Tafakkur Two: When to Practice
When is the best time to consciously practice tafakkur? I’m busy all day and it’s not as if I don’t reflect carefully on a lot of things while I’m writing, or cooking, or visiting friends. For example, as I made my way down the narrow and steeply inclined streets of the village yesterday I reflected on religion. I find it a problematic word because so much that is completely unrelated goes under its banner. I don’t mean the differences between religions, but rather the different attitudes and actions within any one religion, and this goes pretty much across the board of any religion; the literalists, and the dogmatists, the mystics, and the ascetics, the otherworldly, the life-embracing, the violent, the peaceful, and the downright wacky. Because religious institutions of various kinds have held enormous power and political clout, their pronouncements can be at times detrimental to large groups of society, and sometimes beneficial. I don’t feel that the Arabic word ‘deen’ translates very well as ‘religion’, for under the term religion we normally understand an organization, or institution, with a hierarchy and all sorts of rules and regulations. This is very much an area of human affairs and worldly matters. I decided to write about the difficulty of translating ‘deen’ in to English and to explore the meanings in that beautiful Arabic word. It is down on my list of themes to write about. It’s actually a problem that one of the characters in my novel-in-progress thinks about, so there you are, it is obviously a recurring theme for me that needs to be given more focussed attention. ‘Deen’, as I understand the word, is a spiritual reality that has immense consequences for our lives here and now. It is what determines us as travellers to the Real and reminds us that, whether willing or not, we are on a journey of return to the One.
Now to return to my original question: When is the best time to consciously practice tafakkur? I might even ask: Why set aside a special time when I can do it in situ as it were? First, as I read on Fethullah Gulen’s website (cited above) the Prophet Muhammad Pbuh, is reported to have said, ‘No act of worship is as meritorious as reflection (tafakkur)’ Second, distraction is a real danger unless I seek a quiet and private space to do my reflecting. There is nothing wrong with reflection ‘on the go’, it helps me keep close to what is good and to avoid destructive or unhelpful thoughts and emotions, and since the world, and my daily life, is full of the signs of the One this acts as a constant reminder of the journey we are all undertaking. However, if I want to achieve an inner stillness to deepen my reflections and become more receptive to ‘hearing’ any guidance then I believe the discipline of setting aside a specific time every day will assist in that purpose and also create an inner space that I can carry into my daily activities. In other words, practicing this form of spiritual exercise regularly will help to actualize any insights. Immediately I am flooded with concerns as to how I am to find extra time every day when the day never seems long enough as it is. Well there is always the option of getting up earlier, or going to bed later, or extending my lunch break a little, even if it is just twenty minutes. The next question is what am I going to reflect on? I’ll be recording my thoughts on that in my next post in this series.