Islam?

 

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Islam has become the new scapegoat – and favorite shadow projection object – for some in the west.

A lot of what’s going on seems so obvious that it’s hardly worth even mentioning. But if it was that obvious, I guess there wouldn’t be so much (apparently unquestioned) projection.

Here are some things that comes to mind:

Islam has become a favorite projection object for the shadow, for that in ourselves we don’t acknowledge and consciously embrace and own. We see it out there, and not “in here”. In reality, it’s very easy to make a list of all the “bad” things some see in Islam or Islamic cultures today, and find how we do the same – as individuals, nations, and a culture.

Religions may tend to be more or less peaceful in their expression. Buddhism tends to be more at the peaceful end, and the theistic (and Abrahamic) traditions less so. And yet, there is plenty of exceptions. Nothing is inevitable. Religions are, in a sense, tools, and it all depends on how we use them.

Islam isn’t inherently or inevitably less peaceful than, for instance, Christianity. For instance, during the golden age of Islam, Christian cultures tended be be far more barbaric and uncivilized than Islamic cultures. And many Muslims are far more peaceful and mature than many Christians (and vice versa).

The actions of western cultures goes a long way to explain why some in Islamic (and other) cultures are angry, feel powerless, and take to violence. We have acted in a very violent way towards them – economically, culturally, and militarily – so they are just doing the same thing back against us. It’s very understandable, even if a strategy of violence may not work very well. (It seems more a way of letting out frustration and anger.)

Similarly, some western politicians may – intentionally or not – fuel the scapegoating of Islam to distract from more local problems, and what they – and we – are doing that’s equally or more damaging or questionable.

I assume that in some years, when this is part of history and the history books, people will wonder how we – in the west – could have been so blind. How could we have been so blind to the obvious shadow projections? How could we have been so blind to our role in the dynamic? And yet, that’s what we humans tend to do. It’s part of being human.

What we can do is to bring it more into awareness. Be honest with ourselves. Take responsibility for our part of the dance. Perhaps explore this through inquiry, tonglen, ho’oponopono, and other practices.

Longing to know itself

 

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I was a hidden treasure and wished to be known, so I created that I might be known.  
oral Islamic teaching

Everything can be seen as God longing to know itself. 

Everything is God manifesting, exploring and experiencing itself in always new ways. 

And that includes our human life and the longings in our human life. 

The quiet love for God and truth is God longing to know itself through waking up to itself. 

The impulse to seek and wish for anything is God longing to wake up to itself, and to experience itself in its richness. 

All of these are God longing to know itself, filtered through our human life. 

The quiet love for God and truth is there as soon as there is a sense of a separate I. There is – somewhere – a knowing of what we are, a sense of discrepancy between what we are and what we take ourselves to be, and a longing for what we are to wake up to itself. 

When there is a sene of a separate I, there is longing in the form of seeking, wishing, wanting and so on, and these are filtered through our identifications with stories and identities. 

Sometimes, it looks spiritual. It can take the form of devotion, prayer, meditation, selfless action.

Sometimes, it looks mundane. A search for knowledge, status, safety, approval, love, belonging.

Sometimes, it looks less than pretty. Domination. Cruelty. Suffering. Despair. (Love filtered through particularly strong beliefs.)

But it is all God longing to know itself. A longing to wake up, for what we are and everything is to clearly recognize itself. A longing for wholeness, for recognizing the wholeness that is always here as what we are, and for the sense of wholeness we can find in our human life. And a longing for living and experiencing fully and richly this human life. 

It is all included. It is all God longing to know itself, in always new ways. 

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No God but God

 

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Without having much familiarity with the tradition, it seems that the shahadah, lā ilāha illā-llāh, there is no God but God, can be taken in several different ways.

There is the ethnocentric interpretation, taking the Islamic God as the only one, or rather, the Islamic interpretation of God as the only correct one.

Then, the interpretation of the practitioner or faithful, having God as the single or main focus for ones attention and life.

Or the worldcentric one, seeing God as One, with many interpretations and faiths appropriate to the culture and needs of different people.

Or the one of the mystics, seeing all as God, and eventually allowing a sense of separate self to fall away.

The second part of the shahadan, wa muħammadan rasÅ«lu-llāh, means that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and I can’t say I have any problems with that.

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Islam’s golden age

 

In our post-cold war times, where Muslims are the new villains and scapegoats, and the Islamic world the new favorite shadow projection object, it may be good to remember what we owe Islamic culture.

The most obvious example is the role of the Islamic world in the birth of modern Western culture: the Renaissance, which would not have been what it was (or may not have been at all) if it wasn’t for the Islamic Golden Age, and their preservation, enriching and transmission of elements from a wide range of ancient cultures, including the Greek and Roman.