Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I'm still a closet Muslim

I'm still a closet Muslim. Hardly anyone knows except my husband (and that Jehova's Witness man I came across on the street that I wrote about a while back!) but I'm starting to get to the point where I don't want to hide it anymore. I want people to know that I am Muslim. I want to start being able to show, from example, what Islam is, and possibly make a person interested in learning about this religion.


I have to admit that I do not see Islam the same way as the average Muslim... I think I just see Islam in a more open way... A person not knowing about the Qur'an still being a Muslim in following his inner God-given sense of what is right, and believing in Allah (the creator, with no partners). And even though I know that the best way is to follow Allah 100%, and the best way to attempt that in these times is to read the Qur'an and follow its teachings, I also think that it is sufficient to enter Paradise for a person to be a good person (more good deeds than bad, more good influence in this world than bad, etc). Of course, even I believe that the person will have to believe in God alone because shirk cannot be forgiven without repenting. But only Allah knows if I am right in this. I'm just stating my belief.

I feel that most Muslims put a much higher status on people who consider themselves Muslims. Whether or not they are being good ones, it's as though they will be recompensed for just being born in a Muslim home. On the contrary, they have had every chance to learn the right way, and if they didn't take it, I believe they will be punished more severely. And I don't think that an agnostic person who is always doing good will be going to hell simply for not being part of the Muslim community. Even I often don't feel like I want to be part of the Muslim community as it stands now. I don't think regular Quebeckers here understand me. I am much more conservative than they are! But I don't really fit in with the Muslims either. Not with the non-practicing ones because that's far from what I want to be and I don't respect that (I don't respect in myself what I am lacking in the way I practice Islam either) but I don't fit in better with the more fundamental Muslims because as much as I would like to be practicing like them, I don't see the big picture in the same way as they do. And of course, I don't fit in with the cultural ones who can't tell the difference between Islam and their culture because that's just annoying.

I'm lucky not to have had bad experiences though. But I also didn't really find anyone here who shares what I believe.

If I were to come out of the closet to my parents like I wish to, I feel sure that the first thing I would want to say is that I don't believe exactly the same thing as most Muslims. Sad, isn't it? But that's how it would go. I'd want to explain in simple terms what Islam is to me. It's submitting to God alone. And I'd explain that I believe we all have in us the knowledge of what God wants from us, which means that I believe anyone, whether they consider themselves Muslim or not, could be Muslims/Submitters to God. To separate myself from the Muslim community and make them see that they too, might even be part of what I see Islam as.

I wouldn't feel the need to separate myself from the Muslim community so much if I were to come out to co-workers and just random people. In fact, I'd love to try to show of the good in Muslims with them especially, like I do now whenever we talk about Islam. I want the Ummah to become stronger...

This has been a pretty honest post for me. I guess the only thing left to add to that would be that I'd feel the need to add that I don't follow hadiths like most Muslims do, but any details would be for another post, so I don't really want any comments on it if at all possible!

OH! Have to add that today at work, we were talking about foster parenting, which I really want to do as soon as I am able to get an apartment with an extra bedroom, and one of the girls has been a foster parent, so I asked her about the procedures and all, and then asked her if they'd be more likely to place a Muslim child with us if there was one, considering we were "a Muslim family". I didn't say that I was Muslim myself, but they know my husband is, and I called us a Muslim family. I then continued talking with them and talked about having been in the mosque more than in the Church, etc. This was with the two newest employees at our office, so I might just have given them the impression that I'm Muslim. I was quite happy about that! I don't think I could say "no" if anyone asked me if I was now. :) It's progress.

21 Comentários:

Stacy aka Fahiima said...

I know what you mean about not fitting in. There are very few Christians that see things the way I do, but I'm not Muslim either.
In terms of how I see Islam, my view is very similar to yours. I don't think that you have to be a strict literalist to be able to call yourself a Muslim. There are probably people in your Muslim community who see things similarly. You just haven't found them yet!

Laila said...

Wow Candice, I see things pretty much exactly the same way. I haven't converted of course but sometimes I wonder why because it seems like I really do have convictions about this.

