There is nothing mysterious about spirituality in Islam. It is rather the direct result of the kind of intellectual development that takes place when a believer ponders over the Creator and His creation: he gains something in the process that may be termed spirituality. The source, therefore, of Islamic spirituality is observation and reflection, rather than any sort of mysterious exercises.
It is difficult to describe the inner reality of spirituality in chronological order; however, its method of attainment can be described to a certain extent. It is as follows:
1. First of all, man has to free his mind from confusion. It is difficult for a confused mind to undergo spiritual experiences. The basic reason for confused thinking is that man is not able to differentiate between the real and the superficial, the relevant and the irrelevant, rational thinking and superstition, logical and illogical statements.
One who thinks thus will always remain in a state of mental confusion. He will never be able to find the straight path. As a result, his spiritual journey will never be started.
2. On the path of spirituality, one cannot be one’s own guide. And one certainly needs a guide. This guide is the Quran. It is an authentic and carefully preserved book of God. That is why the Quran can be trusted as a guide by the spiritual traveler. After making the Quran one’s guide, one can set one’s spiritual journey on the right track.
3. This spiritual journey demands a change in lifestyle. This lifestyle for a spiritual traveler may be put briefly in these words: ‘Simple living and high thinking.’
‘Simple living’, means limiting one’s worldly requirements to the minimum, assiduously avoiding comfort and luxury – that is why the Sufis used to wear coarse clothes as a symbol of the simple life. Simple living thus helps the traveler in his spiritual journey.
‘High thinking’, means that his thoughts are not embroiled in material things. By engaging one’s mind in higher realities, one becomes a recipient of divine inspiration. This inspiration of divine light comes to his mind uninterruptedly, igniting his whole existence.
The spiritual journey in Islam is, therefore, entirely intellectual in nature. Its quest is two-fold, one is to solve the riddle of why, all men and women undergo negative experiences in this world and the other is to offer positive solutions. It addresses the paradox of human beings having been given the freedom to make their own moral choices, and their frequent misuse of this freedom – a course of action which causes them to repeatedly face situations in which people do each other harm; losses are incurred because of others’ injustice; severe provocations are suffered because of untoward experiences.
The Quran attaches great importance to reflection and serious thought or tafakkur and tadabbur. There are a number of verses in the Quran that indicate that innumerable signs of God are extant in the heavens and the earth. The observance of God’s signs with the objective of drawing lessons from them through the process of tawassum is the greatest source of purification or tazkia and receiving spirituality or rabbaniyat. Tazkia aims at clearing one’s mind of all kinds of negative sentiments so that man is able to receive spirituality or rabbaniyat and live a God-oriented life based on the higher principles laid down by God.