Assalamu Alaykom (Peace be upon you),

So, I thought I would attend the Friday-prayer( Salatul Jumu’ah) with another Muslim-woman that lives around the corner from me. In being indoors for the last few days, I invited my dear friend to attend the khutba(lecture) with me. She accepted my invitation. So, we departed from our apartments, got into the car and was on our way. We were definitely excited about this. In going to the mosque, we found ourselves in a long line of cars awaiting for a chance at a parking-spot. In our short wait, we giggled and chatted about trivial matters. Once we were able to get a parking-spot, we quickly jumped out the car and headed towards the women’s entrance. We finally made it removed our shoes.

Once the lecture started, we sat quietly in anticipation for an enlightening afternoon. However, this quickly changed. The lecturer began with a narration by the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stating that:

“A Muslim community will stop being on the straight path once the: youth go astray, rebellious women appear, and men stop going out to perform jihad”

So, my dear friend and I sat flabbergasted and in awe. This particular lecturer went on and on about ‘astray youth, rebellious women, and men going out to perform jihad’. However, he failed in refusing to discuss the causes of the youth going astray or the reason(s) behind rebellious women appearin. I’m still not sure what ‘rebellious’ women are. Also, jihad in the context he spoke of was inappropriate. Jihad is Arabic for struggling for the sake of Allah (God). The biggest struggle we can undergo in battling is our own individual selves, our desires. We struggle everyday in being upright people. We struggle everyday in giving everyone their due rights. This is true jihad. This is more of an appropriate form of jihad that should’ve been dealt with, instead of talking about going out to fight.

I’m sorry, but some of these lecturers need to get themselves together because American Muslims are living in a different culture that is distinct from other places. The problems that an American Muslim will face will probably be different than an Afghani or Pakistani Muslim and vice versa. It is this constant rhetoric from these lecturers that throws me and others for a loop. Why don’t these men understand that second, third, and fourth-generation American Muslims do not hold the same cultural-baggage as recent immigrants. The happenings of now should be attended to. There must be a new look at how Islam is practiced in America. We cannot continuously bring along cultural-baggage to a country that is different than ‘back home’. So, many American Muslims continuously sit through countless lectures hearing things that they can’t relate to due to this cultural-barrier. The youth isn’t going to listen to some random person that is ranting about things they can’t relate to in their daily lives.

Also, we must turn away from this obsession over obedience. Submission belongs to God and God alone. A fruitful and well-grounded relationship is rooted deeply in mutual partnership. If a relationship is built upon tyranny, obedience, and a power-struggle then it may not last long. There should be equality between the two individuals. If not, then you may have someone within the relationship rebel against the other. It is rather absurd to believe that someone rebels for no reason. No, there is a reason behind this. Instead of ranting on and on about rebellious women, why not talk about why a person would want to rebel in the first place. Let’s talk about the behind-the-scenes stuff that occurs. I’ve heard some dynamic lectures from some great imams discussing: domestic violence, sexual assault, women’s rights, marital love, and etc. However, there aren’t enough of these lectures happening. Unfortunately, there are many communities that are firmly rooted in compliance. Compliance doesn’t cut it for me. It isn’t about blindly obeying or submitting to anything or anyone. One must ask questions and seek for those answers in order to be at one with themselves. If an answer isn’t satisfactory then you continue on in your search. You don’t just sit back and accept something. Oh no, never that. The first word that was revealed to the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was ‘iqra’. Iqra means to read in Arabic. So, we must move away from this blind-following of individuals, no matter what their title may be. In Islam, one turns to the Qur’an and the example of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In Islam, there isn’t a central authority. The Qur’an legislates for one to use their reasoning, their logic, the example of the prophet Muhammad and the ayats(evidences) from the Qur’an to live a satisfying life. Islam doesn’t restrict one from being an active learner or from asking questions. No, you are told to bring your questions. You are told to reflect and to ponder. You shouldn’t just sit back and listen. You must not be like heedless cattle in a herd. No, you use what God has given you- your intellect. So, I am saying right now that we have to move away from simply complying to lectures that aren’t applicable to right now.

