Friday, November 27, 2009

ART OF QI

The power of prayer and fasting

By DR AMIR FARID ISAHAK

I HAVE been teaching qigong strictly as a health-enhancing exercise, but those who know my story will remember that my introduction to qi and qigong had a spiritual twist, involving prayers and fasting.

So it is appropriate that the story is retold today in the holy month of Ramadhan, for the benefit of those who never heard it before.

It happened nearly 20 years ago. I was having a difficult time in my personal and business life, and one day a pious elder and adviser (whom I call Pak Ku) told me that he had received messages from GOD for me – that GOD would only change my fate if I become a good, obedient Muslim (I was a nominal Muslim then) and go on the spiritual path. I was also to seek forgiveness and blessings from my mother, and to do a minor pilgrimage to Mecca.

I dutifully obeyed, because I had no choice. My life was in a rut and I felt like being tightly squeezed in a knot. When I told my mother, who was away in our hometown, she said she would consult her own guru about that message. When her guru said he got the same message, she took the midnight flight over to Kuala Lumpur to help save her son!

After we did special prayers together, and my mother forgave me for whatever that needed to be forgiven, and then sought GOD’s blessings for me, things happened immediately. I suddenly had an intense urge to pray, fast, and recite the opening chapter of the Qur’an (Al-Faatihah) incessantly. I also started longing for the beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).


The power of prayer...carried out properly and regularly (five times a day, plus many non-obligatory prayers), it will cleanse the soul of selfish tendencies, sharpen the mind and allow the godly spirit within to take charge. – AP




I started fasting every day for several months, until Pak Ku reminded me that even Prophet Daud (King David, peace be upon him), who fasted all the time, only did it on alternate days; and that Prophet Muhammad had cautioned against fasting too much because it may be detrimental to health.

So I changed to fasting on alternate days. But then on the days that I didn’t fast, I forgot to eat! Finally I decided I might as well fast continuously because I was feeling good and healthy in spite of the continuous fasting, but I gave myself a break on weekends when there were occasions to have meals and hi-teas with friends and family. I fasted for about a year.

During all this time I also could not stop reciting Al-Faatihah. It just poured out of my mouth throughout the day. I must have recited it thousands of times. I couldn’t even sleep long because I was woken up each night to recite the verses. And I began to enjoy praying, something my mum and big sister used to have to force me to do before.

My love and longing for the Prophet grew and grew until I started crying many times in a day because I longed for him so much.

I became conscious of the need to know and obey GOD. In other words, I was starting to understand what it meant being a Muslim.

My life changed and I decided to devote much of my time studying religion and doing religious work. My interest extended to studying other religions and participating in interfaith dialogues as well.

Strange things also started to happen. I will relate only those things that I am allowed to reveal, or else GOD will be displeased with me, and the religious authorities may also accuse me of being a deviant. Some of the events were really incredulous.

This is the story about my involvement in qigong. On the 30th day of my fast, I was awakened at about 2am in the morning as usual by the urge to recite Al-Faatihah. When Muslims wake up in the very early morning, we are encouraged to do special prayers (Tahajjud). So I made my ablution and stood up to do the prayer.

Strangely, I couldn’t move. Then I felt a strange feeling in my arms and they moved automatically. My entire prayer was automatic. I was made to pray in a very slow and disciplined manner. Even the recitations were not my own. The words just came out of my mouth, in proper, disciplined recitations. You can imagine what was going on in my mind – was I being possessed?

After the prayer was over, I sat to continue with the zikr (remembrance, religious chanting), supplications and reciting Al-Faatihah and other Qur’anic verses.

At about 5:30am, it was time for the Suboh (early morning) prayer. Again, when I stood up to pray, I couldn’t move and my entire prayer and recitations were taken over.

Later that day, I called Pak Ku and related to him the strange experience. He said that I was being blessed with the gift of healing. I told him that I was already a medical doctor, and was not interested in becoming a bomoh (traditional healer).

All my prayers thereafter were “taken over” until it became second nature for me to pray that way – in slow, disciplined movements and recitations. But I was “allowed” to pray in the usual way (ie. less disciplined manner) whenever I was following an imam in congregational prayers.

Until today, every time I stand up to pray, I can feel the “force” charging up. When I am in prostration (sujud) and in full contemplation of GOD, the force sometimes jolts me. The strange feeling in my arms has remained at all times until now.

