Theologians of the past as well as contemporary scholars have argued that the human existence is separated into two parts: the body and the soul. In the same way that the body needs nourishment to live, grow, and sustain itself, the soul also needs nourishment to live, grow, and sustain itself. And because the two parts occupy the same medium, there exists a delicate balance. If one part is over-nourished, its counterpart will be under-nourished. This is why St. Augustine (amongst others) in the Christian tradition taught the importance of not over-indulging oneself in terms of food or drink. This teaching of balance is mirrored in other religions.
In the Islamic tradition, there is a well-known story in which three companions of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) went to meet him. One of them said, “I will offer the prayer throughout the night every single night.” The other said, “I will fast every day of the year.” The third said, “I will keep away from marriage [in order to concentrate on worship alone].” When the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) heard this, he said, “I am more submissive to God, yet I fast, I sleep, and I marry.” This story depicts the importance of balance even in worship. We learn that our physical well-being, our families, and even our time have rights over us. In other words, the only way to live a productive life with spiritual growth and progression is to live a life of balance.
Diving a little bit deeper reveals another essential element of balance when it comes to spirituality: faith and reason. It is my opinion (so take it with a grain of salt if you will at all) that when we associate with a particular faith/methodology of living, we should do so with purpose. If you have faith founded in Christianity, know your tradition and know your text. If you associate as a Muslim, understand why. Know your history. Know why you are, whoever you are. Faith is absolutely essential, but when you have faith with no complement, it is vulnerable. When you have reason—when you know why you believe what you believe—then your faith is impenetrable in the face of challenges or crises.
This being said, I invite us all to study our faiths more seriously, intelligently, spiritually, and academically. We should be a generation of people that revive our own spiritual traditions through faith and reason. To do this, however, we must go through the proper means of understanding our traditions. I invite us all to engage in meaningful discussions with those more knowledgeable than us, take more religious studies classes, and get lost in our own history and texts!
I hope and pray that we do not become a generation of blind followers, but rather a generation of people who balance practicality and spirituality, work and relaxation, faith and reason, and body and soul. I hope that we invest time in providing food and nourishment for our souls the way we do for our bodies. In other words, I hope we start munchin’ on that soul food!
May we be the best of people for the generations to come. Amen.
Editor’s Note: Salman Abdul Majeed’s his leg was injured somewhat badly recently. We ask prayers for his recovery.