Long awaited Spring has finally arrived to northern hemisphere. The mother earth is busy unveiling many of her beauties as God Almighty models many different types of resurrections to us through this seasonal event. Islam encourages us to be people of pondering and deep reflections through the many verses of Holy Quran and the examples of our beloved Prophets and sages of our tradition.
I would like to reflect on the very concept of reflecting and thinking (tafakkur) in Islam as an act of worship. Tafakkur is one of the most important and central spiritual tool for us to fulfill our potential and promise as a believer, more importantly as a human being.
Unfortunately, very often we live in an environment or adapted life styles which are becoming increasingly not very thinking friendly. Human beings are externally and internally forced to live a life that requires constant pedaling and running. These modern lifestyles often produce, in large scales, people of action but not people of deep reflections and thinking. We increasingly do more and think less. If you do not see this as an important spiritual crisis, you do not need to read this article.
In addition, we spend way too much time talking about thinking than actually doing it. We often spend so much time discussing about the methods of thinking in fancy intellectual words but how many of us actually spend time in deep thinking and reflections. How many of us see thinking as an important thing to do and put periods of thinking as a commitment into our calendars? How many of us are busy with thinking?
Tafakkur, in the words of our scholars, literally means
to think on a subject deeply, systematically, and in great detail. In The Islamic context, it signifies reflection, which is the human heart's light, the spirit's nourishment, the essence of knowledge, and the heart and light of the Islamic way of life. Reflection is the light in the heart that allows the believer to discern what is good and evil, beneficial and harmful, beautiful and ugly. Again, it is through reflection that the universe becomes a book to read and study, and the verses of the Qur'an disclose their deeper meanings and secrets more clearly. Without reflection, the heart is darkened, the spirit is dysfunctional, and Islam is lived at such a superficial level that it is devoid of meaning and profundity.
Reflection is a vital step in becoming aware of what is going on around us and drawing helpful conclusions from them. It is a golden key to open so many doors to the deeper meanings of experience. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad points out the merits of reflection in following hadith: No act of worship is as meritorious as reflection (tafakkur). So reflect on the God's bounties and the works of His Power."
In another hadith, Prophet Muhammad says, "True reflection an hour is better or more meritorious than one whole year of voluntary physical worship."
In our holy book, the Quran, the concept of reflection repeated several times in different terms but always with significant emphasis. Here is an example: "For sure, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day, there are signs for humans of understanding" (3:190). In other words, dthere are lots to think and reflect upon them.
As the external world, the macro realities worthy of reflection upon and tells us a lot about the maker of this universe and points out to God's signs on them to us, that is also the case in our personal lives, our micro world. In the creation of every single one of you, in the ways in which you live your lives, your family, your relationships, your professional life, there signs of the Most Merciful and most Compassionate. This and several other versus of Holy Quran presents the entire creation as book to read and reflect upon.
One can use religious and spiritual ways of utilizing reflection in every daily activity, study or work. Studying the existence as if it was a book to be reflected upon can yield and generate so many helpful spiritual discoveries and pleasures. Observing the universe through the lenses of tafakkur can help believers to feel and experience the presence of God in their lives.
So let's make this Spring of 2013 as a season of reflection and tafakkur. Let's read the book of creation as it unfolds many of its new beauties and try to see the signs and signatures of its Creator. In the Holy Quran, God Almighty says God is closer to us than our own jugular veins. One can only feel and experience this closeness of God and feel it if they see the creation through the prism of tafakkur.