I can't stand arbitrary divisions between "Muslims" and "non-Muslims". I see an overlap between these two and only God can judge who is really what.

I don't feel the need to completely go against my Christian past either. Christians are people of the book, yet some Muslims seem to see everyone as Muslim or kafir, nothing in between. I still reflect on the words of Jesus. I like talking to Christians about faith and despite the obvious differences there is a lot that is similar.

I don't have a black-and-white view of heaven and hell, so I like to think that even if Christians are to be punished for worshipping Jesus, it won't necessarily be an eternity in hell.

Basically I have gone from a narrow fundamental Christian view to a more universal Islamic view. Narrow world-views of any kind just don't wash with me in the long run.

So you're not alone!

LK said...

I don't think your view is unIslamic at all. Just less traditional since you don't have all the cultural implications that people grow up with. I think a lot of us who are not born muslim feel the same way you do. I know i can agree with a lot of what you said.

I think its a blessing to have the ability to discover a religion on ones own without having any prior/born into knowledge. It allows you to see the religion in a more pure form.

Jaz said...

What Islam means to you, and the way you personally interpret the Qur'an is between yourself and God. And you have the same right as anybody to else to call yourself a Muslim.

Are you sure about the way you see things? Are you sure you want to be identified as a Muslim in your everyday life among everybody you know forever?

I don't mean to say that you're not sure, I'm sure you are.

But I think it's definitely the most important thing to think about. Imagine if someone wasn't really sure and ended up going back on what they said and facing the embarrassment of having gone through a public "phase of being muslim for a while".

I don't mean you, I mean in general.

GOod luck!

caraboska said...

Mm hmm, but where do you draw the line? Some people believe you have to accept hadith to be a real Muslim - that you would be rendering your confession of the second part of the shahada invalid. It is doubtful that you and these people actually confess the same faith.

And likewise, nearly every person who identifies themselves as Muslim thinks that Christians are ascribing partners to God or practicing polytheism, while the Christian is thinking 'God forbid!', focusing on just how infinite God is and what the implications of that are, and quite possibly living a more practically monotheistic life than the vast majority of Muslims - taking to heart that God really must be the *only* motivation for anything we do, if we want it to be acceptable in God's sight. That there can be no hint, for example, of seeking to avoid punishment or receive a reward - which would amount to worship of one's own desires instead of God.

caraboska said...

(cont'd) So where do you draw the line?

Candice said...

Caraboska:
Of course some people wouldn't consider me Muslim because of my position on hadiths. And I might feel the same way about some of them who go a bit too far in their virtual worship of Muhammad. It's between me and God, and between themselves and God what we believe in.

I disagree with you about a good deed only being worth anything in God's sight if it's done with God alone as motivation. I think that reward (like Heaven) is a perfectly OK motivation for doing good and that the deed does count for a lot. I do think that someone who does it only thinking of wanting to be good for God is a step ahead of the one who does the exact same thing hoping for Heaven, a good deed is a good deed. A person who practices Islam "to the letter" hoping for the reward of Heaven obviously believes enough in the existance of God and the power and fairness of God. The person obviously loves God. I almost feel it's impossible for someone to do something only for rewards and not for God... It is so entertwined in my mind. So we definitely don't see things the same way here!

And about Christians ascribing partners to God or practicing polytheism... I think some of them do... But I don't know what the individuals believe... I think a lot of the teachings are like that, but often the people don't believe or understand all the Church's teachings and so could very well not believe any of that. It's really not up to me to judge. I don't think about these things because it's none of my business really. And I especially don't think or talk about the Christians because I already believe that many Muslims are ascribing partners to God. I'd say they are further away from actual polytheism, but these particular people are still doing wrong in making rules out of hadiths that have no basis in the Qur'an.

LK said...

Well said. Hadiths have caused me a great deal of stress. I can't find where they come from, I can't see their basis in the Qur'an. The ones not from the prophet really get me. Half the time I'm all "Now who is this person who said this? A caliph, a friend of the prophet, a family member?" There are too many hadiths from too many people. One person cannot possibly agree with them all. You'd go nuts.

