Someone sent me an email and asked, is there anything like spirituality? This is like asking whether there is anything like rationality or intelligence or love. Of course spirituality is real. The question is how you define it.
Etymologically spiritual means anything that relates to spirit or soul and not to physical nature and matter.
For a Christian, spirituality means having an intimate and personal relationship with God who exists outside of the creation and has revealed himself in the form of a man in the person of Jesus Christ, like sun shining in a mirror.
Non-religious, secular people define spirituality in a humanistic term. They emphasize on morality and qualities such as love, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness, responsibility, and concerns for others, and “aspects of life and human experience which go beyond a purely materialist view of the world without necessarily accepting belief in a supernatural reality or divine being.” 1
So a basic definition of spirituality is the quality of one’s sensitivity to the things that are not of material and corporal nature. Eating, drinking, physical comfort and sex are functions of the body, whereas love, fairness, compassion and kindness are faculties of the spirit. These are qualities that cannot be directly perceived by our senses but they can be felt powerfully and whose effects can be deduced or inferred by our observations.
For most people, spirituality means focusing on “the inside of life.” This definition is more or less accepted by people of all faiths and no faith.
Basic to this understanding is the premise that we regard humans, and perhaps the rest of creation, as something more than just matter. It presupposes that there is a reality in every living being that is immaterial, invisible and beyond our present knowledge. There is something in us more than what we can perceive with our senses. We are not the same person as twenty years ago. Every cell and every atom in our body is changed and yet I am still the same person and you are the same. There is something constant in us. That is what we call “I.” The attributes of this “I” change, but the “I” itself does not change.
Will this “I” perish after our body stops functioning or will it survive it? Is it a function of the body, like light in a lamp, or a component of it, like electricity? If it is a function then it is fair to say that the function ceases when the instrument stops working. But if it is a component, one can argue that it can survive even when the instrument is no longer working. Electricity exists even when the lamp is burned. Let us not get into this subject now. Firstly because it is complicated and secondly because I don’t know the answer. And let us say this “I” is our spirit.
What Spirituality Is Not
I don’t expect to understand spirituality in a rational way. If spirituality is defined as love, compassion, tolerance and sacrifice, there is little room for reason to explain it. A person who jumps into an icy river and risks his own life to save the life of a stranger is not acting according to reason. This person’s action can only be understood spiritually.
James Martin in his book “My Life with the Saints,” published in 2006, narrates a story about Mother Theresa. A man saw her cleaning the wounds of a leper and said, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars,” Mother Teresa replied, “Neither would I.”
Mother Theresa’s action cannot be explained rationally. But it can be understood spiritually. She did this for love. She said to the man, “But I would gladly do it for Christ.” She saw Christ or God in that leper.
There is no way to explain this rationally, but it cannot be dismissed either. It inspires us, uplifts us, moves us and makes us better.
In his first letter to Corinthians (2:14) Paul wrote, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
If this passage is to explain the love of Mother Theresa for the leper, it makes perfect sense. What she did can only be understood though spiritual discernment. But if we take this passage as a license to believe in any gobbledygook, any absurdity and nonsense then that is not spirituality. It is foolishness plain and simple.
Let us take the example of the story of the creation in the Genesis. The literal interpretation of that book goes against science, reason and commonsense. It is foolishness to accept that explanation as how the world has come to be. That story is proven wrong. Love and sacrifice, although cannot be explained rationally, don’t go against it. So let it be clear that by spirituality we don’t mean stupidity.
If we were to accept anything that goes against reason “spiritually”, meaning. uncritically and blindly, then how can we distinguish truth from falsehood? How can we reject the absurd claims made by Muhammad, or any other impostor? Shall we believe in his Mi’raj, or his other absurd claims? If not, why not? If every nonsense claim is to be accepted “spiritually” we are left with no tool to separate the wheat from the chaff and differentiate between truth and falsehood. Belief in absurdity is not spirituality. There is nothing spiritual in being stupid.
Is Spirituality in Harmony with Reason?
True spirituality is never contrary to reason. You need to have an understanding of art and beauty in order to appreciate a symphony or a painting. Likewise, you have to have spiritual awareness in order to perceive the harmony of the universe.
Human’s great minds were often spiritual people. In his book, Einstein: His Life and Universe the author Walter Isaacson writes, “It may seem logical, in retrospect, that a combination of awe and rebellion made Einstein exceptional as a scientist. But what is less well known is that those two traits also combined to shape his spiritual journey and determine the nature of his faith. The rebellion part comes in at the beginning of his life: he rejected at first his parents’ secularism and later the concepts of religious ritual and of a personal God who intercedes in the daily workings of the world. But the awe part comes in his 50s when he settled into a deism based on what he called the “spirit manifest in the laws of the universe” and a sincere belief in a “God who reveals Himself in the harmony of all that exists.”
