Women were not allowed to choose whether to cover or not in Saudi Arabia. In other countries, however, the practice became a personal choice. As such, women needed to give some thought to whether or not they would cover when outside the Kingdom, and why or why not. I always envied the women who accepted, without question, that hijab was required in Islam and that they would do it, no matter where they travelled. I am not of that mentality.
My rejection of mandatory head-covering opened up all kinds of possibilities for how I would continue the practice outside of the Kingdom. I daresay every woman should consider that hijab is not required in Islam. Then, she will need to examine the issue from many perspectives, as I have done, and her decision will carry the weight of conviction instead of the automatic response of obedience to external authority.
I knew I would not wear hijab in the United States because it would bring me trouble within my family and work situation. Also, hijab is uncomfortable at times, and it destroys my hairstyles. Hijab has nothing to do with Allah, but everything to do with society (in my private, humanistic way of thinking). Where and why would I wear it at all, outside the Kingdom?
The obvious reason would be to announce to the world that I am a Muslim woman. That motive attracted me, as I was pleased to be a Muslim and wanted to be recognized as such, so I decided to wear hijab voluntarily during a three week vacation to the Far East.
I went on this vacation with another American woman who believed in wearing hijab all the time, so I knew she would be a good support in my effort. In Thailand, the first leg of the trip, I felt uncomfortable because of the humidity, but apart from that, I was amused because fellow travelers and hotel employees did not recognize me or my friend as Americans, or even English speakers.You see, with our Arabic clothes, our hijab and our physical appearance– my friend was black and my face could pass for Arab in those days– no one pegged us as Americans, even fellow Americans, unless they heard us speak. One of the bellhops even said to us, “MashaAllah, you two ladies speak such good English!”
We enjoyed Thailand immensely. Hijab did not interfere in the least with my delight in our activities and places we visited. In fact, announcing to the world we were Muslim had the effect of changing our relationships with everyone with whom we came into contact. Fellow Muslim travelers said, “Salaalmu Aleikum,” which was nice, and fellow Western travelers ignored us. Those who recognized our American accents gave us quizzical glances, and one person engaged us in a lengthy diatribe about the superiority of Jesus over Mohammad. We listened politely, defended our choices, and left in peace. I completed that leg of trip satisfied with the experiment, and open to the possibility that I would wear hijab voluntarily, sometimes, to show that I am a Muslim woman.
However, the next two stops– Malaysia and Singapore– gave no respite from the discomfort of heat and humidity. My headscarf, with my long sleeves and skirt, started to make me nauseated. I have always suffered from nausea, headaches and even dizziness when overheated, so I took off the scarf. My physical relief was immediate, and my psychological relief followed. My appearance no longer announced anything to the world except that I was a female– an ordinary, middle-aged female of dubious nationality, traveling with with a black Muslim friend.
I had felt like an imposter while wearing hijab outside the Kingdom. I was not wearing it for the same reason others wore it. Muslim women wear it because they feel it is required. I was wearing it as an experiment, not because I believed in the practice as a religious requirement, but because I wanted other people to see that I was Muslim. I was wearing my faith on my head.
When not wearing hijab, no one would guess that I was Muslim. No one said, “Assalaamu Aleikum.” In fact, fellow Western travelers in the tour groups did not ignore me as they had when I wore hijab. They chatted with me easily, as if I were one of them, but I was not one of them.
At the conclusion of the experiment, I learned that I was just as much an imposter wearing my faith on my head as when not wearing it at all. Whether I wore hijab or not, I was presenting myself as someone other than who I was on the inside. Hijab really is the defining exterior identifier of a Muslim woman. Without it, a woman is simply not Muslim while in public. With it, she is not anything else.
The important criterion, then, for women like me, is how we want to present ourselves to the world outside our homes. I confess: most of the time, I do not want to present myself as a Muslim woman in any Western country. I want to appear nondescript, ordinary, unremarkable, forgettable, maybe invisible. That is the real reason I do not wear hijab in the United States, and the reason I liked wearing it in Saudi Arabia.
However, when I go to the mosque, I want nothing more than to present myself as a Muslim, so from now on, I will wear hijab when going to the mosque.
Many Muslims will see me as hypocritical. I’ve noticed a peculiar attitude towards hijab. Some of us think it is difficult to wear, but that once we bridge the personal reluctance, and place that scarf over our heads, we must never, ever take it off. I once knew a woman who wouldn’t wear hijab until after she’d made Haj, because she “knew” she’d never be able to remove it after that. I worked with a woman who wore hijab only during Ramadan. She endured all sorts of comments and questions about why she’d wear it then but not during the rest of the year. Her response was that Ramadan was a time of renewing one’s religious commitment, and the hijab reminded her to do so every day.
