Thursday, April 24, 2008

Meditation

A few months ago, I heard Imam Ahmed ElKhaldy from Iowa make a reference to meditation in a talk. I thought it was interesting, because he was talking about khushoo’, concentration in prayer, but he kept referring to it as meditation. He asked the audience to take off their watches, turn off their cell phones, and throw them on the floor in front of them. Time seemed to stop. A fellow MAS Youth Connect Mentor—formerly called an usra leader—in the Bay Area also assigned her group regular meditation sessions (or so I heard from her fascinated audience). I was very intrigued and added to my to-do list ‘learn and study meditation.

I picked up a couple of books from the library and started learning. I really enjoy yoga (what I learned in yoga, with Allah’s help first, walked me through two long, drug-free labors) and there is a similar foundation.

I used to get a kick out of the disclaimer “Yoga is not a religion” that was always posted at the end of the flyer for yoga classes at the Bay Area MCA. It is funny because actually arts of yoga and meditation have so much overlap with the Islamic concepts of self-awareness, concentration, contemplation. In fact, I think we have lost the art of concentration and meditation in modern society and meditation can actually restore a deeper understanding of the how-to for a lot of Islamic acts of worship that our minds are not trained to engage in: how to concentrate in prayer, how to contemplate creation, how to ponder the Quran. Our minds stream with constant thoughts and chatter, even during prayer, and we don't know how to free ourselves and focus on worshipping God. The best advice we can give people struggling with this is keep trying.

What meditation does is it teaches and trains the human mind to release all negative feelings, extraneous thoughts, and material distractions. Then, according to the books I read, you connect yourself with creation, look deep into yourself, and concentrate on being. But, what if, we can modify this meditation to become what is exactly meant by khushu', focus and concentration:

Gradually, you build up to a point where your thoughts stop buzzing around in your head and your mind and heart are quiet and clear. Free of all distractions, you look into yourself and focus on who you are in the real scheme of things. A soul enclosed in a body vessel, a soul that has no appearance, no possessions, no companions, a soul created solely for the worship of One God. You listen to your breathing and realize that it is Allah who enables every breath, every beat of your heart: total, absolute reliance and dependence on His sustenance.

Your awareness pierces the limited landscape of the visible world and you are cognizant of dimensions that you cannot see. Over them all is One Supreme God, The Bestower of Peace, The Almighty, The Originator, King of Judgment Day, The Most Kind. Your forehead rests in His hands.

Mind, heart, soul are flooded with something unreal, a sensation that cannot be described. Awe. Peace. Fear. Love. All the dwellings of your mind, the complications of life, the to-do lists and the he-said she-said wash away. Clarity and perspective, even if only lasting a few, fleeting moments.

Insha’allah I will write more posts about meditation as I learn.

3 comments:

Fatima said...

This is a great post, jazakillahu khayran.

ummossama said...

I like your idea that maybe there is something more we can do to obtain khushoo than just "keep trying". When we start thinking "outside of the box " we begin to realize the endless possiblilities Allah(SWT) has given us.
JAK

Zainab said...

Jazakillah Khairan Maha - what a great post mashaAllah! I'm intrigued ... Do you have any books on meditation that you could recommend?