives in the Divine presence, feeling His presence and even seeing Him as one worships Him. The Islamic teachings provide a clear methodology for developing this spiritual intelligence, the approaches to growing closer to God, with the purpose of achieving the Lord’s pleasure, paradise and eventually the beatific vision in the hereafter. Spirituality is not about manners or even moral values what we ought to do like being compassionate, generous, loving, creative, just, patient and grateful it is about right kind of consciousness and awareness of the reality around us, it provides answers to the Big questions of life, death, birth, sufferings and evil and good, the meaning and the purpose of life. This gives rise to a life of Faith which is the most fruitful way of living this short worldly life.
“the rewards of a life of faith and devotion to God are love and inner rapture, and the capacity to receive the light of God”
This definition reveals that;
Spirituality is a journey to deeper layers of meaning and purpose of life and is a peculiar dimension bestowed upon man by God that makes him more than just a biological creature dependent on the material things. This inner aspect of human life is not easy to explain in words, however, sometimes poetry and prayer can be a useful medium for expressing our spirituality. Rumi gave a poetic version o f this when he said;
O God show us everything as it really is in this house of illusion,
No one who has died is sad as a result; his grief is due to the realisation that he has not sent enough provisions for the life hereafter,
He has left the prison behind and finds himself in open fields filled with delight
From this place of mourning, the dungeon of pain he has moved to paradise
A seat of truth not a palace of falsehood, a precious wine not whey
In another place rumi explained the illusory nature of the material realm as follows;
If anyone were to tell a baby in the womb;”outside is an ordered world, a pleasant earth, wide and open, brimming with thousands of delights and delicious foods; mountains…gardens and fertile fields;
Its wonders beyond description, why do you stay here drinking blood, in this crmped cell of filth and pain?
The baby being what it is, would turn away in utter disbelief for the blind have no imagination.
It has never experienced anything beyond the womb, and cannot visualise such a place.
1. Man is dependent on God, as the German philosopher Immanuel Kant said that man needs to believe in a creator in order to function properly. A pop singer described the need for God thus; “ I’ve got an emptiness deep inside” people often say “a deep deep void”, or “a chunk is missing from my soul”. However, our powerfully resilient and spend thrifty stubbornness does not submit easily, it provides immediate and instant solutions in the form of; alcohol, drugs, sexual promiscuity, soporific music, movies and abundant exotic food to satisfy our hungers.
2. The centrality of human need for positive relationships with himself, family and the Creator is the very crux of spirituality, this is dramatically shown by Pinnochio, a well-known children’s story. Gepetto is an Italian woodcarver who creates Pinnochio the puppet. Pinnochio is a jovial character getting up to all sorts of boyish mischief. The story grips our attention as Pinnochio moves from one adventure to another. We identify with the parental care and the concern of the father ‘Gepetto’ as well as with the waywardness and the unclear direction of the boy. At one point in the story, lost in self-doubt, Pinnochio turns to his maker ‘Gepetto’ saying, “Papa I’m not sure who I am. But if I’m alright with you then I guess I’m alright with me.” This innocent remark embodies a profound truth about relationships; Relations with oneself, with one’s maker and with others. Human beings are social animals depending upon each other for psychological and physical support as well as spiritual links.
3. It tells us how to express our relationship with God, the different modes of prayer, singing and reciting litanies, night vigils, fasting and giving charity are different tactics of growing spiritually. The prophet of islam often sought the Lords help in these words” o lord help us to remember you, thank you and to serve you”.
4. Spirituality provides the inner strength to cope with life’s problems and adversities as it reveals that the inner is intimately related to the outer, the inner is reflected in the outer, the spiritual world is attached to the physical world. Perhaps this explains Islam’s abhorrence for monasticism, detaching oneself from the worldly relations, since the spiritual can’t be detached from the worldly. For the believer spirituality is therefore a vital channel allowing the Divine Grace to act on us and through us to transform the society around us. Man’s need for prayer is described in the following Quranic passage: “Man is created anxious, he is impatient when misfortune befalls him but miserly in good times except those who pray regularly and give their wealth to poor and needy, who believe in the Day of judgement, who fear the punishment of their Lord…who guard their chastity…that keep their promises, they will be honoured in Gardens of bliss. (Maarij: 19—35). Notice the three signs of miserable people: anxiety, impatience and miserliness. However, the people who are exempt from the serious vices and psychological disorders are people who have habit of praying. The Quran clearly acknowledges the impact of prayer on behaviour giving prayer the credit of transforming human character.
