Many people ask, is there any conception in Islam restricting or prohibiting the practice of Yoga and many Buddhist practices that are becoming increasingly popular nowadays? Some label these practices as atheist, some link them to polytheist beliefs, while others practice them all, even those of strict Buddhist religious affiliation and which explicitly involve Buddhist pujas.

Many people ask, is there any conception in Islam restricting or prohibiting the practice of Yoga and many Buddhist practices that are becoming increasingly popular nowadays? Some label these practices as atheist, some link them to polytheist beliefs, while others practice them all, even those of strict Buddhist religious affiliation and which explicitly involve Buddhist pujas.

 

While it’s highly plausible to pursue practices that have health benefits, it is crucial to be aware of the origin of them, and to comprehend what these practices come to connote. Are they mere exercises that cause the body and mind to relax, or do they have farther meanings and implications linking them to some religious beliefs.

Avoiding much unwanted generalization, this article tends to crystallize the danger of having misconception or actually lacking knowledge about some of the practices and meditation-like exercises that are widely adopted in Muslim Communities, with increasing popularity on the way.

While it’s wrong to reject whatever that’s not originally Islamic, it’s not wise to follow and accept wholeheartedly any invented practice without a comprehensive analysis of its implications and origins, even if they’re not pertinent to religious beliefs and faith.

It’s not about being repulsive to whatever that’s representative of the other. We Muslims seek consultation from followers of other faiths and even atheists in many worldly matters, yet nobody can dispute that we’re not sinners by so doing, as long as it doesn’t inflict any harm on our health, wellbeing, or safety, which we’re strictly commanded to safeguard. As long as such matters do not mess with our belief in the oneness of our Creator, the oneness of God, the one who has the Supreme and Ultimate power, we’re explicitly given free choice to practice whatever acts, granted that they do not involve any infringement to God ordained commands and beliefs, or any other sort of harm.

A deeper look into some types of meditation adopted by many “Modern” Muslims will render a strong connection to Buddhism.

How can some claim that such practices and preserving one’s pure faith can get along? If we accepted as a fact that what has to do with spiritual and mental exercises does not mess with the faith and religious belief, which doesn’t make much sense by the way, how can we accept that this doesn’t mess with our sense of identity, that’s already fading away as a result of growing forgetful of our heritage as Muslims and gradually losing grasp of the truthful meaning and actual weight of our Deen.

Many Muslims have unequivocally ceased feeling proud for being Muslims- consequently stopped dealing with Islam as a living manual, expounding from it guidance and source of light in life, as modern as it is, and as beguiling as it has ever been.

In this analysis, or you may call review, I will tackle a type of meditation I myself came across and searched its religious affiliation with the Buddhist faith. I shall take as an example the Transcendental Meditation, one of the most popular types of meditation practiced by millions of people worldwide, and hundreds if not thousands throughout the Muslim Communities and countries that have majority Muslim population.

Like any type of Meditation, TM involves a relaxation of the body allowing the mind to also relax and transcend through the many levels of consciousness.

Physically and scientifically TM, which first appeared in India in the mid 1950s at the hands Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and reached global proportions by the 1960s, makes a lot of sense and superficially doesn’t seem to involve any contravention with the Islamic Faith. But don’t jump into judgment and wait till you grasp the whole of it.

In the opening of the one on-one-session of a TM course, the instructor engages in some practice and recites some words that are not explained to the new practitioner. Later one I learned that this is actually some sort of puja made.

In a span of about 20 minutes, the practitioner is to recite a certain mantra, widely and erroneously perceived by Muslims, and this is what they’re told by the instructor, as mere sounds of explicit physical impacts that help the body and mind to relax.

Later on and upon searching the matter more deeply, I found some theories rendering these mantras given to each practitioner, who’s asked to not under any condition release his/her mantra to anybody, as if some wrath would befall him/her, are actually names of Buddhist deities.

Practicing such type of meditation may indeed render positive results, for it causes a person to relax, but that’s not so unique, for normally when body relaxes, mind and soul relax, and it doesn’t have to be a particular act of meditation that is known to be evoking certain “acknowledged” impact.

We Muslims are encouraged to engage in meditation as much as we can, simply to reflect on the beauty of creation, the supreme power of the Creator, and more importantly grasp the essence of being, and life in general.

While I may not issue an outright assertion that mantras used in TM particularly or any type of meditation in general are names of Buddhist deities, I explicitly seek to crystallize many doubts tainting such practices, blindly adopted and followed by many Muslims. We shouldn’t follow just what’s followed by the mainstream; should we? We on the other hand ought to enact the bliss of thinking, and wisely analyze matters.

What I see of increasing popularity of Buddhist practices among Muslims is indeed indispensable.

Some Muslim practitioners of such exercises will go on the defense and argue that their faith cannot waver because of any such “mere” practices simply because they do not believe in Buddha. But then again, an alert perception and wise conscience dictates that we shun and avoid whatever that’s doubtful, or Shubha. This is what we Muslims are taught by the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah.

And if Muslims are that keen on boosting their spiritual intelligence and mind functionality, I advise them to resort to and revisit the merits of a practice around which revolves the essence of our Iman, it’s Prayer; a complete form of meditation we’re invited to exercise 5 times a day, bonding us to ourselves so that we remain centered and super conscious, to our Creator so that we are mindful of His bounties and power, and surely to life, so that we keep an intelligent perception of our indented role in it.

You are what you like, so be watchful of what impinges on your heart.

Wassalaam,

Maha Youssuf

maha@muslimtribune.org

Posted on: August 10, 2011