The Human Dignity and the Spiritual Healing of the Heart PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Shahid Athar   

The Holy Quran mentions “We have honored the progeny of Adam” (17:70). God did so, first by “making him the best of creation” (95:4) and then blowing into him His own spirit (Quran;15:29) Adam was created from clay. What is common between clay and Adam? Both more or less share the same chemicals such as the minerals sodium, potassium, carbon and water, but in different proportions. At a certain stage in the intrauterine life of the fetus, angels blow the spirit of God into the soul thus giving life. The soul and body remain united in intrauterine life and after birth for the life span of the human body. Death is the separation of soul and body. The body goes under the ground or is cremated while the soul remains in suspension until the Day of Judgment when they are united again and the eternal abode is decided according to how they lived in this life. The Urdu poets have described it well. “What is life? It is the coming together of basic elements. What is death? It is their dispersion”. Thus, when we look into our own bodies, we solve the mysteries of life. 1) How blood circulates and nourishes different organs. 2) How bones hold their structure. 3) How nerves provide electrical wiring. 4) How the brain receives messages and gives orders. 5) How organs obey. 6) How the heart, the seed of wisdom, decides right from wrong. 7) The hormones which give us vitality.

What was the honor that was given to Adam and his progeny that was different from the other creations? It is the concept of free will given to no other creation except Man and the Jinn and the freedom to believe in God or not to believe in Him. The Quran (41:11) says “When We asked the skies to come together willingly or unwillingly, they said; we come together in willing obedience.” In another place (55:33) it says “O you company of men and Jinn, feel free to leave the boundaries of the skies (orbit) but you cannot do so without the power (anti-gravity force) or by the permission of God”. Thus, knowledge was given to man and when the angels were asked to bow down to Adam, all did except Iblis who was arrogant and thought that he was made from superior material-fire, than Adam, who was made from clay. Thus, he concluded he did not need to bow down to Adam. He did not realize who the giver of knowledge was. Allah taught Adam the names of material objects and then the angels were asked to name them. They did not, saying “we have no knowledge except what was given to us”. Adam was able to name all of those materials. We humans must not forget the honor of being given knowledge and must submit to the true owner of knowledge. Human dignity lies in knowing our place in creation. The purpose of creation, the purpose of life and knowing that without God’s support we are nothing. The story of Sheikh Imam Qadir Jeelani, a great Sufi mystic of all the time exemplifies this point. One night, a man dressed in white appeared at his door. Once the Imam opened the door, he asked who the stranger was. The man replied, “I am Gabriel the angel. I have been sent by God to tell you that he is pleased with your piety and meditation and therefore, He has conveyed to you that there is no need for you to pray (salaat-namaz) anymore.” The Imam immediately recognized that this was Satan in human form, as no Muslim including the Prophet has been given exemption from formal prayer. He said to the man, “there is no power except the power of God”. The man’s cloak caught on fire and he ran. While he was running he was crying “O, Abdul Qadir! Your knowledge has saved you today”. Imam Jeelani replied “it is God who has saved me today and not my knowledge”.

We fulfill human dignity by carrying out the task of taking care of fellow humans and become a mercy to mankind as the prophet was assigned. We take care of those in need, irrespective of their faith, gender, color, age, disability, political affiliation, wealth or lack of it. This is the right thing to do. Jesus (peace be upon him), taught us “to love thy neighbor”, but the question is who is the neighbor? Is he the one who is your relative, the one who speaks your language, the one who looks like you or the one who lives next door? The answer is: all of the above plus more. All creations of God are our neighbors and we care for them as we care for ourselves. The prophet said “when you make soup at home, the smell of it may go to your neighbor and they may come to your house to share it with you. Thus, you must make enough that you can share with them. “He also said “he who goes to bed with a full stomach while his neighbor sleeps with an empty stomach is not a true believer”. Once a man came to the prophet’s house and asked for some food. There was no food in his house, so he sent him to another companion’s house. That companion only had enough food for one person and lived with his wife and several children. It was night time, therefore the food was served and the companion put out the candle so it was total darkness. He put the plate in front of the guest and asked him to eat. The host and his wife pretended that they were eating and the children went to sleep without food. The next day, the prophet who knew this, called this companion and gave him the news of being accepted into heaven. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, said, “If we love ourselves only, what have we achieved? When we love our enemies, we will be like the merciful God in heaven”. God provides for even those who do not acknowledge His existence”.

