Spirituality concept of spirituality from an Islamic perspective

Spirituality and Islam To begin with, the foundational concept of spirituality from an Islamic perspective will be explored. This will then be followed by an exploration of community outreach work, such as chaplaincy, and how it can address the needs of Muslims and non-Muslims in a pluralistic fashion, through the true portrayal of Islam, contextually. Both spiritual and pastoral care are essential for everyone, not only those who profess a religious belief, as spirituality is a primary need that goes beyond religious association. Spirituality is related to the aspect of humanity that refers to the manner in which individuals look for, and express, the meaning of life. In Spirituality is also related to the way individuals experience their connectedness to the moment, self, and others. (Puchalski, Christina, 2009). It may include religion and other world views, but essentially spirituality encompasses far more general ways of expressing these experiences, including through the arts and relationships with nature, in addition to multiple other ways (Bolton, Derek 2006).Spirituality in the humanistic approach refers to the manner in which individuals look for meaning in life, as well as the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, self, others, nature, and to the significant or sacred. It is based on what people experience in reality, regardless of the specific religious preference containing that spirituality (Marler, Penny Long, and C. Kirk Hadaway, 2002). From this, it is then deemed that spirituality is not the same as religiosity, if religiosity is defined to mean participation in particular beliefs, rituals and activities of traditional religions. Therefore, it is possible to be “spiritual” even though one is not affiliated with a traditional religion (Elkins, David N, 1988). It is worth mentioning that fundamentally, Islam is a caring and all-round belief system. Both the acknowledgment of the Mercy of Allah, and the expectation that Muslims are to be caring, are stepping stones in the act of being merciful and compassionate to others. Although Islam clearly prohibits alcoholism, sexual promiscuity and lifestyles such as homosexual practices, it does not prevent Muslim medics and health care professionals from caring for all people, including those of faith and those of no faith. Spiritual care within Islamic theology and practice does not focus on the faith of the patients, nor their ethnic group, status or wealth. Hence, its care is equal for both Muslims and non-Muslims. In Islam, spiritual pastoral care is expressed at three different levels: intention, thought and action. Underlying the intention and verbal expression of caring is the understanding of what, when, who to care for and why (Salleh 1994a). The question of how is at the action level and this is related to knowledge, skills and resources. Accountability and responsibility are embedded within the process and outcome of caring.According to Salleh (1994a) diversities are a blessing and a benefit to mankind, if these diversities are integrated into a given system. Those responsible within a caring system must respect the diversities and handle the system in a holistic way. Islam recognises that differences, diversities and tolerance are extended, not only to those who keep faith in Allah, but also to non-Muslims. There is absolutely no difference in respecting and caring for non-Muslim patients, whether it is in Saudi Arabia or America. He expands further, to say that the concept of caring is embedded in the theological framework of Islam. Caring is a natural outcome of having love for Allah and the Prophet, as this is what is asked of us (Salleh 1994a). The lives of the Prophet Muhammad and Prophet Jesus have shown how Allah expects human beings to act, by caring for the weak, as wells as the suffering and the outcasts of society.Caring in Islam denotes the resolve to be both responsible and sensitive. It is concerned with the motivation and commitment to act in the right order to achieve perfection. The spiritual, or metaphysical, aspect of caring can be perceived as an act of ‘doing good’ or evading ‘wrong doing’, with the implications of working towards establishing order, over time and space, under every circumstance (Salleh 1994a). Further understanding of caring can be achieved by studying the attributes of Allah from the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s (PBUH) tradition. The acknowledgement, acceptance and understanding of Allah’s attributes of spiritual caring enable us to learn what spiritual caring is all about. Spirituality in Islamic literature is based on faith in Allah, a monotheistic explanation of the world and approach to God. Such a definition of spirituality is differentiated from humanist spirituality, which is obtained from psychological experiences and individual feelings, under the shadow of engagement with the outside world (Abbasi, Mahmod, 2013).In Islamic theology, there is no spirituality without thoughts and practices of a religious nature. Religion provides a way of life and a spiritual path for evolutionary human salvation. So what can Islamic spirituality provide in the current context of health and healing? What methods can one draw from Islamic sources? Al-Jauziyah divided diseases into two major types: Diseases of the heart (or soul) and physical illnesses. Treatment of the diseases of the heart exists in the connection of the heart with its Creator. Preserving the health of the heart, according to Al-Jauziyah, is the only way towards holistic health. Al-Jauziyah sees the heart as the source of physical health as well as the source of life itself. Knowing the Creator, believing in His Oneness, loving Him, relying upon Him, and always being grateful for His gifts and boons are the necessary “nutrients” for a healthy heart, as described by Al-Jauziyah. If they are ignored, the