Spirituality for Sale in the Era of Globalisation

By Mohd Abbas Abdul Razak & Machouche Salah

At times, modernity and its complexities can drive people in the modern world into madness. Despite the fact that people in the urban areas are surrounded by the gifts of science and technology, there are moments in their lives, when they might think and feel that all electronic gadgets which keep their life going, become meaningless.

Under certain circumstances in life, regardless of whether people live in the modern setting in the urban or in the remote areas, they go through similar human experiences. 

Though the outer world of the two can somehow be different due to economic disparities, their inner world and the dynamics at work are pretty much the same. As human beings, at some point in their lives, both are bound to go through psychological burdens like stress, anxiety, anger, depression, bereavement, etc. 

When there is something boiling and bubbling in the inner world, meaning to say in the deep recesses of their hearts, people wherever they are, look for a quick fix to solve their problems.

During such desperate situations, people seek some sort of divine intervention, a philosophy or a mind-control technique to get themselves out of their awful and pathetic condition. Since most people do not know the ways and methods how to calm down their hearts, minds and souls, they seek help from those who are experts. 

People are craving spiritual nourishment to balance their lives

Fake Spiritual Masters and Healers 

Seeing people in a desperate situation provides the opportunity for fake gurus, spiritual healers, charlatan religious teachers and the likes to exploit such human vulnerabilities to their benefit. The existence of fake spiritual masters is a worldwide phenomenon. Following media reports will educate one that it is a phenomenon that exists in all major religions of the world. 

For many of the so-called spiritual masters, either money, power or sex could be the motivational factors behind their call in reaching out to their clients/customers or followers. Worst still, but for a few, all three could be the motivational factors. 

Finding spirituality

Surprisingly, when it comes to gender, most of the teachers belong to the male gender. Principally these teachers establish themselves either as a one-man enterprise or as an institution that consists of a large workforce that recruits thousands of followers and volunteers. Some big spiritual enterprises open up a worldwide network with many centres around the globe. 

For such enterprises, spirituality can be a lucrative business that brings in money and assets in the millions. The main activities conducted by individuals and organizations that promote spirituality are mainly centered around either one of the following; spiritual knowledge and enlightenment, selling talismans to ward off evil spirits, life-changing mantras, yoga for life, meditational techniques or providing exorcism services for those possessed by evil spirits.

Techniques Used by Fake Spiritual Masters

In order to tantalize their customers/clients/ followers, many fake spiritual masters use a kind of mind-control technique. In this method, they use some catchy terms and terminology to keep the followers under their spell. 

Mastery of subjects like religion, philosophy and psychology helps the fake spiritual masters to achieve their goals. In terms of their language, they use some poetical and philosophical jargon. In short, they mystify what is plain to convince their followers that they are speaking about something beyond the normal realm of this earthly life.   

Accumulation of Wealth

Interesting to state here that many of the fake spiritual masters charge an exorbitant amount of money for their services. They teach mind-control techniques, deliver public lectures, perform video presentations, conduct TV- evangelism, produce literature, etc. 

Through all these marketing strategies, they accumulate wealth by the millions. Many such, gurus own their own private jets and helicopters. Not only that, money collected as donations from their followers are channeled into secret accounts. With the existence of such accounts, these fake gurus purchase beautiful mansions that cost millions of dollars. 

Not all eyes can see are real

All of their clandestine activities are normally kept hidden from the knowledge of the government tax department, public knowledge and critics by creating an inner circle of people. The people of the inner circle are mainly handpicked among faithful followers. Being in this privileged group, the members of the inner circle enjoy rewarded with gifts, money and other worldly pleasures.    

Spirituality in the Era of Globalization 

Globalization that started many decades ago, does not show any sign of slowing down. Day by day, globalization brings more things into human lives. It has brought some positive and negative impacts on humanity. Presently, globalization has its tentacles in every sector of human life. 

The internet and social media usage in many ways speed up the globalization process. Currently, almost all human activities are linked to globalization. Medicine, pharmacy, education, business, entertainment, food and beverages, fashion and many more industries come under the ambit of globalization. 

Content consumption is at its highest with social media

In witnessing the globalizing trend in all businesses, fake spiritual masters take advantage of the situation. They reach out to people of all levels; the rich and the poor, from the highly educated to those with low education through video clips, flyers, writeups, etc. posted on social media. Those who are in hunger and thirst for God, higher spirituality, soul-elevating experience, in search of a new philosophy of life, etc. become blind followers of such spiritual masters. 

