Claiming a Religion— an Active Choice?

images bismillah Who is a Muslim? Who is a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, etc? Is it enough to call oneself by any one of these names, or must we actually observe the distinguishing rituals?

No one has a problem with taking someone’s word for it, when the statement is heard. “I am a Christian (Jew, Buddhist, etc…).” That’s the end of it, but when someone says, “I am a Muslim,” we don’t always know what that means.

Before 9/11, we knew. We may have known nothing about Islam, yet had we heard, “I am a Muslim,” we would have said, “Oh, OK.”

After 9/11, we didn’t know. Now, when we hear, “I am a Muslim,” we want to know what kind of Muslim— Fundamentalist, Moderate, Reform, Observant, Non-Observant, Born, Convert, Revert, Muhajibah, Beard, no beard, drinking, not drinking, praying, not praying, Arab, non-Arab… you get the idea.

What’s going on here?

Advertisements

About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions of narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my sense of identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
This entry was posted in Religion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Claiming a Religion— an Active Choice?

  1. djd says:

    There are many different kinds of Jews and Christians. More so lately I have been seeing a lot of things referred to as Christian which are far from what Jesus taught. None of the religions have realized what our Creator asks of us through His prophets.

  2. Coolred38 says:

    Actually…claiming you are a Muslim is only one step of the process…for others to agree with your claim is something else all together. Among Muslims is the very real belief that unless THEY accept your point of view…or agree with your choices…or allow you to practice as you see fit…then in their eyes…you are NOT a Muslim. To hell with what God might think.

    But I agree for the most part that now what brand of Muslim you are requires much discussion…and judgement.

  3. Issam says:

    “What’s going on here?”

    Discrimination.

  4. Issam says:

    “Among Muslims is the very real belief that unless THEY accept your point of view…or agree with your choices…or allow you to practice as you see fit…then in their eyes…you are NOT a Muslim. To hell with what God might think.”

    That is among some Muslims. It also exists among other communities.

  5. Marahm says:

    I’ve known more Muslims who are content to refer the judgment to Allah, regarding whether or not one is a Muslim, but, Coolred, I hear what you are saying.

    I was taught all kinds of ways we can get ourselves out of Islam without hardly knowing it. I never took half that teaching seriously.

    So, Issam, you think discrimination is at work here? Yes, probably, but discrimination does not arise from a vacuum. It is not a natural response but one that is borne of fear. The threat that gives rise to the fear is real. Discrimination, by itself, is nothing to be concerned about, as it is a by-product of something much more insidious, more fundamental. The underlying situation must be addressed and eradicated. That usually takes years, if not centuries, when we are dealing with entire populations. On a global scale, the pressing job of Islam is to stop turning out terrorists, stop providing conditions to perpetuate discrimination.

    Yes, djd, there are many sects and strains of the other religions, but none of them are associated with the same threat that Islam presents, and yes, I said, “…Islam presents.”

    Let’s brings things back home. A person who believes that Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected from the dead, will be a Christian no matter what he or she does or says.

    Being a Muslim is more task-related, I think. When we consider a person who does not observe any of the five pillars, with the exception of the first and easiest pillar, is that person a Muslim? Is the question even one that any of us should be concerned about, except with regard to our own selves?

  6. djd says:

    The definition you give of Christian is one probably held by many, but it is not mine. I believe a Christian should do his/her best to follow Jesus’ teachings. Likewise with Muhammad–if one accepts that the Qur’an is from God, then one should live according what is taught in it. This is one of the elements of The Revelation of Arès, the fact that none of us have accomplished His Word, in spite of the centuries of prophets calling to us, reminding us.

    I agree, it is personal and not up to anyone else to judge us.

  7. such interesting discussions lately here.

    it does take a long time to change minds and in the end Allah is the one who matters and who judges.

    I’ve thrown you the gauntlet dear, I accept your Nano challenge. Will you!?!?! Muahahahaha!

  8. susanne430 says:

    I think we can call ourselves anything, but it’s “by our fruits” that we show what we REALLY are. So…?

    Thought-provoking questions here.

  9. nida says:

    I agree with djd.

    Actually when I ask someone of their faith affiliation they never answer in the affirmative “Yes I’m Christian” – they say “I’m Catholic” or “Protestant” or “Jehovah’s Witness” or if you ask a ‘Jew’ they will even say “I’m atheist” (because they may be of Jewish heritage, but not practice Judaism) etc.

    You see, up until 9/11 Islam was seen as a monolith. If you are Muslim you were supposed to fit the presumptive stereotype of what a Muslim looked like and believed in – however, what happened after 9/11 is that people needed to distinguish themselves from the “fundamentalists” or “terrorist” and therefore began to attach new labels to their “muslimness.” It’s not to say that diversity didn’t exist prior to 9/11, but that this cataclysmic event brought about this voicing of opinions, and declaring one’s identity as different from those who had been responsible for 9/11.

