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Returning to Fitrah, Living from Soul – A Way to Wholeness

Below is a 2-Part version of an article that appeared in Sisters Magazine.  

In Part 1, Shumaisa Khan first explores achieving our fitrah and our livelihoods by taking small steps together. In Part 2, Elizabeth Lymer then accepts her gentle push to take the first steps.

Part 1 by Shumaisa Khan

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” – Rumi

This quote, to me, speaks of right livelihood and life as worship.

As Muslims, we aspire to live in a manner in which every breath we take, and act we do, is in a state of surrender to Allah, the most glorified, the most high.

Yet, the realities of our lives – whether raising children or going to a job – involve stimulation that distracts us from our primordial essence (fitrah), which is the state of surrender to our Creator, the most glorious and most high. Perhaps this essence can be considered our soul. As I delve more into permaculture, I have greater appreciation of the wisdom of the Qur’an in pointing to signs in Nature.

As I delve more into permaculture, I have greater appreciation of the wisdom of the Qur’an in pointing to signs in Nature.

I believe that cultivating a deep nature connection is essential to living a life more aligned with our soul. I’m struggling to find the time to do this myself, but when I have had such experiences – albeit fleeting – I have found they have helped me reclaim presence. And a state of being in presence brings us closer to fitrah.

 

Nature and Fitrah

Other sentient beings naturally live more in the present moment. While they might plan ahead and store food, there is no clock telling the time. They live according to the cycles of the day and the seasons.

Many Muslims today have anxiety attacks at the thought of doing prayers without consulting a timetable or hearing notifications on their devices. Such things are useful at times, but we are incredibly out of touch with deep time – or perhaps timelessness – and would benefit from spending some time regularly not on a clock, and perhaps with no particular destination – just being in the wild areas around us.

Many Muslims today have anxiety attacks at the thought of doing prayers without consulting a timetable or hearing notifications on their devices.

woodpecker2

Photo Credit: Onaisa Khan

Returning to our fitrah is also a means of living according to a moral, whole economy, an economic ethic driven primarily by relationship rather than financial gain.

‘Work’ used to be more integrated into life, and thus also occurred according to natural cycles. How can we create a livelihood that nourishes our soul and is repairing and healing to life – both human and other – within the existing context of dysfunctional social and economic structures?

Returning to our fitrah is also a means of living according to a moral, whole economy, an economic ethic driven primarily by relationship rather than financial gain.

I think the key to achieving deep, meaningful relationships that serve as both the means and the end to a moral economy, where people can do what they love, what makes them feel alive, without worrying about how to get by, is DiT – doing it together.

 

Faith and Surrendering

Let us put greater faith in the outcomes of investing in the development of structures that enable individuals to live according to their fitrah, than we put in investments that may offer greater financial gain. The latter can provide a (false) sense of security, but often at the expense of our health and well-being, of the well-being of others and of the planet.

If we truly surrendered and tried to create alternatives rather than participating, and therefore being complicit, in a destructive economic ethic, would not our Sustainer create openings and possibilities for us?

Everyone is familiar with the hadith, “If one of you sees something wrong, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; if he cannot, then with his heart and this is the weakest faith.” (Muslim)

Most people reading this probably acknowledge in their heart that something is deeply wrong with the hyperstimulatory, contemplation-deficient world we live in, and many probably voice it as well.

If we truly surrendered and tried to create alternatives rather than participating, and therefore being complicit, in a destructive economic ethic, would not our Sustainer create openings and possibilities for us?

While overstimulation and lack of space for reflection may not seem so important on the spectrum of ‘wrongs’ taking place in the world, anything that contributes to deviating from our fitrah is a wrong. And the current economic, social, and ecological crises are the result of a collective disconnection with fitrah.

 

 What We Can Do

Let us take the small, but potentially transformative steps that help us live according to our fitrah, which strengthen our faith and our ability to create a different world.

