Bismi’Llāhi ir-Ramān ir-Raīm

In the Name of God, the Universally Merciful, the Singularly Compassionate


In our technologized world, we might easily be exposed to a sensory smorgasbord on any given day, to the point of sensory overload. There is an industry dedicating vasts amounts of time, energy, and resources to the study of human needs and weaknesses, then designing strategies to prey upon these vulnerabilities for profit. Advertising is carefully crafted to capture your attention, powerfully engage your senses, and induce the release of your inner pharmacopoeia of psychotropic, feel-good chemicals. Once triggered, an association is created between what you are being shown and what you are feeling. A subliminal message is planted like a seed to program you to follow along with some idea without questioning it. You are now primed to be chronically dependent on what is being sold. This is how addictions take shape. Once you are hooked, you will keep returning for a fix unless you manage to extract yourself from the cycle of subservience.

We also happen to live in a culture that promotes an unnatural way of being —“the life of the party” who is perpetually energetic, excited, and entertaining. The work ethic espoused is “work hard, play hard.” Life is presented as the ultimate extreme sport. It’s quite a costly sport, though, because it’s financed by your own vitality. Adrenaline is the emergency biochemical that gets you to burn many more resources than your body otherwise would under normal conditions. However, it is actually intended for what is supposed to be the occasional life-threatening crisis wherein you need a jolt of energy for survival. It was never meant for subsistence; it is not supposed to be your daily bread. On a physical level, we should primarily function on the energy derived from food, drink, air, and sunlight, combined with adequate rest to give your body time to rejuvenate itself. Your reserves are meant to be spent wisely so that you will have some savings for your golden years. Those who feed off of you when you are a big spender will be the first to ditch you when you run out of juice.

The rush of adrenaline is short-lived. What follows is exhaustion. Chronic use leads to rapid aging and premature collapse. As it happens, the experience of receiving emails and text messages triggers the release of feel-good chemicals in the body that can be as addictive as drugs and alcohol. In a short time, we are entrained and begin to function like addicts, feverishly playing with our gadgets. Our nervous systems are now programmed and our physiology is altered. In short, we begin to lose control of ourselves. We need more and more heightened experiences to sustain a sense of aliveness. If we don’t get a fix, we slip into withdrawal. At that point, many will visit a doctor to get the legalized version of similar drugs, but that inconveniently come with a range of adverse “side” effects. We are like foundered racehorses that slip into depression after a life of running on high.

So, what can you do to preserve yourself? Consider the example of technology. Basically, we want to live intentionally. This begins by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the foundation of vigilance and discernment. Be careful of selling your attention for a small price. Guard yourself from the bright and shiny things that are designed to entice your senses. Do not allow your consciousness to be dominated  by created things and the play of the world. Remember Allāh ﷻ wherever you are —standing, sitting, and lying down. Be intentional and specific in your choices. Be cautious of random and casual browsing, and don’t allow the world to project itself into your life. Do not answer unknown telephone calls. If it’s important, they will leave a message, and you can respond at the right time. Text-message as needed. Minimize frivolous communication. When you do need to communicate, be as succinct and clear as possible. Be careful of everything (including people) that steals your time. Schedule your work sessions, and honor the agreements that you make with yourself by starting and ending at the appointed times. In conclusion, use tools consciously and skillfully, and don’t allow yourself to be used.

Allāh ﷻ offers a regular refrain throughout the Holy Qur’ān —guard yourself with mindfulness of your Lord ﷻ. Ramaḍān is an opportunity to hit your reset button— to catch your breath, find your center, release into the Divine Presence ﷻ, and reassess your life priorities. Consider these fundamental questions. Where do you turn in your moment of need? From whom or where do you seek your sustenance? How do you behave when your needs are satisfied? And these all point to the ultimate question: Who is your lord? And Allāh ﷻ knows best.


© Ḥakīm Ilyās Kāshānī