Blind Faith

The concept of blind faith frightens me.

Over the past few years, I’ve started questioning some of the givens about Islam that I grew up believing. My questioning has very rarely been about the foundations of Islam as a religion; those I find myself wholeheartedly believing in. One God, Muhammed is the last prophet, praying five times a day, fasting the month of Ramadan, paying alms, doing the pilgrimage once in your life; these and others are things I haven’t found myself questioning.

There are other issues, however, I find myself continuously questioning and not understanding. Details. Mostly things related to the roles of men and women in society and in religion. I read a Qur’anic verse or a Prophetic saying and sit in front of it bewildered, not really understanding what it means or why it seems to mean something that doesn’t make sense to me.  And so I do some reading or I speak to people more knowledgeable than me. Sometimes I will hear an argument or an interpretation that convinces me. Other times I won’t. And the conversation will most commonly end in: Nadia, are you a Muslim or not? Do you believe in Allah and that the Qur’an is the word of God or not? Do you accept Islam in its entirety or not? If so, then you need to accept that there are things that we don’t always understand. If God says do then we do. That’s it.

But is it? God tells me in the Qur’an time and time again to think and to contemplate. I’m told to use my head. I’m never told to go to my local sheikh and have him, the more knowledgeable clergyman, tell me what is right and what is wrong. Why am I expected to depend on men who admittedly did a lot of studying of their own to come up with certain conclusions and interpretations within Islam but did so some 1000 or more years ago?  Why am I not allowed to question their conclusions? Why am I not allowed to come up with my own?

I have no plans to become a clergywoman myself. I have no plans to issue fatwas on one topic or another. But I do want to understand why I’m doing something and if it is in my best interests, and that of society, to continue doing it. I want to be able to come up with my own conclusions and to feel free to practice the Islam that I believe in and not the Islam that some other people believe in. I don’t want to get into didactic debates about details with people. I want to feel free to read, listen, learn, and do according to my own understandings. I want to feel free to do this without being judged as being an infidel or a bad person or as a person on a slippery slope to hell.

Blind faith frightens me. When a whole society has blind faith it terrifies me. What is a cult if it is not a group of people with blind faith?

I feel that all my life I have lived in the midst of people who have dictated to me how I should live my life in a way that will please God. And if I deviate from their understanding of that way of life I am judged and put down and made to feel guilty. I am made to feel that should this be my last moment on earth, at this time of questioning, at this time of deviation from “the norm”, that I cannot trust in God to save me from the hell fires.

I am very upset with myself when I realize how much society’s pressures and judgments affect me. I do not feel this way about Islam the religion. I feel this way about Muslims the people.

I am sure this is a dilemma that many people, regardless of faith, go through. Christians, Jews, Hindus, teenage girls and boys, mid-aged men and women, professionals, all feel under pressure to conform to what is dictated to them as the norms of their various societies and circles.

It is exhausting. Conforming can be an exhausting exercise if the actions are inconsistent with the person one is within. Trying to break out of conformity is also an exhausting exercise. But if it leads to an inner consistency – an inner peace – it should be for the best in the long run.

I am exhausted. I am exhausted from conforming. I am exhausted from trying to break away from conformity. I have no inner peace. I am constantly in a state of inconsistency with myself and with society around me.

Blind faith frightens me. Conformity and breaking away from it exhausts me. I need my inner peace.

 

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15 comments

  1. I do feel that way most of the time …. And sure it is exhausting .. Emotionaly deplitating … Specially when you do your best to “look” and “act” normal … Everybody’s normal of course and you do it ALL the time ..
    Sometimes i think it is a curse to have a “working brain” … I envy those people who take everything as “granted ” and do not have that urge to think and to know why ? … I think they have inner peace ..may be it is a meaningless one … But at least they have it ..
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts … Like this one and the previous plog about Hijab.. I felt every word you wrote … As a Muslim female wearing hijab living in the arab world .. And having a working brain … Is never easy :)

  2. the relation between man and women was promoted based on personnel points of views which were affected by the surrounding environment and the status of the “governing” standers , and by time those standers were becoming much more away from the original and pure applied ones by the first generation ,which I think was not only in Islam but in all other religions ,the European christian women also suffered these but the liberation process led her far away .

