Friday, January 2, 2009

Dance has changed my views

I love dance! I find it such a beautiful artform. I've always loved to dance myself, but I don't have any extraordinary talent for it. But professionals with a passion for dance, dancing something well-choreographed and to the right music, can be so beautiful and meaningful.

It's funny how this topic, dance, has helped me figure out some of my views on life! I will explain how.

First, the way I set about Islam, as I've mentionned in another topic, is in an all-or-nothing way. If I believe that a group of things has been ordained by God, then I would need to follow ALL OF THEM, not just part of them. This is different than having a group of laws attributed to God. If there's one of them I don't believe comes from God at all, then it's human error and I totally discard it. But anyway, similarly, I believe that God is not just for one group of people. It's for everyone. Meaning that ideally, every single human would follow God. So it makes me ask myself the question: Do I believe that ideally, everyone would be strict Muslims, restricting themselves in the same ways that the Shariah, for example, dictates? I came to the conclusion that... NO... That would not be an ideal.

Back to it now: As I said, I love dance. I literally think the world would be missing something if it weren't practiced or didn't exist. I think it only brings richness to life itself. But dancing in public, and often music itself, is often said to go against Islam itself! Meaning that it goes against God! I see nothing in Islam, personally, that would lead me to believe that music is bad, so there's no issue there. But I do see the whole "dancing in public" thing to be an issue. We are supposed to be modest. And I would be one to admit that what dancers generally wear is not especially modest. It is not always sexually attracting but it's very much about the body. So if the dancers were to become strict Muslims, they would probably not be on stage displaying their talents and bodies.

I know it's not convincing in any way, and I'd never try to convince anyone with this argument, but I'm just trying to explain where it came from in me... I believe that different people can have different paths and still be following God's way. I know that most believe that Islam (as in, beleiving in Muhammad as the Messenger of God who brought the Qur'an) is the only straight path... But I think it has to be more than that. Not everyone has heard of or had the chance to learn about Islam. And they surely have the same chance as anyone to go to heaven and to please God. Islam means submission, and Muslims are ones who submit. And I do believe that every single human, even ones who have never heard of Islam, or even never heard of God, are given the equal chance to submit. And I think that that is through our inner feelings of GOOD and BAD. We can all tell them apart, but we don't all follow the good sides. "Muslims" (who believe in Muhammad and the Qur'an) as much as anyone else. Sometimes more.

I look at people I know here in Canada like my family. We are honest people and we try our best to be good to others, but we are not especially religious in my family. I think they do believe in God, but they don't make any effort with God and heaven as the reason. They simply want to be kind, caring, honest folks. And I see a lot of Muslims who will try their best to do what God wants like having a beard and eating halal meat, but they will screw people in business for as much as they can get out of them. Not all or most, but I have seen it be like this in more than just these cases. Maybe the latter thinks about God more and even prays to God, but he's trying to fool God and himself. And people like my family are just making efforts to be good just because. And so they're not trying to fool anyone, they just *are* what they are.

It's things like this that make me believe that if anything, the MOST IMPORTANT part of submitting to God is following what he has given you inside.

About Islam though... Muhammad, the Qur'an... I am starting to feel as though it is from God as well. I have just been struggling trying to find a way to KNOW if it's from God. If it is, I feel the need to follow it. If it isn't, then I can go on with my life, just trying to be good and connecting with God, but not having this book play a part in it. I think that it is the right path for many people to follow the Qur'an. It might be the right path for others to follow Buddhism, or a lot of other paths... I don't want to say all the religions though, because Christianity for example, is bordering on polytheism in a lot of ways, and Hinduism, they worship other than God, or Wiccan, where they really are polytheistic. It's not for me to judge though. I think a lot of people from those belief systems probably could be following a good path, but others might not.

Islam might be the best path to follow, and the path everyone should be following, but I don't think it means that people who aren't are at a disadvantage. Maybe those who flat-out rejected Islam after learning about it and feeling it's from God... I really don't know how God works, but I don't feel like everyone *needs* to be this type of Muslim to be good submitters. A lot of people probably are never meant to find Islam or even consider it. They are meant to bring something else to the world, like dance. :)

6 Comentários:

khany said...

peace be upon you Candice,

all the prophets and messengers of god taught the same essential religion, i.e. to believe in god and to do good deeds.
And they say: "None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian." Those are their (vain) desires. Say: "Produce your proof if ye are truthful."
Nay,-WHOEVER submits His whole self to Allah and is a doer of good,- He will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

islam is the completion and perfection of this faith.
This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.

god sent messengers to every nation. each prophet of god confirmed the truth of prophets and scriptures before him and corrected corruption that had crept into the scripture and practices. god sent muhammad (peace be upon him) as the last and final messenger to all of mankind.
And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it.

