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Holistic Islam: Sufism, Transformation, and the Needs of Our Time

Holistic Islam: Sufism, Transformation, and the Needs of Our Time

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Holistic Islam: Sufism, Transformation, and the Needs of Our Time

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212 página
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Lançado em:
Sep 1, 2017


Islam once gave birth to a great civilization that respected religious diversity, freedom of conscience, and scientific thought, and Islamic knowledge contributed to the birth of humanism in the Renaissance. Today's world is desperately in need of a spirituality that is free of dogma, based in experiences not beliefs, one that can reconcile the human and spiritual realms. In his new book, renowned spiritual teacher and Sufi sheikh Kabir Helminski, gives us a compelling interpretation of spiritual or holistic Islam that will hearten contemporary Muslims looking for a faith suited for our times, and providing non-Muslims a brilliant introduction to this rich spiritual tradition.

Helminksi’s holistic Islam is an emerging force in the world. It is reflected in the rise of the popularity of the writings of Jalal ad-Din Rumi who is loved by followers of all faiths and none. Helminski shows how it is the great Sufi teachers of the Islamic tradition who show the way to this universal wisdom. Holistic Islam is an expression of the primordial religion of humanity that recognizes a journey through levels of consciousness leading to the transformation of self and the mature human being.

While all religions have a tendency to decline into sectarianism, legalism, fundamentalism, and superstition, humanity is never without the presence of realized human beings who have shared the knowledge and practice of communion with Ultimate Reality.

Holistic Islam is a spiritual antidote to extremism and fundamentalism, established on a clear Quranic basis
Holistic Islam uses Quranic arguments to establish a spiritually progressive Islam
Lançado em:
Sep 1, 2017

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Holistic Islam - Kabir Helminski



Ican easily imagine the questions that will arise from the title Holistic Islam. Some will say there is no need for any word in front of Islam because Islam is the true religion and there is nothing about Islam that needs to change. Some may accuse us of trying to adapt Islam to a fashionable trend of modern society.

Our response will be that the word holistic is needed at this time as a corrective. It is needed to help us understand the potential and truth that was birthed fourteen centuries ago and is still in the process of being understood and applied in human life. If it were not for the extremely unholistic manifestations currently claiming to be Islam, the idea of holistic Islam would not be needed.

Islam has been etymologically analyzed to mean peace and surrender. For some reason, another meaning of this word has been either completely missed or left in the background. Salima, the active participle of the root, means whole, complete, healthy, safe. Another form of the word, salim, the adjectival form, means whole, pure, sound, unblemished, unimpaired, and secure. The phrase qalb salim describes a healthy, purified heart, which is fundamental to spiritual well-being. So holistic is implied by the very word Islam. Holistic Islam, then, might be translated al-Islam al-Salim.

Some people will be shocked to see these two words together, but for quite different reasons. The holistic movement is a global phenomenon, a corrective to a worldview that has focused on the parts rather than the whole in every sphere of life. This antiholistic worldview has led to countless negative consequences for the environment, the economy, as well as for human life itself.

Holistic health focuses broadly on all the factors needed for health: hygiene, nutrition, exercise, attitude, relationships, and emotion. The unholistic approach focuses mostly on the alleviation of symptoms. The alleviation of symptoms, however, may often ignore the root cause of the symptoms and even apply a medicine that reduces symptoms while compromising overall health.

If we consider the health factors that constitute human well-being described above, and if we recall the example and the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, we will, I think, conclude that Islam was originally holistic. Islam as a way of life incorporates cleanliness, wholesome diet, physical exercise in worship, positive relationships, patience in adversity, generosity, altruism, and much more.

However, if that original message is reduced to a mere set of rituals and rules enforced primarily through fear, with attention focused on how others are following the rules and prescriptions, the heart will be severely constricted.

Furthermore, if an interpretation of Islam becomes a rationale for isolating one portion of humanity, Muslims, so that they look upon the rest of humanity as other, that interpretation is betraying fundamental spiritual values. Finally, respect for humanity as a whole is enjoined upon Muslims:

O you who keep the faith! When you go abroad in the way of God, be clear and circumspect and say not to anyone who offers you a greeting of peace: You are not a believer! (4:94)

To every one of you We have prescribed a law and a way of life. If God had so willed He would have made you a single people, but His plan is to test you in what He has given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which you differ. (5:48)

To perpetuate a suspicious and judgmental attitude toward so-called nonbelievers is also a betrayal of the fundamental principles of mercy and compassion that are the absolute foundation of the divine message. What began as a radical interfaith movement at the time of the Prophet has become more and more a self-enclosed community, seeking to define itself in opposition to the prevailing culture, rather than encouraging the recognition of common values. Every true prophet addressed his society as O my people, whether they agreed with him or not.