Fast forward to 2½ years later. A Chinese friend of mine invited me to meet a Muslim qigong master from Ningxia Muslim Autonomous Region of China. Master Yusuf Yang Huaxiang is the grandmaster of Islamic Qigong (Tang Ping Gong). He was teaching at the Chin Woo stadium and had requested to meet a local Muslim. I had never heard of qigong, what more of Islamic Qigong! But then the least I could do was to oblige a fellow Muslim’s request to meet a local Muslim.

So I followed my friend to meet Master Yusuf. I saw him teaching qigong, but I was not impressed as it just looked like tai chi, and I was not into Chinese health exercises. After his lesson, the three of us chatted over teh tarik and Master Yusuf stared at me and told us that he had dreamt of me before coming here!

He said that in his dream he was told that I had been gifted with “qi”; that he was commanded to teach me qigong; and that he was asked to teach me the main Islamic Qigong exercise soonest possible.

The next day we met at the car park of a mosque in Cheras (he was staying near there then) and he taught me the main exercise. I was amazed because the exercise was almost exactly how I was made to pray since that fateful morning. I understood that GOD had sent him to teach me what my prayer was all about.

Among the benefits of the Muslim ritual prayer (solat/solah in Arabic; sembahyang in Bahasa Malaysia) is that it will charge you with the healing force or qi (tenaga hayat in BM) to keep you healthy; and heal diseases. But the prayer must be done in the most disciplined and proper manner.

Since then I got hooked on qigong and learned and practiced Guolin Qigong, Xiang Gong, Shaolin Qigong and several other styles. I also discovered that I can summon my qi to execute any exercise, even those that I have never learned before.

That is the long-winded story about my introduction to qigong. There are many more interesting experiences I went through. These are stories about the power of a mother’s love and blessing; the power of prayer, remembrance and fasting; and that loving GOD’s beloved Prophet opens the biggest doors to HIM.

The power prayer

The solat or ritual prayer is the second pillar of Islam, after the syahadah (declaration of faith that there is no god other than GOD, and that Prophet Muhammad is HIS Messenger). This is because the solat is the embodiment of everything that is required of a Muslim in his attempt to know his Creator, and to obey HIM.

It is a formal session of communion with GOD in which the servant expresses his love, faith, submission, obedience, gratitude, repentance and dependency towards his Creator, Master and Sustainer.

This is demonstrated in thoughts, words and actions through the prescribed movements and recitations, and the requirement for full concentration, understanding and “presence” (“khusyuk”) for the prayer to be valid.

It is a physical, verbal, mental and spiritual exercise of remembrance that is beneficial for the mind, soul (self/ego or nafs) and body.

Done properly and regularly (five times a day, plus many non-obligatory prayers), it will cleanse the soul of selfish tendencies, sharpen the mind and allow the godly spirit within to take charge.

The obedient Muslim (believer/submitter) will progress to a state of true faith (Mu’min), GOD-consciousness (Muttaqin) and finally live his life in the presence of GOD (Muhsin). This will be reflected in his character. He will be loving, compassionate, helpful and exhibit many other good attributes; and he himself will be loved and liked by those around him.

The power of fasting

The third pillar of Islam is fasting in the month of Ramadhan. Fasting outside of Ramadhan is non-obligatory but highly encouraged.

I have written several articles on the health and anti-aging benefits of fasting (please see www.superqigong.com for previous articles). Today I will only stress on the spiritual aspect.  

The daily life of a Muslim is full of temptations and distractions that will hinder his journey to become more obedient and closer to GOD. Fasting in Ramadhan is a necessary training period for him to restrain his basic self/animal needs and desires (water, food and sexual or other forms of gratification) while maximizing soul-cleansing through disciplining his thoughts, words, and actions; and doing prayers, zikr, Qur’an recitation, charity, and all forms of good deeds like helping others, especially orphans, the poor and the elderly.  

The power of good character

The correct understanding and practice of religious and spiritual teachings, with all the prayers and fasting, will mold the Muslim to become a person of good character. To know GOD and be obedient to HIM means to be a good human being. The best Muslim is the one with the best character.  

I wish “Selamat berpuasa” to Muslims, and end with a quote from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) for all to ponder:

“Do you know what is better than charity, fasting and prayer? It is keeping peace and good relations between people, as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.” (Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, as reported in Muslim & Bukhari)

· Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practices holistic, aesthetic and anti-aging medicine. He is a qi gong master and founder of Super Qi gong. For further information, e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. 



SOURCE >>> www.thestar.com.my