heart sickens and falls prey to worry, sadness and depression. Nowadays, conventional medicine acknowledges the role of these heartaches and pains in occurrence of diseases, such as depression, autoimmune conditions and malignant tumours.The Holy Qur’an achieves its healing and health-promoting effect by utilising three different approaches: the legal approach, the guiding approach and the direct healing approach (El-Kadi 1993).The legal approach, through legislation, prohibits lifestyles and behaviours hazardous to health, and prescribes health-promoting behaviours. Examples of health-promoting legislation include: moderate eating, abstinence from alcohol, tobacco consumption and other psychoactive substances, in addition to regular exercise, prayers, fasting, ablution and bathing, and many other injunctions. The guiding approach is achieved through the provision of general rules and regulations, which guide the individual in conducting his, or her, daily life. The third approach is through the direct healing effect of the Holy Qur’an on the various systems of the Human body (El-Kadi 1993).Interestingly, the term “Tawheed Paradigm” is coined from the work of Kasule (1998); a new paradigm, synthesising the concept of Tawheed, the Islamic Code of Ethics, health-behaviour and practices from the Holy Qur’an and Hadiths and the five pillars of the Islamic faith, should form the foundation of a model of nursing care. That model, the ‘Tawheed Paradigm,’ focuses on an integrated approach to human problems. Within the Islamic perspective, the concept of care is regarded as a spiritual dome, where the basic needs of the patients are met according to the Holy Qur’an and the statements (Hadiths) of the Prophet (PBUH). Islam is a natural religion applicable to Muslim and non-Muslim communities. The concept of spirituality can also be found in the Noble Quran, explicitly using terms such as pure, and good, life, Hayaate tayyibah, and pure heart,Qalbe Saleem ( Esfahani, Mohammad Mehdi, 2011).In Qur’anic creed, the heart (Qalb) is the source of both moral virtues and moral vices. A pure heart is a particular state in which one can find good characteristics, such as thinking, faith, virtue, trust, affection for others and peace (Mesbah, Mohammad taghi, 1999).After briefly understanding the above-mentioned foundations of Islamic spirituality and pastoral care within Islamic theology, we now turn towards the question of how this can be applied to the role of a Muslim Chaplain and what methods are applicable within a pluralistic society. What is Muslim chaplaincy? As with Islamic theology, there is an issue regarding terminology and contextualisation. Though this assignment touches upon this topic briefly, I will use the term chaplaincy in the following manner; that it is a form of service that uses the ethics, experience, wisdom and practices of religious communities and groups in order to serve and accommodate public institutions, or other particular settings, that may have a religious affiliation/ethos or otherwise. Chaplaincy relates to public institutions and beyond, as well as to people, such as staff, patients and others. It has three main points of focus: worship/religious practices, pastoral care and spirituality in the ‘raising of questions of meaning, value and purpose within the particular institution’.Chaplains are clergy/religious affiliates who provide religious care and service. However, the appointed chaplains, regardless of their religious background, provide person-focused spiritual care. The qualities of generic spiritual care consist of: sympathetic and unreserved relations with people in finding their spiritual, physical and emotional needs, thereby helping them to understand the reality of life and giving them hope and motivation. In addressing the requirement to understand Muslim chaplaincy through the concept of spirituality, it is worth pointing out that Stoll (1989), writing from the Judeo-Christian tradition, identifies two dimensions of spirituality: vertical and horizontal dimensions; the vertical dimension, which is the individual’s relationship with the transcendent (God, Supreme Being or supreme values), and the horizontal dimension, which is the relationship with oneself, other people and the natural world. The basis of religion is integrated within the circle of generic spirituality. Within Western literature, the idea of caring is thoroughly examined in the context of the Judeo-Christian culture tradition. In addition, the theoretical structures and models of care have a strong inclination towards the modern approach to nursing and caring. The area of contention, in regards to spiritual care systems, is whether the western paradigm in spiritual care and management is applicable to Muslims and non-Muslims in diverse communities. What is obviously lacking in some of the conceptual structures and models of care is not only the fundamental spiritual aspect of care, but also the significance of spiritual development of individuals towards evolutionary healing. Moreover, the holistic approach to pastoral care embodies meeting the spiritual needs of people. The same could be said regarding the lack of a coherent framework of pastoral and spiritual care from an Islamic perspective. However, it is argued that the ‘provision of care is hindered by a lack of agreed definition of spirituality and the absence of a conceptual and theoretical framework in which to deliver care’ (Ross 1994).  