  3. Check this video, Sheikh Saad Helaly says that “3awrt l mara2a” is a matter of what society can not accept to be revealed, maybe that’s why you feel it’s okay to walk with your hair in the West while in Egypt you feel really stressed. What you think?

    1. this is true, what is sexualized is very much in the mind – there is no “instinctive” or “natural” or “predetermined” standard for what should be covered and what should not. If you get used to seeing a woman’s midriff, it can lose its sexual value and appeal. What Allah wants for us is that the majority of our bodies retain sexual appeal and retain value. I love to be sexually appealing….to the one man i have a sexual relationship wiht. It is very fulfilling to know that the crook of my arm is sensual to him; and many good practitioners of sex – whether muslim or not- will agree that you can find sexual appeal and arousal in the most “unlikely” parts of the body – it all depends on what value YOU attach to them, and how you “see” them.
      So we are not arguing that hair is “instrinsically” awra (a part of a woman’s body that should be covered because it arouses sexual attraction or carries sexual appeal) rather that Islam – like any other culture or set of values – is creating a standard and establishing what is sexual or not, for the benefit of the human being. It is to my benefit that my body is seen as sexual and valued this way, because it brings me great great benefit when i am in a relationship. Nothing about me goes unnoticed. I don’t have to try that hard to get my husband’s attention. I feel very good about myself and feel very high self esteem. i don’t have to go to the length of dresssing like a prostitiute to get his attention or send a signal…just wearing what would be considered “normal” for a non-muslim woman of today is something that is highly appreciated and valued and responded to by my husband. this i think is for women and is a very women-positive thing.
      i am thankful for it.
      it gives my body its full value and potential and allows me to revel in my sexual strength and my strength to hold my husband in thrall. why would i ever want to neutralize or cheapen that! every part of me becomes an asset in nurturing a very positive sexual life!

  4. Thanks for this post too. This is my second time to interact with your intellectual & interesting blog in less than 24 hours. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to have these discussions and for the effort!

    Well, I feel like this post could be relevant to to a comment I submitted a few hours ago to your previous contribution, where I assured on the importance of using one’s mind to seek truth, but meanwhile, I referred to the fact – or let’s say what I personally perceive as a fact – that faith in general, whatever the religion it falls under, requires taking several meta-physical, illogical, non-materialistic, and insensible matters for granted. Otherwise; it would become anything else but “faith”.

    So according to the theory I am proposing, and that I am personally embracing; the major foundations of any faith requires the believers to take them “blindly” – even though I disagree with using this description because, faith is supposed to be a source of “enlightenment” for the blind souls since it tells them about the other side of the world that we can’t see nor touch, the world which we will witness and live in when we become no longer blindfolded, meaning: when we die!

    I notice that you keep complaining about judgmental people and the pressures of society on you to mimic them, but let us please put this aside, since I don’t think that there is a place for narrow-minded brains on this blog. We shouldn’t be here (on this blog or even in the world we live in together) to judge each other, but to discuss and exchange opinions with the aim of seeking truth.

    And to seek truth, one needs to be “free”. As you know, freedom is a core value that is highly praised by the Quran.

    So please feel free to think, contemplate, question and doubt whatever you wish.

    Based on the above, let us agree that Islam is not the kind of dark-religion that urge people to lock their brains up in a dark solid box. On the contrary, and as you said, the Quran encourages people to contemplate, and praises those with reason and understanding.

    So by contemplating the Quran itself, you will find that it focuses on the importance of using one’s mind and logic – only – in the core idea of belief: The existence of God the Creator, and the uniqueness and purity of Islam as His true religion. Only in those verses the Quran is praising the contemplation and the observation of the signs leading to faith – the faith in God the Creator.

    But unlike what you say, you will find that when it comes to the details of the religious practice, and the observation of rituals (such as Hijab and the like), the Quran do not praise one’s intellect in those verses, but it actually highlights the reader’s piety, faith, fear (respect) of God, and intrigues those emotional aspects by praising – for example – “the believers”, instead of praising “those with understanding” as in the case above.

    I am still also wondering why you blame those who take faith “blindly”, while I assume that you are taking a major part of faith blindly yourself!

