Mohamedarif M Suleman
Here’s a riddle: What makes apples from Lushoto (Tanzania) be different from those from South Africa? And what makes oranges from the US taste different from those of Israel? How are the chickens in the Far East (Bird Flu pandemic notwithstanding) discrepant from those in Australia? What makes a grape dissimilar from an olive? What makes a grape grown in France’s gentle southern coastal region of Provence taste diverse from a grape grown in the high altitude desert regions of New Mexico? Drifting away, what makes truth unlike from lies? What makes one individual poles apart from another?
Indian philosophy offers a one-word answer to all these questions; a quality that all things possess called Rasa. Rasa is a concept with a multitude of meanings. On its most obvious level, rasa means, “taste”. But subtly, rasa is defined as the “juice” of any object, its “marrow” or “sap”.
On an even more esoteric level, rasa is the essence of an object. With food, with all living beings, and even with philosophical concepts like truth and lies, rasa is the feature that defines and identifies something’s ultimate nature.
If we were to extrapolate this concept to the life of a Muslim, we would rightly be addressing the rasa of a Muslim as being god fearing, practicing, values possessing, and the owner of a host of other positive qualities. And this then is exactly the soul of being a Muslim.
In many ways, we are a very fortunate people and community. In saying this, we refer to the fact that we are living in an age of abundant knowledge, though lost in the midst of a web of information that is freely floating about, but an age where we have some unique opportunities that were not endowed to generations before ours.
It is a time in which we should demonstrate our true rasa as exemplified by the Holy Prophet (SAW) and the Aimmah (AS) by way of leading a noble, pious yet progressive life. The challenge of living in an age where abundant information surrounds us and is disrespectful of our age or affiliation, we are called upon to defend our true inner mantle in order to stay firm in our paths and then propagate the word of Allah (SWT) to those who seem wandering like lost sheep. We have the ability, through the enormous resources at our disposal, both material as well as intellectual, to transcend the knowledge that has been brought to us to others who are yet to understand the true meaning of life.
When we stand up in prayer, we pray “Rabbana la tuzig quloobana…” asking the Almighty for assistance in staying on the right path and not losing faith after it has been bequeathed to us, or when we ask for his help in keeping our feet affirmed both in this world and in the hereafter while performing the masah of the feet, we are naturally exhibiting our yearning for the grand ambitions of a lofty hereafter.
In fact, if we were to understand the real rasa of a Muslim then we would have to understand the meaning of Salaat and Saum, of ‘Hajj and Zakaat, and of so many other principles so that if we were ever asked by another as to what principles we truly stand for, we would be able to reply in an edifying manner.
At the risk of borrowing a leaf of pessimism, we must interrogate ourselves when we act contrary to what these obligatory actions are imploring of us or what we continuously pray for in Salaat and Du’as. We may not comprehend this, but we then begin to lose our own rasa and start adopting the rasa of another being. And just as an apple would never abandon its own substance to acquire that of the orange, for it would then cease to be an apple and would transform into an orange; and just as the fruit from one part of the world would only give up its identity in a forced action by a third party of cross breeding, so must a Muslim never voluntarily give up his or her own “sap” in the name of social integration or blind aping. And if such is the case, then we cease to be ourselves and become others.
This message is crucial for all people, of all age groups and of all genders. And especially to those of the believers who still wish to make that last attempt during their lifetimes and before the arrival of the Mahdi (ATFS) to try and induce others around them to adopt their rasa – incidentally prescribed by Divinity, so that the world becomes a better place for all.