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retread| Hanblecheyapi 18 March 2006

Posted by EDITOR in Culture, Philosophy, Spirituality, VARANGALI.
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Retreads are quality posts from yesterweeks that are given a second run on Saturdays. This piece was originally posted by VARANGALI on 12 January 2005.

The most powerful moments in life, as ABD noted (“The Mercy of Human Company“), are experienced alone. It is at such moments that the importance of human company is most apparent. Yet, just as others can be a crutch in times of need, consistent dependence on them can be debilitating to personal and spiritual growth.

The Dakota Indians, understanding this concept well, considered enforced loneliness to be a rite of passage to manhood. Hanblecheyapi, a journey each adolescent male took, involved fasting, ingesting hallucinogens, seeking spiritual guidance, and seclusion in the wilderness for days on end. Maturity was more than responsibility, loss of innocence, or age: it involved a very personal spiritual connection with a Higher Being that needed to be cultivated in solitude.

Perhaps the most intense period of personal growth I experienced was while studying abroad in France. It was not the clichéd afternoons sipping tea at cafés, nor the touristy gawking at paintings I was assured were worth the admissions price; it was my first time living with neither friends nor family. Although no hanblecheyapi, the solitude helped me become less of a knee-jerk thinker and more sensitive to differences in people, and I hope cultivated a more informed personal relationship with Allah (swt).

Ingesting of hallucinogens aside, much of hanblecheyapi is reflected in our faith. The suppression of worldly desires through fasting and the seeking of guidance from the knowledgeable are common to both traditions. It is the solitude, however, that underlines the spiritual experience in both. Just as the Prophet (saw) would meditate in seclusion, Dakota youths would isolate themselves in the wilderness. And just as the Prophet (saw) rushed back to Khadija (ra) after Gabriel (as) first approached him, we turn to our loved ones for the mercy of their company after our most intense spiritual experiences.

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