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With so much of advancement
in the world and so much of information explosion, it is perhaps pertinent
to examine the basics of religious thought and look at the foundations
and fundamentals of Islam from a new angle, without the help of the
self entrenched experts and adamant promoters of status quo.
Amongst the distorted fundamentalists there are bound to be some
who ask themselves the reason for this violent conflict of ideologies
when the axioms of all religious beliefs are similar. For, no
religion teaches to steal or murder, destroy or plunder. In fact the
pursuit of every religious thought is to build, to advance and to uplift
human beings. So no religious ideology would propagate the annihilation
of morals of others for the sake of its own selfish propagation.
Therefore let us, on our own, try and explore the basics without
provoking the conflict of orthodoxy or inviting their myopic views.
Let us examine the definition of Islam in the broadest possible
terms and see if it makes any logical sense in today’s society.
The word ‘Islam’ is said to mean submission, surrender, perhaps
alignment and integration with. ---
Submit, surrender or
align with what, and why?
Take any action as an
example; be it an act of thought, word or deed.
Every act must submit to a logic, plan or scheme for it to make sense,
or be called a meaningful pursuit. Unplanned behaviour is aimless
and unpredictable and may not achieve any result, except perhaps destruction
or negation of order — that which some planned or coherent action
is trying to establish. One may however say, that this too is a pursuit;
but destruction is generally not accepted as a viable purpose.
It is perhaps a negation of the very concept of a purposeful action.
A purpose is progressive and forward bound, where as negation is annihilating
in its approach. We thus infer that, submission must also make some
logical sense and should have a purpose to be viable and generally acceptable.
Now, submission itself becomes a voluntary act if one’s
awareness and knowledge support its reason and logic.
The whole exercise of
‘ being ’ must have had a motive, for otherwise, it becomes
a meaningless farce. Now, for the fulfillment of any motive, some
tools, means or implements are essential. In the case of human beings
these means may be mental , verbal or physical in nature. Thoughts
are mental tools, language and words are verbal aids and actions are
means of physical expression. To elaborate and explain it a little more,
let us say that, to praise or curse someone one needs thoughts and /or
words -- which are the tools for accomplishing the desired act.
And, to physically help or harm someone one needs appropriate tools
to do the job. Now again, the tools and implements must be functional,
within ones control and must somehow relate to the task. For example
to kiss someone lips would be a more appropriate tool then legs. The
latter, though also a tool and perhaps functional,
would be more appropriate to implant a good kick instead.
Again, the tools or implements one chooses must perform well and efficiently
to accomplish the task, or they will either be modified or replaced.
The tools must also obey and serve the master. Each one
of us has some natural tools and some others one can improvise.
The personal tools would be the parts of ones body -- arms, legs, eyes,
heart, liver etc. Some of which are external and some internal.
Some work under the control of ones free- will, and some function autonomously,
under natural laws. Each part of the body has a specific function that
it performs dutifully and efficiently according to its nature and structure.
All things that function and perform their naturally assigned tasks
are called ‘Muslim’ as they obey and submit to the laws that govern
them, that is, the laws of Nature. In nature, everything obeys
these natural laws and cannot deviate from them. Humans however,
have a unique position in this regard. They have the extra quality of
a ‘free- will’ ; which becomes pronounced with development in age
and sense. This free-will is an inherent human quality and comes from
the fact that they have evolved as a species and have reached
a high level in Nature’s design of things. The free will is human
being’s most distinguishing attribute. It can be
put to use with the aid of the mind and its power of reasoning. How
one uses this free- will is the real test of ones ability to discipline
and control one’s other faculties and their function, those that he/
she has in common with other living things. E.g. hunger, self-preservation,
need for shelter, love and hate etc. etc. The faculties therefore,
too, are also all Muslims because they all submit and perform
the assigned tasks competently and diligently.
So what is the purpose
of human beings?
the definition of Muslim, given above is understood, then to begin with,
every person is a born Muslim, because at that stage one is completely
under the control of nature and its laws and dutifully submits
to them. One does not have a developed sense or free-will and
in fact very limited independence. Notably, a human baby is more helpless
than the offspring of other creatures, and remains so for
a relatively longer period. Even here there is a logic,
but we will deal with that some other time perhaps. The thing to note
however, is, that this most helpless of creatures eventually becomes
the most powerful, and perhaps the most useful in the scheme of nature’s
evolutionary process. At the present stage of evolution humans have
gained the ability to be aware and also be able to participate in nature’s
own scheme of things. Every thing thus seems to have a purpose
and value on the scale of nature’s balance. In fact human beings
can aid in it and even promote certain natural processes by virtue
of their intellect and consequent overall superiority. This may
sound as an ode to ourselves, but which other creature has the
ability to write an ode to itself, or for that matter even read and
write on its own.