The relationship between spirituality and the economic crisis
Religious teachings emphasise that the secret of happiness lies not in the quantity of material possessions but within us, very close to us in our grasp simply in our hearts. Ghazzali (d.1111) a medieval Muslim philosopher, whose teachings deeply influenced western scholars like Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Maimonides and Roger Bacon, pointed out that “ the heart cannot accept the Divine grace if the laws of God are not obeyed in ones outward conduct. Only after outward obedience can one proceed to remove the devastating diseases of the heart. Moral diseases like arrogance, greed, jealousy and anger must be replaced by virtues such as repentance, humility, sincerity and the remembrance of death can prepare the heart for Divine Grace. As a consequence of being purged of evil traits and embellished by virtues of compassion, forgiveness and patience one is able to face the trials and tribulations of life, one is able to competently deal with the adversities and afflictions of the world.
I am neither an economist nor a politician who fully understands the significance of our national GDP or the national debt on country’s budget. But i can clearly foresee the stresses of the current economic downturn, showing their signs in various ways; unemployment, wage cuts, stagnant growth rate, decrease in house prices, poor consumer confidence, these economic indices have serious social consequences; psychological and health issues, anxiety, financial insecurities , possibly causing family breakdowns, community unrest and increase in crime rates. These are spiritual consequences and only spirituality can come to the beleaguered man’s rescue perhaps that is what Kant meant when he said that “man needs God”. In his state of misery, self-incrimination, and sense of worthlessness man loses the sight of the bigger picture his world closes on him, almost consuming him, this state leads him to self-pity and depression like Pinnochio in dispair. God comes to save us here, comfort us, relieve us of our miseries! The denial of God is the distractedness of the human mind , the unwillingness and failure to pay attention to God. We may well ask why is God absent? why does He seem to be distant? Why does He seem even non- existent at times? It is not because He is absent or non- existent it is because man is forgetful, neglectful and absent minded, he doesn’t live in the present, he is not here he is absorbed in the world.
Islamic Spiritual exercises
The question how can man overcome the temptations of the world? How can he resist the pleasures of the flesh? Is a difficult to deal with. However Islam as a divine guidance provides a scheme of work, tactics and skills that can help us to tackle this severe perennial challenge. Here we shall discuss three methods highly recommended ways; the five daily prayers, reciting litanies and remembering death. What role does a mosque or other religious organisation play in developing this spiritual intelligence of its congregation?
Let me answer this with reference to the Karimia institute whose mission statement is “ to promote personal, moral and spiritual development of the individual and the family through worship, education and recreation”. The institute has more than a thousand users including children adults and men and women. Have we made any difference to their lives?
Yes, this is variously manifested, take a look at the educational and humanitarian projects that have been initiated by the institute’s trustees, staff and users; founded a charity for relief (Muslim hands); a school for promoting moral and spiritual values, promoting volunteering , people taking part in interfaith activities, becoming active citizens, running tutorial classes, football clus, youth work etc.
These activities are primarily motivated by spiritual yearnings , however there could be other ulterior motives as well.
For Muslim readership only include the following piece as well.
a)The five prayers a day
Prayer is one of the most important duties of a Muslim, prescribed five times a day. It is one of the five pillars of Islam and the foundation of the religion. The prophet (pbuh) said: “Prayer is the ascension of a believer.” and “it is the light of a believer.” (Ibn – Asakir)
We can describe this most oft-repeated exercise of the Muslim as:
• Demonstration of his deep conviction in his creator.
• A constant reminder of man’s status both as a Caliph (vicegerent) and the servant of the Lord.
• It is an acknowledgment of God’s wondrous favors on man and a verbal & physical expression of gratitude.
• A source of inner peace and security.
• A spiritual devotion and a physical exercise where every joint and muscle of the body joins in with the soul to sing the praises of the Lord.
• It is a regular reminder of the presence of Allah.
• It is a training program for self-discipline and serving others.
