Service, Social Media, and the Self – Part 2

The first part of this sermon can be found here.


So far, I have talked about my experiences, because that’s all I can talk about. It would be wrong for me to tell you what your feelings are or should be. The idea of human engagement is a humbling one as you realize how capable everyone is. The core to getting that control of one’s nafs, ego, is through spiritual discipline. Our service is an act of ibadat that helps force us to look beyond ourselves and to others. We are not individuals that become dependent, but dependent beings who happen to be individualized.

Bandagi [an Ismaili tariqah practice that is a time to remember God] helps quiet our spirits in the same way. It’s no coincidence that we go from 4-5 in the morning, and our day in the world begins at 5. The world has not yet come to dominate our thoughts. The opportunity to begin the day by focusing on Allah forces us to remember that we exist for a greater purpose than what the claims of dunya (the world) would have us believe.

Once we have begun to humble ourselves, the ways in which community forms, and great things can be achieved, becomes limitless. We see a powerful example of this in our own history.

And here comes the letter “p.” It is the beginning of the word “paanch,” or 5. Cognate with the English “punch,” it’s why fruit punch has it’s name; it’s made from 5 fruits. But, it also shows us that five fingers working separately are not as strong as 5 fingers working together.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the beginnings of our history with the “Panj tan pak,” the five pure ones. Unlike us, they were directly ordained by God. They are important role models for us on how we should act. There numerous stories of each of them serving others, doing hard labor for the sake of community, and remaining humble and God-conscious no matter what their achievements.

P begins the word “please.” Manners are important, not only to grease the wheels of society, but to remind us of dependency on one another. We say please with sincerity to show that we need a person, not that we are ordering them. It’s the same reason we say “thank you,” to show our gratitude and dependency. It is not just a gratitude and dependency on other humans, but on God as well.

Imam Ali (AS) tells us to pray to God when in difficulty and to be generous in success. These are both tests from God to see if we will remain mindful of the Divine. Our human interactions should bring us into closer relation with Allah, because these interactions are an opportunity to see the Divine in the other, to control our nafs, and to be conscious of God in our lives.

To see this in the everyday, we need to start bringing back our sense of awe and wonder. Awe is when we stand dumbstruck before the greatness of what we see and understand. That moment when a baby realizes she is the one moving her hand is awe. The hours of mindless staring and moving. Wonder is that time when we want to know about the world. We are curious and engaged.

The demands of the world take us away from awe and wonder, and move us to the needs of now, with no time to witness the mysteries and blessings around us. As the Qur’an says, which of the signs of God would we deny? And that means we don’t see it in other people, which means we don’t see it in ourselves.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The third part of this sermon can be found here.

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