Almost every spiritual tradition in the world has traditionally looked down upon Matter. It’s as if the Material and Spiritual were absolute and infinite antonyms. The injunction of the Prophet of Islam, one of the greatest spiritual masters in religious history, is however, antithetical to this worldview.
He advised the believers never to refuse fragrance and milk when offered. These two material ‘objects’ are, apparently, least connected with the soul, the only beneficiary in the human spiritual enterprise. While milk entertains the belly, fragrance amuses our olfactory senses. Both are remotely related to the purification of human shortcomings, or so it seems. There is nothing ‘holy’ in these ‘agents’ of luxuries, per se.
Of course, fragrances have been traditionally used in religious ceremonies, but its significance for individual spirituality is lesser known. Milk, however, is a vitamins-rich diet, which has zero value for one’s spiritual metabolism. Yet, the Spiritual Master of Arabia included it in the never-say-no list of acceptable items.
Passivity is the dreaded poison for Spirituality
Besides their jurisprudential interpretation, there are other shades of meaning we could derive. Milk is a healthy intake for growth and energy. A healthy body only empowers the spiritual struggle. Spirituality is the synthesized Sports of Mind and Body as well. Passivity, therefore, is the dreaded poison for Spirituality. Perhaps, one among the reasons for milk not to be refused.
Double Fragrance of a Believer
Fragrance, secondly, is symbolic of giving and generosity. A believer’s mission too is not different either. Just as fragrance delights its user and those coming in contact with it, a believer’s goodness also charms his family, friends and neighbors. While fragrance soothes only when applied, a believer strives to generate 24/7 joy. Thus, a devout believer radiates double the fragrance – one of his perfume and the other of his goodness.
Choreography of Prayer
Finally, the act of ritualistic prayer, though focused on the heart, involves various postures of the body. Our flesh and bones are only as holy as the mind itself. Else, the five times prayer could have been choreographed in still meditation mode, with nil body movements. However, it is not so. The body participates as much as the mind in the posture of Prostration, regarded as the greatest point of intimacy between the Seeker and the Sought.
Highlights from Jaihoon’s talk at Busthan Arabic College – Valanchery – Kerala – Jan 06 2018