Or Spiritual Man?
Or All of the Above?
You Take Your Pick!
Just who are we? I mean really, as people, as humans, as a bundle of body, mind and possibly something else people call “soul”?
Are we nothing but chemical packages – distilled, refined, and rarefied elements of earthly substances?
A mere fistful of dust?
Or are we just physiological organisms wedded to all kinds of hard-to-define and hard-to-measure internal psychological processes?
Or is there a larger, finer, subtler, deeper and more overarching dimension to our lives on earth? Our spiritual existence as it were?
Just look at our lives – the way most of us live them.
We get up in the morning. Whatever time it is that we do. Haul our limbs into the bathroom. Do the needful.
Wash up. Most of us.
Make Wudu – ablution, as they call it, some of us.
Walk out. Do Salaah. Read Qur’an. Do various specialized prayers and “chants” for the day.
Or whatever other stuff God Almighty has chalked out for us for that moment.
And for that day.
The body returns to some kind of normalcy – if that is what it is.
And the fog of dazed grogginess dispels from the mind.
We are ready to hit the road.
Along the way, at some point, a customary intake of chemical refueling is resorted to. One or more cups of coffee or tea are poured down the hatch. The body gets a shock and jump-starts.
Eyes are now brighter and more open. Brain cells are firing on all cylinders. Body is rearing to go.
At least for most people.
I ask myself: Is that who we are? And is that what we are? A package full of sundry chemicals?
A Chemical Man, perhaps?
Or a Chemical Woman?
And then I consider all the other chemicals that are entered into our body in different forms and doses from food items to drugs and medications?
Some of them more nefarious and dangerous, even deadlier, than some others.
Some permissible under the Law of the Land, Man’s Shari’ah as it were, some prohibited.
Some permitted under God’s Law – God’s Shari’ah – called Halal or Mubaah and some forbidden called Haraam or Makrooh.
But they are there at our beck and call – barely a coin away in a slot in a waiting vending machine, or a walk or drive of a few minutes down the road to a grocery or a mom-and-pop corner store.
But in most cases, the chemicals never fail to do their job. They put us back into circulation.
Some numb our senses. Some set them on fire. Some simply jolt the body, including our brain, back to action.
Until such time at least as a new virus or bacteria claims our body and knocks it down.
Or until the systems are turned off at night.
As God Almighty says in the Qur’an he made the night so people will be able to rest. Hear Allah say it in the Qur’an:
Wa Ja’alal Layila Sakanan!
And then again:
Ja’ala Lakumul Layila Li-Taskunoo Feehi!
And I notice all the changes – many of them instantaneous, some fast fading, so many with longer-duration consequences.
And I tell myself: Is that what it is all about? Human life, I mean? A constant interplay of chemical agents all across our body?
And what does that do to our soul? For those of us who believe in a soul – as it occurs to me anyone with any sense should do!
So, chemicals with a soul? Does that sound like our correct address?
Is that why many of us possess this most amazing capacity for experiencing the most powerful, sad, depressing or empowering and stimulating feelings and sensations by just thinking about them?
And not necessarily through chemical intervention?
By just making them come alive in the forefront of our minds?
When looked deeper, they too are chemical reactions and byproducts, are they not – in some form or fashion?
Think of the deepest love you have. What happens? What do those thoughts of love do to your body and mind?
Think, in the same way, of God in the most personal and intense way. Work on it for long hours and days. And then see what it does to you.
To your heart rate and to your mental condition.
And to your overall psychological – and maybe “spiritual”? – wellbeing?
Hear the Qur’an tell it:
A-laa, Bi-Dhikrillahi Tat-ma-innul Quloob.
The most amazing calming effect that thinking of Allah has on human hearts and minds.
Provided one has worked interminable hours getting used to it, and practicing it, and nurturing it. Pretty much the way an athlete does his workout and his training.
The Qur’an makes it clear: You have got to work at it.
Alladheena Tat-ma-innu Quloobuhum Bi-Dhikrillah!
In the same way, think the most intense hate or dislike you may have – for something or someone.
And think of things that make you really, really upset and angry. Thoughts that may get you furious and raging.
Now, what do these thoughts and emotions do to your body?
And to your mind?
What do you think a panic attack is?
After all this, should we also throw in “soul” in the mix?
Is that why Allah has reserved some special praise for those who are able to manage and control their anger?
And are willing to let go; and do not nurse grudges; and who tend to forgive people easily and accept their excuses and apologies?
Wal Kaazimeenal Ghayiza,
Wal ‘Aafeena ‘Anin-Naas!
Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, repeatedly said:
Don’t be angry!
Don’t nurse hate!
Get rid of your rage!
So, the point is, regardless of what these things do to your body and to your mind through their complex chemical reactions and interactions, they also impact your soul in all kinds of unimaginable and yet profound ways.
As for the soul itself, we don’t know what or where it is. Only God knows what it is; where it is; and how it functions.
Given the infinitesimally small knowledge-base and limited comprehension level we have been given, it defies our capacities to know and to understand what exactly the phenomenon of soul is.
God says so in the Qur’an:
Qulir Roohu Min Amri Rabbee.
Wa Maa Ooteetum Minal ‘Ilmi Illaa Qaleelaa!
But one thing we know beyond a shadow of a doubt: that it is there.
The soul I mean.
Again, falling back on God’s own testimony in the Qur’an:
Wa Nafakha Feehi Mir Roohihi!
“And God breathed his spirit in Adam when he created him.”
Is that our soul then? God only knows.
As they say: