I know, I'm ahead of time. But better too early than too late! Next Sunday in a week, Jan. 18, 2015 is officially declared to be "World Religion Day". I'm supposed to write some lines about this very theme and at this very point in time I have to admit that I have some serious problems doing so easily and effortlessly because a) I'm not feeling very well at all for various very personal reasons at this moment - I seriously even toyed with the idea to permanently close my workshop and call it a day, but I guess I have to at least try and hang on in here doing my little bit, whatever it adds up to - and b) I am very shaken by the recent events taking place on our beloved planet Earth. Some of that has to do with religion or rather what some fanatical people think it is. I can't help it but hear in my mind the famous John Lennon song "IMAGINE" and I do imagine it! Frequently! And vividly! Especially these days!
Currently I have also seriously toyed with the idea to officially declare that I no longer consider myself a Muslim or religious in any way, but that wouldn't be the entire whole-hearted truth, even though I actually do consider myself more spiritual than religious and would thus call the Sufi Tradition as an alive form of spirituality my true home. On the other hand I should not give up my right to claim progressive and universal all-inclusive contemporary Islam as my own rightful faith, even if I am a queer man, and that beyond Sunni/Shia division and beyond any adherence to this, that or the other madhab, or legal school of interpretation - after all Ibn 'Arabi didn't belong to any of those schools, nor did the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH.
But I do have a problem with certain aspects of orthodox religions and some contemporary manifestations in East and West, not just with Islam. I am per se utterly allergic to any form of extremism, violence and fanaticism, and when homopbobia and xenopbobia or racism are expressed under the banner of faith, no matter which. I am also allergic to all those types of people who claim to be the only true believers and who disregard the equal rights of women, LGBT people, minorities and human rights per se. Those who are incapable of accepting and tolerating other people's religious or spiritual beliefs or the lack of them and who have a problem with freedom, pluralism, humor, and satire.
I got news for you: God (no matter how you call him) does have sense of humor! You can bank on that! Regardless if you like it or not. Too bad if laughter is not on your list of religious duties towards yourself and the world we all share.
Hermann Hesse once expressed a very spot on fact, that one can become wise in any religion. But that any religion can also be practiced as the most stupid idolatry. We can see that in humanity's history and still in our contemporary times, wherever we turn there are words of wisdom and light - and there are words of hatred and darkness. This has basically nothing to do with religion per se, but rather with the nature of human beings. In short, it boils down to lack of education, ignorance, the lack of personal perspective, and a problem with the commanding self, the ego or nafs.
I can also find words of wisdom, true knowledge and refined beauty in numerous religions and their cultures, apart from Islam and the Sufi Tradition, and I utterly appreciate the rich diversity when it comes to faith and its global manifestations. Perhaps some forms are easier to relate to than others, however, I do delight in the variety and richness of its different ways and forms. And I'm convinced that each of them has its right to exist and its useful function - excluded are only those who preach hatred, violence and intolerance! Those who are not in harmony with the evolutionary Zeitgeist and our destiny. That must be said clearly and firmly!
From the Sufi Tradition there is tale that the truth was a mirror and it fell down and broke into many pieces. People picked up the pieces and then the devil came and whispered into their ears, convincing them to make a religion out of each piece of the mirror. If we could only see them as parts of a higher unity / totality instead of drawing excluding borders and claiming our tribe to be the only true possessor of the reflected truth of reality, Al-Haqq.
Also from the Sufi Tradition is the following symbolism: When doing sama, the whirling or turning dance, the dervish doing so is firmly anchored in Oneness or God's Unity with his left leg as the axis around which to turn, like an inner Alif - and with the right leg traveling through all the existing religions and spiritual traditions.
I also remember some periods in human history where in certain parts multicultural and multi-religious societies coexisted and co-created very thriving and refined and beautiful cultures - just to give two keywords here as examples: Al-Andalus and Moghul India.
Rumi has a beautiful line for our World Religion Day theme: "The lamps are different, but the light is the same!"
And he also said: "Although you make a hundred knots, the string continues to be one!"
Try to celebrate World Religion Day in the spirit of "unity within diversity" and enjoy it!
Ya Haqq! Ishq bashad, saludos, Rahal (you are welcome to send me some positive vibes for my recovery and insh'Allah feeling better soon, thank you very much - going back on retreat mode)...