    For example, and I am quoting you, you say: ” Muhammed is the last prophet, praying five times a day, fasting the month of Ramadan, paying alms, doing the pilgrimage. ”

    Well, where is the logic behind believing a man who lived centuries ago and claimed that he received a heavenly revelation?! Or behind giving a way a fixed amount of your money to the poor (you can just do that yourself without having to follow any religion)? Or even behind exposing yourself to hunger for an entire month every year? Or.. behind going to throw some stones at a symbolic tower that erects in the hot desert of Arab peninsula after revolving around an ancient cubic building?

    Aren’t all the above taken for granted by you? Or is there some logic that you have about them?

    In my humble opinion is that on one side, yes, using one’s intellect is an essential part of being a believing Muslim, especially when it comes to realizing the existence of God and the uniqueness of Islam as His true religion, while on the other side, a Muslim will have to follow what the “holy” book of Islam dictates as long as s/he embraced it, out of their own choice, and without any enforcement whatsoever.

    This doesn’t mean that you are not free to think, doubt, question, seek truth and explanations of the detailed practices and the rituals that you observing as a Muslim: In fact, you have to!

    What’s important is to not stop practicing them until you figure out the reason and the logic behind them, that’s because, neither you nor your generation may ever reach the answers you seek in this life.

    The Prophet’s companions, peace be upon him, believed his story about the revelation and didn’t hold this until they understand how or why. No, they believed, and even sacrificed their whole wealth, family & souls to what they believed in. That is faith!

  5. I think I understand your struggle. I used to believe a very rigid Christian theology. I was so earnest and fervent in my beliefs that I traveled to places like France and Israel to evangelize people there. I quit my job and went to seminary, but I dropped out after the first year, a total and absolute basket case (i.e. emotional wreck from trying to behave the way I thought “god” wanted me to). I actually forgot who I was. This dissonance between who I am and who I thought “god” wanted me to always be striving to be was at the heart of why I left that religion (I’m now personally agnostic). I now consciously practice flexibility of thinking, and I’ve vowed to never again wall off any particular belief or opinion from scrutiny. That’s what got me in trouble in the first place. Your post made me think of the great NYT column below. It talks about doubt as a bulwark against mistakes, injustices, etc.:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/opinion/sunday/the-certainty-of-doubt.html?pagewanted=all

  6. I think you should listen to someone like Fadel Soliman who inaugurated Bridges Foundation and he presents Islam to non-muslims. He also answers to the misconceptions people have about Islam, even Muslims themselves and when they do not find a logical answer, they go directly saying we have to accept it as it is which I really refuse. ALLAH never told us not to think. We are here to think and take our own decisions after being totally convinced. His presentations and lectures are very useful even to Muslims who have some questions.
    Here is the website of the foundation: http://www.bridges-foundation.org/. You can find his CV.
    He also had a TV program in Ramadan called “Islamophobia”: http://www.youtube.com/user/theislamophobiatv
    You can also attend his lectures and courses and discuss with him, I assure you he can answer a lot of your questions about Islam with a very logical way and without saying “This is how it is” :)

    Hope you find this useful :)

  7. Thanks for sharing your struggle. I went through something similar to what you mentioned, as well as what coffee_cup shared. Its been a rewarding journey nevertheless. I included much of it in a memoir “Ground Zero Mosque”, which you can read on Google Books here: http://books.google.com/books?id=q0RgmKbBEuUC&lpg=PP1&ots=BrAEYINUWb&dq=ground%20zero%20mosque%20waleed&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=ground%20zero%20mosque%20waleed&f=false

  8. I can’t swear how much we are alike sometimes. I am on a similar path, although I’ve answered many of my own questions through stumbling on a few things here and there.

    Good luck and I adore your mind.

  9. I’ve been through this journey and back, and it took me around 5 years to get back on track… I started to think and the more I thought the more I felt that Islam is built on people who aren’t smart enough, educated enough that think within the box and that aren’t really exposed etc… I started to consider devout Muslims stupid people etc… step by step I drifted away totally because the truth is I couldn’t find anyone that would challenge my mind or speak to me in a smart way, speak to my brain and convince me, the mistake I did though was that I didn’t take this battle outside of me, I kept it locked up within and tried to find my own sources information and failed miserably, the more I read things online the more I drifted etc… it was a cycle, I hated all the fake actions related to religion, how much was given by people to looks and attitudes and how little was given to free thinking, I traveled for a while which exposed me a bit more and confused me more so at some point with all the exhaustion and lack of understanding I decided to cut it and stop reading altogether, I didn’t want to know anything about Islam or any other religion because I didn’t want to get more confused or depressed, whenever thoughts of religion crossed my way I just pushed them and removed them from my head. I’ve eventually somehow come to find out more about people like Fadel Soliman and Moez Masoud, the former I know of more, the latter I know through TV, but they are people who research, people who in my opinion don’t judge, people who understand that its alright to not understand, and people who would not pressure you to have to believe now, but would hope that you would believe.

