Islam & Terrorism

In light of the recent attack in London, and the swell of peoples opinions about this incident and all other related topics on social media, it has led me to dive into my books on Islam to find some clarity on the issue. This is a habit that we should all get into, particularly if we like to share our thoughts and opinions with the world through the internet. If we rely only on the mainstream media for our education, then we cannot consider ourselves at all educated.

I will be mainly focussing on the tenets and doctrine of Islam and the Muslim way of life, so as to help you understand a little better how far removed Islam is from terrorism. It is quite likely that you associate these two words together (Muslim = Terrorist) and this can be put down to the media propaganda and its hidden agenda.

To begin, I would say something about the way Muslims will greet one another; with the words: As-salāmu ʿalaykum which translates to ‘peace be upon you.’ The definition of the word peace is ‘1. the normal, non-warring condition of a nation, group of nations or the world. 2. a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations. 3. a sate of tranquillity or serenity.’ Now think for a second, do you associate any of these definitions with the word Muslim?

The word Muslim means ‘one who submits to God’, and in Arabic the word for God is Allah. Islam is a religion that was revealed to all Prophets according to their belief, and a Muslim is simply, one who follows the Islamic faith.

There are two main sources of Islam: First is the Qur’an which is a book that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, and is considered by Muslims to be the spoken word of God which he communicated to mankind through the Prophet Muhammad. You may find it interesting, as I certainly did, to know some of the chapter headings in the Qur’an. There are chapters called; Joseph, Jonah, Abraham, Mary, The Romans, and Noah. Yes, these are also personages from the Christian Bible and Jewish Torah. The second source of Islam is The  Sunnah which is the Prophetic tradition or path. This refers to the Prophet’s speech, actions, silent approvals, outward appearance and character that was observed by his companions, written down and passed on generation after generation in written form and oral tradition. This body of literature is often referred to as Hadith. As I mentioned briefly above in sharing some of the chapter headings, the Prophets of Islam are the same as those of Judaism and Christianity and the story’s of their lives differ only in interpretation.

Islam forbids all forms of terrorist activity. There are however some extreme factions of people who, in the name of Islam, terrorise both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The most well-known of these militant groups are Al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria and Iraq. These terrorist groups are called Khawarij in Islamic terminology because the term refers to those who rebel against Islam and the Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad foretold their appearance and instructed the Muslims to stay away from them, and to defend themselves if they attack them. They first rebelled against the Prophet’s disciples in the time of the fourth Caliph, Ali, killing some of the finest companions of the Prophet Muhammad. Now, according to sources there are some 1.6 Billion Muslims around the world. We must not tarnish everyone with the same brush, as the great majority of the followers of the Muslim faith have the same attitude towards Al-Qaeda and Isis as those in the western world do.

There is another often used term in Islam which is Jihad, it means ‘the spiritual struggle within oneself against sin.’ The main usage of this term would be to strive or struggle towards a virtuous and praiseworthy aim, such as the struggle against ones tendency towards vice and the betterment of society. This use of the word is an inner struggle, and is shared by all of the worlds religions, to better oneself and move closer to The Good. Jihad appears often in the Qur’an without military context.

Islam contains five main pillars. These are considered the five basic acts in Islam and are mandatory for anyone who would consider themselves a Muslim. They are:

  1. Shahada – Faith
  2. Salat – Prayer
  3. Zakat – Charity
  4. Sawm – Fasting
  5. Hajj – Pilgrimage to Mecca

I truly hope that this cursory knowledge about the religion of Islam will give you a better understanding of a Musims beliefs and ideas. And we must always remember to look in introspection and ask ourselves where our bias’ and prejudices came from. Did we suddenly form them when we turned 13? Did we learn and form them in high school? Or were they impressed upon us by the world that surrounds us, by our parents, grandparents and close friends?

To conclude I will share a quite that is worth keeping in mind in these trying times:

‘Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.’

 

 

 

 

 

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An Alternative

Ponder this series of events:

Tomorrow I begin to spread a message hope, of peace, of union and harmony (nothing that has not been said by giants who have walked before us). I continue this by speaking about my message at the local community centre, the church, park, shopping centre or anywhere there might be a group of people to listen. This message will require individuals to assess their current outlook on the world and their life, but nothing to intense, nothing that a slight shift of perspective and some personal observation wont bring. At first people think that I am crazy and dismiss my message, but as time passes I gather a group of followers. The group begins to grow until I have many hundreds of people who would turn up to hear about my message.