As an American Muslim, my experience(s) are centered on my daily life in America. It isn’t dependent upon anything else other than my experience(s) as a Black Muslim American woman. I’m sorry, but I can’t accept someone’s cultural-baggage from elsewhere as being my baggage. This can’t be the case for me. I just hope that some of these imams and lecturers will begin to understand that the American Muslim experience is different from a Muslim’s experience(s) in another country. American Muslims have their own problems and qualms to deal with on a daily basis. It is time to allow for American Muslims to create their own narrative. There’s nothing wrong with being an American-Muslim. It is just problematic when American Muslims are being told as a collective body to abide by cultural-norms that aren’t applicable to right now. This is America and American Muslims are trying to find their way. The last thing we need to hear is how things are ‘back home’. I’m sorry, but your cultural-baggage doesn’t cut it here. So, don’t try to spin Islam to make your cultural-baggage legitimate. Islam doesn’t oppress. Islam liberates. So, take that crap you think is Islam and throw it in the trash.

Anyways, I will go back to the hadith that he selected for the lecture. If he really wanted to do something beneficial, he should’ve elaborated on this issue of youth going astray, women becoming rebellious and men going out for jihad. In too many lectures, I hear about problems, but I rarely hear about solutions. Or I hear about consequences of actions, but never the causes. We shouldn’t dance around issues, but we should have a well-rounded talk about them. Instead of constantly complaining about this, that and the other, we need to just cut to the chase. We need to develop better ways of handling issues instead of giving things a cultural-slant. Why can’t we just focus on being good people? Islam is a full way of life, but someone too many lecturers focus on these trivial things. And too many times, people walk out of mosques not learning anything because the lecturer was so far from the reality of the people. Let’s get things in check the next time we want to go to the minbar to speak about something. Let’s have a real conversation that talks about causes and effects. Let’s discuss how we can help alleviate these problems and how this is apart of Islam. Islam is about being a mercy to the people. Islam shouldn’t be a burden. Islam should never be burden or else we’re doing something wrong.

So, our Friday-prayer experience was interesting. It was only one experience out of several, but hopefully from this one experience someone can think about the importance of connecting to their audience before speaking to them. It is very important to understand the reality of your audience before delivering a message. I mean…what good is a message if you’re not conveying it and your audience is unable to connect to it? So, let’s look at Islam as a way to alleviate burdens instead of being a burden. Islam is a way of life that is beautiful, but when a man/woman takes it upon him/herself to educate a group he/she should think twice about the message he/she intends to deliver.

“Posted on September 3, 2011 by Nahida

At the age of 10 I had a way of walking I’m certain had been with me since I first learned to walk. There is nowhere I could have learned it, and I hadn’t given it any thought to have learned it in the first place. But it was called to my attention at 10, because it was “provocative.” And it wasn’t brought to my attention by men, but by women. Girls, in fact.
It was one foot in front of the other, a hip-swinging walk. And it was not okay. And the girls let me know this immediately. “Stop acting so stuck-up!” “She thinks she’s a model.” “Why do you walk like you’re all that?”

Of course, I didn’t think I was “all that.” And at the age of ten, being rather sheltered from all things overtly sexual, I was thoroughly bewildered and confused. This was how I naturally walked, and it wasn’t something I could change because I had no idea what I was doing wrong. It weren’t as though I could see myself walking and compare it to others. Eventually, though, I did learn to “fix” it. What’s interesting is not only the accusation of sexuality that I never implied, but the fact that I was not allowed to be sexual. These were girls who wore lipgloss, tight jeans, and midriff tops. They weren’t stereotypes–they were whole complete people, who cried when I wrote them sad stories and were fiercely loyal to each other–but they played into stereotypes. They gossiped, worried about their weight, talked about boys, copied each other’s homework, and had serious mean streaks. And consequently, they categorized and forced me into a stereotype. I studied and read and wrote and dressed conservatively (thanks mom) and contributed greatly to class discussions and was overall smart (though they were too!) and therefore was not allowed to demonstrate any kind of “grown-up” confidence.

