Modern humans live in conditions of constant fuss, distractions and excess information. Our senses are constantly under the influence of some stimuli – to such an extent that at some point the simple silence becomes unbearable for some. Some things interferes with the full experience of every moment, makes prayer superficial, and deprives us of the ability to remember Allah (SWT). Being mindful of our goals and directions can be helpful on our way of life.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to pay attention to the present moment without being distracted by all the emotions, thoughts, and feelings we can perceive. In terms of emotional well-being, this concept can be very useful for Muslims. However, to us Muslims, this mainstream definition of Mindfulness is incomplete without Allah (SWT).
Mindfulness, through an Islamic lens, is not just about mental and emotional well-being, but more importantly about spiritual well-being – which we believe can nurture our emotional health and is deeply rooted in our awareness of and relationship with Allah (SWT).
The linguistic meaning of the word “Mindfulness” is “the presence of awareness, understanding of something”, more precisely, mindfulness is “a state of mind achieved by focusing on the present moment with calm recognition and acceptance of one’s feelings, thoughts, sensations; used as a therapeutic technique”. In the context of modern psychology, mindfulness is defined, in particular, as a “tool for exploring conceptual frameworks”. By closely observing their thoughts and feelings, a person gains the ability to change their conceptual framework or thinking patterns for their own good.
In a state of unconsciousness, a person reacts to thoughts and emotions almost on a reflex level, allowing them to lead him anywhere. Conversely, by developing mindfulness, he becomes able to decide for himself whether to follow his thoughts or not.
Mindfulness in Islam
In the Islamic context, the quality of mindfulness is denoted by the word “muraqabah”, it is derived from the root meaning “to watch, observe, carefully consider”. As you can see, the concept of “mindfulness” and “muraqabah” are closely related etymologically and linguistically. As a narrow spiritual term, muraqabah means the constant understanding, the immutable confidence of the believer that Allah (SWT) is watching over all his actions and thoughts. That is, a Muslim in the state of Muraqabah is constantly and fully aware that Allah knows him inside and out. It is a state of complete and vigilant self-awareness in the heart, soul and body towards Allah (SWT).
Muraqabah can also be explained as the desire to observe all that the Allah (SWT) commands, and to live with the unwavering sincerity of knowing that He (SWT) is constantly watching over us. Such behavior is possible only when the servant of Allah (SWT) realizes that He is aware of all that he or she thinks, says and does. The Holy Quran expresses this truth as follows:
Whatever you may be doing, and whatever portion you may be reciting from the Quran, and whatever deed you (mankind) may be doing (good or evil), We are Witness thereof, when you are doing it. And nothing is hidden from Allah (SWT) the weight of an atom (or small ant) on the Earth or in the heaven. Not what is less than that or what is greater than that but is (written) in a Clear Record.
Quran (Surah Yunus, 10:61)
Muraqabah certainly embodies awareness in relation to their own intentions, thoughts, emotions, and other experiences. Allah (SWT) always supervises at all times and consequently a Muslim will have great attention to the actions, thoughts, feelings, and inner state of the Muslim himself. Muraqabah is the true effort of worshipping Allah (SWT) by understanding the Beautiful Names which show the Mighty Power of Allah (SWT). Muraqabah always includes mindfulness towards one’s intentions, thoughts, emotions and inner states. Muraqabah is manifested in four aspects of life which are:
- Knowledge of Allah
- Knowledge of the enemies of Allah (SWT)
- Knowledge of the capacity of the soul to do evil
- Knowledge of actions to be done for Allah’s sake
Exercises to inculcate Mindfulness
The practice of mindfulness has nothing to do with the experience of spiritual delight, although sometimes this practice leads to pleasant feelings. Many people try to meditate or practice mindfulness just to experience the peak of spirituality, but that’s not the point. We are talking about training the mind – the same as training our bodies: sometimes exercises give a bonus feeling of deep satisfaction, but the main goal is to improve our health and become stronger. The exercise of mindfulness is exactly the same means of accumulating mental strength in combination with the enrichment of Islamic spirituality.
The practice of mindfulness cannot in any way replace the primary acts of worship: prayer, fasting, and so on. One of the advantages of mindfulness is just improving the quality of acts of worship and preparing for them, just as we prepare for Ramadan a few weeks before the Ramadan.