scholars of islam make a distinction between an unbeliever and a disbeliever. an unbeliever is a person who does not believe in the message of islam perhaps because he has not been conveyed the message of islam, or because he has been misinformed about the basic tenets of islam. a disbeliever, on the other hand, is a person who rejects the message of islam after having received it in clear and understandable terms.

in islam we believe that the unbelievers who do good have a claim to salvation as god says in the quran:
Who receiveth guidance, receiveth it for his own benefit: who goeth astray doth so to his own loss: No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another: nor would We visit with Our Wrath until We had sent an messenger (to give warning).

it is part of god's justice and mercy that he only holds us accountable for things that are within our control. if a person has not been delivered the true message or he has been delivered a distorted picture of the basic tenets of islam then his unbelief is not blameworthy.

it is also equally clear from reading the qur'an that those who rejected islam after the truth had become manifest to them. those who opposed the prophets theirs will be a painful doom in the hereafter.
Indeed, those who disbelieved and averted [people] from the path of Allah and opposed the Messenger after guidance had become clear to them - never will they harm Allah at all, and He will render worthless their deeds.

finally, no muslim has a right to judge whether another person is an unbeliever or a disbeliever. the knowledge of whether a person, muslim or otherwise, will attain salvation belongs to god alone.

you may also benefit from the explanation offered in this video . (becomes most relevant to this topic around 4.00)

wallahu alam
(and god knows best)

Candice said...

First, thank you so much for reading my blog! And second, thanks for leaving an informative reply.

So everyone should have the basic info to 1) believe in God alone and 2) do good, basically, from what you wrote. I feel like the idea that there's a God is out there for most everyone to know, but being a person who has struggled to figure out if there was a God (and stayed with the conclusion that there was not for quite some time), I feel like it's not that easy and obvious. It's something some people have been raised with and it just IS to them with no doubt, but for people like me... I feel like there probably is a God, but I still don't feel that sure somehow. And it's something I've been thinking about since I was a kid. And I've been thinking about it constantly for the past 4 years or so!

It really is difficult, even if a prophet has left the message that I should follow God's path, there's more to it than just believing and submitting. Belief is not something you can just do automatically, it has to be in you. A lot of people I speak to who believe in God totally don't understand what I mean. And atheists don't understand either just because they don't have any desire to find God...

khany said...

peace Candice,

most of what follows is my opinion built around some core islamic beliefs. i hope that i have properly understood the main contention of your comment. please bear with the length of my response.

in modern times we live with the illusion that science explains the world thereby rendering god irrelevant. in fact, science is a tool which we use to model our empirical observations of the physical world. at its best science provides an accurate accounting of the laws of nature. it is strictly outside the domain of science to ask why matter and laws of nature in the first place. science can neither assign a metaphysical value nor purpose to life and other process. it does not preclude metaphysics, rather it does not probe it. i say this with the great respect for science and its numerous achievements.

there is a sufi aphorism about a school of fish who live in the ocean that meet regularly to debate the existence of the ocean. they have all heard so much about it but none of them have actually ever seen it. such are we in this world.

muslims believe that god created everything in the state of "islam" (literally "submission to god"). the trees, the stars, sun, planets and the moon, the animals, they all obey god's law perfectly. humans too are born in this pure state. mankind, however, is given the gift of freewill. we can distinguish ourselves above other creatures as the "best of creation" (ashraf ulmakhluqat) by making choices that allow us to grow in god consciousness or we can prove ourselves to be the "lowest of the low" (asfala safileen) by making choices that lead us astray.

everything in creation bears witness to the uniqueness of the creator and it is only through great effort that we are able to deny him. we are so awash with signs, proofs of his existence, and miracles that we begin not to notice them. we take them for granted. like those fish swimming through the ocean. the qur'an, which is itself a sign of god, notes that we live surrounded by god's signs and our very self testifies to god's existence:
We will soon show them Our signs in the Universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that He is a witness over all things?

the state of submission to god is, according to islam, the "fitrah" ("the natural state"). we are each born with the innate knowledge of the oneness of god. therefore, when we come across the truth it resonates with us. god informs us in the qur'an that he took a covenant from each one of us before sending us forth on earth:
And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], "Am I not your Lord?" They said, "Yes, we have testified." [This] - lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, "Indeed, we were of this unaware."

