What is Islamic spirituality?
Spirituality in Islam focuses on purifying one’s inner being, and then on manifesting this positive inner change in daily life through ritual worship and ethical conduct.
Islam teaches that God has instilled in all people a predisposition towards having faith, enjoying a meaningful relationship with God, and living a life of doing good. This predisposition is called the fitrah, and it is what causes people to embark on spiritual journeys in pursuit of truth and the meaning of life. The fitrah can only be fully satisfied when it finds God’s Revelation and the teachings of His true prophets.
Lack of faith in God, or baseless spiritual beliefs, can make people feel that their lives are without purpose or meaning.
How is Islamic spirituality unique?
Islamic spirituality is holistic. It fulfills the needs of both the body and the soul, and encourages believers to manifest the highest ideals and virtues in their lives.
While many approaches to spirituality separate the body from the soul, the Qur’an teaches us that they are naturally interwoven. For instance, the daily Muslim prayer is a deeply spiritual practice, but it consists of both spiritual contemplation and movements of the body. This serves to move both our physical and spiritual selves towards a deeper connection with God.
Another example is that physical appetites are not shamed in Islam. Instead, the natural human desires for food, drink, and intimacy should be enjoyed and celebrated (within the boundaries set by God). Living with both the body and soul in mind helps people achieve physical and emotional balance, and encourages the spiritual state of gratitude—two aims that God rewards in this life and the next.
Islamic spirituality also pursues societal wellbeing. Private worship is crucial for developing sincerity with God, but believers must also work to bring divine consciousness into the world. This means that every Muslim should strive to emulate divine qualities. For instance, those who are compassionate with others are closer to Allah, who is the Most Compassionate. Those who are selfless with their money and time are more in sync with God, who is the Most Generous; and those striving to end conflict understand that Allah is the Source of Peace.
How does Islam understand the soul?
The Islamic conception of the soul is that it is not a physical thing that can be studied. Rather, the focus should be on understanding how it can help us achieve spiritual growth.
The human soul is a non-physical essence that cannot be observed through any scientific instruments. Muslims focus on understanding the nature and function of the soul, rather than on questions about the soul’s location or physical existence.
The relationship of the soul to the body is a mystery beyond human comprehension.
“They ask you concerning the soul. Say that the soul is from the affair of my Lord and you have not been given knowledge except a portion.”
How can we confirm the soul’s existence if it cannot be seen or fully understood? In an Islamic worldview, the function and effect of the soul are clear. It is seen in the universal drive towards spiritual experiences and beliefs. Divine ideals of beauty, love, compassion, and justice are all aims of the human soul in Islam and expressed spiritually through the mediums of art, poetry, ritual, and religious tradition.
So how can we best fulfill this need to nourish the soul? God says,
“So turn your face toward the true natural way of life-God’s chosen fitrah (constitution) upon which He has formed humanity. There is no altering the primary state of God’s creation. That is the correct way of life, though men fail to realize it. It is the path of turning towards God, remaining dutiful to Him, establishing prayer, and being not of those who ascribe partners to Him.”
What is divine revelation in Islam?
Divine revelation was sent to many prophets throughout history and across the world, with one united message: God alone is worthy of worship, and believers must seek to do as much good as possible.
Divine revelation is consistent with Islam’s conception of people as innately wired for worship, and of God as the supreme source of love, mercy, and kindness.
God sent revelations throughout history to guide human beings to Him. While the fitrah—the natural human tendency towards good—leads people to many universal values, humans cannot know the full message of God or achieve spiritual fulfillment without revelation.
Revelation was given to the prophets and messengers, who were human beings elected by God due to their moral excellence. From Adam to Moses to Jesus (peace be upon them all), each messenger was sent to spread divine knowledge and act as a role model for how to live a pious, ethical life. Through the messages that were inspired into their hearts by God, the prophets and messengers were elevated to stations of self-enlightenment and holistic virtue. This is the essence of divine revelation in Islam.
The Qur’an is the last and final divine revelation from God to Earth. It addresses a global audience and guides them to God. In contrast to earlier revelations, such as the Psalms of David, which were intended for a specific time and place, the Qur’an is meant to be a clear message from God for humanity—a culmination of all the previously revealed scriptures throughout history.
How do we know the Qur’an was divinely revealed?
There are many proofs for the divine origin of the Qur’an, including the cohesiveness of its message, the eloquence of its language, the future events it foretold, and the circumstances in which it was revealed.