Each of us can consider a small, but achievable challenge, and then progress further. For example, make some space for deep time. Although sometimes it seems difficult to spend much time outside, we can cultivate deep time indoors. Disconnect from the internet, tv, mobiles, etc. for a period of time and observe what happens! As with most things, it’s easier and more fun to do with someone else or a few people.

Disconnect from the internet, tv, mobiles, etc. for a period of time and observe what happens!

Try to develop a structure for this – maybe do it on a particular evening every week or part of the weekend, starting with an amount that is a challenge, but also achievable. You can always increase this incrementally.

 

 Doing it Together

holding-clipart-circle-holding-hands-md

Similarly, we can directly take small, incremental steps to develop a whole economy. With new DiT tools such as crowdfunding, small contributions from many people help create alternative ways of working, such as co-operatives, that create local jobs, use local resources, and often protect the environment.

These are tangible examples of people living the beauty they love, and indeed, the beauty we love.

For who among us would decline the greater beauty in a unique, locally crafted product for something shipped in and produced by an anonymous factory overseas under exploitative conditions?

DiT endeavours reduce the exploitation of people locally and overseas and add beauty, inspiration, hope, and love to our lives, and by strengthening these endeavours we cultivate wholeness, in ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world.

 

 

Part 2 by Elizabeth Lymer

Having reached the end of the Process Focus series I’ve found myself resisting letting go of my passive learner-of-permaculture role. Reluctant to proceed with permaculture-action.  But I know it is time to perform the knowledge that my heart is bursting with.

“What do you feel drawn to at this juncture in your life?” Shumaisa asked me.
My answer: Writing. Facilitation. Permaculture.

So I have started an online magazine structured according to permaculture ethics of peoplecare, earthcare, fairshare, for which I’ve undertaken the role of facilitating others to be active in a community of writers – to take the time and space to reflect on themselves and the world, pen in hand.

‘Your Lord is the Most Generous – Who taught by the pen – Taught man that which he knew not.’ (The Qur’an 96:3-5)

Alhamdulillah thanks to Shumaisa’s gentle push I now find myself in the midst of actions that feel neither like work nor play but are both and yet more. Acts that need to be performed and through which I feel myself in flow with my purpose for the sake of Allah SWT. (Of course, Allah SWT knows best.)

At the moment the venture is completely voluntary. But I know that the next push is coming. I cannot achieve peoplecare of the writers in isolation from the other two permaculture principles. Well cared for people need to be part of a fair, well cared for earth. Writers’ relationships with the project will need to perform a part in creating a moral, whole economy.

Small steps. Achievable steps. Increase incrementally. Can you hear my deep breaths?

My fears could lead to paralysis and I could let myself be hyperstimulated into inaction. But, ssh, let me be present. More than anything, I am gasping for our fitrah.

 

Elizabeth has started an online magazine, which you can check out here: http://www.youngmuslimahmagazine.com/

 

2 Comments

  1. wisdominnature

    Nicholas,

    Thank you for your thought provoking comment….I have no direct experience with waqfs, but my understanding is that waqfs designate an asset for charitable use, helping to meet basic needs in the community – whether housing, food, water, etc. I am more familiar with community land trusts, which are based on a similar principle. Either one can certainly help people to live according to their fitrah by removing some of the pressures that drive people into soul-destroying work, which has further knock-on effects in an interconnected world. It seems that you may have more ideas about this – if you want to share, we’d be happy to hear them…
    Shumaisa

  2. Nicholas

    thank you for sharing your article,
    I agree and feel the state of fitrah is a state in which we connect with the wonder and guidance of Allah.
    I wonder how the people of the time of Muhammed SAW told the time… They must have been in tune with the environment to know when to pray salaah.
    “Let us put greater faith in the outcomes of investing in the development of structures that enable individuals to live according to their fitrah”
    I have been looking at Waqfs as investments that serve the people to enhance a state of presence in self, in nature, in Allah.
    What ideas do you have on these types of investments to enable fitrah?

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