Einstein’s Jewish parents had become completely Germanized and secularized. They did not keep kosher or attend synagogue. His father, Herman, referred to Jewish rituals as “ancient superstition.” So when it was time for Albert to go to school, they sent him to one that was closer and did not care that it was a Catholic School.
As the only Jew among the 70 students in his class, Einstein took the standard course in Catholic religion and it was then that he fell in love with Jesus. Decades later he said, “I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”
When he was 10, someone gave him science books which he read with breathless attention. By the age of 12 he rejected God altogether. He later wrote, “Through the reading of popular scientific books, I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of free thinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression.”
Einstein did, however, had a profound faith in, and reverence for the harmony and beauty of what he called the mind of God as it was expressed in the creation of the universe and its laws.
In a dinner party, when Einstein had turned 50, a guest expressed a belief in astrology. Einstein ridiculed the notion as pure superstition. Another guest stepped in and similarly disparaged religion. Belief in God, he insisted, was likewise a superstition. At this point the host tried to silence him by invoking the fact that even Einstein harbored religious beliefs. “It isn’t possible!” the skeptical guest said, turning to Einstein to ask if he was, in fact, religious. “Yes, you can call it that,” Einstein replied calmly. “Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in fact, religious.” (Isaacson)
When asked whether he believes in God, Einstein responded, “I’m not an atheist. I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”
I call myself an atheist. It is not that I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in the god that is being taught to us. When Galileo rejected the geocentricity of the universe, he did not reject the universe; he rejected people’s understanding of it. Likewise, I reject peoples understanding of God. In reality, my god is not much different from the god of Einstein, although I believe I am more of a pantheist. I don’t seek God in religious texts, in churches and temples. I seek IT in the melody of life – in the faces of little children, and not just human children, children of all creatures. God for me is in anything that emanates love. IT is not in the skies; it’s right here inside every person and every animal. To quote Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
Babies are the source of my spirituality. I see God in children of all kinds
Like the rays of sun shining in different objects and reflecting back differently, everyone is born as a manifestation of God reflecting IT’s light differently. I see God in every living being and because of that I value life. I think respect for life is an essential ingredient of spirituality. In one interview, Bill Maher was asked how he can reconcile his support for abortion, which is a liberal cause with his support for death penalty, which is a conservative cause. He said, life does not have much value, even dogs can do it (give birth to living beings). I wish I could ask him whether he thinks that his life also has no value or is it just the lives of others that are worthless.
For me life is the most precious thing that exists. Look at the vastness of the universe and the small size of the Earth in it. As far as we know, the Earth is the only place where life can exist. Anything which is rare is precious. Nothing is rarer than life. There are dead suns that are made entirely of diamond. I am not talking about mountains of diamond. The whole damn star is made of diamond. Other dead stars are full of heavy metals including gold, platinum and silver.What is scarce is life.
People often misunderstood or perhaps deliberately misinterpreted Einstein’s religious beliefs. So in the summer of 1930 he composed a credo titled, “What I Believe.” He explained: “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.”
This did not satisfy those who wanted a straightforward answer as to whether Einstein believed in God or not. Orthodox Jewish leader in New York, Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein, send a very direct telegram to Einstein: “Do you believe in God? Stop. Answer paid. 50 words.” Einstein used only about half his allotted number of words. It became the most famous version of an answer he gave often: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”
Although he rejected the orthodox interpretation of God, Einstein was consistent in rejecting the charge that he was an atheist. “There are people who say there is no God,” he told a friend. “But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.”
Unlike many atheists of his time and our time, Einstein never denigrated those who believed in God; instead, he tended to denigrate atheists. “What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos,” he explained.
“In fact, Einstein tended to be more critical of debunkers, who seemed to lack humility or a sense of awe, than of the faithful,” Writes Isaacson. “The fanatical atheists,” he wrote in a letter, “are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who–in their grudge against traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’– cannot hear the music of the spheres.”
To avoid any misunderstanding, he also emphasized, “The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God.”
Einstein, did not believe in supernatural. “For some people,” writes Isaacson, “miracles serve as evidence of God’s existence. For Einstein it was the absence of miracles that reflected divine providence. The fact that the world was comprehensible, that it followed laws, was worthy of awe.”
Spirituality in Islam
Now that I gave a brief description of spirituality it becomes clear that Muhammad had no understanding of it. He had no appreciation for life. He killed anyone who was not useful to him. If they did not believe in him, if they did not help him to conquer and loot, or if they did not work for him as slaves and dhimmis, he got rid of them.
