We are but a few days away from the end of the first decade of the 21st Century and the beginning of a new year, and as with all endings, it is an opportunity for reflection, and thus for learning. Furthermore, with any ending comes a new beginning and the opportunity for conscious intention, the opportunity to deliberately set a path for the future, hopefully illuminated with lessons learned from the past.
So, where are we, where have we come from and where are we going?
We are at a pivotal point in human history. Where we go is up to us, and it seems both options are possible. We have to make a choice: Do we now now overcome the problems that have plagued us thus far and continues to do so, thereby enabling the progressive realization of the kingdom of heaven on earth, peace, paradise, or do we continue to be dominated by ego, selfishness and greed, and continue towards the manifestation and experience of hell, pain and suffering.
Our world is plagued, infected globally, with conflict. This is true both on the individual and the collective scales. Not only are families and communities throughout the world struggling with the traumas of physical and emotional violence, but entire nations still continue to wage war, ironically often in the name of peace. And yet, at a fundamental it is peace that we seek, even when we fight, attack and defend.
Yet peace cannot be attained through violence.
At the heart of the world’s problems today is “Islam,” misunderstood universally. The unfortunate truth is that Muslims themselves, on the whole, have very little understanding as to what the path and way of Islam actually is. Rather than a path to enlightenment and grace, spiritual evolution and development, Islam has been reduced to a cultural identity and thus a tool for politics. Even when practiced and learned, Islam is now generally taught simply as a form-al religion, wherein piety is equated with external forms, be they rituals, appearance or even beliefs. And so said the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (S), “The day will come when there shall be nothing left of Islam but it’s name.” We are in that day now, where being “Muslim” has been minimized to but an identity, a label, rather than a path to the spiritual state of Islam: Peace, surrender to Divine Will as it manifests now, and harmony with all-that-is.
The day will come when there shall be nothing left of Islam but it’s name. — Prophet Muhammad (S)
Interestingly, this internal conflict among the two dimensions of religion is not a new one. The struggle between form and essence, between the letter of the law and it’s spirit, is actually as old as religion itself. In fact, it is this precise conflict that led to the development of Sufism in the early history of Islam when the religion was being codified, canonized and formally structured, for the Sufis were they who sought to remain true to the original purpose of Islam and way of the Prophet Muhammad (S) beyond simply forms and rituals, cannon and creed. It is also this very conflict that defined the very ministry of Jesus of Nazareth (A) two-thousand years ago, for Jesus likewise sought a return to the original meaning and intention of spirituality, and a purification of religion from the pretensions of the Pharisees who had reduced religion to but a tool for profit and political gain.
There is no greater need now than the understanding of Islam, and this is true for both Muslims and non-Muslims. Ignorance is our enemy. Not one another. And it is the eradication of ignorance that was the very mission of the Prophet Muhammad (S).
Everything happens for a reason, and it is no accident or coincidence that the worlds of Islam and western civilization now find themselves in a state of conflict. Even conflict happens for a reason, for it is through the challenge and pressure of opposing forces that change, growth and evolution can take place. It may be said that bodies come into conflict and literally crash into one another, almost through a magnetic pull towards one another, in an attempt to merge, to transcend and to learn so as to progress. For it is the will of the Universe, of God, that ultimately separation and ego are eventually overcome, and that unity, peace and harmony are ultimately re-established.
And so the worlds of Islam and the West now collide. For both civilizations are dying, decaying internally, and whether they yet realize it or not, both have the key to the other’s future. Western culture is decaying and dying from within as a result of materialism. Unhappiness, despondency, depression and meaningless purposelessness have become the norm rather than the exception. Likewise, the Muslim world is dying from internal decay, from a lack of growth, development, understanding, evolution and progress. On the whole, it lacks sincerity and suffers from complacency, fundamentalism, ignorance and backwardness, and perhaps worst of all from a near total loss of understanding of Islam itself, the cure to these very ails.
What exactly is Islam?
When the Prophet of Islam, Sayyidina Muhammad (S) said that there would ultimately be nothing left of Islam but its name, he also implied that the very name of Islam would preserve its truth, its reality, its meaning and very purpose. Among the major world religions, Islam is unique in that it is a path which derives its name not from its founder, but rather is named after its very goal: Islam. Literally meaning “Surrender,” Islam is derived from the root SLM, which means “Peace.” The implication is that peace is the goal and it can be attained only through the sublime internal state of surrender (non-resistance, non-conflict). A Muslim thus is one who lives in a state of Islam, a state of pure peace and freedom from violence, drama and negativity.
Can anyone argue with this? This, simply, is the message and meaning of Islam. This is the truth, and this has always been the truth. And it is for this reason that the Qur’an refers to all previous prophets and messengers of God as “Muslims,” they who taught “Islam,” surrender to Divine Will.
As we enter 2011, we have a choice: Peace, or continued conflict. We have the opportunity to choose to embrace a new day, a new dawn, a new age, a new era in the history of humanity. An age of enlightenment, wisdom, peace and understanding, radically different from the violence and ignorance that has characterized not only much of human history, but specifically the last hundred years, the most violent and barbaric century in the 4.5 billion years of life on earth. With technological proliferation, the choice is no longer simply between peace or conflict, but is now between survival or extinction. Our choice is now to evolve, or to die.
There are many who believe that we are now becoming conscious enough to finally leave behind primitive violence, ignorance, fear and materialism, and now as a species aspire towards universal peace and prosperity, towards divine purpose. The world now needs messengers and representatives of Light. I hope you’re ready. Here we go.