i think i can also relate to your observations regarding "belief". due to a tradition of the prophet (peace be upon him) the religion ("din") is often analyzed along three dimensions.
- the first is what we refer to as "islam". this relates to the details of worship (prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage, etc.), to social and political rules of engagement (e.g. rights and obligations of spouses, economic and financial laws, governance, justice, etc.), in short it pertains to everything in the physical domain.
- the second is "imaan" or belief. it relates to the metaphysical. belief in god, his attributes, belief in the day of judgment, belief in the hereafter, etc.
it is interesting to note that in arabic the word associated with faith/belief is "imaan". however, unlike its english counterpart the meaning of belief is closer to "conviction". the root for the word imaan literally means "to learn". imaan is gained through contemplation, studying, analyzing, and internalizing; only then does one eventually find true conviction and belief.
- finally, the third branch of the "din" is "ihsan" (often loosely translated as "excellence"). this is the experiential dimension. it relates neither to human actions nor directly to beliefs. it relates instead to "states" of human consciousness. true belief is transformative. i believe it is this aspect of faith that you seek. i would like to relate another tradition of the prophet (peace be upon him) to illustrate the meaning of ihsan. god says:

My slave approaches Me with nothing more beloved to Me than what I have made obligatory upon him, and My slave keeps drawing nearer to Me with voluntary works until I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks. If he asks Me, I will surely give to him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I will surely protect him.” (Bukhari, 8.131: 6502. S).

when a person believes in god and is obedient to god he becomes dear to god to such an extent that "when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees"- meaning that in whatever a man sees or hears he discovers in it god's plan. this knowledge and higher consciousness transforms man so profoundly that He becomes "his hand with which he seizes, and his foot with which he walks."- meaning that everything that the man now does he does with the single purpose of pleasing his creator. seeing unity in the universe brings unity of purpose to his life. and finally the man's station is so elevated through his transformation that "If he asks Me, I will surely give to him, and if he seeks refuge in Me, I will surely protect him.”- the meaning of which were expressed by the urdu poet muhammad iqbal in the verse:

Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqder se pehle
Khuda bande se ye poche bata teri raza kia hai

( Make thy Self so Sublime that when your destiny is being written, God himself should ask thee, ’speak up , what shall I write for you?’)

your personal experience is best known to yourself and i will not question it.
part of this video might also be helpful video.

Candice said...

Thanks for that response. I love the aphorism. And I really did learn something about the 3 dimensions. It's an interesting way to see things and I have heard of these words, without fully understanding them and how they're inter-linked.

You know, I'm obviously not fully set on any of my "beliefs". I still believe most of what I wrote in that post, but I am starting to feel that Islam probably is the best path to follow. And that maybe even a dancer could be a dedicated Muslim. Instead of driving me to think that people don't all need to be Muslim (in the Qur'an-following sense), it makes me think that they probably all do need to be Muslims in the Qur'an-following sense, but that different interpretations could be right. That it's about following the Qur'an in the way that you believe is good. Not just following what people are telling you (the imams, etc.). Although of course it is essential for most people to get help and guidance from various people. Especially for non-Arabic speakers considering the language of the Qur'an, and many others to just get different points of views before figuring out your own.

I should probably post about some of this. I'm too used to commenting. :) Thanks again, Khany. I will definitely think more about what you wrote. It's very kind of you to write such a complete response.

khany said...

you are most welcome Candice. it is the least i can offer. plus it gives me an opportunity to straighten my own beliefs as i articulate them. so thank you for giving me this opportunity.

sincerity is at the heart of "ihsan".
And they were not commanded except to worship Allah , [being] sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakah. And that is the correct religion.

sincerity does not happen by accident. like all good habits it needs to be cultivated. we cannot be sincere to somebody we do not love. and we cannot love somebody we do not know. so it is the duty of every believer to strive for understanding and knowledge.
say, "My Lord, increase me in knowledge."

and we should beware of reading our own desires into commands of god
Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray knowing (him as such) and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah? Then will you not be reminded?

and we do not have to look far to see the corruption that is spread (in the name of religion) when people (both liberal and conservative "extremists") exploit religion as a tool for their own ungodly purposes. sincerity requires that as we gain knowledge that we be honest to ourselves. if we believe something is from god, the all knowing and the most wise, then we should try our human best to obey it even if it appears hard and seek god's mercy when we transgress.
It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.

and those who, after they recognize it, reject the truth for worldly gains and comforts they have indeed bargained a terrible price.
They [think to] deceive Allah and those who believe, but they deceive not except themselves and perceive [it] not.
Those are the ones who have purchased error [in exchange] for guidance, so their transaction has brought no profit, nor were they guided.

And do not exchange the covenant of Allah for a small price. Indeed, what is with Allah is best for you, if only you could know.
Whatever you have will end, but what Allah has is lasting. And We will surely give those who were patient their reward according to the best of what they used to do.

may god guide us to the straight path.

Candice said...

I'm definitely careful about being honest with myself and what I feel, think, believe... I ask myself the question of whether or not I'm trying to fool myself on a regular basis. It should be an important part of everyone's life, Muslim or not, religious or not. I've always done this. Not to see if I was trying to fool God (I was practically atheist all my life), but to see if I was being honest with myself with my feelings, thoughts, etc. I've always found it very useful.

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