El Fadl goes on to say that there is much beauty in the traditional methodologies of Islamic knowledge, but that they must be reinvigorated now towards an unrelenting exploration of this core value – beauty. (p. xviii) At the core of morality we find beauty. The core and center of Islam, he says, is the search for God’s inexhaustible beauty and the beauty of God’s creation.
This understanding of Islam seems so close to Hazrat Inayat Khan’s emphasis on beauty. I thought that he was so attuned to beauty because he was a musician. Because singing and hearing music opened him to ecstasy. But now I can see that beauty, and the understanding and expression of diversity is close to the heart of Islamic tradition. This is very different from the dogmatism and literalism of Wahhabi Islam. El Fadl looks at the deterioration of the ethos of knowledge in the Muslim world today as due to “the legacy of colonialism, the emergence of the puritanical and anti-historical Wahhabi and Salafi movements, economic problems, the breakdown of private endowments supporting educational institutions, and the monopolization by the state of the mechanisms for the production and propagation of information.” (p. xviii) Literalism and the loss of the capacity for perceiving symbolism are so rampant in our world today. In all religions, and in scientific materialism. Over a hundred years ago Murshid brought us this message of tolerance and understanding. Look deeper. Attune to the inner reality – of all things and of oneself.
Spirituality, real spiritual development, asks that we train our minds as well as opening our hearts. Ideas that we hear and read make impressions on our minds; and these impressions are repeated habitually and unconsciously. There is an epidemic of obsessive-compulsive thinking, fostered by the constant stimulation of new information on the internet and all our hand-held devices. (You may be reading this on such a device!) Or perhaps this is too long a post for you to read, and your attention is diverted. We are being conditioned by the world-wide culture to have a very short attention span, since perhaps the next picture or piece of information will make me really happy.
But Murshid offers us an easy path to true happiness. Pay attention to beauty.
Our brains are conditioned to pay attention to pain and danger. But consciously we can pay attention to beauty.For five seconds. Enjoy it.