“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
How many of us are really aware of our own thinking? How many of us are aware of the implications of our thinking in the different areas of our lives, including our faith?
In the absence of mindfulness, we become vulnerable to our egos. Our egos serve as a native defense mechanism designed to protect our vested interests. But what do our egos have to do with understanding Islam? Isn’t it merely our ignorance that is holding us back?
While it is true that ignorance – lack of knowledge – holds us back when it comes to understanding any subject, when it comes to a highly charged subject – a subject in which we have a vested interest in seeing things a certain way – sometimes it is our egos and not our ignorance that pose the greatest threat.
In order to gain some insight, we can begin to develop certain traits:
- Intellectual humility – How much do I really understand about this complex and controversial subject? Do I have all the answers, or just partial answers? Could there be entire realms of knowledge which I don’t even know exist?
- Intellectual autonomy – To what extent has my thinking in the past been a mere reflection of the thinking of the groups to which I belong, void of any independent analysis on my part? Will I continue to passively follow the thinking of the groups to which I belong, or will I think for myself?
- Intellectual perseverance – How often in the past have I been unwilling to invest in learning about Islam? To what extent was I willing to dismiss or even fail to seek out well-reasoned explanations for this grossly-misunderstood faith? Will I give up my pursuit for true understanding if I face some obstacles along the way?
This journey is a lifelong pursuit, so don’t be worried if some of your answers surprise you. Perhaps for now, simply notice your reactions, in an open and non-judgmental way.