Saturday, October 24, 2009

Intimate Connection to God




 One of my classes this semester is Religion & Spirituality in Europe. Are Europeans becoming less religious? Does the fact that fewer and fewer people go to church mean anything? How many people still believe in God? So far, we've found that actually the majority of Dutch people do believe in God, but are simply detaching themselves from religious institutions like the Church. A new type of religiosity is forming, that includes aspects of new-age spirituality for example. Religion now seems to be much more personal & private.

A comment during one class struck me. Someone mentioned that for many Dutch people (and probably other Europeans too), God is not something they think about a lot. Maybe once a while one may spend some time thinking about life, God, death, etc, but it is not a conscious every-day experience. This made me realize how it is the opposite for me, as a Muslim. A large part of my day is spent either thinking about God, or worshiping him - consciously and unconsciously.

There is, of course, prayer. But aside from that, I find that God is always on my mind, or at least somewhere in the back of my mind.  Every decision I take involves thinking about what God would think, whether it was right, whether it is sunnah, etc. So in effect, God-related thoughts are often in my head.

This is truly one of my favourite things about Islam. There is a constant connection between you & God. And this connection is very beneficial for society in general. If I'm in a rush and all I want to do is push the slow-walking people in front of me but I refrain from doing so because I know it's wrong and God wouldn't be very happy about it, I'm doing something good. Of course we should all we doing these things anyway - if something is wrong I shouldn't do it, without having to use God's displeasure as another reason. But realistically, there are many small things I'm tempted to do every day (even though I know they're wrong) and I usually refrain because I know God wouldn't be happy.

This personal relationship is amazing. It strikes me as being so much better (for us humans) than a relationship with a distant deity that I only stop and think about once in a while, or during the "big moments". These small moments make up life, and by thinking of God during them, I'm ensuring that God is a constant part of my life. It also means that I'm constantly realizing things that I'm not sure of the Islamic position on, and this encourages me to find them out and thus acquire more knowledge.

"But we are nearer to him than his jugular vein." 50:16

16 comments:

Mina said...

Mashallah sis, such a beautifully written post, i loved reading that...I agree we have to be conscious of Allah at all times and I love the way you said before you do anything you think would GOD be happy with this? thus i should refrain from doing it...

I think many of us fail to understand how Allah is so close to us Subhanallah...And I don't think your wrong to say that religion has become so much more personal and private....

Its truly sad when people only think of GOD when there's death or trouble about or thinking about life if only we would stop to think everyday Will Allah be pleased with this --- Like you have said...

Wonderful post as always sis, May Allah reward you for your good deeds, Ameen.

Stacy aka Fahiima said...

Along with Islam, Pentecostal denominations are also gaining adherents. I think this is true because much like Islam, they offer the worshiper a more experience-based worship and have more of a communal focus.

Sarah Elizabeth said...

I notice many people moving away from organized religion in general and instead merely calling themselves spiritual. I think many people blame organized religion for the woes of the world and feel disconnected.

Jasmine said...

I'm with Sarah Elizabeth on this one - I dont think people have stopped thinking about God at all - it dominates almost every conversation I have ever had with most of the people I have ever met.

Its organised religion that people have stayed away from. In the UK for example it's become a commonly cited phrase that a man becomes a priest if he has a taste for young boys, and now homosexuals are getting married, and women are priests etc etc - the culture in England is that "if your life is connected to a church then you will most definitely be a paeodophile of sorts, or there is something else seriously wrong with you" and mosques in the UK (Thanks to the Finsbury park mosques and Leicester mosques) have become a place where hatred is preached. Also, in England there is advertising on the tubes that read: "there's probably no God, so stop worrying about it and get on with your life" - and suchlike.

What's happening is that corruption in churches and mosques, along with a serious cultural backlash of religion and relgious activties has led to people keeping such matters private and personal. In London, in particular - if you say to someone that you believe in God they really do think that you are lacking in some level of IQ OR they consider you a danger and back away from you.

Cultural attacks, in the form of media uproars about certain religious groups, films such as Angels and Demons and its like - have basically slandered religion and given it an unsavory image which repells people.

