The Spiritual Vacuum?

By Tasneem Moolla
Freelance Writer, South Africa

spiritual vaccum 2
Without religion, there would exist a vacuum in my life
reading from a book

Religion has been defined as an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural or transcendent quality, that give meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life through reference to a higher power, God or gods, or ultimate truth.

Religion for me is an integral part of one's life. It influences our thinking, behavior, actions, decisions and various other facets of our lives. I cannot imagine living a life, in which religion is not included.

Whether it be Islam or any other religion, it is there as an institute for us from which to shape our lives. Religion is made up of a vast number of subjects in it, and gives us a direction on how to deal with various issues.

Following Religion

For many of us, we are born into a certain religion which is  the main reason that we follow a particular religion. When we are young, we do not question.

We merely follow what we are being taught. However, depending on different people we reach a stage in our lives where we introspect and question life on a much deeper level. For some people, this introspection will lead to a colossal change in their lives, such as a conversion to another religion or perhaps lead them to atheism.

For others, it will lead them to the realization that the religion they have been born into is in fact the greatest and best to follow.

As a Muslim, I believe in my God, Allah, in a greater power which is unseen and unheard. Having faith in something, which is intangible, which can never be touched nor seen is a very satisfying spiritual journey. Placing all of your trust and praying to such a being is an experience on another level.

It is hard to explain how one can have so much faith in something unseen, yet this faith in God is so powerful. Religion plays a very major role in my life. I live my life according to the rules set out in my religion.

My life revolves around the various activities set out in Islam. For example it is compulsory for every Muslim to pray five times a day. Once I reached a point in my life where I established these five daily prayers my day is now centered around it.

Whatever I do in my life is influence by my religion, such as my social life, the way I interact with people, the type of food I consume, places I visit, the way I dress…the list could go on. Without religion, there would exist a vacuum in my life.

Religion in the Eyes of Others

Having read up on the subject and delving into the minds and perception of different people, it has been yet another learning chapter in my life. The vast contrast that exists between people, regarding the importance of religion in their lives and the reasons behind it are quite amazing.

When commencing with the interviews, I chose people from different backgrounds, places and races. There are some whose religious identity I already knew and others who was yet to be discovered. It is a real eye opener, to realize how people feel towards the subject of religion in their life.

Simone, 30 (Pretoria, South Africa)

"I am an atheist and believe that religion is opium for the masses. Therefore religion doesn’t play a major role in my life. Although I don’t follow any particular religion, I like to observe it from the sidelines."

Yalda, 34 (Lebanon)

"The religion for me is Goodness & Humanity. I believe in God but I don't follow any specific religion. My actions & decisions are affected by my morals that I believe they are the common points of all religions."

Sumaya, 21 (South Africa)

"Religion is a journey of self-discovery, it should be a fundamental part of your life, but because it is more than a belief system it is a lifestyle, sometimes I am able to act in accordance with those beliefs and sometimes I can't. My religion is a lifestyle choice; my life is largely based on my religious belief system and the extent to which I can lead my life in accordance with my religions basic tenants.

I evaluate what my religion says about a particular issue and I try to base my actions and decisions on that, however I can't say that it follows that all my actions and decisions are in accordance with religious instruction, I’m human and my religion teaches that God is forgiving and my life is a journey of self improvement. I am a Muslim.

I was born Muslim however I was not truly living my life as a practicing Muslim. I educated myself on the tenants of different religions and I believe in the teachings of Islam, since then I have been on a journey of self-reformation, born as a Muslim but always striving to be better at it."

Sandra, 48 (New Zealand)

"I follow Islam because I believe Allah t'ala being the one true God and that Islam is the seal of the Abraham religions and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Islam is a total way of life, so it's role in my life is very influential. As a Muslim, Islam should influence my life actions and decision, having said that I am not a perfect person, only Allah is perfect, and I make many mistakes."

Reeny, 45 (USA)

"To me religion is a "user's manual" for how to live my life. It is my guide on how to daily conduct myself and an anchor in the world. I am a Sephardic Jew and I follow this religion because my parents also do."

Wazir (South Africa)

"I'm a South African who embraced Islam in 1988.I shifted from Christianity to atheism and Alhamdulillah I discovered Islam. Islam brought a clearer perspective of life, morality, etc to me."

Tahir, 23 (Johannesburg, South Africa)

"For me religion means a strong belief in a power greater than man. It is a divine set of guidelines and principles that enables one to live a meaningful life. I strongly believe that religion and spiritual enlightenment is the ultimate goal, which man ought to attain in his life time. Attaining this ultimate goal would allow you to live a life filled with contentment of heart and inner tranquility.

Religion gives meaning and purpose to my life; it allows me to make sense of the chaos in the world that we are constantly faced with. Religion is moral compass, enabling me to be the best that I can be. My religion is my sanity. It affects and influences my actions and decisions on an everyday basis, whenever I am in doubt I ponder about what my religion has stipulated as the best form of action in a specific situation. My religion is all encompassing and plays a cardinal role in my everyday life. I am who I am because of my religious beliefs and values."

To Be Open…

Life is often viewed very narrow mindedly. We live with blinkers, always thinking we are in the right, our religion is the best and belittle people of other faiths. Yet, when we look deeper we will find that the reasons people think in a certain way are at times justified.

We need to open up, communicate and be open to what others have to say. Give consideration to what they believe. We need to accept people, whether they are Muslims, Christians or atheists.

It is time we put aside our differences and to be open to learning experiences and thoughts of a kaleidoscope of people.

First Published in July 2012

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