It is the elevation of the human condition to a plane on which the mind is focused on the higher, non-material realities of a godly existence. The opposite of spirituality is materialism, a course followed all too often in this world. One who takes this course, giving all his attention to worldly things; or one who centres his attention on mere appearances is regarded as being materialistic. Conversely, one who rises above material things or appearances, who finds his focus of interest in nonmaterial things, is regarded as being spiritual or godly. The latter is one who obeys the injunction of the Quran:
O people, be devoted servants of God. (THE QURAN, 3:79)
A materialistic person is kindled with the desire to possess anything that is attractive to him, and this is a clear indication that materialism is a major motivating factor in his life. While, one who sees the same things, but remains unaffected by the notions of luxury that they convey, and feels no desire to acquire them, lives in a more rarefied sphere in which materialism plays no part. He sees no attraction in the lesser world of material appearances, being engrossed in the higher realities of the supremely spiritual life. The truly non-material person is never influenced by superficialities: his soul exists at a profound level of spirituality.
The opposite of spirituality is materialism, a course followed all too often in this world.
Those who live for worldly pleasures believe that gratification cannot be had except from material things. Had they experienced spiritual pleasure, they would certainly have forgotten material pleasure. The pleasure derived from material things is limited in nature and very short-lived; whereas spiritual pleasure may be eternally savoured.
The materialistic person can find pleasure only in something which he or she actually experiences, but the spiritual person lives on a higher plane. For him, even seeing things in another’s possession, occasions an outpouring of his gratefulness to God from the innermost recesses of his heart. A materially-minded person sees only the creation, while a spiritually inclined person sees the splendour of the Creator through creation. The greatest source of pleasure is in the remembrance of God. It is this reality which finds expression in the following verse of the Quran:
It is only in the remembrance of God that hearts are comforted. (THE QURAN, 13:28)
Comfort means not just the temporary solace to be found in everyday convenience, but the real comfort with its implications of peace of mind that can stem only from God Almighty. Man by nature is an idealistic creature. Anything short of ideal can attract only fitful attention from him, whereas true and lasting comfort can be achieved only through the Perfect Being. If materialism is to live a life of limitations, spirituality is to live in limitlessness.
The pleasure derived from material things is limited in nature and very short-lived; whereas spiritual pleasure may be eternally savoured.
The universe has been fashioned by God in a way that it may become a source of spiritual inspiration for man. According to the Quran, it is the quality of ‘tawassum’ that enables one to find inspiration in the universe. Tawassum is the ability to understand the signs of nature. That is, to observe the phenomena of the universe in order to draw lessons from them and receive spiritual nourishment from physical events. God is so generous that He has created the whole universe to be at our service, day and night.
A verse of the Quran:
And He gave you all that you asked for. (THE QURAN, 14:34)
This means that whatever is needed for Man to live a good life on this Earth has been prepared in advance by God, directly and indirectly. The only price to be made for these endless blessings is thankfulness; which is man’s recognition from the depths of his heart, that God is the Giver and Man is the receiver. All these blessings of the Almighty are silently conveying the following message: “O man! Are you seeking something greater than all this? Do you want spiritual peace in addition to material peace? Do you want a world of perfection after this imperfect world? Would you like to taste the blessings of God in the world of eternity after you have tasted them in this ephemeral world?"
God created a perfect and complete world as an eternal abode for man. This life is only a test, and man is under the observation of his Lord. With every utterance and movement, man is writing his own eternal destiny.
A materially-minded person sees only the creation, while a spiritually inclined person sees the splendour of the Creator through creation.
God has revealed himself in two books—The Quran and the Universe. The Quran is the literal version of God’s word, while the universe or nature is a practical demonstration of it. These two are the basic sources of spiritual inspiration for a man who seeks to live a life according to the divine scheme.
The Quran says:
God is He who raised the Heavens without visible supports, then He ascended the Throne. He has compelled the sun and moon to be of service, each pursuing an appointed course; He controls the Affairs (of the universe). (THE QURAN, 13:2)
When man sees the universe with its varied parts functioning in an absolutely coherent manner, he will spontaneously say: “There is no god but one God!” When he observes that the various parts of the universe function with absolute harmony, he realizes that, in like manner, he should also live in complete harmony with society, without hatred or malice towards anyone. When he sees the events of the universe always proceeding towards a meaningful result, he realizes that man’s life too, must have a meaningful end.
From the Quran we learn that, in the very creation of the universe, the signs of God lie hidden all around us. A person, who is in a state of keen awareness when he reflects upon the things of the world, comes to see the Creator in the creation. The meaning of the creation of the universe is laid bare before him. Ultimately, the universe becomes a permanent source of spiritual inspiration. In brief, the universe is a manifestation of the attributes of Almighty God. Hence, it is a source of spiritual nourishment for those who want to lead a divine life on earth.
There is nothing mysterious about spirituality in Islam. It is rather the direct result of the kind of intellectual development that takes place when a believer ponders over the Creator and His creation: he gains something in the process that may be termed spirituality. The source therefore, of Islamic spirituality is perusal and reflection rather than any sort of mysterious exercise. The Prophet Muhammad said: “God plants wisdom in the heart of one who shows disinclination for the world.” There is life for man, in spirituality: this is indeed the real life for man.