Ten year old girls don’t walk the way they do to be sexual. They walk that way because that’s how they walk. When the girls cornered me for long legs and swinging hips, it was the confidence they attacked. I’m sure they had some idea that it was interpreted in the world as symbolic of some sort of sexual power, but it only just forming in our understanding. As far as they were concerned, this was power play. I was not a part of their clique.

“You can’t walk like that.”

I was a sweet kid. It’s hard to believe now, and it frustrates me when I remember it, but it’s frightening how soft I was. Watching the girls, I forced myself to change the way I walked because I genuinely believed there was something wrong with me. I walked like them instead. I remember the process, asking a friend of mine, “Do I walk weird?”

“You walk so gracefully, like a swan.” she said. “Don’t listen to them; they’re jealous.”

“Swans are clumsy on land.”

Looking back, there is so much about this that disturbs me. It was my first introduction, I can see, to the sexual interpretations of others forced onto me in a dangerously she-was-asking-for-it-like manner, while I have no involvement and no desire of involvement. I didn’t intend for anything–I was just living my life. I couldn’t intend anything; for crying out loud, I was ten. And yet this is so deeply ingrained into the mentality of society that it was pushed onto me by none other than ten-year-old girls, who themselves had no idea what they were doing, but had somehow come to understand the significance and had learned to police “sexuality.” And I “fixed” something that didn’t need to be fixed to appease to the fabrications of patriarchy, unwillingly, tearily, and self-destructively.

Growing up, the prevalence and instillment of the incident became clear. Everyone thought like this. At 12 I had a red dress I loved wearing. Still conservative, mind you, my mother picked out my clothes. But one day I put it on, and she told me to change it.

“Why?”

“It makes you look pretty. I don’t want… you getting the wrong kind of attention.”

Even then, I wanted to scream.

Did I mention this dress covered everything? Everything? Full-length sleeves and full-length skirt? It doesn’t even matter what it covered. I wasn’t wearing it to be sexual: I liked it because it reminded me of the dress one of the characters of an adventure book I was reading wore on the cover. I felt like riding dragons and finding ghosts in my dreary castle. It also doesn’t even matter if I were wearing it to be sexual, had I not been 12: it doesn’t give anyone the right to involve themselves without my permission.

My mother doesn’t tell me I’ll be raped, but she sure as hell implies it. “You could be kidnapped,” she says. “And… used. For business.”

I would say my mother is paranoid about sex trafficking, but she isn’t paranoid. She’s right. What she isn’t right about, however, is suggesting that being “unpretty” would somehow save me. And while she didn’t make me accountable for the possibility of rape (though it disturbed me greatly that she consistently hinted my life would be utterly and entirely over) she did make me liable for others’ interpretations of what “message” I was sending by the way I dressed.

My mother meant well. She was terrified to death of losing me, a defenseless child, to predators. When I hit my late teens and was not so defenseless, she promptly allowed me to “dress pretty” again. Before class, now a young woman of 17, I walked past the mirror in my bedroom and slid into a well-fitted black dress that zipped on one side. I tugged up the zipper and it stopped, leading me to believe I’d zipped it all the way. In actuality, the zipper had stuck at the curve of my breast, exposing the black lace of my bra.

“Nahida, you look gorgeous!” my instructor exclaimed in third period psychology. “Come here.”

“What is it?” I asked, walking up to her desk.

Without warning, she reached out and yanked the zipper upward, closing the dress completely. I stood for a minute in shock.

“You’ve been walking around flashing everyone all morning,” she guessed grimly. And then, I won’t forget the look she gave me–more than just disapproval, it was blatantly, almost hatefully, accusatory.

Whore!

“I–I didn’t know,” I stammered truthfully. “I thought I zipped it.” Please, please, please believe me, please.

