Sin: Symptom of Separation
The great illusion that we must all overcome is that of separateness. Religion’s primary task is to communicate union, to reconnect people to their original identity “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). (Sunday)
It is not that if I am moral, then I will be loved by God; rather, I must first come to experience God’s love, and then I will—almost naturally—be moral. (Monday)
Unfortunately, the word “sin” in our vocabulary implies culpability or personal fault. In fact, the precise meaning of original sin is that we are not personally culpable for it, but it was somehow passed on to us and all people share in it. (Tuesday)
We are not punished for our sins; we are punished by our sins. (Wednesday)
It is our mistakes that lead us to God. We come to divine union not by doing it right but by doing it wrong. (Thursday)
Both Jesus and Paul believed that necessary and predictable transgression—and the need for mercy that follows—is the pattern of transformation. (Friday)
Practice: Remembering Our Covenant
Today I’d like to share a perspective on sin or transgression—and practices that remind us of our union with God—from the Muslim tradition. Persian author and activist Avideh Shashaani writes:
My understanding of Islam has come through Sufism—the interior life of Islam. Islam, like any religion, may be viewed as a spectrum of light—ranging from the fundamentalists to the mystics. Our place on this spectrum depends on our level of spiritual expansion and knowledge. In the Islamic tradition, we are considered to be an amazing weave of heaven and earth. Islam does not see us as sinful beings to be redeemed, but as neglectful and forgetful beings endowed with the primordial light. When we “step” across the boundary of the divine realm into the world and become forgetful of our reality, we are in a state of transgression. Forgetfulness is what we must constantly struggle against. The message of Islam is meant to guide us to uncover our true identity deeply buried under the layers of our neglectful nature. The Qur’an says “[God] created man in the best of stature” (95:4), and says that “We are closer to him than his jugular vein” (50:16).
The duties prescribed for the Muslim are directed toward uncovering our primordial nature and remembering our covenant with God, “‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said: ‘Yes, we bear witness’” (7:172). . . . The duties of Muslims that pave the way for the remembrance of this covenant include prayer, fasting, and charity. . . .
Praying in Islam requires a state of presence. It begins with the ablutions. By washing the face with water we put aside the five senses that are engaged with the world; the washing of the hands signifies giving to the world what belongs to the world; wetting the head means putting all thoughts aside; and wetting the feet means redirecting our steps from the world to God. It is after we have cleansed ourselves of our interactions with the world that we are able to stand before God and declare our intention to enter the heart and walk on the straight path that leads to the Divine presence.
Fasting is another requirement for Muslims [which] has an outer form and an inner meaning. Fasting is another means for us to relinquish attachments and to be in the remembrance of God. It is a time of purification in which we fast from the world. Through prayer, sacrifice, and charity, the gates of heaven are cast open and we feast at the heavenly banquet of God. . . .
The ultimate purpose of all acts of devotion and sacrifice in Islam is to renew our relationship with God.
Gateway to Silence:
I am hidden in the love and mercy of God.
Avideh Shashaani, “An Islamic Perspective on Transgression: Oneness,” Oneing, vol. 2, no. 1 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014), 24-27.