Leading A Spiritual Life
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (d. 2021) was an Islamic scholar, spiritual teacher and a peace activist. After completing his six years’ education from a traditional Islamic seminary, he realized that the knowledge of modern sciences was needed to effectively communicate the message of Islam to the modern minds. Thereby, he delved into contemporary thoughts alongside learning English language. He then began imparting his gained knowledge through writing books, and has authored over 200 books since then on a variety of topics and issues.
As the founder of “Center for Peace and Spirituality” and renowned for his applied spirituality, his book Leading a Spiritual Life discusses ways from his own experiences and observations about how spirituality can be achieved. In his book, he refutes the idea of spirituality as matter of the heart. He argues that spirituality is not mere ecstasy, rather is an awakening of the human mind. Regarding spirituality as not a gift but an acquired attribute, he advocates for the “art of conversion” as a supreme trait in living a life of simplicity and high thinking.
Leading a Spiritual Life, which is replete with secrets to achieve spirituality, consists of seven chapters. The first chapter touches on the daily life as the first sphere to work on for developing spirituality. The second chapter is solely dedicated to explain how nature is a great teacher in and of itself. The author asserts that nature holds spiritual ‘nectar’ for anyone seeking it (p. 126). Considering the prevalent problem of stress in the third chapter, Maulana convinces people of how stress in life is in effect a prime factor in determining success because ‘without stress intellectual processes come to a halt’ (p. 134). He maintains that one only needs to change his approach towards stress, and then nature will miraculously take its own course and facilitate in personality development and intellectual growth of an individual. Similarly, he considers failure as ‘a stepping stone to better things’ (p. 266). In fact, in his fourth chapter titled as “The Secret of Super-Achievement”, he opines that failure can give ‘new ways to proceed on your journey’ (p. 193). Maulana also provides his audience with a formula for happiness in the second last chapter, and the last chapter discusses the merits of wisdom and warns that ‘to be deprived of wisdom is to be deprived of all good things’ (p. 325).
In his ‘foreword’, the author mentions the tree as a ‘model for spiritual living’ (p. 7). He implies that the tree is a silent teacher of human beings, instructing them to ‘adopt the culture of giving rather than taking’ (p. 7). This culture is bound to instill in humans a sense of spirituality. This book is written with the intention of helping humans to discover the path to a successful life. It acknowledges that the major thing which affects human beings is problems, and those problems no matter of what sort they are, will be solved when we ‘take them as a challenge’ (p. 8). This idea is mentioned throughout the book with the help of diversified examples and this is precisely the main theme and thesis of the book.
In the first chapter titled as “Spirituality in Daily Life”, the author makes mention of the strategy to be a complaint-free person, and that is to take world as a ‘source of your personality development’ (p. 11). When one knows his personality is being developed, he will realize the value of problems and be grateful for them. Just as the author stresses on the “art of conversion” where he takes tree as a skilled artist converting minerals, water and sunlight intro fruits and shade for the wayfarers, he also brings into discussion the “art of extraction”. A spiritual person according to him is just like a honeybee concerned only about taking nectar from the fruits and ignoring the thorns. While discussing the practice of honeybees, he says ‘the same is true of an awakened mind’ in that it is attentive only for the sake of extracting spiritual content from everything (p. 14). He draws a comparison between the two spiritual persons, one lives among the people while the other resides in jungle, and concludes that the former is better. It is because the spiritual person is ‘needed by his society’ (p. 16). On the contrary, one who is neither a giver nor a ‘no problem’ is in fact a ‘burden on society’ (p. 61).
In the second chapter, Maulana precisely conveys three lessons. First lesson expresses the metaphorical relation that humans have to an ore-it undergoes a burning process to produce steel. Likewise, human potential has to be actualized through ‘a psychological process’ (p. 101). Secondly, we have to ‘overlook the misuse of freedom by others’ in order for our own spiritual growth to be unhindered (p. 115). In this case, he cites an example from his childhood where a young boy aggressively hurled stones till mangoes ‘rained down on him’ (p. 113). The third lesson calls for readers to realize that ‘social change, after all, is an issue not of street activism, but of intellectual activism’ (p. 117).