    In my opinion these open minded people are the people one should go for when he wants to ask questions or debate something, because they will think about what you say and discuss, even if you may not agree with them in certain things, but you will definitely freely question and they will believe in your right to do so, because they know that a human has the right to think and sometimes when we think we might disagree or even disbelieve in certain things, I know that you are stressing on the point of doing your research and settling to your own understanding and in my opinion as humans we have the right to do so, but if you at some point stop at a point where you want to question something, I think you should ask people who believe and understand your right to ask questions that maybe he could have answers too from experience and studies.

    However, if you really ever want someone to help you with your search, no one is more capable of helping you but God himself, ask him. I promise it works :).

  10. So close yet so far.

    You’re afraid of losing ‘faith’, of putting away what you have deemed as truth for all of your life, of admitting you’ve been living a lie this whole time. This leads to creating justifications. When you consider things set in stone (the foundations of Islam as you put it) you’ve already let go of your mind’s critical thinking abilities. In order to believe in something you first need to rationalize it through evidence and logic. Resorting to faith is giving up.

    Only slight understanding of history and anthropology are needed in order to reveal how utterly absurd Islam (and indeed all other religions) are, but you’re afraid and that’s understandable. Religions feed on fear. Naturally we are scared creatures. Scared of the unknown, scared of ignorance, scared of death. Genetically we’re hard-wired to fear these things so our species may survive, as is the purpose of life and evolution. If not for our ancestors being scared of death long enough to live and reproduce we wouldn’t be here having this conversation right now. Similarly, fear of ignorance leads us to seek knowledge, and for this reason humans are constantly plagued by questions of existence and purpose. For this reason humans invented philosophies and religions.

    These fears make humans create fantasies to comfort themselves, this is evident to anyone not indulging in these fantasies. The afterlife, souls, godly reward punishment; these are all propagated delusions meant to serve our kind at a certain time and place, and we don’t need them anymore. We simple don’t need lies to guide our way of living. The more knowledgable we become the less religion makes sense. You claim you want to learn more, so why aren’t you reading the history of Islam (try from a non-biased source) or better yet – read the Quran itself.

    A read of the quran should put to rest any proclamations of its divinity. Muhammad challenged others to find an error in the quran, yet Muslims would take great offense and could even murder anyone who dares criticize it. In truth, the quran is filled with absurdities, historical mistakes and scientific heresies. The quran is virtually a mish mash of plagiarized hebrew and biblical texts, persian and arabian maxims, proverbs and the odd creative input from Muhammad. Its stories (such as those of Noah and Adam) are the propagation of stories and fairy tales tracing back to babylonian and sumerian times (the stories of Gilgamesh and Atra-Hasis and others came as a result of a flood in 7,000 BC, Adamu was the name of the first man in Sumerian texts, etc).

    Even Muhammad himself, who was supposed to be the perfect human, is a highly flawed man, and that’s being kind to him. He had sex slaves and instructed his followers to freely take sex prisoners and rape their ‘right hand possessions’ (Quran 33:50). He taught that women were flawed in mind and body. He taught that god loves revenge, killing but hates taking his name in vain. Why would one who created the universe and everything in it care about petty things such as masturbation or not believing in it?

    I can delve into detail for any one of the points I’ve made. You were right in one thing which is the fact that you should use your mind in understanding and not the handed down words of elders and teachers. You need to make use of nature’s greatest gift to us – our curious intellect. This is why I’ve made the effort into spending the time to type this. If you’re interested I can talk some more on the subject.

    Please excuse the cheap plug, but I wrote something about this subject once. You can read about it here:

    http://observer-is-observed.blogspot.com/2012/08/what-if-i-told-you-religion-is-almost.html

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