The higher up on the
scale of evolution the creature is, the more the awareness it has, and
can understand both its own rights and obligations. As evolution
progresses and reaches the stage of self- perpetuation, it becomes
self-participating and self-directing as well. For, if it
is not so the result would be self-destructing and self-diminishing.
Now the tendency of self-destruction in an evolving system is
a negative or detrimental trait, and does not serve the logic
of its very existence. Humans are also a part
of this self - perpetuating system and are positioned at a very high
level in the whole spectrum of evolution -- whereby they have
gained the capability of being conscious of the system itself. They
may not fully appreciate or understand the purpose of the system of
which they are a part, yet they are aware of it and know that such a
structure exists. They probe and search for its meaning in every thing
around them. They do this by the use of their most important and
uniquely private tool – the mind. This mind however, like every
thing else, is a double-edged sword. It is both positive and negative.
It is both creative and destructive. It has the power to both accept
or reject. This in turn, depends on the basis of the thought
itself, and ones approach to the subject. If the basis or origination
of thought or conscious analysis is positivism and open
mindedness, it will endow progressive and constructive results. But
if the idea takes birth in doubt and deceit it will promote negativity
and resistance to progress. Let us take an example. The splitting
of a heavy atom (fission), or joining two small atoms (fusion),
releases tremendous energy. This release of power can be
utilised either constructively, e.g. to generate electricity;
or destructively, e.g. to make a bomb. Interestingly enough, however,
the process for electrical power generation is based on the principle
of a controlled and balanced nuclear reaction; whereas a bomb
is uncontrolled release of energy. This points to the fact that
progressive processes are usually harnessed, balanced and controlled
activities. Uncontrolled reactions can be catastrophic.
We have now come to a
stage where we can understand what it means by — ‘to submit,
surrender and align with’. It is really, Nature, and its
process of self-propagation and perpetuation which is to be accepted,
submitted to and participated in. One who consciously
does so, with a belief that there is such a thing as a Natural system
with its supreme laws and submits, is a consciously believing
Muslim; and one who denies it, is not. Questioning, probing,
fathoming and then accepting natural phenomena are all Muslim traits.
Our tasks as humans is then to study, explore, understand, align
and harness the progressive aspects of the ‘Laws of Cause and
Effect’; in other words to correctly use ones
personal and or improvised tools towards the furthering and promoting,
not only of the self, but of the system as a whole. Is this not alignment
with the ‘Laws of Nature’?. These Laws are the frame
work under which Nature itself operates and accomplishes the
process of change and evolution.
Human beings are perhaps
at such a stage of evolutionary development where they are now, themselves,
consciously participating in the functioning of the system. See
the capability of human endeavour that has brought it to the stage of
self-replication through the advancement of scientific knowledge and
techniques – cloning, for example. Genetic know how has been
firmly established in the genetic engineering of food, animals and medicine.
Robotics and electronics are two other fields being rapidly developed.
All these processes have remarkable potentials for equipping human beings
with some of the most powerful tools yet imagined. As a consequence
they are able to perform deeds that were so far unimaginable – cloning,
space travel etc. etc.
Why do we do what we
do, and where will all this curiosity, quest and effort lead to?
This is the age old question of -- Who we are, and why we are what we
The purpose of
human existence cannot be the all ‘here and
now’, -- or as it has been said, “ Eat, drink and be merry,
for tomorrow you die”. Notice, that every
Now ( which is also known as present) was once out
There ( that is also called the future), and
will eventually become a Then ( which
is the past ); and so the natural cycle of life continues to churn.
This is how time is spent, and with it, all human effort. Or to
say it another way; -- time and effort seem to recede or deplete.
In a way they go back. Now, according to the laws of Physics and
so also of Nature – ‘to every action there is an equal and opposite
reaction’. Hence, if time and every thing connected with
it goes in a certain direction, something should come out of it as the
‘effect of that cause’, and would proceed in the opposite direction.
The outcome of this decrease in time, etc. is the increase in
knowledge and/ or awareness. In other words there is a price to
be paid for every thing. In yet another way, gain in awareness is the
return of ones investment of time and effort -- or, ‘consummation
of self ’. This achievement may not be a monetary gain, but
believe me it is worth much more. One thing that comes out of all human
activity is the unveiling and expanding of new vistas of
vision i.e. the furthering of knowledge. Every step in physical,
mental and spiritual advancement is basically the increase of awareness
and knowledge which consequently leads to ‘self-growth’ and
Now, having borne with
the logic so far, let us take the next step.
According to the theory
of Holostic hierarchy or holarchy, all things consist of holons.
These holons are complete entities and wholes in themselves.
They can evolve to the next higher stage of holonic level and
become parts of the new holons; which in turn become the building
blocks for the next higher level, and so on. Now, each set
of holons that evolves must contain the holons of the previous level.