She had dismissively returned to grading papers. “Thanks,” I murmured and walked back to my textbooks. My psychology teacher liked me–not only as a good student but as me, personally–and I liked her, which made her reproach all the more scathing.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. The forging of a false reality by those who have no business interpreting my behavior and policing me occur even here. Whenever I write a sex-related post, men–men this time, Muslim and non-Muslim alike–submit comments that clearly assume I am attempting to ensnare them with the subject of sex, even if the entry itself has nothing to do with seduction and everything to do with my perspective, experience, and feminism. Just because you don’t see a point, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. There are other commenters who very much see the point–so I take it the problem is you, not my writing. And if there weren’t a point? Well GTFO–that’s what I wanted to do, and that’s for me to decide. You need to see your way out. I’m pretty tired of receiving comments along the lines of, “Modesty, sister!” and “STOP TRYING TO SEDUCE ME!”

I am not, in fact, trying to seduce you.

The Internet is a big place. If you don’t like the discussion, don’t participate. Don’t read. Find something else. Don’t lecture me about modesty when you’ve clearly lost yours, arrogantly believing you have any right to tell me these things or command me to stop or interpret my behavior and involve me in your incorrect interpretation by submitting such comments or that you have any say on how I should live my life or what I should write about.

The whole delusion of she must be attempting to be seductive or she wouldn’t be wearing that / talking about this is at its core egotistical. And, fine, let’s say a woman is trying to be seductive. What the hell makes you think you’re the one she’s trying to seduce? And if you aren’t, what the hell makes you think you have any right to shove yourself into her business? Your thoughts are your own: you are free to notice her, think about her, fantasize, etc.–you are not free to involve her, through actions or words that disclose what’s going on in your pants, unless she specifically consents and makes it clear. And this consent is not infinite. Or “a light switch” as they say. And this goes both ways. Were I to fantasize about a man I knew, I wouldn’t tell him this, thereby involving him, unless I was certain he wouldn’t mind hearing it. Otherwise, yes, it is harassment–I would be involving him against his will and making him feel extraordinarily uncomfortable.

It astonishes me to no end that men have a problem with this. A lot of guys wouldn’t appreciate being hit on by someone they’re not interested in–but they expect women to accept it. Would a straight man put up with being hit on by other men? If it ever happens, tell him to quit bitching. Don’t listen to pathetic excuses like “I don’t want to be hit on by someone I’m not into” or “That’s just really creepy, and I don’t find him attractive.” He’s clearly a vagina.

Like the ten-year-olds previously mentioned who categorized me–and themselves–into stereotypes, the actions and very real personalities of women are often fetishized as though they aren’t whole or they belong in compartments of sexuality, a mentality that enables men to “sample” women of each respective fantasy and ultimately objectify and limit them to these. And there are several. The “innocent girlfriend”–popular among religious men and Nice Guys–whom men protect not out of selfless care and love but for the sake of being the first ones to “corrupt” her, or to fulfill their own fetish through the limitation of her personality. The “experienced whore”–her supposed “opposite”–and then of course the deadly dichotomy, whom few women are–and when they are, they are viewed as deceitful, mind you–and destroy themselves attempting to become. Smart girls are fetishized for their intelligence, not for being whole people from whom we learn and with whom we expand our perspective, but for “Hey I slept with this really smart chick.” And don’t get me started about “beautiful exotic girls.”

We don’t revolve around you. And my personality is not a fetish.

What people don’t realize is that there is a point at which slut-shaming and prude-shaming are pretty much the same damn thing. Literally. When you shame a woman for “dressing like a slut” and therefore supposedly bringing inappropriate advances upon herself, you are also prude-shaming her for not tolerating such behavior.

Seriously, just stfu.

the fatal feminist © Nahida S. N.”

