“When we close our hearts to others, our eyes are closed to see the beauty of God in them. The message of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and all other religions is one of love and service to others. If God decides to care and love and feed even those who deny his existence, then who are we to deprive someone else of our love just because he is of different color or speaks a different language or is born in a different country or prays to the same God, but in a different direction, using different words?” Dr. Shahid Athar, October 21, 2001
Man is not only a social animal but a spiritual one. This spirituality stems from the fact that he was created by God, who had blown his spirit into him. Thus, while our body is a container of the soul which is attached to earthly matters, the soul, with its essence of the spirit, always longs to be united with the Creator.
One of the meanings of the word Islam is surrender, and human life is nothing but surrender. We had no choice when our souls were created, nor did we have a choice when they were united with the flesh in our mother’s womb. We had no choice living as a fetus and after birth were dependent on our parents and others around us.
The Quran states: “When God comprehended in his design heavens and earth and asked them to come together willingly or unwillingly, they said we come together in willing obedience.” Humans longing for union with God is no different from a child who got separated from his mother in a mall and then finds her and runs back to her folds.
It has been said that it is not man who is the seeker, but it is he who is being sought. For this union of soul to take place with its Creator, one must achieve the state of peaceful bliss.
Just like the lost child in a crowd who is looking into other faces in search of his parent, we look into different faces or earthly manifestations of God in the form of his reflection and consider it to be reality. Sometimes, we get attached to that and fall in love, until we realize that it was only a reflection and we must go to the source of light.
Thus, our acts of worship, whether fasting, prayer, pilgrimage or good deeds, are only keys to the door that will unlock the house where the beloved resides.
My union with Him will materialize when I enter that house. I find that I cannot unlock the door with a rusted key. It is the love and remembrance of God that will remove the rust both from the key and the lock.
Human beings live a fragmented life, but thirst for wholeness. Thirst for inner peace and knowledge are the motivating force. The heart remains the center of life and of responsibility.
According to Prophet Muhammad, “Inside the human body there is a morsel of flesh which, if healthy, the whole body is healthy and which, if diseased, the whole body is diseased.” Then he pointed to his heart and said, “This piece of flesh is this heart.” Thus, a sound heart that is pure and where God resides gives life to the body.
We must tame our evil self, which otherwise would destroy the kingdom of God. We humans are wired for God and all we have to do is plug ourselves into the electrical outlets and turn the switch on by standing for prayer.
We must recognize God’s presence within us and with us, but the material world prevents us from surrendering to Him.
Another factor that prevents us from surrender is human arrogance. We must be humble, realizing that all we have achieved, our wealth, power, knowledge and physical strength, are gifts from God.
When we close our hearts to others, our eyes are closed to see the beauty of God in them. The message of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and all other religions is one of love and service to others.
If God decides to care and love and feed even those who deny his existence, then who are we to deprive someone else of our love just because he is of different color or speaks a different language or is born in a different country or prays to the same God but in a different direction, using different words?
We must try to transcend the barriers among humans so that we break the barriers between humans and God. We must see ourselves in others and we must see God in each of us. We must love others in order to be loved by God, and we must enter into surrender peacefully, willingly and wholeheartedly.
Shahid Athar M.D. is Clinical Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, Indiana University School of Medicine Indianapolis, Indiana, and a writer on Islam.