This is how the Jesus God relationship works from the Christian viewpoint. I've studied this for 10 years and I still don't get it but this is what they are thinking:
Jesus and God are exactly the same. Jesus is God on earth. So if a Christian worships Jesus they are worshipping God. They are one in the same. That is why its not polytheism because they believe Jesus IS God. Hope that helps :)

Candice said...

Thanks for the comment. I guess they can find a way not to make it polytheism... But I don't understand it either :p

caraboska said...

It all has to do with the implications of God's infinitude, the way I see it. God can manifest Himself here on earth, even taking on a human body with its limitations (e.g. being physically present in only one place at any given time) if this is needed for some particular purpose (which Christians believe there was) without ceasing to also exist in heaven and without ceasing to be one God.

To put it mathematically, infinity plus infinity plus infinity equals infinity, not three times infinity. Infinity divided by three or whatever number is infinity. There is only one infinity.

And now that I think about it, it also has to do with just how separate the heavenly realm is from the earthly realm. If God is inhabiting the earthly realm, in an earthly body, even if He existed as God from the beginning, He still is taking on such limitations as dependency on the God Who is in heaven for things like supernatural knowledge or power (such as the prophets of old received when it suited God's purposes), and finding it necessary to pray to God to maintain that connection, and being in a position of obedience - not to mention mortality in the physical sense, which is why He took on that physical, earthly body in the first place. In other words, the nature of earthly life enforces such a 'separate' existence on Him, even though by virtue of divine infinitude, He does not thereby cease to be anything but one God.

Why did God need to take on a form that would enable Him to experience physical death? The Bible teaches that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. The Temple sacrifices described in the Torah are a picture of that. However, they were not able to provide once for all remission of sin, which is why they were made over and over again.

The Bible teaches that God is the only savior. So that God would have to shed actual blood, according to His own law, to effectuate any once for all solution in this matter. And indeed, since the Bible teaches what kind of earthly creatures are acceptable for sacrificial purposes - so that under normal circumstances, if they are mammals, they must both chew cud and have split hooves. - the only way the sacrifice of a human body could be kosher (that is, clean and acceptable to God) is if the human in question were no mere human...

This is my understanding of what the Bible teaches about monotheism and Jesus' place or position with regard to it.

Anonymous said...

Hi!

The reason why I have not converted to be a muslim is exactly this: I don't believe in all the teachings of the official interpretation of Islam and I wouldn't feel comfortable to find myself in the place where you, Candice, now are: having to explain that "I'm a muslim, but not really "that kind" of a muslim". I don't say that it's a wrong thing to call oneself a muslim anyway - a lot of people do! (and especially many born-muslims have quite controversial view points to the correct interpretation of Islam (for example Irshad Manji) - I just wouldn't feel comfortable myself.
The biggest problem I have with the official interpretation of Islam is the sentence for all others but official muslims to spend eternity in Hell, no matter how good they have been. I can't see somebody like Mohandas Gandhi to deserve such a punishment for all the good he did! Especially, when many of his writings sound so Islamic that even strict muslims wouldn't realize that a non-muslim wrote them... I personally don't believe that Muhammad was the last prophet sent by God - meaning that I also don't believe that the Islam (as presented by the official interpretation) is for all mankind.

Nevertheless, I would like to bring my children up as closely to the official interpretation of Islam as possible, the main stress though being not in the rules but in the deeper meanings of submitting oneself to God. And this brings another problem for me: how to avoid the "fact" that according to the official interpretation of Islam mom (meaning me) is going to Hell and still try to keep as closely as possible to the official interpretation... (The reason why I would want my children to be as knowledgable of the official interpretation as possible is because I wouldn't want them to end up in situations where other muslim children ridicule them for not knowing their religion).

Having said all this, I have to admit that more than once I have been thinking of announcing myself as an official muslim, because I do miss the company! It would be so nice - and beneficial - to have friends who are driven by the same aspirations to become a better person and to serve God as well as possible! My current friends are moral and as such very nice company, but they are not particularly religious (in terms of any religion) and I don't really have anyone to talk to about Islamic/religious issues - let alone to have somebody striving me forward in religious life!
But I'm afraid to try to make friends with muslims because I don't feel comfortable to possibly get into the argument why I'm not a muslim - in such discussion you so easily offend the other person's beliefs (especially if they are converts) or cause them just distress as being a person who knows about Islam without intending to convert (it is: on her way to Hell...).

to be continued...