Blog: http://thefatalfeminist.com/2011/09/03/the-nonconsensual-sexualization-of-unintending-young-women/

“Halal Sex” and Seeking Marriage as the Cure

Marriage

One topic that is always in demand is marriage. There is always room at the dinner-table, in the mosque, at a gathering, or even at a wedding to discuss marriage. Unfortunately, the topic of marriage typically include the references of “halal sex” and “fornication”. You’re probably asking me to clarify what I meant by that last statement. Yes, allow me to elaborate. In many communities, the act of getting married is praised because it is a ‘halal’ way to engage in sexual-relations without the sin of fornication, especially when it comes to the youth. However, the notion that one must get married only for the sake of engaging in sex is problematic. If one was to ask any husband or wife if sex is the end-all or be-all of a marriage than one will quickly understand that sex isn’t going to provide the substance to keep the relationship together. No, I am not saying that sex isn’t important but it definitely isn’t the end-all or be-all of a marriage. Additionally, if one went into a marriage solely for the intention of dealing with their sexual urges than is one really cognizant about the purpose of marriage? Is marriage only about the exchange of a husband and wife fulfilling each other sexually? Or is there more than that?

I’m not here to define or outline anyone’s marriage, but if one was to seek marriage as this magical cure in dealing with sexual urges than this seems shallow. Yes, if one was to get married and indulge in sex then it is ‘halal’ or lawful. Additionally, it is even rewarded by Allah(God) since it is done in a lawful way. However, if one is seeking to only get married for the sole purpose of having sex then what about afterwards? Where does one go once their sexual-needs are satisfied? Unfortunately, the rhetoric geared towards the youth about marriage is more problematic because many youths feel that marriage is their ticket for ‘halal sex’. And I’ve heard numerous times how it would benefit the youth to get married young in order to protect themselves from falling into fornication. Yes, I agree that sex outside of marriage is a major sin in Islam and it can lead to corruptions within societies. However, if the youth is filled with this belief that once they get sexual-urges they should get married then how is this fair to them once they get married and see that marriage is more than sex?

Recently, I had a heart-to-heart conversation with a dear friend about this topic. Many of the Muslim youth are groomed from a young age to value marriage and the beauty of it, but on the other-hand many are given this romanticized view that marriage is their outlet for sexual-frustration. For many of us, we understand that marriage comes with tons of responsibilities and obligations. Additionally, marriage is a place in which the couple can grow individually and together as a couple. Not only grow, but to strive Islamically for paradise. However, does the youth grasp this concept if they are being told constantly that the only way they can have sex is if they get married? Now, I must be fair in this depiction of marriage. I do believe that some parents explain that marriage is not a joke or just a place for sex. However, I’ve always found it, more times than not, that the youth is pushed to get married when they have sexual urges. Yes, I believe in many Western societies that there is an issue of hyper-sexuality happening and occurring right before our eyes, thus the youth is being exposed to sexuality on a daily basis in various ways. Nonetheless, this notion that once a kid gets sexual-feelings is ready for marriage is incorrect. Once we hit the age of puberty or even before, we can experience those urges. However, it doesn’t mean we are ready for marriage or can even grasp the seriousness of marriage.

In saying all of this, I don’t believe that marriage is a cure for horny youth. If anything, the youth should understand the various dimensions of marriage and all that it entails. I’m definitely not advocating fornication, but I am advocating education and a serious talk about sex. It isn’t fair for the youth to feel inclined towards marriage just because they can satisfy their desires because there are a long line of other issues that comes from marriage. And we have to ask if marriage is even appropriate at this point if the young man or woman is only focused on sex. We’ve heard numerous times that sex doesn’t sustain a relationship and isn’t going to hold-up a relationship if there isn’t a general connection between the two spouses.

What exactly does it show the youth that they can easily get married to have ‘halal sex’? Does it really give them the right image of marriage? Does it show them that there is responsibility attached to this choice? Does this truly show them the value of marriage? If anything, it gives the youth this stunted image that marriage is all about the sex. So, if this is the case then does the value of people ever come into play? Are people just places for imposing our sexual desires upon? So, if I knew that my general interest in getting married was to just have sex then this would force me to take a step back to ask some important questions.