I thought she was brave and sincere, maybe more so than the women who wore hijab as tight as underwear but painted their eyes and lips, and powdered their skin.
On the other hand, who am I to judge another woman’s sincerity with regard to religion? I am one of the eye-and-lip painters. I am one who puts on scarves and takes them off, and gives them much more importance than they are worth. Because hijab is the exterior banner of Islam, it gets the attention from everyone, yet one’s observance of the five pillars are much more important than wearing hijab. How many of us conflicted women obsess over hijab, yet let prayer times slip away unobserved?
After all, who pays attention to whether or not a woman prays, let alone prays five times a day? Who sees whether a woman has paid her zakat, or made her Haj, or fasted Ramadan? Who cares? No one cares because no one can see these more important aspects of being a Muslim woman. I’ve concluded that hijab carries exaggerated importance only because it is visible. My experiment proved that one’s reception in society is drastically altered by whether or not one wears it, regardless of the invisible, personal reasons for doing so. I’ve concluded that the practice of wearing hijab must necessarily combine personal considerations and impersonal, psychological and the sociological, religious and the secular. A woman who is conflicted about wearing it must realize that all of these aspects come together in it. She must define her position first within herself, and then find a way to comfortably practice or not practice hijab, or do it some of the time but not always, or never, except for prayer.
Most of us make peace with ourselves and hijab, and this is why we see so many variations in how women wear it. I’ve now realized how and why so many of us wear hijab in so many styles, and why some of us paint our eyes and lips, and others do not, and some of us wear belts and some of us wear loose skirts, and some of us wear bright colors, and others wear subdued colors. Outside the Kingdom, a woman is free to define hijab for herself, to wear it in combination with the rest of her demeanor, to present herself as a person who includes Islam as part of her identity.
Perhaps I have been too severely affected by my experience of hijab in Saudi Arabia. There, hijab comprised more than covering one’s head. Head-covering and abaya-wearing was law– all of us had to do it, whether we wanted to or not– but it was considered only a first step in the development of religiosity. The next step would be complete omission of cosmetics. The step after that would be face-covering. These steps were to be adopted as one became more and more devout. The covering materials would become more and more opaque. The degree to which a woman covered her body would signal the degree to which she had become devoted to Allah and all the myriad recommendations for the faithful observance of Islam. The final stage in covering would be to wear black gloves and black socks, so that no part of the woman’s body or clothing would be visible. She would even keep her mouth shut, speaking only when absolutely necessarily, and then, in a low voice. The most “religious” of women wore this costume even in the presence of non-Muslim women, on the off-chance that the non-Muslim women would criticize an aspect of the Muslim woman’s appearance. I was raised, Islamically speaking, in this environment, so you can imagine my surprise and confusion when I repatriated to the United States and saw so many different styles and presentations of the head scarf. I spent years thinking about it, trying to reconcile the Saudi model of hijab, with its connection to religiosity, and the Western model, with its mark of individual expression. I now conclude that one’s style of hijab (in the West, anyway) is not about religiosity except in the most superficial of ways. It announces to the world that one is a Muslim.
It says nothing about one’s degree of religiosity, devotion to Allah, observance of the five pillars– nothing at all. As such, its style is irrelevant. Therefore, I will never again criticize a woman who covers incompletely, provocatively, or colorfully. I will never again assume that a woman who is unrecognizable due to black coverings is a devout Muslim. Most importantly, I will no longer question myself when I wear hijab to the mosque but nowhere else, and I will continue to paint my eyes and lips, with or without hijab. I’ve finally made my personal peace with hijab.
You said : ….When not wearing hijab, no one would guess that I was Muslim. No one said, “Assalaamu Aleikum……………….
Me : My Islam, Her Islam, His Islam, Our Islam, Their Islam and many Bid’a Islam spoiled the real Islam.
I don’t quite understand your point, Muslim. What is “the real Islam” and how is it spoiled by individuation in methods of practice? According to my understanding, and AllahuAlam, a Muslim is one who incorporates the five pillars into his/her life. Of course, we have layer upon layer of sunnah, and plenty of bid’a, and yes, Islam has been altered by all of that, but my point in addressing the practice of hijab is to recognize that hijab can be presented in many different ways and still be hijab. Its meanings are multiple and its presentation does not indicate the degree to which a woman observes the five pillars. Therefore, hijab, as a concept, carries more importance than it should, in the greater society.
