When zeal exceeds maturity

March 2, 2009 at 11:51 pm (Islam)

Recently he admitted he had become too partisan, citing Muhammad Ali as another Muslim convert whose radicalism was tempered by time. “There’s always a zealous period,” he said. “I used to want to rebel against everything, and that was great. After that, you get back to the job of living.” Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens quoted in an article quoted here.

This was probably true of me at one time too. Different faith, same mechanism. I don’t think it was about rebelling for me though. But I’ve often thought that converting to Islam is probably about that for a number of people in the west. After all, there are fewer and fewer ways to really rock the boat these days. Ultimate rebellion: become extremely religious. Society has come full circle.

Regarding the zeal exceeding the maturity, this kind of ties in with what I said yesterday about it not being as simple as more religious = more moral. Dogmatism is a trap that it is easy to fall into when you believe that there is one right way and you are on it, and it leads to drawing divisions between people. In my old church great effort was made to view non-Christians as “the lost”, which implies need, but when it came to fellow Christians who were not following the rules, “the guilty” might have been a preferred term. The first is patronising although fairly innocuous; the second loses all pretenses of sympathy and sits in judgment instead. It interested me the other day to read on another blog a comment, by a religious person, linking love of God with lack of compassion, and lack of understanding. Why should this be, if God is compassionate? Usually when we love someone we emulate their ways and grow more similar to them. I’m also reminded of the Pharisees of Jesus’ time who were word-perfect in their religion but “like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones”. It’s something everyone interested in religion should be wary of.

Older people are often the most inspiring. I guess there is no fast track to spiritual maturity.

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4 Comments

  1. Lisa said,

    Sarah,

    Some of the most religious people are not outwardly so. They also keep their religious zeal really private. One such person is Pixie who came into Islam very slowly and quietly.

    The ones who came in like me fast and furious, giving up parents, music, and who they are don’t usually last. I liken it to a genius child prodigy who finishes college at 15. At 21, he completely falls apart and into drugs. You can’t even wrestle him up before 4 pm for a McDonald’s gig.

    Sarah, I really enjoy your writing. I think that society has really liked the 1950’s as a role model decade. The 60’s-Sept 11 were about individualism and now people want to revert to a time before when they needed God and close-knit families. It is wonderful, but has a downside.

    I hope that eventually you and I find our way though I like living somewhere in between. Sometimes though th confusion is too much. Love you dear Sarah.

  2. Sarah said,

    I like living in-between too. But sometimes I just want to go home.

  3. Wishing to remain anon said,

    This is topical in a couple of ways. “Dogmatism is a trap that it is easy to fall into when you believe that there is one right way and you are on it, and it leads to drawing divisions between people.” As I was trying to say on your most recent post, for me it’s about the middle road – sure I do believe there is a right way and that’s what I’m striving for, but also I don’t wish to do that (and I don’t think it’s right to do it) in such a way as to completely separate myself from others. Compassion is important; we must understand, we must forgive, we must simply look for our similarities, not always be pointing out and focussing on the differences.

    Also topical is maturity and jumping in without giving enough thought and time for things to grow naturally…and quite possibly using religion to rebel. That is in some ways part and parcel of being young, but people can get hurt along the way.

  4. Achelois said,

    I think I’m still so immature 😀

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