Maslow's Muslims: How I Get Out Of A Spiritual Slump
Alternative title: Abraham Maslow Saves Me From Being a Small, Fat, Hairy Monster.
I often ask people about their approach to Islam, and they always seem to have trouble responding to it. Their hesitation is understood though. It is, afterall, a heavy question.
As we all know, each of our lives are subject to infinite conditions, hence their exist a variety of ways in which to break Islam down. That’s where my question comes in: How do we break Islam down into bite-size morsels that we can easily digest? Sure, we take into consideration the whole Qur’an, but what does that mean?
Listen. It’s like visualizing 10,000 ducks. Or 100,000 ducks. How are they different in your head? There is a certain point where such a huge number is just, “lots” of friggin’ ducks. Or just one big quacking blog. Sounds cute, doesn’t it?
Why do you think God gave us such an oft-repeating Book? If it wasn’t, we’d be overwhelmed, and we’d forget. We forget now, despite its repetition. And so we try to break it down into things our minds can absorb gradually.
Remember again that the Qur’an was revealed over 20 some years. No, it didn’t come out of the sky and drop on peoples’ heads. They didn’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m a Muslim in every sense of the word.” They were forced to be patient, and take each new revelation into account.
Just one of the many ways I break Islam down is similar to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow was a humanistic psychologist back in the day. He argued that “as humans meet ‘basic needs’, they seek to satisfy successively ‘higher needs’ that occupy a set hierarchy.”
To put it simply, when one level of needs is fulfilled, we move on to fulfilling the next set. The first level consists of physiological needs, as you can see on the diagram. Of course, if some of those upper-level needs aren’t met, we fall back on, and tend to prioritize those base needs down near the bottom.
How does this relate to your Islam, Hijabman?
Hold your monkeys, people. I’m getting to that! Let’s say I’m feeling a little bit depressed and spiritually down, like I was a few days ago. My spiritual needs weren’t being met. That must’ve meant my foundation, (i.e. my lower level needs) were not fulfilled. See, I used Maslow’s Hierarchy as a tool to parse the “big I” Islam, into levels, or themes. Speaking of themes, you should probably check out Fazlur Rahman’s Major Themes Of The Qur’an
Now that I chose my tool, my Islam-splitter-upper, if you will, I started at the first level of Maslow’s Hierarchy, physiological needs. Am I eating right? Sure enough, when I’m depressed and spiritually down, I find myself consuming unhealthy amounts of sugar, fat, and caffeine. I generally try to stay away from foods containing high fructose corn syrup and caffeine. They make me lethargic. It ruins me by making me less productive and therefore depressed. I was not (and still am not) exercising as much as I should be, either. I used to ride my bike 5-10 miles a day. Lately, because of the winter, I’ve stopped biking completely. To make matters worse, I’ve been putting off getting that gym membership I’ve been meaning to get. It’s definitely time to wake up, and smell the raw veggies!
Point being, if I’m stuffing my face with junk and not exercising, my prayers begin to suffer, and I start resembling a small, fat, Yeti.
The last thing I want to do is transform into a small, fat, hairy Himalayan beast, so I walked into the grocery store a few nights ago and loaded my basket with carrots, oranges, grapes, apples, bananas and other raw God-made materials. While, I’m still working on that gym membership, I take comfort in the fact that I won’t get scurvy.
So. In what ways do you approach your religion, hmm?