1. Do I really understand the purpose of marriage?
2. What am I going to do after the sex is over?
3. Do I truly value this potential spouse as a whole or just as an outlet for my sexual urges?
4. Am I being selfish in thinking that I can be satisfied with only wanting sex out of marriage?

I’ve had so many instances in which I have heard the youth or older individuals saying that they want to get married just for the sex. Of course, they would never come out and blatantly say that, but the message got across. The only reason they wanted to get married was being they had those ‘urges’ and because they wanted to not fall into fornication. In these initial reasons for wanting to get married there wouldn’t be any claim of wanting to be with someone to share their lives with, to grow with religiously or etc. I guess my issue is simply about the notion of ‘halal sex’ and using marriage as a tool into getting it. We all have undergone those years of raging hormones, but we eventually get over it. We understand that these ‘raging’ hormones are just that…raging. However, it doesn’t necessitate for us to believe we can’t control ourselves. However, if someone believe they are ready to get married then go for it. This is ultimately a personal-choice and everyone has that right. However, we shouldn’t seek to find a cure to our ‘raging’ hormones by simply wanting to be with someone for sex. It just makes me wonder about the end results of this act of getting ‘halal sex’ in a marriage and realizing that sex was all you really wanted. So,it just makes me ask if someone really values or even understand marriage if they just wanted to have sex.

Like always, you are always welcomed to email me or comment. Just some thoughts about marriage and sex.

Upon the release of Amir Sulaiman’s “The Opening” (2013) I had to download it onto my
computer to put on repeat. Every since I’ve discovered spoken-word I’ve enjoyed
listening to Amir Sulaiman’s poetry. I had first saw Amir Sulaiman perform
“She’d Prefer A Broken Neck…” for Russel Simmon’s Def Jam Poetry. After
listening to his poetry online, I knew I had to keep myself updated on any new
poems from him. Sulaiman’s poetic-style is raw, spiritual, real, and truthful. I
personally believe that Sulaiman could carry a whole night of poetry alone
without anyone introducing him or closing the show. If I ever had the chance to
see Sulaiman live I would most definitely purchase a ticket. Sulaiman’s poetry
is very much in your face and without apologies. It penetrates you straight in
the heart. It makes you think about many issues within the world around you.

On his new album, “The Opening”, Sulaiman offers listeners with an uprising of words set aflame. The whole album is a favorite of mines, but there are certain tracks on the album that leaves me pressing repeat. One of the tracks I have enjoyed from day one is “Come To The Hills” feature Drea Nur. Actually, this is the last track to the album and it leaves you
questioning many things. It definitely stirs up a sense of uneasiness in your
soul. Sulaiman brings up Emmit Till and his death along with the emasculation of
great Black men in history. He compared and contrasted the realities of the past
with the realities of today. Sulaiman discussed the harsh-realities facing
Blacks and the mentalities of current Blacks in American-society. There is
definitely alot of testerone on this track. In listening to this track, I think
about the present music that many Black-artists produce in American-society and
I weep. Alot of the present mainstream music produced within rap and hip-hop is
demeaning, materialistic, and unrealistic. There is a removal of reality being
presented in alot of mainstream music. In listening to Sulaiman’s spoken-word
piece, I think about the Black female-presence and how it interacts with the
Black-male. The majority of the track centers around the emasculation of the
Black-male and the history of the past. Not only does the track center around
the emasculation of the Black-male, but Sulaiman looks at the climate of current
politics for Black-males in America. The track leaves the listener questioning
the current generation’s response to its past history along with generations to
follow. Of course, this is interpretive and just from my own analysis.

As you peruse your way through the album, you may find yourself sitting within your thoughts. It’s okay. There’s nothing to worry about…for right now. Sulaiman created an award’s praiseworthy album in my book. Every single track on the album discusses heart-wrenching truths and realities that many people shy away from. I will definitely say that the album is political and revolutionary.

