a young pakistani doctor blogs...
Friday, January 27, 2006
  Spiritual Conundrums
I often feel frustrated over the absence of ‘Islamic’ role models that I could look up to and seek guidance from. This world is confusing enough as it is without trying to formulate a working belief system that does not clash with the present day global mindset. We muslims have a long way to go before we can adapt entirely, as Muslims to the modern world. As it is now, a Muslim CEO of a Fortune 500 company (is there one, btw?) would run the company in a completely secular style without his Islamic beliefs entering any part of his daily working life. The company would be professionally run, because doing so otherwise would cost his job. He would have to be honest, because otherwise he might get thrown in jail for coporate fraud. It would donate to charitable causes, because of the tax benefits of doing so. There is no Islam to that. All these actions, while admirable are in place simply because of a well-evolved financial system, not because of any moral scruples on the part of the Muslim CEO. If that be the case, then its not surprising that the CEO would easily be able to detach himself from his Islam when making business decisions. His Islam would come into play in his 5 daily prayers, his personal charity, etc… etc… It would be a wholly  private thing. Is that the way it should be? I don’t know, I don’t really have anyone to look up to for guidance.

There was this one medicine professor in Peshawar that I befriended. He is retired and I visited him several times in his home. The first visit was business, I needed his help with something and someone referred me to him. Subsequent visits were mostly social visits where we discussed religion for hours. He’s quite a legend in Peshawar (as a doctor) and I found him to be an extraordinary man. A devoted, pious Muslim with a large library of Islamic books, but a very compassionate, openhearted man as well. These days, the piety of a Muslim seems to be considered directly proportional to his beard length, his ‘strictness’ as to his interpretation of Islam, and his hatred for the West. It also helps if he’s got a maulana prefixed to his name - that seems to add to his piety, apparently. There is no shortage of such ‘role-models’ but this ‘brand’ of Islam doesn’t resonate with me at all. This kind of Islam seems to be full of conflict, hardships and hating rather that about inner peace, reconciliation and dialogue. This brand of Islam seems to suffocate one into a rigid, immutable way of life. I’m not buying it. I can’t believe this is what Allah intended for us.

It’s difficult to live in this secular world without a role model to walk you through it teaching you how to incorporate Islamic values into a largely secular world. How do you go about being a good Muslim without seeming like an anachronistic outcast in today’s world? Those who blindly say ‘Islam is the answer’ paint a very complicated world in black and white. It’s not that easy, I’m afraid. The millions of Muslims out there who are loosing themselves to a ‘western’ way of life aren’t stubborn or stupid that they can’t see the ‘answer’ right in front of them, they are confused. Some can never reconcile their religion in the first place, seeing it as outmoded and backward in today’s world. Some try their best to adopt what is generally considered an Islamic way of life and feel they just can’t do it.

I don’t have any answers here. I’m just as confused as the next guy. It’s one thing to have clear concepts on what your religion is all about, and I believe I’d got that settled quite well. It’s another issue altogether trying to translate those ideas into practice. As any doctor will tell you, it’s one thing to study medicine from books and another thing to practice it proficiently. We’ve got residency training programs, professors, medical colleges and universities to help us with medicine, but where do we learn to practice Islam?
very nice...I appreciate the fact that ure one of the few voraciously reading muslims out there who feel the same way i feel...it was that hunger or that need for some muslim role model that drove me all over the place too...frankly speakin, very few such exist...ive had the good luck of meeting a cupl...but the true teacher who knows what i need at what stage of development is, according to Islamic mythos, a Sufi teacher. Countless Sufis have stressed on this point again and again that Walking the Path is impossible without a Guide who's already walked it...and well, i have never met one...or perceived him/her...

