I have always been most profoundly moved by the fact that the entire created world presents itself with opportunities for analogies to understand the reality in which it exists; a reality which often is complicated to understand, like why we ought to act for positive change.
God, Exalted is He, makes this every emphatic point in various parts the Qur’an, for example: And verily We have presented for mankind in this Qur’an all kinds of similitude, in order for them to reflect and bear in mind. (Qur’an 39:27)
Have you not considered how God presents an analogy- a good word being like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches high in the sky; giving its fruits at every season by permission of its Lord? Thus God has coined the similitude for mankind in order that they may reflect and bear in mind. And the analogy of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability. (Qur’an 14:24-26)
The stated analogies in the Qur’an all exhort humans to reflect upon them to understand the true meanings of matters, so that one can orient themselves to such Truth. And, given God, The Exalted, makes mention that there are all sorts of such analogies, as tools for understanding, it extends beyond the obviously stated. The Qur’an is a compilation of Signs, in verse form; they are not verses per se. And, there is another compilation of Signs- the entire creation, in which exist all kinds of similitude for mankind to reflect on to gain true understanding.
Which leads me to the question of what a catalyst is.
A catalyst is an amazing piece of creation. In chemistry, it is any substance that works to accelerate a chemical reaction, in which the reacting substance undergo a chemical change, but the catalyst itself does not alter at all nor is it consumed; it can in fact be reused.
For any chemical process to occur, energy, known as activation energy, is required. Without the help of a catalyst the amount of energy needed to spark a particular reaction is too high. A catalyst facilitates change by reducing the amount of energy otherwise needed, to bring about the change.
Catalysts are used (in nature and in laboratories), in all sorts of beneficial uses, for example enzymes in our body are catalysts, which are highly specialised proteins that accelerate digestion processes in order for the body to have what it needs to critically survive. Without catalysts, food would remain in our body for weeks before it could be broken down for any beneficial use, by which time it will be far too late. Catalysts are the basis of nearly all chemical reactions, facilitating two or more substances to interact with each other leading to a new and useful substance. It is a means to a process, and not the power, process or the cause itself.
The Spiritual Catalyst
Catalysis is also the state of the Believer, for he is a spiritual catalyst and he facilitates positive action in such a manner that the good outcomes do not change him.
The Spiritual Catalyst does not become proud and boastful; he is fully aware that he was a means for the good, and God is the Source, Power and Cause. He is fully aware that the good itself is a means to God, The Exalted.
God, the Exalted, says:
Worship God and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbour, the neighbour farther away, the companion at your side, the traveller, and those whom your right hands possess. Indeed, God does not like those who are self-deluding and boastful. (Qur’an 4:36)
And as for those who believe and undertake righteous action, He will give them in full their rewards and grant them extra from His bounty. But, as for those who are disdainful and are arrogant, He will punish them with a grievous penalty, and they will not find for themselves besides God any protector or helper. (Qur’an 4:173)
Agency of Change
The Spiritual Catalyst does not involve himself in activism out of one’s emotion regarding an issue, but because it is positive action that leads one towards his Lord. He is content with that is not agitated by the emotion. He is content because he knows the action does not benefit or change him in any way; it is purely a means to his Lord.
The Messenger of God said about benevolent and righteous action, “… Ask your heart for a judgement (about your state due to it). Benevolent and righteous action is that with which the self is at rest and with which the heart is content….” (Hadīth recorded in the Musnad of Ahmad)
The Spiritual Catalyst does not hide behind his outward actions of prayer and ritual, but is also engaged in all things good from dawn to dusk. He is not a catalyst for positive action because it helps others but because it helps him remain conscious of God, The Exalted. Such charitable orientation is adopted because it aligns one to witness God’s Mercy, not one’s own.
God, The Exalted says:
Righteousness is not merely that you turn your faces to the East and the West (in prayer); but righteousness is that one believes in God and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Prophets, and who gives wealth, despite his love for it, to relatives, and to orphans, the helpless, the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and spends in freeing the enslaved and who observes the prayers and pays Alms, and those who fulfil their covenant when they enter into a covenant, and, of course, those who are patient in hardship, suffering and adversity! Those are the ones who are truthful, and those are the God-conscious. (Qur’an 2:177)
And the Beloved and Final Messenger of God said the following about true charity, “Every bone of every person owes charity each day in which the sun rises. To exercise justice between two people is charity. To help a man with his beast so that you help him mount it or lift his goods up to him when he is mounted is charity. A good word is charity. Every step with which you walk to prayer is charity, and to remove something harmful from the roadway is charity.” (Hadīth Recorded in the Sahīh of Bukhari and Muslim)
All such positive action is charity because they allow one to witness God’s Truth in everything (the Arabic word for charity, Sadaqah, shares its root meaning with truthfulness), which leads one to be conscious of God, His Exalted Status, His Compassion and His Provision rather than deluding oneself to believe in one’s own exalted status, compassionate outlook and ability to share from one’s own provisions. The reactant is excited by the latter but not the catalyst, for he is content with his consciousness of God. The reactant expands his energy and feels good about himself, but the catalyst facilitates the expending energy to effect positive change as a means to be present with his Lord.
The Spiritual Catalyst does all the above over and over again, and is never spent or overworked, or no longer usable. Rain, hail or shine, he presses ahead; tribulation or celebration, the Spiritual Catalyst is in the same state of goodness. The Messenger of God summarises the true state of the Spiritual Catalyst perfectly, “Nothing brings mankind near to Me like the performance of that which I made obligatory upon them, and through voluntary acts of goodness. My servant comes even nearer to Me until I love him. When I have bestowed My love on him, I became his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his tongue with which he speaks, his hand with which he grasps, and his feet with which he walks.” (Hadīth Recorded in the Sahīh of Bukhari and Muslim)
And in another Prophetic Tradition, the Messenger of God said,, “I am with my My servant according to his opinion of me. I am with him when he remembers Me; and if he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him in My Privacy; and if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a better and nobler gathering of angels. If he comes closer to Me by one span, I go closer to him an arm’s length; if he comes towards Me an arm’s length, I go towards him two-arm’s length; and if he comes to Me walking, I hasten to him.” (Hadīth Recorded in the Sahīh of Bukhari and Muslim)
Journeying closer to God, walking or running, is the alchemy of the Spiritual Catalyst. This journey is via benevolent and righteous action. How noble is the station of the Spiritual Catalyst- he effects change over and over again without being absorbed in it! They are agencies of change, like a drop of water off a delicate leaf causing a ripple that ultimately shape shorelines. For those who reflect for true meaning, know that catalysts are indispensible, for they are a creation befriended by God, The Exalted!