The times we live in necessitate an approach to Islam that explores its soul and spirit, its heartbeat. Beyond the dogmatic formulations, the institutional arrangements, and the official spokesmen, lies a vast dimension of lived experience—of arts, literature, and music, of human relationships, of spiritual energy.

Yet what unifies these diverse dimensions of Islamic experience is the relationship to a single text, the Qur’an, and the character of one man, Muhammad. The relationship to the Qur’an is a perpetually unfolding dynamic that does its work on the soul, awakening an awareness of the master truth of existence: the human need to be in continual relationship with the Real (al-Haqq), that wholeness signified (for Muslims, as well as Arab-speaking Christians and Jews) by the word Allah. Allah is not a Muslim god to be in competition with other gods, but a unified, comprehensive reality that fulfills the ultimate longing of the human being.

A profound relationship exists between the text that is described as divine revelation and each individual consciousness that directly engages with it. It is a relationship that is humanizing, transformative, and ultimately spiritualizing.

Many Westerners who have come in contact with the hospitality, generosity, and altruism of Muslims have undergone a change of character, and experienced an entry into a new universe of meaning, despite all the prejudices, fears, and misunderstandings that abound regarding Islam. Some have understandably resisted explicit conversion, possibly because it is so often associated with the customs and externals of a foreign culture, yet have taken on the hue of its truth, in some cases conveying its quality to their own religious framework as Christians, Jews, or even Hindus and Buddhists.

Beyond the various claims to authority, correctness, and orthodoxy of institutional Islam is a transformative spirit that we meet in ordinary Muslims. Rooted in an intimate connection with the still and quiet, yet majestic and awesome Sustaining Power of existence, this transformative spirit is betrayed by anything in humans that is self-assertive, aggressive, exclusive, or dogmatic. The Prophet Muhammad has said, Every religion has its characteristic virtue, and the virtue of Islam is modesty. And it is the human model that is Muhammad that offers us an integration and embodiment of this high truth. It is his character and virtues that bear witness to the possibility of living under the inspiration and guidance of this higher, holistic reality. The spirit of Muhammad lives on in the hearts of countless ordinary Muslims inspired by him.

The term holistic is also used here as a corrective to suggest an organic wholeness that is obscured when we focus primarily on outer observances, formulations of belief, and doctrine. While the term holistic Islam does not occur in the Qur’an, butthe term Din al-Haqq, the religion of the Real, does; suggesting a phenomenon beyond institutional religion and theological formulation, as when it says the religion of truth will prevail over all religion. This is precisely what we mean by holistic Islam, a higher force which when experienced brings with it a quality of certainty that is not dogmatic and exclusive, but liberating, comprehensive, and universal.

Above all, holistic Islam is transformative, a pathway leading from a limited egoic consciousness distorted by bias and contradictory desires, toward higher states of awareness and realization (ma‘rifah) and unconditional love (rahmah). In contrast to this, dogmatic, prescriptive religion is one-dimensional and missing the very essence of the original revelation and the prophetic example. Instead of a system of legal prescription, holistic Islam is a path of spiritual perception. Instead of a religion of fear, it is a religion of Love.

Too often today, Islam is being offered in a form that has lost its connection with the spiritual energy of its origin. Islamic teaching today sometimes seems like a massive edifice suffering from deferred maintenance. It may have its beauties, but it also has its obsolescent features and hazards. This building, which is inspired by a divine revelation, is nevertheless formulated by human beings and therefore a man-made construct. As such, it always has the potential to become an idol worshipped for its own sake, obscuring its true purpose.

This once impressive building has also suffered from ill-considered and often tasteless attempts at renovation. In recent decades, especially, from certain angles the edifice has become almost unrecognizable. The expense of keeping it up grows greater by the day, and while many people express dissatisfaction with its condition, few people seem able to offer comprehensive solutions.

