By Kathy Keary
Part 8. The full series is here: The Contemplative Spirit of Islam.
In studying diverse faiths, a commonality embedded within the traditions surfaces. An authentic spirituality dictates a person’s way of being in the world. A sincere relationship with the Divine manifests itself in the way an individual relates to others. This holds true with Islam as well.
The third and final principle of the Muslim faith is moral virtue, an attribute encouraged in the Islamic sacred text. In gratitude for God’s generosity, the Qur’an instructs the believer to bring to God a “sound heart.” In keeping with his poetic rhetoric, Imam Jamal Rahman advises:
Purify your being so you reflect in yourself the loveliness of your Creator. As you cleanse yourself, your being is pierced by a sweet, divine light. A light from within rises and a light from the heavens descends, enveloping you with what the Qur’an describes in a celebrated verse as “Light upon Light” (Rahman, 59).
The article, “Morality and Ethics in Islam,” asserts that belief in One God as the Creator and Sustainer of the Universes stands at the heart of the Islamic moral code. Humanity was created to worship God, to live in accordance with the Divine Will, and achieve world peace. The Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad provide the roadmap to moral living. It is believed that a strong relationship with God leads to virtuous living.
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In his book, Fragrance of Faith: The Enlightened Heart of Islam, Imam Jamal Rahman highlights four moral virtues emphasized in Islam: humility, sincerity, patience, and truthfulness.
Humility. Humility creates inroads connecting an individual to the Divine Spark that rests within the heart. The Qur’an urges Muslims to “call upon your Lord humbly and secretly.” This virtue can be fortified by the customary bowing and prostrating incorporated in a Muslim’s prayer ritual. In his wisdom though, Rahman asserts: “Bowing down is not about appearance but about essence. Humility does not mandate a specific demeanor, posture, tone of voice, or choice of words. Humility is about an internal shift” (Fragrance, 62).
Sincerity. To illustrate the virtue of sincerity, the Qur’an tells a tender story of Jesus. As a young lad, Jesus created birds out of clay. When he breathed into them, they miraculously came alive and flew away. How could this happen? The parable explains that Jesus breathed into the birds his heart’s sincerity. The value of a sincere heart cannot be overstated (Fragrance 64).
Patience. The most frequently mentioned attribute of Allah in the Qur’an is the virtue of patience. Muhammed considered patience to be half of faith classifying it as a “jewel among jewels.” The prophet commented: “Wisdom and power follow endurance and patience.” Rumi also weighed in on this quality: “The patience shown by the moon to the dark night, keeps it illumined” (Fragrance, 66).
Truthfulness. Rahman includes truthfulness in his list of moral virtues stating: “Our souls have a passion for truth … Seeking truth is not about accumulating knowledge but about awakening to the heart of Reality.”
Islam is not only concerned about the individual but also considers the moral health of society. Acts that result in the wellbeing of the individual and society are deemed moral; whereas acts that violate the individual and society are viewed as immoral. Muslims are instructed to not only adhere to a personal moral code but also to contribute to the moral health of society as a whole (whyislam.org).
In her book, God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the interspiritual guide, Mirabai Starr, speaks of two other virtues that are promoted in the three Abrahamic faiths: welcoming the stranger and compassionate action. She elaborates:
Not only is everyone welcome at the feast of the Divine, no one anywhere should ever go hungry. True Table Fellowship means making a commitment that everybody in our community has enough to eat. Compassion is … a direct engagement with the roots of poverty, a willingness to sacrifice our own comfort for the well-being of someone else, and unqualified identification with those on the margins and a wholehearted effort to bring everyone home to the table of the Holy One (Starr, 93).
This outward focus is also evident in the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad: “What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of a human being, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the wrongs of the injured” (Starr, 103).
This concludes our discussion of the three principles of Islam. Our focus will now turn to the contemplative nature of the five pillars of Islam. Stay tuned.
NOTE: The Renewal Center staff will be leading a book discussion on Rahman’s book Spiritual Gems of Islam on Saturdays and Tuesdays in June.
“Morality and Ethics in Islam.” Why Islam? September 18, 2014. https://www.whyislam.org/social-ties-2/morality-ethics-in-islam.
Rahman, Jamal. The Fragrance of Faith: The Enlightened Heart of Islam. Bath, England: The Book Foundation, 2004.
Starr, Mirabai. God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Rhinebeck, NY: Monkfish Publishing Company, 2012.
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