Transforming the Self Through Islam


In “Transforming the Self Through Islam”, I attempt to convey the role of transformation throughout different notions of Islam. The transformation of the self is what ultimately defines Islam according to Sufi ideals and the philosophy of Iqbal. In this sense, Islam has come to be interpreted in very inclusive ways. Pinto highlights this inclusive conception of Islam in “The Mystery of Nizamuddin Dargah: The Accounts of the Pilgrims”, by analyzing the relationship between pirs and the individuals that visited them at the dargah. This relationship and the developing symbols seen throughout Sufism reflect the concept of self-transformation.

My portrayal of Iqbal’s symbol of the garden and the desert attempts to emphasize the connection between Iqbal’s message of universal love and the Sufi principles of spiritual transformation. Similar to how Iqbal encourages a rebirth of Muslim identity by developing the self, Sufis call for a journey of self-awareness through Islam. This journey is exactly what Iqbal alludes to when he encourages Muslims to abandon the garden and fly into the desert. By embarking on this journey from the garden to the desert, the individual transforms their identity from egocentric to God-centric. In Pinto’s paper, non-Muslim and Muslim pilgrims alike reflect this transformation while visiting the Sufi shrines. In a state of distress, the individuals attempt to abandon their troubles in the garden and actively develop their self through their relationship with the pirs.

Pinto discusses the role of the Pirs with regard to the transformation of the individuals who come to dargah. He highlights the central function of love with the Pirs. The individual’s manifestation of eternal love, seen in Iqbalian philosophy, overcomes the feelings of fear and angst. The loving pir relationship is consistent with that found in the symbolic use of the Virahini in Sufi literature. The symbol of the longing Virahini woman is used to connect the soul to Muhhamed. The virahini-soul symbol reflects the need to relieve the self of their suffering by developing the ego and forming a union with the beloved, or God. The pirs function as the beloved for the pilgrims visiting the dargah. Pinto mentions the various instances that pilgrims visiting the dargah would describe how their mutual love with the saints allowed them to evolve into a better person. Such love is inclusive of everyone, of any religion. Sufism preaches that anyone can experience a symbiotic relationship with the saint, which is a “gift to be received with gratitude, in faith, and with pure heart” (Pinto, 124). Thus, the act of visiting the dargah is seen as a form of transformation of the human soul, through the attempts of the individual to free themselves from their troubles by building this relationship with the saint and ultimately coming to the “realization of salvation” (Pinto, 124). Here, both Sufi principle and Iqbal break down the notion of submission and present an inclusive interpretation of Islam. Sufism offers a dimension of Islam that does not simply refer to practice of devotion, but to the development and maximizing of one’s potential as a human being.


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