Map-reading for pilgrims
Navigating this world is hard enough, let alone the next. Chris Avis asks directions
Give me a map and I’m lost. In my experience, the simple printed route of A to B on paper soon conspires to traverse the whole alphabet, and back, when translated onto tarmac. A satnav is a little more reassuring, even if the nice young lady’s voice urges me: “Turn around at the next opportunity,” when she hasn’t appreciated the shortcut I’m taking.
“Do you know where you’re going to?” sang Diana Ross in 1975, echoing yet another of life’s big questions which challenge, frighten and frustrate human beings in varying proportions. It’s a question that demands a map, a way out of chaos into order, a route from doubt to certainty, from impotence to control. No matter that most such requirements are off the Ordnance Survey map – religious mapmakers abound and are happy to oblige.
While it may not be entirely helpful, many Muslims claim that Allah already holds the map of your life (Qadar) and has written down in the Preserved Tablet all that will happen. According to this belief, a person’s action is not caused by what is written in the Preserved Tablet but, rather, the action is written in the Preserved Tablet because Allah already knows all occurrences without the restrictions of time. When referring to the future, Muslims frequently qualify any predictions of what will come to pass with the phrase Insha’ Allah, “If Allah wills”. On the other hand, Allah does not force anyone to do good or evil by interfering in his or her will, and nobody will bear witness that Allah did so.
If predestined orienteering freaks you out, you could try a Karma map. Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning “action” and is a feature of some aspects of both Buddhism and Hinduism. It operates in the universe as the continuous chain reaction of cause and effect, not only in the physical sense but with moral implications too. “A good cause, a good effect; a bad cause, a bad effect,” is a common saying. Apparently, human beings are constantly giving off physical and spiritual forces in all directions and the common law of conservation of energy states that no energy is lost, it only changes form. Similarly, spiritual and mental action is never lost, it is transformed. Karma is the law of the conservation of moral energy and should not be confused with fate – the notion that life is pre-planned by some external power, beyond change. Because we are conscious beings we can be aware of our karma and thus strive to change the course of events. What we are, and hence our life’s direction, is entirely dependent on what we think, so the nobility of our character depends on our “good” thoughts, actions, and words. Degrading thoughts invariably influence us into negative words and actions…
This is an extract from the April 2014 edition of Reform.