So, what are the main topics throughout the album? I would have to list off a few topics:
*The place for race and its relevance in American-society
* What is masculinity
* Is the artist the same as his/her art?
* The role of death in our lives
* Faith
* Love
* Pain
* Identity
and more.

There’s alot to take away from the album and there’s more to be analyzed, but this is just a brief analysis on one of the tracks that I’ve enjoyed personally. The album will provoke many questions and will stir-up some unruly conversations in social-gatherings about many of the topics I listed above. The album is definitely an opening to something bigger than just words on Sulaiman’s notepad.

Here’s the link to the full-album: https://amirsulaiman.bandcamp.com/album/the-opening

If anyone is interested in discussing the album, let me know! It’s worth having dialogue about in the near future.

Is There Space for Religion in Secular Societies? Is Secularism the True Reason for Misguidance?

Recently, I attended a religious-conference and one of the speakers stated that one should stay away from secular philosophy. Additionally, the speaker continued by saying that secular philosophy can cause an individual to become misguided in their faith. As I listened to this attack on philosophy, I kept an open-mind and continued listening. The speaker warranted this claim by one example in which a religious-man turned away from his religion due to the secular philosophy he was reading in his leisure-time. In this warrant on why we, the listeners, should turn away from such secular-studies, many within the audience nodded their heads in affirmation that secular philosophy was the “end-all-be-all” to misguidance. Now I can’t give a reason for this man’s decision in leaving this former-religion, but why is secularism the scapegoat for a person’s lack-of practicing of religion?

“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion–its message becomes meaningless.”― Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism

In studying Heschel briefly in one of my past philosophy courses, I agree that we can’t always blame secular science or secular philosophy for a person’s disinterest in religion. In my past experiences, I’ve had people push a very legalistic form of Islam upon me. For some time, I would live in a way that was sterile, without meaning and lifeless. I felt drained by this legalistic form of practicing. There wasn’t any splendor. There wasn’t anything keeping me grateful for the religion I had embraced. I never left Islam, but I was beginning to lose touch with its beauty. However, I would soon run across others like myself that were seeking the beauty, splendor and ease of Islam. In being around these individuals like myself, I found the religion becoming a way of life for me. I felt certain that Islam most certainly made sense to me. I understood that I needed to strike a balance between being Muslim and living within the world. I took what I had learned of the Prophet Muhammad’s life (peace be upon him) and began implementing his teachings into my life. One example that brings a smile to my face is when two companions of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) talked among themselves stating how they would enjoy the worldly life, but in the presence of the prophet they would remember the hereafter. In feeling guilty for enjoying worldly endeavors, they went to seek out the advice of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In approaching the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about their concern, he told the two men that they were human-beings and that as human-beings they had to strike a balance. They had to understand that they weren’t created to be in constant worship like the angels and if they engaged in constant worship like the angels than the angels would shake hands with them. In hearing this, the two men were reassured that it was quite okay to enjoy themselves as Muslims as long as they maintained their religious-obligations. So, In learning about this story within the Islamic-tradition I wept. I finally understood that being an adherent of Islam wasn’t hard. I mustn’t think that I couldn’t live my life.

In addition, we have to realize that one has to seek meaning within their own lives and to stop placing secular philosophy or studies as the scapegoat for people leaving religion. If anything, I’ve found more people leaving religion due to the ‘religious-police’ which plagues all religious-affiliations. If someone criticizes secular science and secular philosophy because of the questions that are often raised and brought to the table then I would rethink this criticism. The purpose of attending an educational-institution is to expand one’s knowledge-base. In my personal-experience, I’ve found myself disagreeing on many occasions to the things that were being taught in the classroom. On the other hand, I’ve found myself in total agreement with what was being taught. So, I believe a person will have to keep in mind why they are seeking out education. I don’t believe education, especially at the collegiate-level should be about making everyone feel comfortable. I believe questions should be raised that will make people think and question. If secular science and secular philosophy causes individuals to think about themselves and the world around them then I am all for it. I believe it’s vital for any person to do this. However, if a person happens to become disengaged from their religion then this is a decision that they have made. We can’t always blame education. Why do we encourage education if we can’t accept the simple notion that our knowledge-bases will be questioned and analyzed? What exactly do we expect out of educational-institutions? As a seeker of all forms of education, I welcome the various discussions that take place within the classroom-setting. In many ways, I feel that individuals usually leave their religion because they aren’t finding truth and purpose in it. So, how can you blame a person’s choice in leaving their religion on education? If an individual doesn’t find purpose in their religion then education isn’t the problem. The problem lies within that individual’s heart.

