Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Short Dissection of My Humanity

When I first became Muslim, I was very focussed on being muslim, defining myself as a muslim and presenting myself as a muslim, but with age, less religion and more spirituality perhaps I find myself questioning a more profound identity. I find myself reflecting on what it means to be human. It was after-all the gate to the city of knowledge[1], Hadrath Ali, Radhi Allah ta ala anhu, who said that there is a greater brotherhood and that is the brotherhood of mankind[2]. If this pivotal role model is considering himself above all else, not a muslim but a human being, shouldn't I be striving in a similar direction?

Now the more difficult question, what does it mean to be human? In my younger years, I had written a few poems trying to elucidate who I am, but even now it feels a little more complex than I am actually getting to grips with.

Recently however, I have begun grasping the concepts of Nur and Ruh. A poor translation for Ruh is the true self which links back to the Creator. An even weaker translation of Nur, is that energy or light that was first created by Our Creator.

The first of creation is the Nur of Muhammed, Sallalla hu alaihi wa sallum. All of creation stems from his Nur, which is the best of moulds. Humans then, with the introduction of nafs or ego are abased to the lowest of low and this is the fabric of An Naas or modern man. Incidently, Naas means one who has forgotten.

So maybe one definition of humanity, if I may draw from Surah Tin (chapter of the Quran entitled The Fig) is that man is one who has a Ruh. Ultimately, the Ruh is created from the Nur of Muhammed, Sallalla hu alaihi wa sallam. Acting against this Ruh, is a nafs or ego that bases him or her to a low such that he or she has forgotten his esteemed roots of creation. On an aside, gender correctness is driving me insane so I'm just going to use the masculine but imply both.

The purpose of mankind is to establish a relationship with his Creator and those that are amongst the most elevated in creation. Coupled with establishing these relationships is the need to suppress the nafs sufficiently and subsequently remember and renew the Ruh-centric relationship with one's Rubb.

Now it all sounds very neat and concise like an Oxford dictionary definition on paper, but oh if only it were so simple. Knowing a silhouette of a path and walking that path are two totally, almost completely foreign to each other things, and so am I discovering.

There is no “Idiot's Guide to Nafs Suppression” or “Unveil Your Ruh in 21 days” that you can read, follow and have your goals as a human being achieved. Instead, my naivety is painfully learning that it is difficult, convoluted, sometimes esoteric even. But every now and then I have this lightbulb that goes on in my head and I feel that I am not completely lost.

I love thinking, in fact, I used to muse that if I had a blog it would be, “Are you pondering what I'm pondering”, I eventually settled on ponderings because the former was taken but I digress. I was thinking about jealousy or envy and I was trying to relate it back to a relationship with Allah Subhana wa ta Ala.

It's something I try to do, define my actions in terms of building a relationship with my Rubb or Creator. Then the light bulb, by succumbing to jealousy what am I implying about my Rubb. Am I saying that the Most Just cannot discern or discriminate what is due to me or that the All Knowing, Most Wise cannot see what is due to me or even that the Most Powerful, Most Mighty cannot give me what is due to me.

Ma-azallah (Our Creator Forbid)! The thoughts jolted me sufficiently into realising that this very basic indulgence of the nafs can lead so readily to an absolute contravention of my Islamic beliefs.

So now to accompany the idealogy, I need to learn practically more about (in this instance) envy and not succumbing to it. This is not meant to be a post on the subject so I won't get into that aspect here, but I just merely want to re-emphasise the change in perspective.

By seeing, analysing and interpreting our actions in terms of a relationship with Our Creator we will gradually be clearing the murky waters of our nafs to reveal the pristine pureness of our Ruh which really is the point of this arduous journey we call life.

This article ends abruptly here because the concepts get too difficult to elucidate in a short piece as this and I am far from being an authority on the topic. If you are interested to learn more I will much rather suggest books by spiritual giants like Sheik Abdul Qadir Jilani Radhi Allah ta ala anhu(Secret of Secrets is my favourite) or Imam Ghazali Radhi Allah a ala anhu (Alchemy of Bliss or Ilhya Ulum e Din).


  1. Tirmidhi, Kitaab al Fitan, Fine Qualities of Ali: hadith is hasan gharib
  2. Ali bin Abu Talib: Nahjul Balagha

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