I don’t know why God would want me to put on a scarf before I talk to Him. 🙂 I do at the mosque out of respect for the others’ way of doing things.
Yes, djdfr, I still wonder why we have to cover our heads for prayer. The whole idea seems silly, from our Western orientation. When you carry religious rituals to their logical conclusion, they all seem silly, regardless of where they originate. However, religious rituals and customs accompanied all populations in all times, so there must be something worthwhile in them. The challenge for us is to find the ones that resonate with our souls. For me, Islam resonates, even though I am full of imperfections in my practice.
On the other hand, murder and mayhem have also accompanied all population in all times, to everyone’s detriment. In fact, murder and mayhem have been done, historically, in the name of religion. My logic, then, is faulty.
Evidently, the staying power of any social form does not indicate its necessity for the development of the species, but I want to conclude that religious rituals and customs have persisted because they provide more benefit than harm. Oh, dear, I’ve gotten in over my head… One does not start with the conclusion and work backwards for proof. It’s supposed to go the other way around.
And you may not know why you put on a cloth on your body when you walk on the road. You also may not know why nudists don’t follow you to respect your way of doing things.
You can also ask Muslims, why they turn their face to Qibla (kaba) while they are praying?. When God is everywhere why you should bow down for God on that direction?.
If you are born and brought up in western country, and you convert or revert, you will have hundreds of such questions about Islamic modesty and other such things.
Marahm has picked one of her problems -wearing hijab when she is / was living in USA and travelling in other countries. Also, some countries where temperature is hotter than in USA, in my opinion, these things are minor problems comparing to “wearing hijab when Muslimah’s are praying at masjid “.
Here my point is, if you have personal difficulties when following certain aspects of Islamic teachings which has essence of modesty, safety, also “divinely concentration with god’ while praying or roaming on the road or beach or whatever, you can have your own interpretation to please god and yourself. You need not to disclose all these things (arrogance) to public if you cannot follow Islam properly. Nobody will question you if you are not willing to follow what Islam teaches to you.
To your kind understanding, I myself have my own problems to follow certain teachings of Islam, but I never question the teachings which are beneficial to other Muslims.
This crack-y belief should not be open to other people who have no doubts in their own belief in Islam. They must follow what they want to do (in their home) with themselves and with their own god. They shouldn’t bring all these negative beliefs to MASJID. Islam has its own way of teachings to whole humanity-NOT to my way of thinking or your own way.
If you are firm in attending to a party on “barefoot” with having full suite and a bright tie, it is your own decision to do that.
If you think you cannot follow what Islam asks you to follow certain aspects when you are at masjid, and you have question on that, never go to masjid to pray..Your negative thoughts effects other believers who are attending for prayers with full of positive thoughts…You have all freedom to live on your own way, why you pull Islam into your own belief?.
(Sorry for my poor English)
Question to myself:
Am I following what God or Islam asked me to follow?.
Am I following what suites to me to follow “myGod” or “myIslam” or “real Islam” ?
Muslim, though your response is directed to djdfr, I would like to comment on it. You’ve caused me to think about whether one should or should not question teachings that are beneficial to other Muslims, especially when at the masjid. You suggest that a person with negative ideas might influence those at the masjid who are firm in their beliefs. You imply that the masjid is not a place in which to air dissent or question established teachings.
I suspect you are correct in this position, and that it is the underlying reason for the prohibition of non-Muslims to enter Mecca. The atmosphere of reverence and focus is enhanced at Mecca by the knowledge that everyone around you is also a Muslim. By the same reasoning, a masjid should be a place where everyone can feel securely focused not only in him/herself, but also in the practices of fellow worshippers.
That said, I do assert that questioning the teachings is not only permitted but encouraged, for everyone, Muslim or non-Muslim. Some of us are never secure in a faith until we question every last detail. We may not get answers, and we always get answers we don’t like, but by questioning, we broaden and deepen that which we have the capacity to comprehend. None of us can know or accept everything.
MashaAllah for your English! You are able to express yourself and discuss abstract ideas in a language not your mother-tongue! I admire this accomplishment, and I hope to achieve the same fluency in my own second language (Italian), inshaAllah.
Three scholars of Islam Debating on Hijab :
One scholar with beard,and cap
One scholar with beard without a cap
The third one having beard, cap and western suite with a tie.
Interesting conversation :
JazakallahuKhair for posting this video, Muslim. It is, indeed, interesting! Dr. Zakir Naik proves his point well by discussing the requirement for proper Ihram dress, and comparing it to ordinary dress. I always wondered why some people would say that face-covering is fard, except during Haj.