Thus, human dignity requires “becoming humane” and not becoming “the lowest of the low”. We become the lowest of the low when we reject faith in God. “Those who reject faith, whether they are followers of the book or idolaters, are the worst of creation and will be in hell fire” (98:6). When we reject faith in God, we stop caring for fellow humans and our environment. Like the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), we should have a society for prevention of cruelty to humans. We become inhumane when we oppress each other, engage in unjust war, torture, enslavement and do not fight poverty and homelessness. If we want to raise human dignity, we must practice and teach our children, especially youth, the value of all life and the value of love and love for all. As Dr. Martin Luther King put it, “injustice to one is injustice to all” and “violence against one is violence against all.”

What about the spiritual healing of the heart? Before we talk about healing, we must accept that there is a disease that needs to be healed. The Quran says that “there is a disease in their heart and God has increased that disease” (2:7-10). What is the disease of the heart? Most translators call it hypocrisy and rejection of faith. Why would God seal their hearts like canned food, air tight so that nothing good (guidance) can enter into their heart? This can of unbelieving heart is filled with satanic traits like greed, love of money, materialism, egocentrism. The physical manifestation of such heart diseases could be the lack of peace with one’s self and his or her surrounding, with stress leading to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis , diabetes etc, which may originate in our lifestyle .

Spiritual healing of the heart lies in contentment, peace with God , peace with self and service to those in need, including yourself, your colleagues, your neighbors, your family, your community and your country. The social implication of this disease of the heart is that we hold on to our money and do not give any charity, we do not feed the hungry, we do not clothe the naked, we do not provide shelter for the poor, we do not visit the sick and we do not uplift fallen neighbors. We become egocentric and care only for ourselves, we do not recognize God in those in need, but we worship ourselves and become our own God. A similar story is mentioned in the Bible (Mathew 24; 35-40) and hadith qudsi that God will say to someone “I was hungry and you did not feed me”. The man will say “How could this be possible? You are God and you don’t feel hunger.” God will say that such and such person came to you, was hungry and had you fed him you would have found Me in him. Then God will say “I was sick and you did not visit Me”. The man will say, “How can You be sick my God?” God will say, had you visited such and such person who was sick, you would have found Me in him”. Such stories remind us that we do not have to look up to the sky to find God but God is with us and around us. All we need to do is open our eyes and hearts to those in need.

The service to those in need above our own need is the hall mark of human dignity. During the battle of Badr, three injured and bleeding Muslims were spotted by a nurse. She approached one of them with water; he said ‘take this to my friend who has bled more than me”. She took the water to him who also refused and directed her to the third one. When she reached him, he was already dead. She came back to second one, he was dead too. She then went to the first one who was also dead by this time. All three while near death had continued to care for someone else. Prophet Mohammad once said “He is not one of us” and he repeated three times. Companions asked, “Who is not one of us?”. He said “the one who does not care for his community”.  We have seen in our life time the examples of the Late Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Abdul Sattar Edhi of Pakistan who served the “poorest of the poor”.  The need of our time is for Sufis to come of their seclusion and intellectual enclave (khaneqah) to become street Sufis. I end with a couplet of Indian poet Late Rabindra Nath Tagore who received the Noble Prize for his book “Songs of Tears”. “I slept and dreamt that life was a joy, I woke and found that life was a service, I acted and behold! The service was a joy”.

Presented at the Annual convention of International Association of Sufism ( on June 26th, 2010 held at San Rafael, California.