People respond to my message out of disillusion at the current state of affairs and how society is structured. They are fed up of what the corporate media feeds them about all and everything, and the propaganda it spouts so as to evoke an emotional response at every possible chance. They want change and my message makes it clear to them that nothing in the external world is required for this shift to occur. This change is an inner one, and one that will increase life for the better.

The above events could be about any number of heroes from times past;

Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Ramakrishna, Ghandi, Yogananda, Gurdjieff.

There is no need for me to expound what these great individuals brought in their message and life long mission, there are many books on such things and websites also. My hope in sharing this post is to spark a catalyst in your mind that may make you aware of the position we are in, and the huge possibilities that are available to us.

The ability we have to overcome the common conditions prevalent in the world such as depression, anxiety, lack of energy and vitality, among many other similar psychology issues is contained within us. Getting a prescription from the doctor to medicate these conditions is like trying to save a sinking ship with a plaster, it will not have any effect on the outcome. What is required is a change of perspective, a shift of perception towards a new way of thinking.

If we concentrate only on materiality and its consumption, and place our loci of self in our possessions, things, and technology, there is little hope for lasting happiness through these means. If a new car or television or item of clothing makes us happy, this is fine. But what if your new car gets scratched, or the television breaks, or the item of clothing is torn or has something spilled on it which stains it? Will we be happy for long?

Aristotle speaks about the ultimate purpose of human existence in his epic work ‘The Nichomachean Ethics’. It is clear form the above that material possessions are unable to bring with them any sort of lasting happiness. Even relationships are prone to fluctuate between joy and suffering. All of these things are attempts at obtaining happiness, while true happiness is always an end in itself.

Happiness, peace, satisfaction, contentment can come about only from within, if they are to be of a lasting nature. I share this post only to make you aware that this is what I believe to be the case, and through my experience of ‘messages’ of this nature, can vouch for their validity. Its now over to you.

Do you ascribe to a spiritual path or discipline that has helped you?

Have you had any experiences connected with what I have said above?

Would you like to have lasting peace and happiness regardless of life circumstances you are experiencing?

Do you disagree with the above and feel that this state is impossible?

Please share any thoughts or feelings here in the comment section, and if you enjoyed the article and feel it might benefit another, please share and spread the word.

 

 

 

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I’m Still Here

It’s been several months since my last post! I have been engaged in research and study, and as always; self-betterment. 

Will begin a series of blog posts and would very much like to receive some interaction regarding these, so as to be able to steer the direction future posts will take. You can do this by commenting, sharing blogs you like, or messaging me directly. 

I look forward to engaging with you all.

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Your Inner Statue

“But how are you to see into a virtuous soul and know it’s loveliness?

“Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothed there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiselling your statue, until there shall shine out on from it the godlike splendor of virtue, until you shall see perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.” 

– Plotinus, Enneads, on Beauty. 

One is either happy as they are, or trying to be the best they can be. No-one chooses suffering. Anyone who desires to be the best version of ____________ they can be, will surely be inspired by the above quote. If one strives to; “cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiselling your statue.” Then we will know happiness. 

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Life & Mind


The Buddha says;

“Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think.”

This is the essence of the Buddha Dharma, and the theme of the Dhammapada. If we can gain control of our thinking process, we have the ability to re-shape our whole character and personality. We can re-make ourselves. 

Destructive and negative ways of thinking can be rechanneled, constructive channels can be deepened, all through right effort, introspection and meditation. “As irrigators lead water to their fields, as archers make their arrows straight, as carpenters carve wood, the wise shape their lives.” 

Our personality can be divided into 5 distinct parts or skandhas according to Buddhist philosophy. These parts are; form (rupa), sensation or feeling (vedana), perception (samjna), the forces, habits and impulses of the mind (samskara), and consciousness (vijnana). The Buddha tells us that birth is the coming together of these skandhas, and death is their breaking apart. 

