I am a Muslim. Have always been.
I believe in Allah, His prophets, His books, His angels, the day of judgement and the destiny.
I pray, fast, give alms and go for a pilgrimage when I can.
I’ve never murdered a soul (insects excluded, of course).
Neither have I ever cheated on my spouse.
I’ve never really broken the law, except perhaps by running through a red light.
Out of habit, I don’t lie, steal, cheat, bribe or intentionally harm others.
I usually don’t even interfere in other people’s lives, as is common in our culture.
Am a good person?
Some don’t think so.
They’re disappointed to see me without the hijab and with groomed eyebrows. They ask me to give up music and movies. They frown when they find I’m a banker. They whisper amongst themselves when they learn that I’m at friendly terms with my colleagues, ex-classmates or other members of my social circle, who happen to be men. Some even have the nerve to call me shameless when they discover I can play tennis or swim. Then, they invite me to join their dawah or dars group, so that I can be reformed.
For a growing number of Pakistani Muslims, to be rightly guided means to literally surrender your soul, your joy in living and your internal harmony. And YOU MUST FEEL GUILTY. Each time you eliminate the guilt by correcting the source, there’s a new ideal to aspire to. Something else must now be given up to get there. You can’t live a normal life, laugh and enjoy yourself without feeling bad about it. Even if you did, someone will point at your dead conscience or weakness of faith, in an effort to make you miserable.
Can an individual who closes all doors to mental nourishment reach old age armed with wisdom & happiness? How does one find the balance in this world? Can we be comfortable in our own skins and still serve Allah?
I have dared to ask some questions and I have found the answers that put me at peace with myself. If you asked the same questions, you may come up with different answers. But there’s no way one answer is better than the other.
If you want to do this exercise, as I have, you must follow the rules that I did:
- Set your pre-set beliefs aside for a moment. Maybe you’ll rediscover them. Maybe you won’t.
- Don’t fear the answers. You could have been wrong before and you could be wrong now. Let it happen.
- Your recommended reading is the Quran (read at least 3 different translations). If, and only if, you can’t find the answers, find reliable ahadeeth.
- If something in these two texts bothers you, read opposing points of views (forget their conclusions, but follow their logic).
- Don’t cheat! Do your research diligently, to the best of your ability.
- In the end, put everything in perspective. Cetris Paribus, is an impossible assumption, so temper your conclusions.
Here’s my list of questions:
- How do I know God exists? Really think about this. If unsure, go through the rest of this list, and come back to this one later.
- What’s he like? Fair or unfair, merciful or tyrannical, coherent or confusing?
- What exactly does he want from me? If he’ll hold me responsible in the end, has he specified clear, achievable goals/deliverables?
- Has he set the ground rules? That is, provided me with guidance, instructions, penalties, bonuses, that I need to know to plan my strategy for meeting the goals?
- What rules can he relax in his discretion and mercy and what has he clearly said he won’t forgive?
- Do I understand the difference between form & substance? Have I taken in the big picture, or the narrow literal view?
- What are the top 3 things I should do?
- What are the top 3 things I should stop doing?
- Based on this, what components of my previous belief system should I keep, modify or discard?
If you do this exercise properly, it might take you a couple of days, even weeks! You may swing like a pendulum between belief and disbelief. Eventually, you will find your ground and conviction that is based on your own reason and circumstances.
Just as you won’t trust a random mufti sahab with your life in this world, don’t count on him to keep you safe in the hereafter either.
If am to be eventually punished, let me at least make the mistakes myself!