The Qur’an is a literary masterpiece of history, guidance, and inspiration revealed through the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, who was an illiterate man. Arabs of the 7th century were masters of language and poetry, and yet, when they heard the Qur’an being recited, they recognized that it was something new and special. Its language and rhythm outperformed the highest levels of their poetry and speech.
When examining the Qur’an, we can recognize its divine origin simply by looking at the message and the ethical worldview it presents. The focus of the entire revelation is to bring humanity towards God without any human intermediary.
There was no material gain in the revelation of Islam for Prophet Muhammad, who brought this message to the world despite facing hostility, starvation, opression, and resistance from those around him. Muhammad’s selfless commitment to the mission points towards the Qur’an being a genuine Divine revelation.
What does Islam offer to people?
To be a Muslim is to have a holistic and balanced approach to life that enables individuals to be free of restrictive societal expectations and live up to their full potential.
Islam offers certain guidance through divine revelation (the Qur’an) and prophetic tradition (the Sunnah) to provide structure, dignity, and morality to all people. It provides a consistent and logical philosophical foundation rooted in pure monotheism. It provides people with the courage and resilience to confront life’s stresses, anxieties, and griefs.
What is tawheed?
Tawheed is the comprehensive understanding of monotheism in Islam. It describes the absolute oneness and unity of God.
This version of monotheism affirms that God alone deserves to be worshiped and that He has no equal and no partners. It emphasizes that God is the singular Creator and Fashioner of all things in the universe. God can be known through His divinely revealed names and attributes in the Qur’an.
How do we know God exists?
The Islamic understanding and case for God’s existence is straightforward. Together, the faculties of heart and mind lead us to recognize God’s existence. This truth of theism is accessible to everyone, regardless of background or education.
Both of Islam’s foundational texts show that a belief in God’s existence is formed in two ways:
- By appealing to the heart, intuition, and experience.
- By appealing to the mind, logic, and reason.
Conviction in God’s existence comes from achieving harmony between the heart and mind. In Islamic teachings, human instincts recognize the need for a higher power as a result of a covenant made between mankind and God.
In the Qur’an, we learn that before the creation of the world, God gathered every soul together. In this divine gathering, mankind recognized God’s existence and committed to serving as His pious earthly servants.
This initial meeting of every soul with God is what drives human beings to seek out a spiritual path and higher power. In Islam, recognizing God’s existence is an in-built feature of one’s fitrah (natural disposition). It is felt through the practices of faith such as prayer, and through the rejuvenation of the heart during these devotional acts.
The feelings of the heart and soul are confirmed by our intuitive understanding of the world. The purposeful creation of the universe, and the undeniable precision with which the laws of nature function, appeal to our sense of logic and reason.
Why does God ask people to worship Him?
Calling humanity to worship in Islam is understood as an invitation to a comprehensive life plan which includes both worship and ethical living. Through this plan, people can find purpose and fulfillment.
Wondrous is the affair of the believer as there is good for him in every matter, and this is not true for anyone but the believer. If he is pleased, then he thanks God and that is good for him. If he is harmed, then he shows patience and that is good for him.
[Prophetic saying, Sahih Muslim #2999]
It was from God’s compassionate nature, as well as His complete knowledge about what fulfills us, that He asked us to worship Him. He does not benefit from our worship; all of the benefit of prayer is for people.
God transcends all human characteristics, needs, and impulses. Calling humanity to worship in Islam is understood as an invitation to find meaning and live within God’s plan.
Through worship, a believer receives a strong moral foundation, better understands their role in the universe, and gains access to authentic self-actualization, peace, and contentment. Worship keeps our sense of purpose constant and allows us to earn eternal rewards in every circumstance, whether it be a moment of joy or time of hardship.
How does Islam address destiny and free will?
In addressing destiny and free will The Qur’an and Sunnah follow a middle path between the two extremes of unrestricted free will and fatalism.
Belief in destiny, or God’s power in determining events, is one of the six articles of faith in Islam. However, Islam also notes that fate, destiny, or divine decree do not mean that people have no agency or free will. Ultimately, everyone is responsible for their own actions and choices.
The early Muslims used to say in their prayers, “O God, if You have decreed me among the damned, then wipe it away from me and affirm me among the blessed.”
In other words, while Allah has willed all matters in an absolute and unchanging sense, there are portions of destiny that He allowed to be influenced by our actions.
The Qur’an and Sunnah follow a middle path between the extremes of complete free will and complete pre-determination. God knows about all things before they happen, and He decrees them into existence with limitless power—but He also delegated a share of agency to human beings in order to fairly test their deeds, which will be evaluated on the Day of Judgment.
What Islam Says About...