So, I believe that secular education isn’t truly the problem to a person’s choice in leaving religion. I believe it lies in an individual’s personal connection to their religious-affiliation. If a person finds their religion as purposeless and meaningless than they’re more apt to leave it than to stay a practitioner of it. I’ve practiced religion all of my life and never stopped due to secularism. However, I am not discrediting that some people may have left religion due to the influence of education, but this can’t be the claim for every adherent that leaves religion. Education has become another scape-goat for keeping people from critically-thinking. In choosing to live Islam, I’ve found myself constantly thinking about the Quranic instruction of pondering and reflecting upon the world. In being an adherent of religion, I believe it is essential to critically think about my role as an individual within the world and as an adherent of a particular religion. I’ve never been told by Quranic text to simply believe without reflecting. So, in my journey of living Islam and being a student of secular-education I don’t find myself using education as a scapegoat. I will never claim that secular education is bad essentially. I find it useful and an important tool in being critical of ourselves as consumers of our global-community. Additionally, I believe an adherent of religion can easily find themselves practicing religion and learning secular-knowledge.
In going back to the original argument, I believe that the speaker at this particular conference was wrong in saying that adherent of religion should avoid secular philosophy. Why? What is bad about secular philosophy? Can we be sure that secular knowledge was the reason for this man’s decision in leaving his religion? However, these questions are irrelevant because we can’t claim that every adherent of religion will apostate due to secular knowledge because at the end of the day the question of religion and its place within society depends upon individuals. We have to understand that a person’s choice of leaving or adhering to a particular religion is dependent upon their connection/adherence of it. For many people, the choice to leave a religion is due to its lack of purpose and meaning. So, if religion lacks meaning and purpose than individuals will most likely turn away from it due to its ineffectiveness. In understanding this, it is important to see how secular-knowledge is a poor excuse for a scapegoat when bigger questions are being raised about the role of religion within our lives and within societies globally.

Offering Up My Last Words of Repentance

The sun beamed upon my face
radiating my being
but darkness is what lies within
sitting alone under the sun’s rays
only reminded me of this internal darkness
where lust and anger resides
on the brink of collapse
I mumble His name
my tears racing to forgiveness
my hands wet from these rivers of tears
heart-ache and confusion reigns
this internal kingdom has been corrupted
My Lord, where is your ka’bah?
Which way do I face?
My Lord, I am in shambles
This heart of mines is in woe
My kingdom is no longer a place of love and happiness
but deception and falsehood, so
deliver me from this placeSeeking only the Divine
Pick me up for I have fallen
Make my lips recite your words
Oh Lord, where have I gone wrong?
What have I done?
Create for me inner-peace for I have forgotten the feeling
My Lord, I am nothing
Made from nutfah
To you I belong and to you I shall return
My Lord, today I give you my life!
Guide me back to siratul-mustaqeem

Allah revealed the word “iqra”
So read
Read about your natural fitra
Open your hearts and believe
A simple and perfected way to conceive
To you comes the truth
With all of the needed proof
No longer lost
Truth coming at no cost
Being called to the Most Divine
Revealing to us his beautiful signs
Yearning hearts in need of His direction
A simple way without imperfections
Our eyes overwhelmed with tears
A way of life that’s complete without fears