In brief prayer is a practical and an obvious sign of a person’s faith. The Quran describes it as a purifier. “The one who has purified himself has succeeded as he remembers the glorious name of his Lord and prays to him” (Ala: 10)
As though the world and it’s temptations contaminate the heart and this spiritual cleanser decontaminates it. Emphasizing this purifying function of the prayer the messenger asked “tell me if a stream passes in front of someone’s house and he takes a bath in it five times a day will he have any filth left on him? They replied no. He said that is the example of the five daily prayers. Through these prayers Allah removes man’s sins. (Reported by Abu Huraira in Bukhari). Qnce in autumn the messenger was walking about and the leaves were falling from the trees he grabbed a branch and shook it more leaves fell. He said “O Abu Dharr!” and I replied “yes O messenger of Allah”, “when a muslim prays sincerely his sins fall off him like these leaves fall from the trees” (Abu Dharr in Ahmad). In summer the trees are green with foliage but in autumn they lose them all and they look naked and bare, this is a very apt simile explaining the effect of prayer on a person.
“Abu Huzaifa (ra) reports that whenever the messenger was in difficulty he would turn to the prayer” (Abu Dawd)., as the Quran suggests “o believers seek help through patience and prayer” (baqara; 153).This is a comforting role of the prayer as it gives peace of mind to the devotee who senses the presence of his benevolent master ever ready to help and support him.
What a powerful Divine endorsement this is of the impact of prayer. No wonder the Prophet said “whoever protects his prayer will protect his entire religion”.
In light of these wonderful features, fantastic advantages and real benefits of prayer it is not an exaggeration to say that prayer is the quintessence of Islamic teachings, as it embodies the spirit of submission, passion for devotion and the yearnings for the Divine.
b)Reciting and singing litanies
I would like to introduce you to another powerful yet a simple spiritual exercise that will help you to cope with the economic upheavals of our time, it is the Zikr, constant remembrance of the Almighty, a method of focusing our minds on God. A spiritual director recommends to his disciple the constant repetition of a chosen Divine name, this is repeated over and over again. Sitting quietly, serenely and comfortably facing in the direction of Kaaba (the Holy mosque in Makka), the mind free of all distractions, the back straight, make sure the shoulders are not hunched, the senses alert, relax the muscles of your face and jaw now silently repeat the beautiful name of the Lord, “ya Wadud, ya Wadud” o loving one , o loving one, keep repeating this over and over again. The meaning and the significance eventually will sink in to the deeper and deeper consciousness, taking root in the heart and linking you to the supreme.
c)preparing for death
Remembering death is another effective tool for understanding the human reality and maintaining a sane attitude towards the material world as it gives us a perspective to life. Showing that life is not a mere linear function of time but goes beyond it. Therefore the remembrance of death is an antidote to greed and consumerism. Dr. Angela Tilby expressed this succinctly as follows, “What is needed here is praeparatio mortis: preparation for death, a spiritual education in coming to terms with our mortality. This is a task, not for the last weeks of life – it is often too late by then … There is a point in preparing for death; it civilises us and brings us to count our own days with thankfulness. As I come towards the end of my 61st year I don’t want to have to agree with the one who said that “I hope I die before I grow old”. (Dr. Angela tilby on BBC radio 4’s thought for the day, 17.2.11). our consumerist society on the other hand is constantly giving us a different message, the immediate self gratification, the tangible impermanent results and the pleasures are irressitable therefore producing workaholics and people dazed by prospects of becoming wealthy. This anecdote can apply to any country in our global village; Mary has been concerned about her husband, John’s health for some time one day seeing him in a wretched-exhausted state she pleaded to him, “John please listen to me, your health and family are far more important to you than your money. You have become a workaholic, what good will this money be if your health fails and your family breaks up? Your money and business are not everything”. His retort was “there is plenty of time for those things” , one night Mary woke up on the middle of the night to find that John was not there, she went down stairs and there was john slumped on his desk in front of the computer, she gently shook him, he failed to respond, she was worried and called the ambulance, the paramedics said he had an heart attack.
The prophet of Islam warned his followers of the trappings of the world and said: “In front of you is a difficult ascent, which those who are heavily laden cannot over.” [Mishkat Al-Masabih]. Life is described here as a steep mountain to be climbed over, it is hard enough to climb with just the necessary supplies in a backpack never mind any extra baggage, making the mission impossible to achieve, this is the love of material things, career, new car, a big house, designer clothes and other status symbols. Spiritual journey the ascent is a necessity for human salvation, what is this ascent? It is the steep path elaborated as follows; “yet he has not attempted the steep path. what will explain to you what the steep path is? it is to free a slave, to feed at a time of hunger an orphaned relative or a poor person in distress, and to be one of those who believe and urge one another to be patient and caring. Those who do so will be on the right hand side “ (Balad;11-17)