Sunday, September 30, 2012

On home and family

The Qu'ran mentions in many parts the importance of family, of treating parents and spouses with dignity and respect. About a thousand kilometers stand between me and most of my family members, which on a daily basis is not a bad thing but once in a while it is great to find yourself surrounded by those who love you dearly. 

I recently travelled to visit my mom in my hometown for her birthday. I had a love-hate relationship with my mom, my town and my extended family for most of my life, in no small part due to my strong opinions and my stubborn desire to stand up to authority. I recently converted to Islam and I don he hijab daily, I was nervous at the idea of bringing my new faith and my new style to a place that has been less than kind to me over the years. I dragged my boyfriend along for a well-deserved vacation and for moral support.

They say home is where the heart is, well, I realized this week that my heart was never in the right place before. Growing up in my hometown I felt secluded, rejected, unloved and I longed for a place of acceptance.Visiting it this week brought me a new perspective. Most of those who troubled me as a child have moved on -- I assume to troubling others. Those who were left behind are mainly irrelevant, irrelevant in meaning that they were not meaningful to the years of pain I lived through, and with my man by my side, I felt they were invisible.

My mother and I have long ago mended our broken relationship troubled by mistrust and misguided kindness; we learned through experience to love and care for one another in ways which are both productive and effective.

Remained my extended family. I often feel like it would take a miracle for me to live up to their expectations to which they hardly live up to themselves. My superhero boyfriend helped me there once again, whether it was keeping it cool when an uncle asked what is job was "if he even has a job" or holding my hand in sympathy when a cousin asked sarcastically if my hijab was a new city trend.

I realize today that I chose what "home" means to me. My mother, my boyfriend, the ocean front of my hometown, that is my definition of "home". While I can't always have all three at once, I can live knowing that either of these is at proximity and live with the comfort that one way or another, I can always "come home".

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Right to Doubt

I have been raised to think critically about what I am told, to look and wait for sensible quantifiable proof. For many, belief in a higher power goes against this. As I stated on my blog before, I find that the world is full of "coincidences" that can but only point to an intelligent design. So yes, I believe in God. The Beneficient and Merciful Creator in which I believe would provide guidance to its creation via scripture and people to propagate this message. I have always had this concept of the Divine and have always held on to that belief.

Islam came into my life slowly but surelyin droplets and waves. As a modern thinker and an intelligent woman, I have come to think critically about many aspects of life, including my faith. My belief in God has never changed, but instead was confirmed by the teachings of Islam. When all is said and done, I firmly believe in God and in the message of the prophets of God. The Golden Rule is my guide: to do he right I want others to do for me and avoid the evil which I want others to avoid doing to me. Some people may call this common sense, but 24 years of live and frequenting people from all walks of life have taught me that common sense is the least common of all senses.

This story was told to me a while back:
A ship with a crew of Muslim men was stranded on a Island. On this Island lived a young woman, who had been left alone on the Island by mysterious tragedy. While the crew worked on fixing the ship, she cooked for them and offered them shelter, in exchange, they taught them all they knew about Islam. The young woman was eager to learn and absorbed as much as she could.
The ship was finally fixed a few days later, and the crew decided to set sail that evening. As they headed towards the beach, the young woman came running towards them, asking them to show her one more time how to do the ritualistic cleansing (wu'du). They showed her. As they were gathering on the coast to leave, she came running to them again, asking them to show her one more time how to make obligatory prayers (salaat). They showed her. As they embarked the ship, and started to sail away, she came running to them again, asking them to show her one more time how to make prayers (du'a). The crew was in shock to see her running over the water, much like the miracle attributed to prophet Jesus (Isa) pbuh.
They asked the young woman how she was able to walk on water, she answered that in all of her years on the Island, she had been speaking to God on a regular basis and this ability was a gift He had bestowed upon her. The Muslims quickly told the girl to forget all that they had taught her and to simply continue what she was doing before they came along; if she had a special relationship with God, surely He knew best.

To me, that is true faith: realizing that, in reality, only God knows. Only God knows what He truly wishes for us in our worship, only God knows what rules are truly best for humanity, only God knows what interpretation of His message truly fits with His vision for us. I have encountered people from many denominations and various religions which have a very static view of their faith. Where the interpretations held by scholars are believed to be indeniably correct, unquestionable and undoubtable. They will call non-Christian, non-Muslim, non-religious, anyone and everyone who doubts or questions those interpretations. I disagree.

It is human nature to doubt and question. It is also human nature to make mistakes. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) even said that he was not free of mistake and that everything he said which was correct was from God and everything which was incorrect was from himself, for God makes no mistake. Yet, many Muslims claim that prophets were infallible. With all of this in mind, how can intelligent, critical people not question interpretations?

I find pretentious and even perhaps foolish for someone to claim with certainty that their interpretations or the interpretation they follow is flawless. I understand that not everyone will agree with me, but I want to be allowed to doubt and question elements of my religion without being called a disbeliever or without my faith being questioned: I am a believer, I am a follower of God's teachings sent via his messengers. Just because my interpretation of Islam does not fit the small, restrictive box created by some and labelled Islam does not mean that I am any less of a Muslim. So I ask, allow me to doubt, and if you truly fear for my faith, pray to God that He gives me guidance, because all in all He knows best.