I am not a scholar of Islam; but, I do attempt to learn from credible scholars and religious texts. I definitely have a copy of the Bible and the Quran in my room; and, I read the Psalms of David when I have some spare time. I grew up as a Sunni Muslim and found out that certain practices did not make any sense to me. One of these traditions involved visiting the tombs of some religious authorities and praying to God there but with the intention that one is praying through these dead people. I felt that this contradicted fundamental Islamic teaching, which was that you can pray to God almost anywhere. Of course! You can still pray for the deceased at the cemetery; but, the Sunnis—perhaps only some Sunnis—are using the dead religious person as a means of conveying their prayers to God. However, in Islam, we are told to pray directly to God. After finding these contradictions, I started enjoying myself less when my family would visit the tombs of religious figures.
When I moved to Canada, I found the Internet. I researched Islam and found out that it was difficult for me to discern what was going on due to too much data and a lack of knowledge about how to figure out which texts are considered more accurate. Instead, I started reviewing articles that were backed by some well-known and credible Muslim scholars; and, even then I preferred to use common sense while analyzing these texts. And, pretty soon I realized that I was not sticking with everything some sects were teaching; and, so I took bits and pieces out of everything and created something that stuck more easily inside my mind. I know that God rewards people based on effort and not accuracy. I also realized that the scholars couldn’t force anything on me; and, that their aim was to share their knowledge and let people decide.
First I thought that my personality type—I have lots of traits of an ENFP—does not like controlling people or too many strict rules and that this played a critical role in how I learned about Islam. By strict rules, I mean things like how Shias—perhaps some Shias—beat themselves to mourn the death of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson. Overall, most of the Islamic rules are pretty okay given that these are applied within the complete framework. For instance, you cannot expect someone to be punished for robbery when the leaders are hiding stashes of money away from people. Prophet Mohammad and his companions used to share most of their money with their people so it made sense to have strict punishment for theft at that time. Another fundamental thing that I realized through my learning experience is that I couldn’t stick with my religious beliefs simply due to some scholars. I have always wondered why I was doing this; and, in 2018, I found an answer to this question. It was on YouTube channel Rehan Allahwala‘s video, “Rice University lecture about Muslims in Usa With Craig Considine and Mujahid Fletcher“. At 5:40, the screen at the back displays a slide. Pause there and read. It is showing the results of the “Latino Muslim Survey” that was conducted in 2017. This survey discusses why Hispanic Latino Americans are becoming Muslims. 71% of the participants said that they are “not very or not at all influenced” by “a particular religious leader” and 96% said that they are “not very or not at all influenced” by “an inner-city ministry or outreach program”. So this answered my question. Apparently, I am again choosing common sense when I am deciding what to follow and what not to follow in Islam that is taught to us nowadays.
So I definitely follow the Quran and Sunnah to the best of my abilities. However, the way I learn is difficult to manage. For example, while studying at the university, I have always participated in extra private sessions with professors in order to add more stuff to my existing knowledge. Those who know me very well understand why I need to do this. Lastly, it is very easy to think of me as a non-practicing Muslim. For instance, when I feel down, I listen to a couple of songs and this helps me boost my mood. During these moments, those who are watching me from distance including those who attempt to keep me depressed think that I am not a practicing Muslim—they don’t realize that I cannot really sing all the words of some songs given that I don’t fully believe in those words although I find it funny to watch them being sung by someone else. This is why I remind myself that God does not judge through solid lines but in a very creative way; and, that in real Islam there are many levels of faith (by “faith”, I mean how one feels about practicing Islam) and not just one accepted level of faith.
I think more or less almost everyone studies Islam this way.
In conclusion, I can clearly see why non-Muslims including atheists used to love Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). He allowed them to choose Islam, other religions, or even atheism simply because this choice is given in the Quran.
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