Friday, September 25, 2015

Sacrificing the Ego

Attachment is a powerful thing for any human being. When we have build a strong attachment to something or someone, it is very difficult to let the attachment go. It hurts to let it go. But here in lies the real test: who is the priority in our life?

In the case of our attachments, the dilemma usually occurs when we have to choose between one of two: ourselves (the ego) or Allah. When a Muslim is asked who is number 1 in his or her life, he or she will most probably answer with confidence, “Well, Allah of course!”

Saying it is one thing, but practicing it is another thing entirely. It is easy to give the right answer when that question is asked. It is in the textbook after all. But actions speak louder than words. It is good that we say it, but do we do it? What do our actions “say”?

At the heat of the moment is when we are truly tested. It is effortless to say that we prioritize Allah over everything when there’s no hardship to put our foot where our mouth is. When hardship befalls us, then we can truly measure the weight of our words and see if we stay true to them.

The ego is tough to fight because it appeals to us. All it seeks is to increase pleasure and to decrease pain. Who wouldn’t want that? But making that the core of our existence signifies that we are Godless, or to be more precise, it entails that we are taking something else as God - our own self.

Not everything that is pleasing to us is good for us and not everything that is painful for us is bad for us. That is a tough message to comprehend, let alone internalize because the very essence of our survival depends on seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.

The ego lies in the mind, especially in the mind that thinks that it knows more than it really knows.

Sacrificing the ego doesn’t mean that we don’t use our minds at all. Sound reasoning is essential in Islam, as pointed out by Dr. Umar Faruq ‘Abd Allah in his paper “Living Islam with Purpose”. He dedicated the first section of his paper on sound reasoning alone, highlighting its importance in Islam.

So being Muslims doesn’t mean that we don’t think and that we don’t make sense of things. Quite the contrary, Allah encourages us to think and reflect. Allah even mentioned quite a few times in the Quran about Ulul Albab (the people of reflection).

Islam is about balance. Although we cherish our God-given intellect, it doesn’t mean that we worship it. Our mind is not our number one reference for what we should and should not do. This is hard to digest, especially in today’s era of increasing skepticism and over-reliance on the mind’s logic.

As amazing as the mind truly is, it must realize its place in the world. There will be things that the mind cannot comprehend and understand, but it doesn't make those things untrue. Maybe the mind is not well equipped yet, or it is not well equipped at all.

Even with the mind's limitations, it is a wonder how much that it can grasp about the reality of the world. We should marvel at its ability to do so, and we should take full advantage of it by using it to its full capacity. Having said all of that, there will be moments when we must choose between the revelation or the mind.

In those moments, we will see who we really worship.