The Soul of Islamic Symbols

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Most, if not all religions, function in the world of symbolism and communicate their universal messages to their followers through these religious symbols. Rituals, sacraments, prayers, worship services, religious ceremonies and more are nothing but to invite believers to engage with very deep ethical, moral and spiritual teachings through set of symbols and symbolic acts and behaviors. These religious symbols are never meant to be goals as themselves but vehicles and agents to much higher ultimate goals. If one does not get lost in the actual practice of these religious symbolic acts but constantly strives to get connected and feed him or herself with the deep teachings beneath these acts, he or she could develop a healthy spirituality, strong ethical and moral values, righteousness and more. However, it is one of the most common human weaknesses to easily get disconnected from what those religious symbols have been trying to teach us and keep practicing them as a form of habit or regular task that we feel obliged to do.

Islam, through its foundational texts (Holy Quran and Sunnah), and daily, monthly and annual rituals and practices, offers one of the richest such worlds of pedagogy of symbols to Muslims. Every Islamic ritual and practice is an invitation for the believers to commit themselves to a process of increasing purity, tranquility and peace in their internal and external world. Thiskhutba is an invitation for me and to all to strive to live Islam meaningfully and purposefully by paying attention to the language of those religious symbols.

Let me discuss several such central Islamic symbols in this regard. What is religiously more central, for believing and practicing Muslims, than five daily prayers in their lives? We stop and pause five times a day, every day through out our adult lives to pray. Wherever we may be, Muslim men and women rush to the water tabs, take our ritual ablution (Wudu), spread our prayer rugs toward the proper direction, and then stand, bow and prostrate before God Almighty five times a day, every day of the year. Every single step of these five daily prayers are nothing but a series of Islamic symbols and in high volumes talks to us about the ethical moral teachings of our beautiful religion. We should not fail to pay attention to their voices as we practice these Islamic rituals. Otherwise they will turn into voiceless, repetitive acts of useless traditionalism.


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