Recently I read In the Footsteps of the Prophet, by Tariq Ramadan.
It was fabulous. :)
It discussed about Muhammad's (pbuh) early experiences in relation to nature, in particular as a kid when he was fostered to his Bedouin nurse, Halimah. growing up in the desert. It talked about how the universe is, and is full of, signs of/from God, and how contemplation of these can lead us deeper into faith and relationship with God. The author writes:
"Far removed from the formalism of soulless religious rituals, this sort of education, in and through its closeness to nature, fosters a relationship to the divine based on contemplation and depth that will later make it possible, in a second phase of spiritual education, to understand the meaning, form, and objectives of religious ritual. Cut off from nature in our towns and cities, we nowadays seemd to have forgotten the meaning of this message to such an extent that we dangerously invert the order of requirements and believe that learning about the techniques and forms of religion (prayers, pilgrimages, etc.) is sufficient to grasp and understand their meanings and objectives. This delusion has serious consequences since it leads to draining religious teaching of its spiritual substance, which actually ought to be its heart."
This really hit home for me -- not because I feel that disconnected from nature (although I do live in Seoul which has got to be one of the most concrete of concrete jungles!!!!), but because as a convert, I often find myself getting stressed about doing things the "right" way -- filling the form of what it is to be a Muslim, as it were, and in the process sort of forgetting about the relationship with God that underlies all that anyway!! I read this book during Ramadan, and during that month I found myself thinking a lot about my identity as a Muslim -- and a westerner, an Australian, a woman, a feminist (the four things I identify most strongly as) (apart from Muslim). Anyway, reading that passage about nature in the book just really reminded me that while those things are all important, the most important thing is to be constantly seeking to deepen my understanding, faith, and relationship to God through simply looking around me and allowing this wonderful world He created to teach me its lessons about Him.
Anybody else have any ideas about that?
Have a lovely day!!! :)