Posts from November 2016

Silence As A Cure For Hypocrisy

November 30, 2016

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As I listened to my playlist a sudden thought came over me: “Am I a hypocrite?” There are two times in my life when I stopped listening to music -both for religious reasons. The first time was under a more “Salafi” influence. I was never a “Salafi” but back when I was a kid through to my late teens/early twenties I thought they were the most religious group among Muslims and so the closer one could emulate them, the better. I don’t recall what arguments I listened to or from who but I was convinced listening to music was haram and stopped doing so for a period of time I also included occasional rants to my family about how music was haram during that period, but eventually, I would listen to music again.

The second time I stopped listening to music was more recently under the general advice of my Sufi sheikh to his mureeds. His reasons were two-fold -evidence in some schools of jurisprudence to point to the forbidden nature of music through the forbidding of particular instruments and the vile nature of mainstream music -what is it but the outpouring of the nafs (lower self)? So why waste your time with it? To be clear he wasn’t against all “music” since some music was in fact closely linked to the Tariqa itself, Sheikh Shaghouri (the sheikh’s sheikh) was a composer of music. But the music was the outpouring of one who longed for God and occasionally used nothing more then a duff (a type of drum) as accompaniment.

After living among the sheikh and his mureeds for two years, I returned home to America. I began listening to music again, for what reasons I’m not sure. The only hard reason I’m cognizance of is a longing to be -in some small way, a part of the larger culture -black culture in particular. I felt that the more religious I became the more estranged I was from the black community, listening to Solange and Beyonce helped me reconnect. It’s not a good excuse and I hope to get back to that place when it was easier to do as the sheikh said, when it came naturally.

After only fours years I see the path slipping from my hands if I don’t make a more earnest effort to keep it. I was a better mureed in the first two years than in the second two. But I know that a part of the issue was saying too much when I first began to practice the spiritual path. Whatever my sheikh said I tried to do earnestly and I tried to convince others it was worth while, that was a mistake. The time I spent attempting to convince others -often unwittingly, should have been spent traveling the path. Maybe a part of it is because when other people aren’t convinced after hearing all the same information, you begin to doubt yourself. If they don’t get it, maybe I’m wrong?

But not every path is for everyone, through God’s grace we each have a way. Silence is so valuable when beginning any path. If you’re convinced, be convinced, let the outcome speak for itself. I remember one brother telling me that his path to the Tariqa happened when he saw someone praying. “There was just something about the way he prayed, I wanted to know more” I recall him telling me. That simple act took him towards the spiritual path -not a lecture but a presence that spoke to him.

It happens to many of us, even outside of Tariqas and spiritual paths, I remember becoming vegan as a kid and trying to convince everyone around me to be vegan, they weren’t convinced and at some point I gave up and stopped being convinced myself -even though I could feel its benefits for my body.

So am I a hypocrite because I stopped doing some of the things I told others to do. And the lesson is learned that silence is the cure for hypocrisy. I wasn’t in a position to tell anyone about the spiritual path I’d only just begun myself. I wasn’t in a position to convince anyone of following a path I had not yet seen the outcome of. Maybe, at least in the beginning, this journey is best taken in silence.

What you need vs what you want

November 2, 2016

I was looking at some art, just admiring since I’m far from able to buy anything, and I came across a lot of pieces I took interest in. But I found myself saying “Ooh I love that, but I couldn’t have it in my house”. Despite being in love with moody, monotone and monochromatic works like this piece above by Robert Motherwell I got a sense that it wouldn’t be good for me to have that kind of art in my space.

It reminds of when I was younger. Anytime I felt sad I’d put on some sad music and bring myself further down the rabbit’s hole, it seemed appropriate to put on music that I could relate to. It wasn’t until I was older and chatting with a friend about music tastes and mentioned it, she responded “Really? I always listen to happy music when I’m sad”. She listened to music to inspire a change in mood instead of dwelling on a bad one.

Some of us turn to Allah in times of darkness, looking for light. Others turn to turn to drugs, alcohol, food, etc. which only serve to exacerbate the original issue. It seems heavily due to personality what option we choose but it also has to do with awareness.¬†Once you step outside of yourself, outside of routine and watch yourself do what you do, you then have a choice. It doesn’t make it easy to change, it simply makes it possible. So, when I get the chance to buy a work of art I’ll choose something more colorful and life-giving like this second work by¬†Julianne Strom. Because that’s the kind of energy I need instead of simply the energy I’m attracted to.

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