Anonymous said...

continues:

But it's so nice that you, Candice, have the courage to say things as you yourself believe them without being overly cautious about other people's reactions (as I tend to be)! Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to find others thinking alike (as somebody already mentioned)!
I just have no idea how tolerant muslims in general are for different interpretations of Islam. The discussion forums I follow have mostly Western converts and from there I have got a bit the understanding that it's not easy to be a part of the muslim community and at the same time have differing views (for example, the muslim women (especially converts) who don't believe that scarf need to be worn besides during prayer or in mosque are to my understanding in a quite difficult place). But as I said, I have no idea, really.

And before finishing, one more comment: I don't quite agree with many of the commentators here about the place of hadiths in Islam. Like it was mentioned, the shahada has two parts: belief in God and belief in Prophethood of Muhammad (and on top of that the belief that Muhammad was the last prophet, which is not as such included in the wording of the shahada but in the intent of it). Because of this, I see it as a very difficult thing to disregard the hadiths totally. I personally think that not all the hadiths collected to for example Sahih Bukhari might be absolutely correct (no matter what the Islamic scholars claim - no offence), but I don't think that they should be disregarded totally. Anyway, even according to the official interpretation of Islam, a hadith can not be correct if it goes against Quran.

Säde

Candice said...

caraboska: Thanks, that was the best explanation I've ever gotten about the trinity and Jesus being the son of God. :)

Sade: You mention the "official interpretation of Islam" many times in your comment and I don't see Islam as having an "official interpretation". That's probably why most of what you wrote can't mean much to me. To me, Islam is not like the Catholic Church, or the Anglican Church, or this Church or that... It's like Christianity... There are Christians with all sorts of interpretations but they are still all Christians. But there are not Catholics with all sorts of interpretations. There *is* an official view for the Catholic Church... Islam is not a sect or denomination, it's the big picture.

About other comments that were against hadiths... I don't think there were any. LK is confused about the whole issue, not knowing how much importance to put to them (if I understood correctly) just like I am. And the others didn't even mention it. I also don't think they are to be disregarded. I think that they shouldn't be used to make laws or rules, but that they are so useful in painting a picture of what it was like back then. I use the good ones for inspiration. And the ones that I don't agree with, I search for their significance in the Qur'an. If I find that it is there, then I am the one who must change. If it has no real basis, then I don't consider it.

Candice said...

Laila (Sarah): I didn't have a chance to post more direct replies earlier. I really like the way you say you see so much overlap... So do I... And it is hard to make the leap towards being officially Muslim... Lots of converts probably see themselves as going from kafir to Muslim. I see myself as changing gradually to a more correct view, but I still believe much the same things as I did before. Maybe I see it clearer now though and my views are a bit stronger.

And I'm totally with you about the afterlife not being black and white. I think it's in all sorts of shades... :)

Jaz: As much as I see differences between me and the majority of Muslims (let's say Sunnis or Shias even), there really is a lot in common. Just like there is enough between Sunnis and Shias to have them go to the same Islamic schools around here, there would be enough commonground between me and them for me to want my daughter to go to one of these Islamic schools. Just to give you an example. So no, I wouldn't mind being known as a Muslim, even if people assume some of my beliefs wrongly based on what they know about Islam.

Anonymous said...

Hi, again!

As I see it, there is 1) a religion called Islam which is "the official interpretation of Islam" and then there is 2) the Absolute Truth, the Explanation of Everything or whatever it's called meaning the importance of humanbeings submitting themselves to God = Islam. Following this, different people can mean totally different things by the word "Islam": most people mean the religion which has certain traditional teachings and then some mean the shear submission to God without certain specific structure of tenets (the latter being my personal view). That's why I used the term "the official interpretation of Islam" to make the difference clear. Obviously it didn't help much, anyway... :) Sorry.
(Similar problem arises when using the word "sufi": other people interpret it to mean the sect worshipping graves etc. and other people use the word to describe themselves to mean the ones who try to deepen their spiritual experience of Islam to help them to follow the Sunna and the Shariah (in the large sense of the word) (or however each one themselves would explain it.)

