This time last year I had got quite interested in blogs. I was also seriously thinking about Islam. I’m not sure whether one of these things caused the other, or how it all happened, but I remember going through a phase of almost obsessively seeking out new blogs written by Muslims. One blog leads to many others through blogrolls and comments, and so I traversed the blogosphere looking for… looking for what? I suppose I was looking for role models.
I had been assimilating information about Islam for years, but somehow I began to seriously think about it on a personal level. And I used blogs to vicariously “taste” Islam through other people’s writing. It took me a long time to find bloggers whose approach to religion I really resonated with, and who were also open to discussing religion with me. It was worth the wait. Some are Muslim, some are/were just investigating it like me, but all are thoughtful and honest and have inspired me. I am so grateful to them for sharing their thoughts and giving me a chance to do the same, however much of a headache my questions must have given them. I doubt I would have come this far towards religion without them.
It wasn’t enough, though, to find religious role models and simply copy them. It felt intellectually dishonest to be picking and choosing which kind of Muslim I thought I might want to be. Ultimately I have had to investigate the religion, in as unbiased a way as I can, and work out what I thought it was really all about. As I have done this, the picture of Islam that has emerged is actually surprisingly different from the “textbook Islam” impression I had at the start. I’ve found reason to believe that what Islam is is something quite beautiful.
I must have always thought it was beautiful, or I wouldn’t have investigated it so much. Interestingly I think the “rules” were one of the things that pulled me in initially, along with the easy and natural spirituality that seemed to be at the core of a Muslim’s life. The rules and rituals seemed so helpful and sensible. But when people take them to rigid extremes and nit-pick over them, they lose a lot of their appeal. It turns out I don’t think they are even a core part of the religion for the most part, but a traditional practice, that is nevertheless useful and worthwhile. This is a subtle but significant distinction.
I know this puts me outside of the mainstream, and so far it’s non-Muslims that have needed this explaining more often. Who’d have thought I’d have non-Muslims telling me what Islam is? Since I never believed Muslims on what Islam is, and had to investigate it myself, I’m certainly not going to believe non-Muslims.
Anyway, so where has it brought me? There are always more issues to investigate, more questions to find answers to, and this is increasingly pushing me to research areas in which I am not qualified to do the job properly. I just cannot dig that deep. Where does it end? Is this even worthwhile past a certain point? Am I looking for definitive proof? Is that available? Probably not.
When and how will convictions turn into confident commitment? When and how will I be convinced to put my eggs in a basket and place a bet for my afterlife?
It is just my nature to be full of fear and doubt. And maybe what I’ve learnt about conquering other fears is relevant here. When you are afraid of flying, the wrong way to try to get rid of the fear is by trying to convince yourself that the plane is not going to crash. You look for reassurance, going deeper and deeper into flight mechanics and safety regulations, and there is no reassurance to be had, because there are just no guarantees that your plane is not going to crash. The right way to overcome the fear is to become comfortable with the UNCERTAINTY. You take sensible precautions like only booking with reputable airlines and paying attention to the safety instructions, and leave it at that. Relax and enjoy your flight and focus on the purpose of your travel.
My worrying over making a wrong choice has reached almost pathological levels. It’s funny how I can look at religious people and feel sure they’ve got nothing to worry about. To the person who’s afraid of flying, when someone else is taking a flight, it seems perfectly safe.
So I’m going to stop worrying and concentrate on the purpose of my travel – the kind of person I want to become. I will trust God to guide me, and get comfortable with doubt and uncertainty and not wish them away.
And I’ve noticed that my blog has become primarily a place for me to indulge my worries, so I need to take a little break from it. I think I will try to stay away for the whole month of December. Long enough to break the habit. I will miss it terribly, I’m sure! But a break seems to be the best thing.
So a Merry Christmas when the time comes, to those who celebrate… and I’ll see you in the New Year inshaAllah 😛