FORM AND SPIRIT

FORM AND SPIRIT
By SAJAD AHMAD MIR
The literal or textual form of Islam is according to, and compatible with, variable aspects of human nature and reason. Hafiz Ibn-Al-Qayim {R.A} states that “Where there is authentic text, sound reason finds no way but to comply with it”. Therefore, Islam demands sincere and strict adherence from its adherents to obey the laws in the shape of the legal corpus or texts. But one should not be under the false impression that adherence to law means ‘military behavior’ which brings subjects under its rule sans choice. Rather, Islam kindles the light of obedience with love and makes believers realise the essence and objectives of the laws they are asked to follow. It brings in a refreshing of spirit, the spirit within an action connotes the realisation of inner feeling to make everything subservient to the will of the Almighty.
Spirit and form together makes an action perfect. Allah {SWT} ordered people to perform prayers five times, as is mentioned in the Quran. Another verse maintains that offering Salah refrains a person from indulging in obscene and mischievous acts. But what about a person who – besides offering prayers – is still absorbed in sinful activities? The principal thing which needs to be understood is that such a person might have observed all the moves and gestures prescribed under literal legal injunctions but failed to rejuvenate the spirit. The spirit of Salah arouses a strong feeling of accountability within the adorer and makes him realise as if he is ‘watching God’ and if not so, at least charged with a feeling that God watches him. This spirit induced in the form of Salah makes him conscious of a strong vigil of his Almighty. Thus, the form together with spirit makes a person enjoy worship.
A man once came to meet Junaid Al-Bagdadi {R.A}, after performing Hajj. “When you wore the Ihraam (exclusive white clothing for performing Hajj), did you free your soul from the garments of lust while taking off your clothes?” asked Junaid {R.A}. The man answered in the negative. “Then you failed to take on Ihraam in the real sense. When you stood in the plain of Arafaat, did you enjoy communion with your Lord even for a while?” The man again said: No. “Then you did not attain the gravity of blessed presence in Arafaat,” said Junaid {R.A}. “When you camped in night at Muzdalifah, did you discard your cardinal leanings?” He said: No. “Then you did not experience the blessings in the night at Muzdalifah. When you circumambulated around Ka’ba did you feel in any chamber of your heart gaining closeness to your Lord?” The man declined the affirmation.
Thereupon Junaid {R.A} said: “You did not circumambulate at all. When you ran across the Safa and Marwah, did you accumulate the traits of Safa (sincerity and purgation) and Marwah (benevolence)?” Again, he said: No. “Then you failed to get the essence of Sa’ee (running across Safa and Marwah). Well, when you arrived at Mina, did you end your Muna (connoting desire)? The man again said: No. “Then it is as if you did not appear at Mina. When you offered the sacrifice of your animal, did you slaughter your greedy Nafs?” He said: No. “You did not offer sacrifice at all. When you threw stones at Jamarat did you cast aside your animal desires?” He answered: No. “You have not performed the practice of Rami (pelting stones at satan)”. By the end of the dialogue Junaid {R.A} said to the man: “You have not performed the Hajj at all”.
The queries and constant negation of performing Hajj rituals by Junaid {R.A} to the man doesn’t imply that the Hajj performed by the man stands nullified, rather it unmasks the gravity of the objective and the essence of Hajj rites. If one fails to achieve both of the aspects i.e form and spirit, the promise and fortunes attached to the action cannot be achieved. Every action prescribed by Shariah has two parts as stated by Imam Al-Qarafy {R.A}: Ijza (being of an action as per the literal demands of shariah and once discharged accordingly, It absolves one of its demand in this world) and Ithabah (action being eligible to be rewarded in the hereafter). Therefore, both components are essential, action must be undertaken as per literal form of shariah but should be blended with requirements of spirit.
History reminds us of a bygone era, when both the aspects of action were taken together. The explicit and implicit behavior by people of that era, with form and spirit, enabled them to chalk out the exhaustive protocol of human activities which paved the way for them to conquer the hearts and minds of people. With the passage of time, both the components were set apart and divorced from each other. The form or legal text became the sole concern of jurists {Fuqahaa} who unmasked the minutest details of it and the process came to be entitled as Fiqh {jurisprudential discourses}. On the other hand, the spiritual domain came under the patronage of “Mystics or Sufis”(the term Sufi here does not connote multiple interpretations incorporating the Hindu pantheistic versions or Greek philosophical conjectures and so on which has nothing to do with the Islamic theological canvas, but rather implies the humble efforts of righteous predecessors to cleanse the impurities of thought and purgation of heart from lustful leanings and the process came to be known as “Suluk”).
Looking back at the earlier generations of Islam, they had learnt the art of blending these two important aspects together. Hassan-Al-Basari {R.A} was asked who the Faqih {jurist} is? He replied: “A jurist is one who abandons the luxurious life, yearns for the hereafter and is conscious of his foibles (which prevent him raising a finger against others). Thus, spirit without form is a hoax and form sans spirit is a vain exercise as that of the ‘myth of Sisyphus’.