The problem of stress is discussed in the third chapter, where Maulana calls stress ‘a bad master’ (p. 150). He says ‘stress is a healthy sign’ if we don’t associate complaints with it or run away from it because the solution lies in managing it (p. 136). Also, he disproves too much inclination towards comfort zone as it ‘is only a beautiful name for a non-creative zone’ (p. 171). He then goes on to say that unnecessary stress in life can be avoided if we set achievable goals. His observation that ‘there is no full stop to opportunities- only commas!’ seeks to instill hope in individuals who get saddened when an opportunity is lost (p. 152). He complies with the popular statement that every problem begins in the mind and it is therein solved as well. Using this statement, he urges readers to regard problems as ‘integral to the law of nature’ instead of attributing them to the ‘instrumentality of others’, in order to ‘tackle them in a cool and calm fashion’ (p. 181).
In the fourth chapter, Maulana reveals the secrets to super-achievement in life. He begins with highlighting the importance of time and quoting an advice given to Akash Ambani by his grandfather that ‘Money lost can be earned again, but lost time is lost forever. So use your time judiciously’ (p. 188). He advocates the planned use of time and discourages utilizing time improperly ‘in the same way as we might want to stay away from a forbidden thing’ (p. 237). Failure according to him is another secret to super-achievement as ‘the journey of great achievement begins from great failure’ (page. 193). He further states that one needs to accept reality to be really focused on achieving success in life. In this case, he uplifts those born in poor circumstances by saying that ‘one who is born in a state of affluence is bound to become intellectually dwarfed’ (p. 201)
The fifth chapter is dedicated to deriving positivity from failures. Failures are an inevitable part of one’s life, and to not be overwhelmed by them, he suggests, one must immediately look for the other option and avoid ‘complaints and protests’ (p. 260). He himself learnt this lesson from the approach of rivulet which upon hindered by a rock, immediately turns in another direction ‘with its journey uninterrupted’ (p. 260). He asserts that ‘success is the outcome of one’s own efforts’ and ‘everyone is born with the silver spoon of opportunity’ to change one’s life (p. 269). By citing the example of birds which when thrown stones at change the branch, he maintains that ‘constant complaining is the greatest enemy of spirituality’ (p. 281).
In the sixth chapter titled as “The Formula for Happiness”, he describes happiness as ‘an internal phenomenon’ (p. 317). He assertively claims that greed is the major cause behind unhappiness because ‘no amount of achievement can satisfy one’s greed’ (p. 317). He implies that humans associating their happiness with material things is a deception because ‘greed is an unending quest’ (p. 317). Another factor of unhappiness or depression identified by him is the ‘non-acceptance of reality’ (p. 326). As complaints being a sign of unhappiness, he says that the solution of complaints lies in not making them a ‘subject of discussion and debate’ and ‘forgetting complaints is the only practical way to solve them’ (p. 342).
By the end of his book, Maulana leaves readers with examples of what is real wisdom in life. In this case, he highlights obeying ‘that impulse’ and understanding ‘others’ points of view’ as acts based on wisdom (p. 344, 345). He states that spending money for non-constructive purposes is against the very wisdom of life, and it is not money itself, rather the use of it that ‘makes it good or bad for a human being’ (p. 347). He adds further insights about money by stating that making money as the sole purpose is ‘underutilizing yourself’ (p. 348). He compares two factors: adjustment and justice, and concludes that adjustment is better of the two as it is a ‘unilateral matter’ and ‘can instantly be achieved’ (p. 370). He also highlights the importance of utilizing present moment for the maximum benefit because ‘saying “I will do it” is a kind of luxury that we cannot afford’ (p. 380). He leaves readers with an advice to utilize their time period from the age of 25-35 because it’s the ‘period of maximum strength’ (p. 386).
Keeping in view the problems identified in the book, it is justified to say that this book provides solutions of core issues that we often neglect in our daily lives. It is a comprehensive guide to attaining unrivalled success in life.