Of September 11, 2001

29. Human Longing for Spirituality

Man is not only a social animal but in fact a spiritual one too.  This spirituality stems from the fact that he was created by God who had blown His spirit  into him.  Thus, while our body is a container of the soul, which is from earth and is attached to earthly matters, the soul, which is the essence of the spirit,  always longs to be united with Whom it was separated from.  The soul always longs to return to the Creator as stated in Quran “ to God we belong, to Him is our return”.  During our life on earth, the soul and the body are again united but then there is a temporary separation during death with the final union to take in the life thereafter.  Thus, spirituality is recognizing the presence of God within us. 

One of the meanings of the word “ Islam” is surrender and human life is nothing but surrender.  We had no choice when our souls were created nor did we have a choice when our souls were united with the flesh in our mother’s womb nor did we have a choice living as a fetus and after birth we were helplessly dependant on our parents and others around us without any choice.  Quran states “ when God comprehended in His design, heavens and earth and asked them to come together willingly or unwillingly, they said we come together in willing obedience.” (41:11)   Human longing for union with God is no different than a child who got separated from his mother in a mall and then finds her and runs back to her into her folds.  It has been said that it is not man who is the seeker but it is him who is being sought.  For this union of soul to take place with its Creator, one must achieve the state of peaceful bliss.  As Quran states “ O soul at rest, return to thy Lord well pleased and well pleasing.  Enter as My servant, enter into My heaven.” (89:27-30)  Just like the lost small child in a crowd who is looking into other faces, looking for his parent, we look into different faces or earthly manifestations of God in the form of His reflection and consider it to be reality and to some degree, sometimes we get attached to that considering it a reality and fall in love, until we realize that it was only a reflection we must go the source of light.  Thus our acts of worship, whether it is fasting, prayer, pilgrimage or good deeds like charity, are only keys to the door that will unlock the house where my beloved resides.                        

My union with Him will materialize when I enter that house.  I find that I can not unlock the door with a rusted key.  It is the love and remembrance of God which will remove the rust both from the key and the lock.  Human beings live a fragmented life but they thirst for wholeness.  Thirst for innerpeace and knowledge is the motivating force.  Heart remains the center of life and center of responsibility.  According to an authentic saying of Prophet Mohammad, “inside the human body there is a morsel of flesh which if healthy, the whole body is healthy and which if diseased, the whole body is diseased.”  Then he pointed to his heart and said “ this piece of flesh is this heart.”  Thus a sound heart, one which is pure and is clean from all idols, where God resides, gives life to the body.  We must tame our evil self which otherwise would destroy the kingdom of God.  We must cultivate longing in search for the beloved.  We humans are wired for God and all we have to do is plug ourselves into the electrical outlets and turn the switch on by standing for prayer.  We must recognize God’s presence within us and with us.  Our hearts will remain restless until they rest in God and as Quran says “ for sure it is in the remembrance of God that the heart finds rest” (13:28) and according to the saying of the Prophet, there is polish for every rust and the polish for the rust of the heart is the remembrance of God. 

But what prevents us from surrendering to God is nothing but the love of the material world.  These are the distractions of life in our journey toward Him which diverts us, our conscious thoughts and our heart being occupied with the thought of the One.  Another factor which prevents us from surrender to God is human arrogance which is a Satanic trait.  It was this that prevented Satan from bowing down to Adam when told to do so by saying “I am better than he” (Adam).  (7:12) We must avoid such instinct and be humble, realizing that all we have achieved, our wealth, power, knowledge or physical strength are gifts from God.  

 When we close our hearts to others, our eyes are closed to see the beauty of God in others.  The message of Islam, Judasim, Christianity and all other religions is the message of love and service to others.  If God, Himself decides to care and love and feed even those who deny His existence, then who are we do deprive someone else of our love just because he is of different color or speaks a different language or is born in a different country or prays to the same God but in a different direction or using different words?  We must try to transcend the barriers between the humans so that we break the barrier between humans and God.  We must see ourselves in others and we must see God in each of us.  We must love others in order to be loved by God and we must enter into Islam (submission or surrender to God) peacefully, willingly and whole heartedly.                                                                           

             Surrender is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength over the conquest of the self.

             We must be like small infants who play with adults of any color or race.  It is we the adults who see each other differently.  The word Salam not only means peace and submission but also assures security or safety.  So when we offer our greetings of Salam to someone, we wish them not only peace but also safety.  Let us keep our hearts clean.   As Abdul Qadir Jilani, Sufi Master of Islam said “Your heart is a polished mirror.  Keep it clean by wiping out the dust which has gathered on it because it is destined to reflect the light of divine secrets.  If only the lamp of divine secrets is kindled within your innerself then the rest will come.  Then you will see the sun of inner knowledge rising from the horizon of divine reason.”  But in order to attain pure spirituality, we must empty our hearts first to receive God and make it a worth while place for Him to live.  I offer this poem of mine.


For a long time I treated my heart

Like a big trash can

Filled with vain desires

Like a pagan’s Kabah

Filled with idols

             Now I have emptied my heart

             Cleansed it inside and out

             Polished it all around

             For the new resident to come

             And live forever


            No one lives here any more

I have kicked everyone out

Neither there is lust

No tempting wealth

Nor false pride

            Eyes have dried up

            All sores healed

            No pain no more

            there is no darkness

            Only “light upon light”

            I am sad no more

            I am filled with joy

            My beloved has come

            To live in my heart


            The new resident of my heart

Is the One who gave me the heart

Gave me feelings and love

Then took it away


            In my heart now

            He will live forever

            Without any partners

            My heart will beat only for Him

            My lips will sing   

            Only for Him

            Song of “lailahaillAllah”

            There is no God except one God


Presented at the 8th Annual Convention of International Association of Sufism at Freemont, CA, USA on 3/24/01.  Dr. Athar is on the board of Advisors for I.A.S.

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Shahid Athar, MD
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