If logic were to be applied to the subject, one would have to admit that Haj would be the most appropriate place for modest dress, as men and women are packed together like sardines!
As for face-covering, I remember being very willing to do it in certain parts of Riyadh. It really does protect a woman from all kinds of unwanted attention. I must say, I’ve never visited or heard of another place where face-covering could accomplish any sort of protection! It really is a Saudi custom.
suite = suit
Debating Marahms hijab:
JakazallahuKhair for posting this link, Muslim. The speaker makes some good points. At first, he talks about the misconception of non-Muslims that hijab is a sign of subjugation. I must say that I do not, and did not, hold this idea. I’ve always understood hijab about modesty and being recognized as Muslim. However, non-Muslims do not understand this.
As for modesty, he does recognize that the concept is very different from country to country, and that Islamic modesty is prescribed. The verses in the Qur’an calling for a woman to, “draw her coverings over her bosom,” are clear. The operative words are, “coverings,” and “bosom.” My understanding of the Arabic text is that the word covering does not specify that the covering goes over the head first, and then the bosom. I understand that the covering, wherever it started, must be extended over the bosom– Allahu Allam, of course.
As for rape, he makes a good point, one that I agree with, that women who dress provocatively (however their society defines that) expose themselves to criminal intentions. I’m not going to enter a conversation about the psychological aspects of rape as an act of violence, or that women somehow “ask for it.” No, they do not “ask for it,” but they do not realize the extent to which their appearance can influence the aggression of a man.
Lakum Deenukum Waliya Deen.
I am just now reading this post. I don’t have anything to add, except to let you know that I am glad you are blogging again. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic.
Thank you, Susanne. I see from your blog that you have a rich life, great family and firm faith. I appreciate that you have remained interested in matters related to Islam, that you visited Syria and that your experiences there enhanced your life. So many Americans visit other countries as tourists, enjoy themselves, go home and brag about the food, the climate, the sights, and the shopping, then promptly start planning the next vacation. They have drawn themselves into a nice, small circle. You have done the opposite by enlarging your circle.
Assalamu Alaikum Marham,
In one of Susane439’s post ( Wednesday, June 30, 2010), when she was comparing her religion Christian to Islam, she praised her own religion (Bible) above Qur’an.
She used some tricky words while commenting on Quran while comparing and praising Bible.
After criticizing Qur’an and before commenting on a Muslim blog, she must know What Bible says to her :
(1) Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her. – Bible : Judges (16) : 1.
(2) And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. – Bible : Genesis (19) : 33 – 36.
(3) And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine: and Israel heard it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve. – Bible : Genesis (35) : 22.
(4) And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her. – Bible: Genesis (38) : 2.
(5) And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. – Bible : Genesis (38) : 8 – 9.
(6) When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him. – Bible : Genesis (38) : 15 – 18.
(7) And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister. And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly. And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee. Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her. – Bible : 2 Samuel (13) : 11 – 14.
(8) So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house; and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. – Bible : 2 Samuel (16) : 22.
(9) Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied. – Bible : Ezekiel (16) : 28.
(10) And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity. – Bible : Ezekiel (23) : 3.
(11) And Aholah played the harlot when she was mine; and she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbours, Which were clothed with blue, captains and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses. Thus she committed her whoredoms with them, with all them that were the chosen men of Assyria, and with all on whom she doted: with all their idols she defiled herself. Neither left she her whoredoms brought from Egypt: for in her youth they lay with her, and they bruised the breasts of her virginity, and poured their whoredom upon her. – Bible : Ezekiel (23) : 5 – 8.
(12) And when her sister Aholibah saw this, she was more corrupt in her inordinate love than she, and in her whoredoms more than her sister in her whoredoms. She doted upon the Assyrians her neighbours, captains and rulers clothed most gorgeously, horsemen riding upon horses, all of them desirable young men. Then I saw that she was defiled, that they took both one way, And that she increased her whoredoms: for when she saw men pourtrayed upon the wall, the images of the Chaldeans pourtrayed with vermilion, Girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea, the land of their nativity: And as soon as she saw them with her eyes, she doted upon them, and sent messengers unto them into Chaldea. And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoredom, and she was polluted with them, and her mind was alienated from them. So she discovered her whoredoms, and discovered her nakedness: then my mind was alienated from her, like as my mind was alienated from her sister. Yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot in the land of Egypt. For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses. Thus thou calledst to remembrance the lewdness of thy youth, in bruising thy teats by the Egyptians for the paps of thy youth. – Bible : Ezekiel (23) : 11 – 21.