I would conclude that people are still thinking about GOd, but are also distrusting of people who are "too religious"

SarahC said...

I think material buoyancy has made people in Europe less mindful of God. We can easily live under the illusion that we are in total control of our lives.

Plus the common trend towards thinking that science disproves God.

Traditional churchgoers are a dying breed because it no longer seems relevant to their lives. The only people who go to church will probably soon be the hardcore believers who make religion the centre of their life. These people are also contributing to pushing traditional attenders away from church. My parents left because they found such people intolerable. It's not that there's anything bad about them, they just take the Bible literally and believe non-Christians will go to hell and my parents (and probably others) can't stomach that kind of black-and-white view.

When I visited Algeria, seeing how traditional religion there is incorporated into daily life really touched me. It's real and relevant without being too "out there". Possibly it was more like that in Europe in the past.

Mrs. S said...

People have to a certain extent realized that you don't need God to be religious or to be religious to believe in God.

To comment on what SarahC said about “hardcore” believers. I’ve actually heard that there is this sort of idea, that at some point there will be very few people practicing religions, but the few that do will be “hardcore” believers.

I agree with you, that one of the aspects I appreciate most about Islam is that God is constant in my day in structured and unstructured, conscious and unconscious forms. I also enjoy that going to the mosque isn’t a special occasion trip, but an every day, casually stop by to pray or see who’s there in addition to those “special” occasions.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Mina - aww, thanks for that lovely comment! It made my day :))

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Stacy - that's interesting. It's strange since many religions have a communal focus.
If this applies to Holland, I wonder why so many Dutch people don't go to church anymore if it's community they're after.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah Elizabeth: I totally agree, I think the church in Europe in particular really made big mistakes, and are now paying for it. People are turning to a more private form of religion. They haven't stopped believing in God, but rather in organized religion and the church.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Jasmine - I agree. Like I said in the post, Dutch people do still believe in God or that there's something out there, but are just moving away from organized religion.

I can see many Muslims doing this in the future too, with the way sheikhs, khutbas, and mosques are going.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

SarahC: To add to that, I think many young Europeans are looking to be religious in other ways. That's also something we discussed in our class. Instead they are turning to spirituality and new-age religion, as opposed to the church, etc.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Mrs S - I love what you said about people realizing they don't need to be religious to believe in God. It seems like what's happening in many European countries today.

Sara said...

Interesting post! I think that's how it is for some of us...because we were raised for God to be part of our daily life...some people just aren't raised that way...

And it's hard for me to picture my life otherwise!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sara - you're right. I wasn't raised that way though, it's something that just happened when I became religious. I love it!

Hicham Maged said...

I enjoyed this, Cairo-Lusaka-Amesterdam and as Muslim, I understand what you say.

As for your question, the actual problem is in the way (religious institutions) deal with people since more than 600 years ago, espcially while commiting atrocities in the name of god plus many other factos that made people fear from 'religion' in general. In parallel, I think you're aware about how the separation between 'the state' and 'the chruch' happened in Western Civilisation due to many factors however still people want to reach the truth about God.

That's why I don't think "God" has been forgotten from people's mind because actually all forms of conversations spins arround him when believers and atheists struggle for example, or when other people try to reach him via (new-age) sprituality.

By the way, we always concentrate on Western Civilisation and forgot that there is another people who also try to reach 'God' on their own way, eitheir in Eastern Civlisations or Afrcian belifes which all are "non-divine religions" but still trial to reach God.

Man! It's the story of humanity, isn't it?

Muni said...

I have to agree with Jasmine that
"Its organised religion that people have stayed away from". I think even in the Arab world, alot of people practise a more personal relationship with God.

I think it doesn't matter if it's a personal one or a public one, as long as it's genuine and sincere.

Isn't it also true that governments in Europe aren't exactly (and haven't been) backing up the religious institutions? I'm not very sure, but I think this was around WWII.

Great post by the way. I agree, it's the small moments that count and not the big revelation type ones!