If this idea was better understood, the truth that what we think will shape our reality, our experience of life on the planet would be very different. There is an Indian folk story about two princes, one high-minded and generous, the other very selfish. They were both sent to foreign lands and asked to tell what kind of people they found there. The first reported that he found people basically good at heart, not very different from those at home. The second man felt envious hearing this, for in the place he visited everyone was selfish, scheming and cruel. Both, of course were describing the same land.

This story only goes to prove and strengthen the truth behind the initial quote; “our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think.”  To follow on from this it is clear that If we begin to make changes within ourselves, we will by doing so, change the world and how we experience it. 

Little by little we must begin to make changes in our lives. The image we should have is of a bucket filling with water, it does so drop by drop, slowly and consistently until the bucket is full. Many of us want the bucket to fill much quicker than is possible. When the bucket doesn’t fill and we don’t see any changes after a week or two, we give up. If only we could be aware of all of the drops that we have accumulated during those two weeks, would we be so quick to lose hope? 

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Universal Responsibility


What with it being the Dalai Lamas birthday today, I thought it would be appropriate to share his thoughts on universal responsibility. For his whole life he has worked tirelessly for all sentient beings. 

I will share a quote from the Dalai Lama:

“At the same time, the problems we face today- violent conflicts, destruction of Nature, poverty, hunger and so on- are mainly problems created by humans. They can be resolved- but only through human effort, understanding and the development of a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. To do this, we need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and for the planet we share, based on a good heart and awareness. 

Now, although I have found my own Buddhits religion helpful in generating love and compassion, I am convinced that these qualities can be developed by anyone, with or without religion. I further believe that all religions pursue the same goals: those of cultivating goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means might appear different, the ends are the same.

So, although it is difficult to bring about positive change in society itself, it is undoubtedly worthwhile to try. It is possible. This is my firm belief. Whether or not we succeed is a different matter: what is important is that we do our best.”

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The Dalai Lama

In 1938 a two year old boy was recognised through a traditional process of discovery as being the reincarnation of all previous Dalai Lamas, the spiritual rulers of Tibet.

Have almost finished the Dalai Lamas autobiography ‘Freedom in Exile.’ It was a fantastic read, especially for someone who loves autobiographies, Buddhism and virtuous figures with whom to aspire. The above quote emphasises his message which runs like a thread throughout the book. With this in mind, I though it would be a nice idea to share a few stories from his life, and a few concepts which come from Buddhism. Here is an overview. 

In 1938 a two year old boy was recognised through a traditional process of discovery as being the reincarnation of all previous Dalai Lamas, the spiritual rulers of Tibet (more about this in a coming blog). Taken away from his parents, he was brought up in Lhasa according to a monastic regimen of rigorous austerity. Which, from the Dalai Lamas own words, he did not like one bit! Aged seven he was enthroned in the 1000 room Potala palace as the supreme leader of a nation the size of Western Europe, with a population of six million people. At the age of fifteen he became head of state. 

With Tibet under threat from the communist Chinese, there followed a traumatic time in trying to hold on onto the freedom of his people whilst having to maintain his Buddhist precepts of peace and non-violence, therefore avoiding any sort of war or conflict.  

Then, in 1959, he was forced into exile- followed by over 100,000 destitute refugees. Since that time, in exile in the Himalayan village of Dharamsala, he has devoted himself to the plight of his people and to promoting world peace through an unwavering policy of non-violence.

He continues to live his life pursuing the Bodhisattva ideal. According to Buddhist thought, a Bodhisattva is someone on the path to Buddhahood who dedicates themselves entirely to helping other sentient beings towards release from suffering. 

Release from Suffering. Isn’t that what we are all trying to achieve? Whether to you that means; finding your next meal, getting away from a poisonous relationship, or removing certain circumstance in life which promote stress and anxiety. I believe there are many ways at doing this, following the Dharma being one of them. The Dalai Lama inspires one to not only remove as much suffering you can from your current life situation, but also to do the same for your loved ones, and by extension all sentient beings. Because if we concentrate on our similarities instead of our differences, we will notice that we are all human beings, consisting of flesh and bone, and that we are all experiencing suffering to some degree. This should bring us closer together, rather than encouraging division. 

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