I recommend Ibn-el-Arabi's Meccan Revelations or selected translations of it...you'll see what I mean...
I totally agree with Usman as far as the question of a guide goes but at the moment it is difficult to find one. Wasif Ali Wasif, a great sufi of the near past once said that it is not a must to get a guide, if your search for a religious guide or role model is really true to your heart, it will serve as a guide itself. The similar subject has been describeed in the HoLY Qura with meanings something like; everyone has a thing in oneself to test what is right and what is wrong. So that "thing" guides you along if you are true to your "faith"/ seeking the truth. Try to get some writings of Dr. Hameedullah like "Khutbat-e-Bahawalpur or Syed Fazlurrehman. Also Dr. Iqbal's Reconstruction of religious thoughts in Islam.
Well well... i came here all the way to tell you about a magical book and mr anonymous has alredy done the job. well you are not that anony anymore dude.hehe.
anyways i would recommend Iqbal's reconstruction of religious thought in Islam.
Just today i was reading the book and thought that this should replace as a must read text in our colleges.
This book is to be read as vehmently as one reads the Holy book.
Iqbal is magical superb.
I often have lamented on the fact with one that very few people actually have read this book and it is such a pitty for our nation who thinks of Iqbal as a poet of change and yet has failed to grasp his single most important peice of prose.
Iqbal is a good read but he was an Pan Islamist and a flawed Muslim personally.

IMHO..if you wish to find Allah..look into your own heart and read the Prophets life story..I've never believed in following anyone else..in the end the greatness of Islam is it's simplicity it is just us and Allah in the end..the lessons he has taught his Prophets and those who supported them as well as those who opposed them..
I often feel frustrated over the absence of ‘Islamic’ role models that I could look up to and seek guidance from

Exactly. I've been thinking about this for ages now, that how I don't know WHO to follow and how they aren't any 100% practising Muslims I can take guidance from. I really need to set my foot down and start bringing some serious religious waves in my life. I hope marriage would solve this dilemma, but it wouldn't, would it?
Thanks a lot guys. I got Iqbal's book (I found it online) and will start reading it and see where it takes me.

@zak: it's not about figuring out what's wrong or right. That's not too hard in my opinion. I've got the basics of that down pat. It more about how to deal with this world in a maximally constructive and perfectly harmonious way as a muslim. I'd want figure this world out through a muslim lens and mindset. It difficult for me to explain in this limited medium of a blog. Imagine that u wanted to run a country one day and be a great ruler. It would be of immense help to you if you had learnt something on leadership from a great leader who came before you. You'd shadow him, study him, see how he dealt with different situations, thereby learning many things directly and even more things indirectly through his mannerisms. A role model like that could teach you to be a great leader and have confidence in your ability to become a great leader. A good muslim could be a role model in the same way, for being a good muslim.

@Niqabi: No, marriage won't solve your own issues with religion. In fact, I'd very strongly urge you to get your belief system settled and somewhat developed before marriage. Its important to know yourselve before you are attached to someone else in marriage. Later on, if you change important opinions and they happen to clash with those of Mr. Niqabi, there could be tension.
Zak: There are millions of people out there who speak about Iqbal just as u did without even understanding what his philosophy was all about...I assume you have read all his werks, including Baal-e-Jibreel, Zarb-e-Kaleem, Bang-e-dara, Payam-e-Mashriq (which incidentally was Iqbal's reply to Goethe, the Great Europan philosopher!)...if u have and u say this yet, u didnt understand anything, my friend. If u haven't and yet u still say this, ure just another one who's heard an opinion and is passing it on...And The receonstruction of Religious Thought is Iqbal's version of Russel's History of Western Philosophy...he has summed up and explained Muslim philosophy up till his time quite well...

As far as his being a bad Muslim goes, well I never heard any one saying Lord Byron was an asshole...which he was. Or Russel an incomplete philosopher because he jacked off consistently till he fell in love (which is true!)...a man's worth as an Islamic philosopher is not damaged at all by what he does in his own life...if I were looking for a role model, he mite not(and still I dont agree with this. U apparently don't know about his Sufi side!) be a good one.

As a poet and philosopher he was unmatched in his own era...
Zak dude Usman yet again has xplained sufficiently. But i will add one thing. Having read him i fail to accespt most of the things that we know about his life. Its just not possible to live in such stark contrast.
And we must appreciate that his life has been divided into nine different stages. he was developing just as we are. so expect different personality at the end.
If u want to look at a personailty that is flawless from beginning till end then maybe The Prophets are the ones not any other human being.
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Recent med school graduate from Peshawar, Pakistan. Started blogging when in throes of final year exams. Currently studying for USMLE Step 1. Aiming for the 2008 Match. I blog about my studies, my worries, and my thoughts on life. I live in Islamabad.

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