I have been pondering spiritual responses to the situation of the anti-Muhammad trailer and the resulting violence.
A friend sent me advice from His Holiness the Dalai Lama that seems especially pertinent.
Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.
This touched my heart greatly.
Many of us are mindful and aware of the social and political dimension of the situation. There is a time and place to ask and answer those questions, but I cannot help that as spiritual beings, we have to use every situation to improve our spiritual lives, to draw us closer to God.
That’s why this quote from His Holiness touched my heart.
Do not let the behavior of other hateful people destroy our inner peace.
I am reminded of a lovely story from Rumi, the incomparable Sufi poet. In his Masnavi, he talks about how in the middle of a battle, the great Muslim warrior Ali (the first male Muslim convert and the closest companion to the Prophet Muhammad) defeated a pagan soldier.
This was a one on one duel, and Ali picked up the pagan warrior, threw him to the ground. The defeated warrior, disgusted at having been lost to a younger champion, spat on the face of Ali. Ali immediately got up from the chest of the vanquished soldier, and put his sword back in its sheath.
The pagan warrior was dumfounded, and asked the champion Ali why he had released him after having defeated in in battle.
Ali answered: “when you spat on my face, I got angry. Up until now, everything I had done, including defeating you, had been for the sake of God. If I were to kill you now, I would be doing so not for the sake of God, but due to my own anger.” Making a clever pun in Persian, Ali said: I am a mountain (in Persian, Kooh), not a straw (in Persian, kaah) that would be blown here and there by the winds of my own passion.
The vanquished soldier was so impressed by a faith that would bring with it such strength that he converted to the faith of Islam.
This is what I would wish for my fellow Muslims today, that we remember this spiritual message. Yes, we must speak up and rise up against the hideous racism that seems to be sweeping many Western societies. Yes, we need to set an example of embodying the ethics of the Prophet, as I have argued here and here. But in the process of doing so, we must be the mountain that Ali spoke of, not a piece of straw to be blown here and there.
As his holiness the Dalai Lama said, we must not allow the hateful actions of others destroy our inner peace.
We keep telling everyone that one meaning of Islam is the peace that comes when we submit ourselves wholeheartedly to God.
Now is the time to embody that peace, even as we rise up and speak up.
By doing so, we will be participants not in conquering, but rather in redeeming, the very hateful elements of the society around us.
It is not easy, but we were never promised that the spiritual path would always be easy.
We set out on the path of submission to God not because it is easy, but because the journey is the only journey worth taking.
May we be peaceful worriers, mountain of the spirit who never lose sight of our inner peace even as we carry on the holy struggle.
May we not be blown here and there by the winds of passion.
May we never lose out inner peace, even—especially—in times that try the souls of humanity.