(For the hadiths: I'm sorry if I misunderstood someone's comment... English is not my mother tongue, I only try my best. How you described you standpoint towards hadiths sounds very sensible.)

Säde

Anonymous said...

It's Säde again, sorry to continue more, but I started to think about your comparison with Christianity. I see what you mean Islam not being like Catholic Church with an official interpretation. But I personally don't understand how somebody could call themselves a (believing) christian without believing in the trinity and Jesus coming to earth as a son of God to die in the cross to release the humankind from original sin. I mean, I think all (official) muslims have certain beliefs that they all have to share or otherwise they couldn't call themselves muslims (at least the Oneness of God, Muhammad's prophethood, the status of Quran etc.). And that already means that there are "certain traditional teachings" in Islam (= the religion called Islam, the official interpretation of Islam) even if it otherwise would be seen as something very open to different interpretations.

(But getting back to the 2 possible meanings of Islam: according to my own understanding or opinion submission to God (Islam meaning the Absolute Truth (or whatever)) is not constricted with anything else than belief in (one) God and belief in importance of submission; according to _this_ interpretation also Gandhi would have been a muslim (submitter to God) though officially he was a hindu (by religion). This is exactly why I want to use the term "the official interpretation" _even if_ it only would mean accepting one God and Muhammad's prophethood and nothing further than that.)

I'm sorry if I don't make myself clear here... I feel like I'm just making everything more mixed up... (I started to think maybe I shouldn't even send this... But well, let it go. People who just don't get my point can just forget about the whole thing I'm after... ;) )

But at least, I understood much better where you, Candice, are coming from! :)
And even if you didn't agree with my views, I love to read about you own thoughts! Thanks!

Candice said...

Sade: You might want to call it the "traditional view of Islam" instead of official... I definitely understand what you're saying. I agree overall! No one would want to consider themselves Muslim if they don't at least believe in God alone, Muhammad's prophethood and the Qur'an as a holy book from God sent through Muhammad. That is the basis of the definition of Muslim here in human world.

But I also think, like you, that Muslim is much more broad and lots of people who don't consider themselves Muslim submit to God in their own way and are therefore Muslim too in that way.

LK said...

Yes Candice that is my exact confusion. I have no idea where they stand in level of importance. Some hold it to the same level as the Qur'an itself, some take them as suggestions, some take them as being just below the Qur'an. Its all very confusing. But I think they are more like what you said. They are "add ons" so to speak, there to help us interpret and see what was going on in the time of the prophet. Every single one is not meant to be a solid gold law.

Im not sure where the only muslims go to heaven thing comes from. Not the Qur'an. The Qur'an very clearly states multiple times that all believers, regardless of religion, that believe in one God have the opportunity to go to heaven. One of the ayahs is quoted here

Sura Al Baqara 2:62
Those who believe (in the Qu'ran)
and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures)
and the Christians and the Sabians
Any who believe in God
and the Last Day
and work riteousness
Shall have their reward
With their Lord on them
There shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve

This is often repeated. I think people just have this compulsion of wanting to be the "right" religion.

Zuhura said...

I found your blog because of your response to my comment on Stylish Muslimah. While I didn't agree with what you wrote to me there, I relate very much with what you say here. It's hard finding a Muslim community which shares one's values. But I do think there is value in "coming out" as Muslim because you can educate other people that there is not just one "traditional" way of being a Muslim. I have had some great talks with non-Muslims about Islam, and have found some new Muslim friends who are more open-minded than I had assumed.

Candice said...

Thanks for visiting! Glad you can relate. I do hope that bloggers can feel more comfortable about saying what they really believe and not face backlash for it, because for some time, I was not that comfortable admitting the differences I feel I have with some Muslims. So Stylish Muslimah should have that same right to express that she believes hijab to be obligatory as I do to express what I'm thinking. :)

Zuhura said...

I wasn't saying she has no right to say that or believe it. I was just letting her know that I wasn't going to subscribe anymore because I'm not interested in reading dogmatic approaches to Islam.

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