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NOTES TO MYSELF

Conversion...(i)rate!

 

A toad’s ode for a god called religion...
TSI | Issue Dated: October 8, 2006
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It’s a strange dance in the ball of civilisations. Muslim and Christian theocrats and worse, each claiming representation for their respective faiths and its followers, locked in an awkward waltz, each stepping on the other’s toes, out of spite, or perhaps inspite of their best intentions. From paper lampoonery to papal flippancy, the west has been guilty of, amongst other things, being insensitive to the plight of its own constituents more vulnerably placed than they. Now that ideologues have been reduced to demagogues and the dance has regressed into an old fashioned scrap for souls, the spate of conversions amongst white and mixed race Christians on both sides of the Atlantic has set alarm bells ringing. And in the wake of Don Stewart-Whyte’s pursuit of an overly simplistic solution to the world’s woes and his own complexes, it seems understandable.

Islam’s allure stems from its unique ability to liberate through dogma. By offering a detailed socio-moral blueprint for spiritual attainment, it seemingly answers all questions asked by its ‘believers’ thus becoming a spiritual spectre that provides both strength and sanctuary. But it is a ‘total solution’ which demands ‘total surrender’, consequently lending itself to abuse.

While recent ‘Allah or the sword’ type conversions in Iraq have done little to assuage western apprehensions over what many perceive to be Islam’s medieval sensibilities, worlds on either side of a mosque wall have been served well by those that were not born into the religion but embraced it later. Muhammad Assad, the Jewish born raconteur, introduced the West to the honest beauty of Islam through his spiritually evocative treatise – The Road to Mecca. In the 1950s black supremacist Malcolm X, converted to Islam and railed and rallied against the ‘White devil’ and his white god. But a trip to Mecca had a profound effect on the firebrand leader and a much softened Malcolm declared to all who’d listen “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I am a human being first and foremost, and… I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” Religion perhaps wasn’t meant to be something one is born into. Maybe, it is best if each soul chooses its own spiritual path like one does a vocation, depending on the individual’s spiritual needs, and the stage of life, for not every Muslim is a Muslim in equal measure, and the same is true for a Christian, a Hindu or any other believer. In fact, almost every great religious leader practiced a faith he wasn’t born into and perhaps mankind would’ve been better served if we’d followed their example more than just (what we’re told are) their words. Like Idris Shah, the great Sufi poet once said “The way of the Sufi is not to get bogged down in believing that one religion or philosophy is the truth, but to develop an openness that frees us to be able to reconcile opposing ideas.” The world, until it learns to love without the shadow of hate, will keep clinging to its need for hate, whether it is Imperialism, or its enemies, Nazism, or its enemies, Communism, or its enemies, or a religion, or its enemies. It will keep looking for a reason to hate a distant foe so that it can love an immediate neighbour. Until mankind learns to love without cause or hate, it will find its reasons for war, either in holy books or in unholy intentions Conversion...(i)rate! The Sufi spin!

Mystique of the whirling dervishes ...unravelled

In certain parts of the world at least, if you don’t like going round and round in circles, you won’t get very far. Maoulana Jalaluddin Rumi was not a subcontinental bureaucrat but a great 13th century Persian Sufi mystic, remembered for the profound beauty of his poetry and music, who founded the order of the Mevelevi, the whirling dervishes who dance in circles to reach out to the divine. Popularly known as sema, the dervish dance has become an icon of psycho-spiritual mysticism and is especially popular along the Mediterranean coast from Turkey to Tunisia.

The dervishes dance themselves into a into blur till they collapse and then their mind enters a deep meditative state, where they seem to be in communion with divinity. The frenzied whirling of the dervishes apparently unleashes the energy trapped in the body’s energy centres and bestows great virility and vigour. Similar practices also find mention in ancient Tibetan health manuals which, claim the lamas, can reverse the ageing process. Try the Sema, and for all you know, your meditation in motion might just uncork the fountain of youth.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017