Moving from briefly establishing the concept of Muslim chaplaincy, we will now look at the methods applicable with reference to Islamic tradition and theology.Chaplaincy methods The following types of approach to health and healing, although viewed from an Islamic perspective, no doubt can be applied in generic methods in the context of chaplaincy. The approaches are; Belief in God’s Power, Mercy and Justice, acknowledgment of and responsibility for one’s own mishaps, supplication and prayer, remembrance of Allah, Qur’anic Recitation, submission to the Divine Will, Detachment and balance, gratitude and moderation, Contentment and Satisfaction and Patience and Forbearance.With the above mentioned ideals around chaplaincy now briefly established, we will look at the importance of chaplaincy and its relevance to the present day.Why is chaplaincy important?Chaplains play an important role, providing pastoral care and a ‘listening ear’ to those in distress and those who are in need of counsel. They support and guide people in making important personal decisions. They can also be vital in supporting vulnerable individuals who may be emotionally incapable of making rational judgments. This means that chaplains are key in providing support on issues; such as bereavement, trauma, radicalisation and extremism and much more. Whilst chaplains do not need to be Imams or religious leaders learned in Islamic knowledge, they must have the basic ability to understand their faith tradition, explain parts of the faith, and more importantly work and affiliate with people through issues that arise. The development of Muslim chaplaincy roles in prisons, universities, hospitals and beyond is particularly significant in recent years.  Muslim chaplaincy is largely ignored in terms of its importance in the community in which people are affected by emotional, technological, spiritual, monetary, social and physical tensions. Having touched upon the scope of Chaplaincy within Islamic theology and its importance, we now turn towards the topic of religious pluralism, defined more relatively in the context of this assignment, Islamic pluralism, and how chaplaincy can link with this in regards to addressing the needs of society.Chaplaincy and Islamic pluralism The term pluralism is increasingly becoming one of the most important catchwords in the era of globalisation. As (Sachedina, 2001) argues, pluralism of our present world, whose diversity is that  of cultures, belief system and values, inspires both exhilaration at the endless shadings of human expression and dread of seemingly irreconcilable conflict, even among the followers of religions. The invocation of pluralism has become as much a summons as a celebration, an urgent exhortation to the citizens of the world to come to terms with their increasing diversity (Sachedina, 2001). Verses such as, “If God had so willed, He would have made you one community (5:48)” and “Each community has its own direction to which it turns (2:148),” suggests that pluralism is an integral part of Quranic values. Abdulaziz Sachedina, in his book the ” the democratic roots of Islamic Pluralism,” cites chapter 2 verse 213 of the Holy Quran to highlight the pluralistic vision of Islam; “Mankind was a single community, then God sent prophets to bring good news and warning, and with them He sent the Scripture with the Truth, to judge between people in their disagreements.” Accepting diversity is not enough, asserts Diana Eck. In a multi-cultural, multi-religious world, it is necessary to “celebrate diversity,” which requires knowledge of the “other.” This does not imply relativism, often associated with watering down of one’s beliefs. Eck notes that: “Pluralism is the process of creating a society through critical and self-critical encounter with one another, acknowledging, rather than hiding, our deepest differences” and a commitment to nurture constructive dialogues. Practicing pluralism holds out hope for a deeper human-shared dignity. The Quran, the primary text regarded by Muslims as the word of God, actually constitutes a foundational source, informing Islamic law and portraying significant principles regarding inter-religious harmony, peaceful co-existence and religious pluralistic attainment as will be explored briefly now. First, the Quran asserts that monotheistic religions derive from the Divine: “The same religion He has established for you is as that which He enjoined on Noah — and what We now reveal to you — and enjoined on Abraham, Moses, Jesus, saying, ‘Establish the religion and do not become divided therein'” (42:13). The Quran further states, “Say, ‘We believe in God and in that which He has revealed to us and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, the descendants and that which was revealed to Moses, Jesus and that which was revealed to the prophets from their Lord, We make no difference between one and another and we bow in submission to Him'” (2:136). Thus, the Quran ensures that the belief in all the prophets — from Adam to Muhammad is incumbent upon Muslims. All those prophets should be revered, as should their followers. Of course, Islam prohibits transgression in all its ugly forms, regardless of the faith, gender, race or economic status of the victim or oppressor. The Quran instructs, “Help one another in benevolence and piety, and help not one another in sin and transgression” (5:2). Hence, Muslims are spiritually prohibited from oppressing the followers of other faiths and those of no faith. Thus, killings, mutilation, burnings and all forms of discrimination and violence against minority religious communities is wrong.Next, Islamic doctrine provides clear choice for religious freedom. The Quran states, “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and “Will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe?” (10:99). These verses cannot then be viewed as solely philosophical statements, but rather as a foundational human value as well as an obligatory duty and practice. Similar to verse 2:256 as mentioned above, another verse also informs Prophet Muhammad that, “your only duty is to convey the message (3:20)” not compel people to convert. Thus, ideas about pluralism are not alien to Islam. Curtailing the freedom of conscience for any individual or group will be in defiance of the will of God.In the Islamic tradition, Mankind has free will to choose religious decisions and exercise choice. God is