The Hajj is often described as a journey of spiritual elevation. Pilgrims who have been for Hajj confirm that their souls for the first time truly felt the meaning of life. After the Hajj, as weeks and months pass, people slowly return to their old routines and the feelings of spiritual elevation begin to diminish. I went for the Hajj in 2017 and I still miss and long for those extraordinary feelings of connection with Allah, the feelings of serenity and tranquillity.
For most people, the Hajj is a once in a lifetime experience. But, the nature of the human soul, however, is that it needs continual spiritual charging. This regular charging usually takes place in places of worship and educational centres where we are reminded of our responsibility to the Creator and humanity. Places where one is encouraged to contemplate on their own life and gains insight through learning. It is why I consider all beneficial learning whether taught in universities or places of worship to be sacred.
The reason these sacred places of learning and prayers are so important to human life is that they create a balance in the world; a balance between the spiritual world and the immoral or sacrilegious world. Before 2020, there was some balance in the world. The places of worship were open as normal and people were able to pray and learn there. Spirituality was flourishing everywhere. As soon as the lockdown was imposed the world became unbalanced. And with it, the presence of evil increased everywhere. During these lockdowns periods, there has been a significant increase in:
- Suicide rate
- Alcohol abuse
- Drug abuse
- Divorce rates
- Domestic violence
- Sexual abuse
- Child abuse
It seems as if the moral fibre of the whole world and of the whole of humanity has become an empty shell, all of a sudden. Sadly, this is not the end of the story. The fear campaign run in the mainstream media (MSM) as well as on social media has pushed many individuals with a history of mental health issues over the edge. Record numbers of people are experiencing increased stress levels, anxiety and fear. We are only in the midst of the lockdown season. But lockdowns are not our only problem. Our problems are multifaceted.
A sense of helplessness has been ingrained in us during schooling in childhood. We were taught in schools to be dependent on others to deliver knowledge to us. Now (during lockdowns) we feel out of our comfort zones as the spoon-feeding has halted. Our problem is we are unskilled in teaching ourselves. We want to be spoon-fed because we have convinced ourselves that we are incapable of learning ourselves. It seems as if many of us have lost the ability to adapt. For this very reason, as the lockdowns started many people lost the connection and became unresponsive.
What does building a connection mean?
We are spiritual beings with physical bodies; thus, what truly matters is our spiritual growth. For our spiritual growth, we need to reconnect with our Beloved, with our Creator through prayers, through Zikr (ritual remembrance) and learning new knowledge. The connection we build with Allah is so important that in Islam it was made mandatory to establish a connection with our Creator five times daily. Without these connections we become spiritually empty – our souls feel empty – and the soul’s food is the remembrance of our Beloved. We overlook the fact that these connections become weaker when we neglect to strengthen them.
We should not forget that we have an inbuilt analytical system that constantly monitors and informs us about the level of strength of our spiritual wellbeing. It all depends on how we manage and control the system. The system I refer to is our nafs or our egos. Our nafs is not part of our soul nor it is part of our physical self but it does work on the physical side e.g. physical desires.
The three types of nafs
The three egos (or three types of nafs) are our inbuilt system to test us and at times to protect us from being lost in worldly affairs or overwhelmed by the evil within us. The names of these three types of nafs are mentioned and explained in the Quran as:
Nafs-ul-ammarah is as mentioned in the Quran in chapter 12 verse 53, “Indeed the nafs that overwhelmingly commands a person to do sin.” This nafs is full of desires and every so often misleads us to misbehave and commit sins. Frequently we follow its commands and are subjugated by it when we say ‘do whatever makes you happy.’
Nafs-ul-lawwamah is mentioned in the Quran in chapter 75 verse 02, “And I do swear by the self-reproaching soul!” This nafs may entice individuals to commit sins but then it incriminates itself, it blames self and the guilty feelings arise, leading the person to stop committing those sins. So there is a conflict within the person by this nafs. Success is not guaranteed as the individual keeps moving back and forth with this type of nafs.
Nafs-ul-mutmainnah is mentioned in the Quran in chapter 89 verse 27, “‘Allah will say to the righteous,’ “O tranquil soul!” To be mutma’in means to be satisfied and experience tranquillity. Such content nafs has to be trained and disciplined over a long period to desire only good things that please Allah. What pleases Allah is our endeavour to help humanity. (May Allah swt grants us all Nafs-ul-mutmainnah, Ameen.)
Astonishingly, there are probably over 1.3 million different species living with us on this earth. Yet, not a single one has doubts about who will feed them the next day, apart from humans. We are the only ones holding doubts and anxieties instead of certainties. Why is that?
Maybe we are not looking in the right direction. We are too focused on the materialistic aspects of this unbalanced world. Or perhaps we lack gratitude in our lives and we never fully appreciate the divine gifts of ideas and inspirations we receive through learning in places of worship. Umrahs are still closed to much of the Muslim population.
We should no longer live in denial. We can make a difference in this world. If we cannot change the whole world, we can at least try to change one person’s world. We should strive to help humanity as this is probably our best way to increase our levels of spirituality, for it is the spirituality that helps in restoring the mind.