The Detour

A Japanese proverb : “If you are in a hurry, take a detour, ,” isogaba maware.”

An obscure tappa goes: you have done a great deal of Musulmani, now become a kafir ( non believer or skeptic, or ,in more mystical parlance: disconnected, ungrateful ). Musulmani is a colloquial term, indicating the day to day ,practical, aspects of Islam, that a lot of us have to confine ourselves to, if mundane life has to go on. In other words, to achieve a deeper faith, take a detour through kufr or non belief or, great doubt,skepticism.. This does not, I think mean, that folks who practice day to day Musulmani, are not faithful, or Mu’amin. But a detour, through some troublesome times, with uncertainty, not knowing, are ,apparently, required to achieve Iman, at a different level. It can be compared to ,e.g., a Zen monk, achieving enlightenment and then returning to his quotidian existence.

Or that it is more difficult, if not impossible, to reach out to the ultra-mundane, without great struggles, a journey fraught with painful uncertainty, an existential crisis ( A well known example of this ,that comes to mind is that of Al-Ghazali, in the middle ages ). This struggle is , generally, spared those who are born into the faith.

The economist, Robert Heilbroner is quoted as saying:”What is interesting about logical thought.. is that one having been mastered, its rules master us.” This,it seems to me, applies to idealogy, above all, but also culture,traditions,dogmas,even routines, that have a logical structure..These rules, strictly and slavishly applied, may stop thought,or the capacity for it, especially of out of the box kind.

I recall that it was an ordinary looking, conservative, deeply engaged in the day to day kind of faith, Mullah, who told me about the above tappa , when I was unable to grasp profundities of any kind. I was puzzled and remain puzzled, though when I learned about Zen Koans later on in life, I started to see a koan like element in it, although it is not in the form of a question. It,however, raises a number of questions. It seemed as though, this Khizr-like figure, wanted to shake up my mastery by logical thought, linear, either/or kind thinking and certainties. I have, unfortunately not solved this paradox ( as though, paradoxes of life, or faith or lack of it, are solvable issues ), and keep meditating on this , my task, at least, one of my tasks in life. Another man of faith, deep, I think, thought that atheists were God’s favorite humans, as they were, mostly, sincere, not motivated by desires for something or other, but solely by a search for truth.

In the above anecdote, the mullah and the man of faith, were ,it appeared to me, like Nasruddin, who uses humor, sometimes “crazy” ideas & attempts to bring thought and imagination,intuition,, living reality back into the picture.. A recent example of this is from ” The Nine-Sided Circle “, a very valuable Sufi web side: Nasruddin says to a group of pious people debating about the most important thing to do in daily life, pray,give alms,etc.. The Mullah simply said “stop breathing “‘ ( and you will have your answer ). In another version, as mentioned in a previous blog, he asked them to close their eyes and hurry home.

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