There is, however, a living tradition that has survived within Islam and, to a great extent, preserved its essence. It is a school of love, rooted in the Prophet Muhammad’s beautiful character, flexibility, patience, and kindness. In this school of love, awareness is awakened, attention is trained, the heart is purified, and the purpose of Islam is realized. Without creating idols of dogmas, institutions, or personalities, it is fully capable of offering a spirituality adequate to the times. A spirituality that is moral without being puritanical, that is rigorous without being rigid, that is beautiful without being ostentatious, that can heal a wounded humanity and contribute to the elevation of civilization and culture. This is what we mean by holistic Islam.


The Legend of Fruit

Once there were three men who came from a land where there was no fruit, but only legends of fruit. So all three of them went in search of the legendary thing called fruit, and eventually, since this thing called fruit is not so impossibly rare, they each found their way to a real fruit tree.

One of the men had read a great deal about fruit, and thought himself an expert on the subject, but when he eventually came to a fruit tree, he was so preoccupied with the many descriptions he had read, that he failed to recognize it as an actual fruit tree.

The second man, who was of a very rigid, literalist temperament, found a tree, but the fruit on it were beginning to rot. Disappointed, he decided he was not interested in fruit after all.

The third man also came upon a tree with overripe fruit, but he took the time to examine it, and discovered that inside the fruit was a stone. He took the stone back to his native land and showed it to some wise friends, who recognized that this stone was in fact a seed which he could plant and nurture, and eventually there would be produced that legendary something called fruit.

A World Out of Balance

There are many reasons to believe that we are at an unprecedented point of global crisis. Our world today is more out of balance than ever before in human history: ecologically, economically, socially, and spiritually. Not only are the species (ummahs)¹ of the land, but the species of the sky and sea are suffering and dying. Forgetting the sacredness of all life, we have become entangled in our own egoistic, nationalistic, and sectarian concerns.

Among the issues of great concern are, first, the displacement of traditional spiritual values by the globalization of consumer culture and commercial values. Second, there is the growing power of finance capital, which propagates itself for the short-term benefits of certain elites. The result is like a cancer consuming the systems upon which all life depends, and leaving social disruption and ecological disaster in its wake. Finally, there is the pressing need for dialogue between Islamic civilization and other religions, ideologies, and societies.

Those Muslims who believe this is an inherent conflict between Islam and the West are missing something very important. It is not simply a question of Islam and the West, of faith versus materialism or kufr, unbelief. Rather it is a gap between those who stand on the side of true humanness and those who represent the dehumanizing influences that threaten our souls and our very existence.

Pre-Islamic Arabian society, based in superstition, social injustice, and tribal warfare, was called a society of jahiliyyah or ignorance. The jahiliyyah of today is the sum total of forces that are bringing humanity to this point of global crisis.

The events of September 11, 2011 seem to have set the West and Islam on a collision course. Whatever the truth of that day may be, it would be a tragic mistake to conclude that Islam is intrinsically at odds with the best values of the West or the universal human values that might be recognized from east to west, and from north to south.

Unfortunately, the nominally Christian West (especially as it exists in the United States) fails to grasp that its own godless foe is not Islam, which shares profoundly in all the best values of the Abrahamic legacy, but the godless Mammon represented by the bottom-line profit-driven mentality of global corporatism that is undermining the best values of Western civilization. It is the maximize-the-bottom-line-profits mentality that makes it almost impossible even for people of good will to change the suicidal direction of contemporary corporate culture and the militarism that defends it.

The haves become either complacent or impotent with guilt. The have-nots try even harder to make it in the materialistic ethic or resort to forms of extremism. Even relatively poor nations have become enslaved to an international weapons industry, while the one remaining superpower finds it necessary to spend as much on weapons as the rest of the world combined.

All of this violence is motivated by irrational fears and unconscious impulses that we clothe in ideological dress. The resulting misunderstandings are great. On the side of the West is a general ignorance of Islamic culture and teachings, and too often a self-righteous conviction that we alone represent democratic values and a respect for the freedom of the individual.

On the side of Islamic cultures, unfortunately, is a preoccupation with the past and a lack of creative, engaged thinking on the issues facing the world today. At a time when the world is experiencing an explosion of knowledge, on one hand, and unprecedented challenges to sustaining life on Earth on the

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