Paul J. Mills, Tiffany Barsotti, Meredith A. Pung, Kathleen L. Wilson, Laura Redwine, and Deepak Chopra Gratitude, along with love, compassion, empathy, joy, forgiveness, and self-knowledge, is a vital attribute of our wellbeing. While there are many definitions of gratitude, at its foundation, gratitude is a healing, life-affirming, and uplifting human experience that shifts us […]
As with Easter and Passover, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad is dated by the lunar calendar. This year it falls on Feb. 15, and the time seems particularly fraught with meaning. Every time there is a crisis in the Muslim world, grudges and resentments going back almost to the beginning of the faith, in the seventh century, seem to resurface. Islam, being an all-inclusive religion, refers every aspect of life back to God. When you feel that God has been affronted or disobeyed by your enemies, time disappears. It’s always a good time to reopen old wounds.
Among the most marked of these are a sense of being embattled for God, a defensive posture against infidels, a fierce desire to devote one’s life to protect the Prophet, a desire to obey God’s laws down to the smallest letter, and jihad, which in its broadest meaning denotes the struggle of the soul to reach a pure relationship with Allah against the temptations of one’s base nature. These elements are entangled inside the worldview of devout Muslims. The new guard that tries to provoke change must contend not just with the old guard — in this case the clash is between the youth of Egypt and the ruling military elite — but also there is the rear guard of religious conservatism. A centuries-old worldview is always ready to condemn change as being against the will of God.
In the present crisis the U.S. also falls between two stools. We say that we promote democracy around the world, but what we do is to defend stability (and the steady stream of Gulf oil) in support of reactionary, oppressive regimes. The layer of contradiction that we don’t have, for the most part, is the religious one. Lurching toward modern secularism, Iraq, Iran, and Bosnia all ran afoul of religious pressures, and each society had to make peace with itself — a very fragile peace at best — in its own way. No doubt the same will happen in Egypt, with whatever convulsions that ensue when people are forced by passion and raging events to examine their innermost beliefs.
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