These new holons are different from the predecessors
in as much as the previous ones have been integrated in them and have
acquired something extra to establish a fresh identity of their own.
They have in fact transcended the previous order and have acquired some
more, new properties. The higher mode of holons however,
cannot exist without containing the lower levels,
but the lower ones can exist on their own even if the higher order of
holons is destroyed. The higher the holons grow in the holonic hierarchy
the more autonomous they become and their capability increases.
Let us see how this
theory explains evolution – and, as we shall see in a
minute it goes on to explore phenomena even beyond.
Matter, the physical manifestation of the Kosmos -- ( this is
different from the Cosmos , better explained in books on
holonic theory. Briefly, it is the cumulative manifestation of all
matter, energy and even psychology of the Universe.), -- may be
taken as the starting point for our understanding of the levels of
holons. A higher level of development, or further evolution
of matter, would be the holon of life or bio-physics.
( In between these there may be some sub levels, but we are avoiding
them for the sake of simplicity ) . The new holon, the
holon of life has developed over the holon of matter, in
as much as it incorporates the phenomena of self-replication
and multiplication with the holons of matter. It would thus be
a step higher up in holarchy,
and would be the higher stage of the evolution of matter.
The result would be the manifestation of living organisms, i.e.
plant and vegetation. A further stage of advancement of plant life
would be the incorporation of mobility in the holon to reach
the next higher stage -- animal life . A further
evolution and development of some species to the next stage is
the holon of the mind. Here the holons of life
have evolved to the stage where it has acquired the ability
to think for itself. This is the stage of psychological
interplay incorporated with the holons of the animal body.
Humans are the manifestation of this stage of evolution in the
holarchy. Let us stop here for a minute and see how
far we have come. It will be observed that for the
holon of the mind to exist it needs to encompass the holons
of the animal, which in turn must have advanced over the
holons of plant and matter. And so, on and on it goes.
Now, continuing further along the holonic
hierarchy we reach the holon of the Soul; and finally,
perhaps the Spirit. The above is only an attempt to familiarize
the reader with the idea of holons. ( the whole theory
of holarchy is a complete subject on its own and should be studied
in detail to acquire an in-depth knowledge.)
The beauty of the theory of holarchy lies in the fact that it goes on to show how the development of higher level holons enhance the very essence of the holon itself. This means that where there is vertical growth there is also lateral advancement; meaning that with progress along the scale of ascent, comes the increase in capability to perform and finally to acquire the ability to self-improve. This is the consequence of the fact that with the growth in knowledge comes the increase of understanding and awareness and the overall expanse of
‘ self.’ Each
individual has a capacity to grow – physically, mentally and
spiritually. A balanced diet and regular exercise promote physical well
being. Reading, learning and mental exercise promote mental development.
A healthy attitude in life promotes a desire to self-improve. If this
is done in a balanced evolutionary manner durable progress is achievable.
To develop this healthy attitude life requires a balance in both
the physical and the meta-physical domains of personality.
All stable systems
in nature have one thing in common -- they are all balanced and are
evolving. A controlled evolutionary change is perhaps more
enduring and longer lasting than a violent revolutionary one.
Observe both the macrocosm and the microcosm. The solar system
maintains its stability because it is balanced and evolving. At
the other end of the spectrum of the Cosmos, the classical atomic
structure follows the same principle of balance and poise.
We thus infer that balance and evolution are not only the keys to a
successful life they are also its basic principle. The greater the dawn
of awareness, the greater the attainment of balance and, the more
the elevation of poise. Sages, Monks, Sadhus and perhaps
Prophets are a set of people that demonstrate this. They seem to be
that group of individuals who have harnessed the tumult of material
desires and mental agitations and reached the balance of mind, body
and soul, to acquire the poise of serenity. They are evolved souls
who have reached the next level of holonic hierarchy. They
would surely be a holon level higher than
common human beings. Their next step would be the holon
of Universal Spirit, where all souls integrate and acquire the oneness
with Nature itself, perhaps, the final stage of the great
Holarchy. — The Spirit. *
We have now reached that
stage of our discussion where we can perhaps appreciate the fact that
submission, surrender and conscious willingness are the only ways and
means to align with the dictates of Nature and the Natural Law
in order to progress. This will perhaps, not only unveil
the secrets of those Laws, but in turn alleviate the Self to a
level of awareness where the Created can look at the
Face of the Creator and admire His/ Her work.
This, in a nut shell
perhaps, is the essence of being a Muslim, and the broad teachings of
Islam as seen in a contemporary light.
* I am not using the word ‘God’ intentionally, because,
(a) it restricts the mind to an over all reverential Being, that supposedly predetermines everything, thus confusing the issue of free-will and reward and punishment.
(b) A psychological
barrier is imposed on the free flow of thought for examining fresh ideas
Canada February 2005
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