Transformative Worship in Islam¶
Islam addresses our material, mental and spiritual needs at all levels - personal or communal. Islam's path is based on the fundamental realization that truth, higher consciousness, or the 'Absolute', permeates all the universes and realities, seen and unseen. Through submission, we come to realize that the direction of the life-force in human beings is towards experiencing the mysterious grace of Sacred Presence. If there is a purpose in life it is to know that life is eternal and intrinisically utterly perfect, irrespective of short term human perception. The prophetic revelations emphasize the need for human beings to accept responsibility for their intentions and actions and to willfully desire higher levels of consciousness and insight, i.e. knowledge of God.
All acts of worship and religious prescriptions are intended to reduce the veils and background noise in the human psyche or ego, so that the innate light within the heart (soul) shines and elevates the individual to God consciousness without denial of earthly limitations.
He "is closer to you than your jugular vein," - 50:16
"Wherever you turn, there is the face of Allah." - 2:115
The ultimate challenge in life is to realize this spiritual fact. Real personal development of this knowledge relates directly to sincerity, trust and certainty. The result is conscious awareness of Allah at all times and in all circumstances. This God consciousness is referred to as taqwa in Islam, which puts an emphasis on attaining it through dhikr: remembrance and awareness of this primary and ultimate light within us, the source of self-awareness. Being in constant reference to this Supreme Consciousness enables us to put into perspective all other changing states that we experience in life.
The Two Spheres¶
Human consciousness has two levels or spheres of awareness:
- The personal, local or conditioned consciousness
- The boundless, pure consciousness that enables us to go beyond the limitations of local awareness.
The 'fall' of Adam from paradise can be regarded as the force that propels his offspring to seek eternal perfection through higher consciousness. The Qur'an's description of human life as a gift, or 'loaned trust' implies a pure consciousness that is boundless and eternal, a sacred relization or presence.
Muslims often refer to this sacred tradition (hadith qudsi) of the Prophet (pbuh):
The shari`ah is my words, tariqah my actions, and haqiqah my state. Understanding is my capital, reason (`aql) the basis of my way of life (dīn), and love my foundation; longing is my mount, fear my companion, and knowledge my weapon; forbearance is my master, trust in Allah my helper, and contentment my treasure; truthfulness is my stopping place, certainty my shelter, poverty my pride, and by it I am honoured over all Prophets and Messengers.
Human beings are driven to higher consciousness by prayer, meditation and a host of creative pursuits such as the arts, music and other transcendental activities, all of which reflect our yearning to return to a blissful state of contented happiness - paradise. It is ultimately supreme consciousness that we all desire, here and now.
All acts of worship begin with self-awareness and a desire for higher knowledge. The preparation for worship is the declaration of intent and the hope to be focussed, attentive and engaged in the process of deepening one's state of awareness. A point may arrive when the worshiper loses concerns with worldly mundane matters and begins to experience subtler levels of awareness which are deeper than the normal day to day variety. The ultimate purpose of worship and prayer is to realize experientially a state that is not subject to earthly or mental limitations. This may be variously identified as the sacred void, inner bliss, pure peace, or ultimate or higher consciousness.
Islam is founded upon experiential tawhīd. The whole universe has emanated from one source and appears in infinite levels and layers of dualities, diversities, complementarities, competitions, cooperation and other forces. All these dualities reflect an aspect of a higher attribute which includes the names of Allah. With spiritual progress we realize that all actions emanate from the essential source of all energies - Allah. All Attributes, ideas, and qualities also emnate from Allah's qualities. The ultimate realization and inner peace is attained when one realizes that there is only one essential essence that pervades the whole universe - the essence of Allah. That is the deep meaning of Lā ilāha illa'Llāh.
These excerpts come from the first few pages of "Transformative Worship in Islam: Experiencing Perfection". For detailed descriptions on application of practices and their meanings please refer to the entire book.