I am not a scholar of Islam; but, I do attempt to learn from 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 time on my hands. 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. I felt that this contradicted a fundamental Islamic teaching, which was that you can pray to God almost anywhere except for really filthy places. Of course! You can still pray for the deceased at the cemetery; but, the 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. Saying all this, I must note that I still think that praying only at Prophet Mohammad’s tomb is very important because he is the leader of Muslims.
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 lack of knowledge about how to figure out which texts are considered more accurate. Instead, I started reviewing articles that are 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 like Shia, Sunni, and Sufi were teaching me; 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 just 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 beat themselves to mourn 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 for this question. It was in the YouTube 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 not to follow Islam simply because someone is telling me to do so.
You might find it funny that I think of myself as a Sunni Muslim because I have redefined the word a little bit. “Sunni” means the “one who follow Prophet Mohammad’s example”. The way I learn is very 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 all sorts 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. I can clearly see why an atheist told me that he loves and respects me a lot!
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