(13) My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God. – Bible: Hosea (4) : 12.
(14) I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled. – Bible : Hosea (6) : 10.
(15) Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor. – Bible : Hosea (9) : 1.
(16) And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. – Bible : Genesis (9) : 21.
(17) And he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Wherefore they say, Is Saul also among the prophets? – Bible : 1 Samuel (19) : 24.
(18) Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself! – Bible : 2 Samuel (6) : 20.
(19) So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. – Bible : Isaiah (20) : 4.
(20) And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart. (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows. Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves. For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed. With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; – Bible : Proverbs (7) : 7 – 22.
(21) Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished. – Bible : Isaiah (13) : 16.
(22) And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’s virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. – Bible : Deuteronomy (22) : 17.
(23) While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof. A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts. – Bible : Song of Solomon (1) : 12 – 13.
(24) Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies. – Bible : Song of Solomon (4) : 5.
(25) I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour. – Bible : Song of Solomon (8) : 10.
(26) But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. – Bible : Numbers (31) : 18.
(27) This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes. I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples; – Bible : Song of Solomon (7) : 7 – 8.
(28) And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. – Bible : 2 Samuel (11) : 4.
(29) Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins. – Bible : Song of Solomon (7) : 3.
As a special treat, this website has pictorial depictions of the Bible’s sexual literature, it’s a bit awkward at first but it really brings to reality the obscene acts that this, so called, “holy scripture” contains.
Yes, Muslim, most of us (including Susanne, I am sure) are aware of the verses in the Bible that describe what we consider vile, disgusting, immoral and therefore sinful acts. I could quote you verses in our Qur’an that could compete with those for ugliness, but you’d say I’d be taking them out of context. As to either scripture’s suggestion of depravity, I’d rather not venture into such useless territory.
If Susanne praises her religious book above ours, that is as it should be. Why should she not? Why should she not look for ways to reinforce her belief, as she is satisfied with it, and has no wish to embrace another way of relating to God? Religion, after all, is nothing more than our human attempt to connect, recognize, worship, and seek favor with God so that we might be spared the flames of Hell. Atheists don’t believe in any of that, and none of us knows– really– what happens to any of us after we die. All religious belief is not only a matter of unverifiable faith, but a matter of reinforcing a system of belief that can never be empirically shown as superior in truth to its predecessors. For all we know, another prophet may yet appear! Even though Allah said Muhammad was the last one, Allah is omnipotent.
I read some of Susanne’s detailed post to which you referred. None of her words is “tricky”. She is, of course, commenting from a Christian perspective. That means she puts more importance on the Qur’anic verses warning of hellfire than on those assuring us of Allah’s mercy. It’s true that Islam does not offer an automatic guarantee of Heaven, as does Christianity, and it’s also true that Christians think all non-Christians will go to Hell, especially if they’ve been exposed to Christianity and then reject it. Ironically, Muslims believe the same, in reverse!
I prefer to excuse myself from such concerns, and recognize Allah as the only judge. Personally, I have no illusions as to who and who will not go to Heaven. I’m not sure I will go there, I’m not even sure Heaven exits, though I believe it does. I was baptized Christian, so does that mean I will go Heaven even though I’ve become a Muslim? The whole concept is problematic, illogical, unsolvable and circular.
I have no illusion as to the content of the religious scriptures. They all bear the hand of man, by necessity, yet they all bear the light of the Divine, also by necessity. Do we not require a Muslim to believe in the Torah and Bible as well as the Qur’an, and yet, who would want to believe in such verses as those you have quoted? You will say that they have been altered, and I wouldn’t doubt it, but I wouldn’t know for sure. I’ll never know anything for sure, until I die, so I am comfortable sitting on the fence of possibility, the tightrope of ultimate ignorance. I am OK with giving up the guarantee of Heaven I got from my birth into Christianity with my childhood baptism, because it doesn’t make sense. None of it makes sense. Even Christians know it doesn’t make sense. They say you have to believe in it for it to be true. The things which make sense for me are all religions’ acknowledgments of the Higher Power, the Omnipotence, the Judgement, and the recommendations for leading a righteous life that overlap one religion with another. Perhaps that makes me more of a Unitarian Universalist than a Muslim, and if so, that would be up to Allah, not me. For now, however, I identify as a Muslim, and will continue to do so, imperfect in faith, lazy in practice, and rejecting of certain practices. Do we now get into a discussion of who is or is not a Muslim? I think not.
As you have already said in response to a previous comment, “Lakum Deenukum Waliya Deen.