His celebrations of festivities require spilling the blood of animals. What kind of god is this that demands blood to be pleased? I respect Hinduism because it respects life.
Islam’s diabolic rituals known as Eid. These are the occasions Muslims rejoice.
Muhammad’s afterlife is this-worldly. In his paradise, people are rewarded with carnal pleasures such as gluttony, debauchery and coition. There are no libraries, museums or art centers in his paradise. The poor man could not envision the joy of reading and had no understanding of finer things in life. He was only aware of the sensations in his penis and his belly. His hell is also a physical place where his detractors are tortured and roasted and are made to eat pus. The words spiritual and spirituality do not appear in the Quran, not once. Isn’t that incredible? Muslims seek spiritual guidance from a book that does not mention that word at all. Imagine you want to learn golf, and buy a book that does not mention golf anywhere. I don’t know how much you Muslims want to fool your selves, but that is what you are doing. The concepts of love, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness and responsibility were also alien to Muhammad. He could only understand obedience. He was indeed a man with a very underdeveloped and primitive mind.
For the Sufis, this represented a problem. Instead of accepting the fact that Islam is completely bereft of spirituality, they claimed that the Quran has two contradictory meanings. One its outer meaning, (the shell) which is its apparent meaning and the other, which is entirely different, is its inner meaning (the pith) that can be understood only by those who are spiritually purified.
This of course became another source of power and self glorification for some to teach others how to interpret the hidden meanings of the Quran. They formed schools, collected disciples and called themselves saints and holy men – men specially endowed with insights that ordinary people did not possess. In reality they were a bunch of charlatans deceiving others. There is no secret knowledge in the Quran.
The Sufis were opposed and rejected by the majority of Muslims as heretics. They were accused of twisting the meaning of the Quran. The argument presented by the Sufis is flatly rejected by the Quran itself, which repeatedly claims to be a “clear book” (5:15) “easy to understand” (44:58 , 54:22 , 54:32, 54:40) “explained in detail” (6:114), “conveyed clearly” (5:16, 10:15) and with “no doubt” in it (2:1). The author of the Quran wanted it to be read and understood literally. Any interpretation of the Quran that is not consistent with its apparent meaning is to be rejected. Sufism is not Islam. It is a heretic faith and a deception. If Muhammad were alive, he would have burned the Sufis just as he burned his followers in the mosque of Dhu Awan because someone told him they are interpreting the Quran in their way and don’t believe in Jihad.
Spirituality is therefore, many things. It can be the sense of awe vis-à-vis the universe (Einstein), or it can be reverence for life (Jainism). It can mean communion with God (Christianity) and it can mean service to fellow beings (Mother Theresa). And it can mean nurturing love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, responsibility, sacrifice and fairness (Buddhism and humanism). Being spiritual means being an evolved human. It means being aware of good and evil and choosing good over evil. Attaining spirituality should be the main goal of every person. As a spiritual person you transcend names and can see good wherever it occurs.
Richard Dawkins believes no one who believes in God should be elected as the president of the United States. He prefers Obama, despite him claiming to be a Christian and believing in God, because he knows that Obama’s faith is a fake like his birth certificate. Dawkins prefers a conman, one who will bankrupt America and bring chaos to the world to a good Christian even though the Christian is more qualified. Qualifications don’t matter, says Dawkins, it is the belief, or rather disbelief that matters. This is not spirituality to me. This is Islamic thinking that I rejected a long time ago and will not accept it in the guise of atheism. If you are not fair, you are not spiritual. If you can see goodness in others and appreciate their value irrespective of who they are, their belief, their gender or race, then you can call yourself spiritual – an evoled human.
There are many paths to spirituality. Islam is not one. Anything that makes you a better person is a spiritual path. The more you immerse yourself in Islam the darker your soul becomes. Born to carry the light of God, once you start following Muhammad, you become evil. Your thoughts become demonic. The hatred of your fellow being fills your heart, leaving no room for love. You become the manifestation of Devil. Even the faces of the very devout Muslims show that evilness. Amazingly people become ugly when they become devout Muslims. I don’t know how to explain this rationally but it is an observable fact. Just look at the faces of the terrorists. These are the most devout Muslims. Or look at the faces of the leaders of Islamic parties. There is something very evil in their eyes. Islam is an anti-spiritual creed. It does not make you a better person. The more you follow it the worse you become. It is a creed that makes monsters out of angels. If I believed in Satan I would say Islam is Satan’s plot to destroy this world and take everyone to hell.