I have now finished four semesters at Amherst. I have one left (remember: I entered as a transfer student). Unlike many students who have internships, especially in D.C. and NY, I am going to stick around for another summer in the Valley. Not a bad choice. Furthermore, and this would be the prevailing theme for quite a while to come: how could one be concerned about embarking on a career and getting wrapped up in a whole lot of superfluous worldly responsibilities when one still doesn’t know who God is and what happens to us after we die.
By the time the summer comes around, I am meditating daily. I would write: “I went forth into self to seek knowledge.” I am implementing a level of discipline and consistency in my life I never had before. I also was, at least calling myself, praying pretty consistently (but at the time, I was distant from having the proper Islamic belief, so I wasn’t praying in reality). I was also working more and more on my diet.
From the meditation, I could increasingly see how what one eats influences one’s thoughts and emotions. Different foods (and I could add, different combinations of foods) cause different thoughts to arise in the mind and different feelings to manifest in the heart. As I strove to attain deeper and deeper states of meditative stillness, the desire for unhealthy foods naturally decreased. Sometime that summer I went full-fledged vegetarian (sans fish on occasion). There were struggles—real struggles—against the cravings for my former diet, especially refined sugar cravings, but when I kept in mind how the unhealthy foods would make it harder to reach stiller states of consciousness, it made it easier for me to prevail. I also became very conscious of just how much of our psyche is driven by “gut stuffin’” desires. Among my fonder dietary memories of the time was eating what I used to call “Third-Eye Salads.” These forehead twitching salads were composed of romaine lettuce, carrots, celery, spinach, onions, alfalfa sprouts (sometimes), red and green peppers, yellow squash, sunflower seeds and whatever else that was natural, colorful, and healthy.
“It is absolutely beautiful here in the summertime.” I’m experiencing another summer amidst the rolling hills of broccoli heads as far as one could see. It’s so green. It’s so lush that the eyes cannot get enough of the natural beauty of Amherst in the summertime. I would stay at Tyler House, which was in a more secluded area of the Amherst campus. This seclusion lent itself well to someone who wanted to meditate outside an hour or more daily, and read, and read, and read and ponder what life is all about. Unlike the summer before, which was more social, this summer not many people were around. But… but my Texas “crush-friend” was be there, and that didn’t contribute to having the kind of emotionally tranquility I ideally desired. Nonetheless, her presence—and the “not more than friends” relationship between the two of us—was, in part, the impetus for me getting behind the lids. There had to be something more substantial to life than having a girlfriend and a career in corporate America. I needed knowledge of self… and I needed to know who is God.
The meditation opened up the world of dreams. There was one dream I had in particular at the time that I still remember pretty well. (In the dream) I was with The Mentor at a park down in the Springfield area (the same park we had went to for a recent Eid picnic). Perhaps we were playing softball, but for some reason I looked up to the sky, and I see that the clouds are coalescing into the image of “Buddha.” The other people—who are suppose to be Muslims—also notice, and they start taking out their prayer rugs and putting them on the ground to prostrate to this “vaporous image in the sky.” I remember shouting at the top of my lungs: “I want to worship ALLAH!”—and then I woke up.
Something just occurred to me as I write above the above dream. Aside from rejecting the idolatry that was rampant in the yoga and New Age books on meditation I was reading, and rejecting some traces of Wahhabism1that might have infected me (although, I never was an adherent to the Wahhabi ideology), I remember now that when I was growing up that my “image of God” was that of an African man dressed up in tribal dress sitting cross-legged, like the Buddha statue that was on our living room table.
I never prayed to that mental image (or the statue), or thought that something like that image was the Creator of the universe, but that was the image that would involuntarily pop up in my head when the word “God” was mentioned.2 I think that having that image—as invalid and as blasphemous as I would say it is today—did prevent me from succumbing to the type of psychological slavery that many African-Americans who believe that Jesus (who is almost always portrayed as someone who could pass for a Northern European) is God have suffered from. As jacked-up as I was growing up in matters of race and religion, I never thought of God as being a white man.
Other things were also happening the metaphysical level that I would ascribe to the meditation. On the first day of July that summer I would write: “The concept of ‘spirit’ is truly beginning to materialize more concretely.” I don’t know if that was an intentional play on words or a “Freudian slip,” but I was increasingly becoming more aware of non-material realities. God knows how much of it was due to the influence of the jinn3 and how much was the result of doing the exercises and meditation, but I was now experiencing some of what is reported in the books on yoga meditation and in New Age literature, such as, having Kundalini awakenings, which were as terrifying as they were fascinating. Again, what is happening at this stage is a dissolution of my skeptical mind—there is something more to life (and death) than what is propounded by standard Western materialistic philosophy. Now although, I was becoming increasingly “open-minded” to other realities that couldn’t be realized by skepticism, I had no formal method to filter these thoughts to discern the fallacious from the consistent—nor the good from the bad.
There’s is just a whole lot going on in the attic, and I didn’t seem able to find anyone with whom I can share my concerns or get answers to my questions. My professors didn’t seem to be concerned with who is God, death, and the Afterlife. My peers, many of whom were fretting over law, medical, or graduate school, seemed to me more concerned about this life than what’s to come after it.