believed to be the only arbiter of religious and spiritual differences. This is in fact true, even in the case of conversion from the state of Islam or being Muslim. Several Islamic scholars have found and voiced their opinions that Muslims are free to leave the fold of Islam without suffering discrimination for doing so. Finally, the scholars state that Islam mandates and principally ensures Muslim preservation of all places of divine worship: “For had it not been for God’s checking some men by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, wherein the name of God is often mentioned, would have been destroyed” (22:40).Hence the destruction or vandalism by Muslims of other places of worship anywhere is a violation of Islamic principles.These principles, derived from the Quran, clarify that all of Mankind share the same sanctity of life, preservation and honour. A good example is the Madina covenant and its constitution, which is a clear indication of the importance of societal engagement and tolerance. Another addition to understanding pluralism from an Islamic perspective is the idea of cultural pluralism. The Quran also acknowledges cultural pluralism, “Another of His signs is the creation of the heavens and earth, and the diversity of your languages and colours (30:22).” The Quran also notes that all Prophets and Messengers were sent to their people to preach, in the tongue of the local population (14:4). The cultural, political, religious and economic pluralism, which we see in all aspects of human civilisation, is a purposeful divine action – “If God had so willed, He would have made you one community (5:48).”A contemporary scholar, Reza Shah-Kazemi noted in his paper “Tolerance” (in Amyn B. Sajoo, ed, A Companion to Muslim Ethics, London: I.B. Tauris, 2010), “For Muslims, tolerance of the other is integral to the practice of Islam. It is not an optional extra, a cultural luxury. The Quran sets forth an expansive vision of diversity and difference, plurality and indeed of universality. This is all the more ironic since the practice of contemporary Muslim states, not to mention extra-state groups and actors, falls lamentably short of those expectations as well as of current standards of tolerance set by the secular West.”Kazemi proposes fundamentally establishing pluralistic attitudes in Muslim individuals and societies as a “principle at the very heart of the vision of Islam itself: a vision in which the plurality of religious paths to the One is perceived as a reflection of the spiritual infinity of the One.”The idea of being one nation working together is as important as Muslim denominations working as one, through the lens of inter-spirituality. For example, in order to contextualise Islam in modern day Britain through chaplaincy, it is necessary to look at examples of the Prophet Muhammad, in terms of his pastoral characteristics, which enabled people to look at Islam holistically in a pluralistic fashion. Namely, two primary examples in Islamic history are relevant to the idea of pluralistic care within the community; The covenant of Madina  and Hilful Fudhool  (the alliance of virtue). These examples, if looked at in depth, provide many answers to the current denigration of society we see nowadays. As For Muslims living as minorities in the west, the idea of being loyal to the state isn’t new. Neither is the idea of working with others towards societal goals. Discussions and debates around the development of Muslim identities in the west are now common place. Furthermore, a notion of contextualising Islam within the UK has recently been advanced by developmental reports from Cambridge University, endorsed by over 20 leading Muslim scholars and activists (2011). The reports are helpful to this process, coming amidst the backdrop of a wider series of debates around how Muslims are challenged by, and respond to, the impact of modernity. Expanding on this discussion, the theological and practical aspect of chaplaincy can bring about a change in the language used about others and negate divisions as a result of that also.The above mentioned historical events provide a foundation towards the development of the concept of service, Khidmah, within Islam. The concept of Khidmah, an unbiased approach to spiritual development, covers all aspects of care, including, but not restricted to, care given to humans, animals, the environment and much more. Part of this umbrella, is the idea of chaplaincy, a person-oriented service, unbiased to everyone, whether they are of faith, or of no faith. Simply examining the manner and character of Prophet Muhammad provides scope for developing the concept of Khidmah and, more importantly, removing ambiguity around certain verses of the Quran that look contradictory to the practice of Muhammad. The Prophet Muhammad is seen as an example of abiding by the standards of the Quran and that is crucial in the contextualisation of Islamic theology in the 21st century. In conclusion, currently there are no Muslim models of chaplaincy and care, and little has been written on the development of a theoretical framework of chaplaincy and caring from an Islamic perspective. There is an urgent need for Muslim scholars to develop an Islamic spiritual framework that would be applicable, both to Muslims and non-Muslims, in Hospitals, prisons, higher education institutes and society in general. It is only then that the true essence of Islamic spirituality can benefit, via religious pluralism, societal issues of spiritual health and healing, in an unbiased fashion. The future of chaplaincy should be encouraged, acknowledged and supported by community organisations, such as Mosques and philanthropic investments and chaplaincy should be taught as part of character development. Chaplaincy should be seen as a profession for all to partake in, one that is here to stay and which is at the vanguard of contextualising Islam, through developing faith leadership.