With the obsession to experience some mystical powers and to fix the problems in their lives, without question, such followers surrender their intelligence and critical reasoning to the teachings of the so-called spiritual masters.    

Genuine Spiritual Masters

In the ancient past, long before the coming of modernization and globalization, there were great religious teachers, spiritual healers, mystics, men of wisdom, etc. who dwelled upon the earth with the pure intention to serve God and humanity. Even today, their names appear in many traditions of the world. 

These towering personalities whom we consider the “Jewels of Humanity” are remembered in a special way by the masses all over the world for their austerity, knowledge, love, wisdom, selflessness, humility, etc. Through their actions that they showcase to the world, an exemplary life of detachment from all worldly allurements and ephemeral things. In their philosophy of life, they do not want to surrender their souls hoping for high office given to them by the ruler of the state. 

The love and wisdom shared by them had always attracted people of diverse backgrounds and faith. Even today, in the Muslim world, the names Al-Ghazali (1058-1111), Jalaluddin al-Rumi (1207-1273), Junaid al-Baghdadi (830-910), Rabiah al-Adawiyah (713-801) and countless others from the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent are looked upon with great honour. Particularly, the names of al-Ghazali and al-Rumi are not only popularly well-known among the Muslim masses, but also in the West.

Jalaluddin al-Rumi (1207-1273)

Rumi has a great number of admirers in the West for his love for God and humanity. Many of his quotes can be inspiring and motivational in understanding the secrets of life and the unfolding of events in one’s life. Below, we would like to share two of his inspirational quotes: 

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

 “Raise your words, not your voice. It is the rain that grows the flowers, not thunder.”

Like in the Muslim world, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and St. Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) are considered iconic figures in Christendom. Aquinas’ biography and his total dedication to the cause of Christianity is an interesting one to read. 

There was a time in his life, his brothers hired a prostitute and locked her in the room where Aquinas was. This was done in the hope that Aquinas would break his vow of celibacy. But that did not happen, Aquinas made an escape by taking a plunge from his window, causing injury to one of his legs. Upon his escape, he entered a monastery and later became a monk. 

In realizing the deep love that Aquinas had for God, they abandoned the idea of getting him to indulge in worldly pleasures. An interesting point that we need to state here about Aquinas is that he studied many of the works of medieval Muslim scholars, particularly Al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd (1126-1198). Moreover, he was one of the figures in Christianity that made the claim that wisdom is not only found amongst the wise men in Christianity but also in those of the non-Christian faith. 

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who is popularly known as “Mother Teresa” is another well-known figure in Christianity who dedicated her whole life to the cause of the poor people and needy in Calcutta. In recognition of her great contribution and success in running her Missionaries of Charity, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. 

In present-day Buddhism, the 14th Dalai Lama whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso (1935-), travels around the world carrying the message of peace, tolerance, mutual respect, and coexistence. For many of his good works for humanity, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. The aforementioned personalities are only a few in the long list of genuine spiritual masters of the medieval and modern eras of the world. 

The Take Home Message for Young Muslims

Today’s young Muslims should have an open mind to learn all that is beneficial for their existence in this world and in the hereafter. As such, for their worldly survival, there are allowed to borrow ideas even from those outside the Islamic faith. 

It has been narrated by Abu Huraira that the Holy Prophet Muhammad SAW once said, “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer. Wherever he finds it, he is most deserving of it.” In Islam, one is allowed to learn philosophy, wisdom, science, and technology, from others so long they are not detrimental to their Islamic faith. 

In learning wisdom, spiritual upliftment, etc. from an Islamic spiritual master, there is no shortcut for it. All spiritual matters taught by the Muslim spiritual master should pass the ‘litmus test’ of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Furthermore, knowledge should be the point of departure in embarking on a spiritual journey towards character refinement and spiritual enlightenment. 

In learning wisdom, spiritual upliftment, from an Islamic spiritual master, one the ‘litmus test’ of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

In the absence of knowledge and a proper understanding, a dive into the ocean of spirituality may cause him/her to be derailed from the true guidance of God. Besides that, they should be smart enough to detect any form of indoctrination and brainwashing by the spiritual masters. 

If there is any, they should choose to leave at once. If any religious teacher demands an exorbitant amount for his knowledge, young people should avoid falling into his trap. They should be aware that such a teacher comes under the category of those mentioned in the Qur’an as those who will sell their religion for a miserable price. ***   

BACA VERSI BAHASA MELAYU DI SINI: Kerohanian untuk Dijual di Era Globalisasi

Source: IIUM Today

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