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An Overview of Muslim Spirituality

Written by Nabil Bayakly

Garhoud Mosque, DubaiAllah/God, The Creator, says in the honorable Quran what it means:

And remember when your Lord said to angels:
I am going to create a man from
sounding clay of altered black smooth mud.
So when I have fashioned him and
breathed into him from my soul that I created for him,
then fall you down prostrating unto him.

—Chapter 15 (Al-Hijr), verses 28-29.

In these verses Allah tells us that the human being is made from two components. One is a physical component from this earth, and that is the "altered black smooth mud." The other component is the "soul," which came specifically from Allah into the human. Based on this reality, the scholars of Islam always emphasize the spiritual entity of the human being. Thus each entity of the human is born, grows up and departs from this life. The physical entity returns back to its original component—sand—and the spiritual component returns back to its creator—God. There is no human soul without a body on this earth; the body without a soul is called a corpus, and it is buried under the ground so its pungent odor doesn't disturb the living people.

Therefore, we as "living" humans must take care of both of our entities, the physical and the spiritual. Each entity needs its proper nourishment and proper training for proper growth. Each entity has its complaints, ailments and methods for healing. In general, and because we are aware of the physical life around us, we are constantly busy with the physical entity and its needs.

The spiritual entity is a metaphysical one. It is alive only in our conscience, and reflected in our manners, behavior and character. We eat when we feel hungry, and drink to quench our thirst. We take medicine when we get sick and seek medical help when our ailments persist. What about our spiritual entity, what is its "food" and when do we feel its ailment? And most of all, where do we go when we get spiritually sick? The answer is clear; the food for our spirit comes from the same source as our spirit. The proper upbringing for a healthy spirit is the home of its creator. For Muslims, the Quran is the word of God; in it there is healing for the believers. This is the spiritual healing, and the proper training for the spirit is in the prayers.

The pillars of faith for Muslims are the following: declaration of faith, five daily prayers, fasting the month of Ramadan, annual poor-due, and pilgrimage to Makkah once in a lifetime. All the five pillars are centered on the spiritual upbringing and maintenance of an individual. In declaration of faith, you are attesting that Allah and Allah alone is the Supreme Creator. In doing so, you are willingly submitting your spirit to its creator.

The five daily prayers are the "hands-on-methods" in achieving your spiritual uplifting. In fasting the month of Ramadan, you are "alofting" your soul and strengthening your spirit as "physically as possible" over your physical entity. The fourth pillar in Islam is the annual poor-due, in Arabic (language of the Quran) it is called Zakah or "purification." God Almighty knows that our wealth is very dear to us and thus He made it incumbent on Muslims to purify their spirits from the love of material wealth. In paying Zakah you are cleansing your spirit from the love of wealth, physically. You are sharing your wealth with the poor only for the love of Allah.

Pilgrimage is the ultimate sacrifice. In performing pilgrimage to Makkah, you see millions and millions of people coming from all walks of life, all parts of the world, all races, all dressed up the same. This sight brings in every human being the scenery of the Day of Judgment. After  resurrection we will all come to Allah Almighty for reckoning—all equal in the sight of God. This can only be seen in Hajj (pilgrimage), and this will serve as a constant reminder for Muslims that one day we will meet our Creator and thus we must strive to elevate our selves spiritually.

Copyright ©2002 Dr. Nabil Bayakly
From a series presented by the Center for Spiritual Growth in Memphis, Tennessee.