I was formally taking “lessons” with the “Brothers” at this time. However, the approach at the time seemed very rigid, overly legalistic and too dogmatic—that is, I was learning that one must do such-and-such (or avoid such-and-such) and believe such-and-such to stay out of Hellfire. Also, there was the matter of apostasy: I was being taught there were matters that a Muslim could believe, do, or say that would nullify his Islam and cause one to be condemned to Hell… forever. And this could happen (that is, one could fall out of Islam) without one knowing it. But I, on the other hand, wanted to know how to still the mind in meditation, activate the pineal gland, and go astral traveling. I was looking for that “deep stuff”—i was trying to understand the metaphysical nature of self, so I could gain self-mastery, so I could break myself from the distractions and attachments of this world, so I could be devoted to nothing but God.
Nonetheless, I had to acknowledge that if these Brothers were right—if it were the case that a Muslim could do (or believe or say) something that would take him out of the fold of Islam and that the consequence of such would be absolute perdition—then I could not afford to be wrong. However, I had no way of independently verifying what the Brothers were saying, so I continued to search.
It seems that something did not stick with me, or that I just missed the lesson about how Muslims know Prophet Muhammad was a Prophet. What the standard literature purportedly about Islam of the time said was that the Qur’an was Prophet Muhammad’s miracle—and some sources said his only miracle. Groups, like the W.D. Community, regarded the miracles of the Prophets as matters merely “symbolic” in nature. I had no real understanding about how the Qur’an was supposed to be a miracle—and the college course I had taken that spring didn’t help in that regard. Consequently, I had no firm knowledge or certitude that the Prophet Muhammad was absolutely truthful in all that he conveyed from the Creator.4 It just seemed that many Muslims just accepted Muhammad’s Prophethood as a matter of “faith” without offering any persuasive proofs.
What I tried to do was understand the Islam, especially the eschatological5 teachings of the Prophet, by way of other religions—in particular, Eastern religions and what sense I could make of traditional African religions, and what was available of the teachings ascribed to the Ancient Egyptians. The belief in One Perfect Creator, Who alone deserves to be worshiped, Who exists without time or place seemed so self-evident and indisputable that I figured there had to be other religions or philosophies out there that taught the same. But I couldn’t find such teachings in the yoga-Hindu philosophy I was reading; Buddhism didn’t have it; and the New Age authors I was reading would speak about different religions and what they called “enlightened masters” but would almost without exception ignore the life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu `alayhi wasallam).
I was also at this time still trying to figure out “what happened to the Black Man?” Wherever I looked in my studies, black people—or dark-skinned people—were typically at the bottom of the social order. This applied not only to the areas that had come relatively recently under the rule of European colonial powers. This was also the situation in India where a caste system/social order was developed wherein the “outcasts” happened to be the darker skinned people. The same could be said in other parts of Asia and the Middle East. The “Afrocentric” literature I was reading had all sorts of theories for this seemingly worldwide phenomenon. This issue would lead down a long line of historical investigation and research over the next couple of years.
That summer I worked part time at the Mentor’s shop and made enough money to keep crunching on “psychedelic salads” and to keep buying books. This was my summer. This was a summer fertile with contemplation, self-discovery, and solitude. I would reflect: “Who could conceive of such a plan—regarding the transformation(s) that have taken place at Amherst?” I was worlds removed from the micro-minded universe I dwelt in while residing in Springfield. But my time at Amherst was rapidly coming to an end—and I was far from ready to leave my Western Massachusetts Shangri-La. I decided that I would take the year off, and stay with some family down in Dallas, Texas, where I could work, buy books at the black bookstores, meditate, and find the Truth about this life and what’s beyond, and find the Truth about the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.
1Wahhabis, although they refer to themselves typically as Sunnis and “Salafis,” actually are a faction of literalists and extremists who claim that the Creator is a giant shadow-casting object with organs and limbs that exists above Paradise. (True) Muslims, on the other hand, believe that Allah is clear of all bodily and spatial characteristics and that Allah exists without being inside a place or in a direction.
2Muslims believe that the Creator is absolutely Incomparable and cannot be imagined. Since God is not a temporal or spatial entity, and since God existed before light and before darkness, it is impossible for the human mind to imagine Allah. One of the golden maxims of the Muslim creed is “Whatever you imagine in your mind, Allah is different from that.”
3The “jinn” are interdimensional beings that are normally unperceived by humans. In different cultures, they are called different names (“spirits,” poltergeists, “ghosts”—although not truly the disembodied dead, but the jinn taking on the form of the deceased) but are virtually universally recognized by all religions. The jinn account for much of the (genuine) paranormal activity that occurs. And what many cultures/religions refer to as their so-called “gods” are in reality jinn who have deceived people into worshiping them.
4Muslims say that the Prophets are select men who receive Divine Revelation from the Creator (usually conveyed by the Archangel Gabriel). The Prophets are men of the highest moral order; they do not lie, betray, cheat or engage in any behavior that would detract from reliability in conveying the Divine Revelation. God empowers the Prophets to demonstrate their Prophethood by the performance of miracles, which are extraordinary acts, that can’t be matched or outdone by an opponent, and that these acts are in accordance with that Prophet’s claim. Prophet Muhammad performed hundreds of miracles; some of which have reached us by tawaatur (that is, events that were witnessed by large numbers of people and conveyed to large numbers in such a manner that it is inconceivable that all those people conspired to lie or fabricate). From this, one is required to believe in everything the Prophet Muhammad conveyed from his Lord.
5Eschatology is the branch of religious doctrine that deals with the events at the end of the world and the Afterlife.