Concerns with Islam: Introduction
When thinking of my approach to the subject of writing about my concerns with Islam, I was met with great sadness. I thought about the hurt that I could cause anyone if my words were to be misunderstood or misconstrued. I am sorry if my writing causes any pain or suffering for anyone; it is not my intention. My only purpose is to shed some light on issues which I can no longer close my eyes to, issues which I feel other Muslims should not ignore either.
I also thought about the many gifts that my Islamic journey has brought me. Would others consider this to be a slap in the face to the great moral lessons which no other spiritual or life path had ever guided me to, the great stability only the teachings of Islam had afforded me? These thoughts were all gravely distressing. Nonetheless, there are many things that I simply can’t put aside any longer.
The Positive Impact Islam Had on My Life
Islam’s focus on modesty provided me with a feeling of empowerment which I had never known before and further contributed to the simplification of my life. Whether I was just dressing modestly or with the full Islamic hijab, I felt I now had a shield which protected me from the challenges that face a woman alone in the Western world. I felt I was no longer eye-candy for whoever felt like looking.
Although I currently disagree with the stricter interpretations of Islamic economics working towards a more Reba (interest) free life was truly a blessing. I ridded myself of the headaches of credit card and loan payments, and moved away from materialism. Suddenly, I didn’t need so many things right at that moment. Waiting for that which I wanted or needed gave my life discipline and greater simplicity. Often by the time I could afford something, I no longer needed or wanted the desired object. I thought about my choices more wisely and made better, less impulsive decisions. Instead of thinking so much about things, I became more focused on spirituality, the needs of my loved ones, and the common good.
So why would I question something that had given me so much, something that had been the bedrock of my stability, happiness, and life? Simply, I came to the conclusion, which I am open to regularly editing and fine-tuning (May God guide us all) that I was living and believing in a Westernized, Anglicized, and sterilized version of Islam. Starting in the summer of 2010, I studied more deeply than ever before, from original sources, (the Qur’an, Hadith Sahih, Tafseer, and Shariah). In a sense, I felt forced to. After moving to Egypt, I witnessed what I consider many amoral behaviors and ways of thinking, even among those who were considered “educated.” I was quoted many Hadith and passages in the Qur’an which I had never heard of. Others passages were in a totally new context. I felt obligated to better understand this thinking.
In my search, I found many authentic Islamic concepts and teachings which contrasted my moral beliefs. I also realized that I could not resonate with a great deal of Islamic history, nor find the moral thread. It appeared that the Islam that I had been taught and had come to accept as the “true Islam” was only a thin slice of the complete picture. The “true Islam” appeared to be an amalgamation of many things, some moral teachings, and other stories and rules which now appear to me to promote behavior and beliefs which don’t edify society’s well-being. I also found that many of these teachings had a grossly detrimental effect on Muslim society as a whole.
While I have met many Muslims who were broad minded, believed in the emancipation of women, and stood firmly against the violence so prevalent in the Islamic world today, they seem to be always are accompanied in the larger ummah with fanatics, misogynists, and the ignorant, unfortunately, in considerable numbers. Why is this? Because within our body of Islamic knowledge, alongside many nice teachings, lie elements which are in sharp contrast to acceptable human rights, women’s rights, and a healthy belief system. One could spend the rest of one’s life simply “cherry picking” those elements of Islam that are compatible with modern moral thinking and pretending the rest don’t exist. Others, simply forever explain away those contradictions with nonsensical answers that I am quite sure they don’t believe themselves or may be too ignorant to see their ridiculousness. However, can we truly feel comfortable negating or omitting such a considerable part of Islamic history and teachings especially when they are at the heart of much of the suffering of the Muslim world? How much longer can we chant that “Islam is the solution,” pretend that any Hadith we don’t agree with is simply not valid, ignore significant points of Islamic history (strangely, while being obligated to follow the example of the Prophet Mohamed), claim that the verses from the Qur’an which we can’t morally reconcile are “too deep” for our simple minds to understand, while so many are suffering from the implementation of these teachings? How much longer can we state that Islam gives woman all her rights without looking critically at many Islamic teachings which negate women’s rights? We often conveniently look the other way when we see suffering that is a direct result of these beliefs and teachings and say it has nothing to do with Islam. The fear we have to question Islam is so deeply ingrained in many of us, we close our eyes in blind faith, and fail to study the very books that we advocate are the salvation of humanity. We claim that Osama Bin Laden is simply not a good Muslim, when in fact, his theories are based solely on Islamic texts and ideas. Many of the moderates don’t even read what he has to say, dismissing him conveniently as a terrorist and saying that his ideas have nothing to do with Islam.
I personally can no longer close my eyes. If we claim to be true “followers of the Prophet” we cannot ignore major aspects of his life. Many members of our ummah, whom some would call extremists and terrorists, are following these teachings to the letter. As a result, it is causing suffering and chaos in the world to a level unseen at the hands of any other religious group.
I would hope that anyone reading this would not simply dismiss my ideas on the basis that I am an Islamaphobe, a Muslim hater, or a Fitnah creator. Although I have not always lived an ideal life, I have always sought to advocate solutions and systems which were in the interest of the common man, ideas which fostered human rights, peace, happiness, and fulfillment for the largest number of people. I am a simple person and have no agenda other than a desire to see less suffering in the world. I also love Muslims.
When you read this, please do so with an open heart and if you can’t, please don’t read it at all.
April 6, 2010
- Update sent on August 21, 2013
Since writing this introduction in 2010, things took a sharp turn as could be imagined. My husband became more and more stern and life with him became impossible. I was locked in a house on 4 different occasions and came to understand the actual limitations of what life under Islam for women really meant. We are now divorced although we both live in America.
I am no longer apologizing for Muslims. Although I maintain a wide social network of Muslim friends and students, I have become more resolute in my premise that Islam is the most dangerous force in the world today. Nonetheless, I have come to a place of peace regarding Islam and Muslims and hold that every society has to evolve on its own terms. I now have the freedom to think what I want and enjoy that right from my home in Salt Lake City, Utah with my son who is now 3.
- I have come to the conclusion that on a macro level, bank interest is needed as an economic stimulus, within limits and according to that which most benefits the society at large. The free market extreme laissez-faire policies of America has caused great detriment to the poor and have to be regulated responsibly. Nonetheless, strict Islamic Economic Policy does not provide the potential for growth that capitalism does. It’s my opinion that regulated capitalism will be the only road to economic liberation for the masses of poor throughout the world, coupled with micro financing. On a personal level, I believe avoiding interest as much as possible disciplines one to make more responsible economic choices; however, there can only be guidelines in this area, and not steadfast rules.
- Some may say, you took your Shahada years and years ago, why did you first of all take it if you had doubts and second of all, why did you only do this deep research recently? The answer to the first question is, a great deal of Islamic information in English simply wasn’t easily available in English. Whatever we did have, omitted many important points, that anyone considering converting to a religion should have access to. Furthermore, understanding Islam is almost like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. In no way is studying the Koran equivalent to studying the Bible. The Bible is chronologically easier to follow whereas the Koran is not in time order at all. Furthermore, it leaves out most of the historical references, rendering it impossible to understand in a historical context without the Hadith. The Hadith are in copious volumes. The Tafsir is often highly subjective according to the author’s whims. To date, no comprehensive multi-sectarian Koranic Tafsir has been compiled. In terms of the latter question, I have been working since I was 16 and frankly, never had the time to explore these issues so deeply until I was married to my husband.