    That’s how I see it, at least.

  10. Marahm says:

    Susanne, I like the “by your fruits” (ye shall know them) citation. That is very true for most religions, but for Islam, is it always true? I’ve heard Muslims say things like, “She’s such a good person, too bad she’s not Muslim, too bad she doesn’t pray, fast,” or whatever.

    I hate hearing this kind of judgment. More and more, I am moving toward a Unitarian Universalist view point.

  11. unsettledsoul says:

    I don’t have much to add except that I am sick of the judgment also. Is that a religious community thing, or a Muslim thing? I don’t know for sure because I have only been part of the Islamic community.

    I think it is more about the good we do and the way we treat people. I have always felt that way and am not concerned with ritual so much. I am told this means I am not “really a Muslim.”

    Really? Hmmm….

  12. Marahm says:

    Those who say you are not “really a Muslim” are those who were raised outside the United States, or those converts who have restructured their entire lives so they can practice every detail of ritual and sunnah.

    Who knows? Who should care? Being an American, I tend toward the attitude of individual freedom of choice to call oneself what one will, regardless of whether one fits the common mold.

  13. Issam says:

    Hello sister Marahm

    “So, Issam, you think discrimination is at work here? Yes, probably, but discrimination does not arise from a vacuum. It is not a natural response but one that is borne of fear. The threat that gives rise to the fear is real. Discrimination, by itself, is nothing to be concerned about, as it is a by-product of something much more insidious, more fundamental.”

    I disagree. One can be discriminatory if only he wants to, and I think this is what characterizes the anti-Muslim rhetoric in North America and Europe.

    Are there evil Muslims? Yes there are. But Muslims are the first victims of these evil people. There are also many, many evil Christians, Jews and Hindus, yet I do not see Muslims hating on them as much as these people hate on Muslims. I have been to several anti-Muslim sites. It is not even close.

    I agree with the rest of your post.

  14. Issam says:

    Hello sister Marahm

    “More and more, I am moving toward a Unitarian Universalist view point.”

    Why is that? I know that you have been struggling lately, and I do not want to talk about the shortcomings of Unitarian Universalism, which is an incoherent worldview to say the least. I am much more concerned with your questions about Islam. I believe I can help you in your struggle until you attain a strong conviction.

    By the way have you read that piece that I sent you about Code 19 in the Basmalla? What do you think?

    Regards,

  15. Marahm says:

    I read the Code 19 piece. It needs study, but I get the idea, and it is remarkable, indeed. My first question is not to doubt the veracity of the code, but to wonder whether similar codes might be discovered in the texts of other religious traditions, including Buddhist and Hindu text. The code 19 was worked out by a Muslim. It would have been more convincing had it been worked out by a non-Muslim.

    As you can see, I am a scientist!

    Regarding Unitarian Universalism, I like it precisely because it offers what you refer to as “an incoherent world view.” I understand that Unitarian Universalism does not require apostasy from Islam.

    I struggle with Islam because of several factors. First of all, 9/11. I needn’t expound about that. Secondly, my family of origin is Christian, and I have always been uncomfortable with religious differences between people who love each other. Thirdly, I am profoundly affected by the world around me. While I had no trouble practicing Islam in the Middle East, I find much difficulty in doing so here in the United States, where I am surrounded by non-Muslims. Fourth of all, being a scientist, I regard the inner world and the outer world with a certain aloofness.

    I want to know the details of everything. I want to know how consciousness works, physiologically. I want to know why anesthesia works. I want to know what happens after death, and I want to know it before I die. I want to know these things, and yet my daily life is filled with the routine of work and taking care of my mom, kids and grandkids.

    I love my daily life, except for having to work. I’m not really struggling religiously as much as my blog might suggest. The blog, however, is the only place I can express these concerns. I get feedback from people like you, who nourish my knowledge and contribute to my understanding of Islam as well as other viewpoints.

  16. djd says:

    I think if you had no further concerns, no further questions, it would mean a kind of death, stagnation.

    You can see that no one religion has all the answers and that people reject each other based on beliefs when in reality all the prophets bring a message of love for each other.

    I found the answers to many of these questions when I discovered “The Revelation of Arès”. It opened me up to the Qur’an and revitalized my faith which was previously Christian based.

  17. Marahm says:

    “I think if you had no further concerns, no further questions, it would mean a kind of death, stagnation.”

    This is an interesting suggestion, and probably true for people like you and me and whoever might stumble across this blog. It’s true for hundreds of thousands of people who pray, study, and earnestly seek out a spiritual path that branches off from the one on which they were raised.

    However, the happiest, most secure, vibrant people I’ve ever known are those who are unshakably grounded in their spiritual path. I’ve always admired such people and wished I could become one of them, but I cannot.

    I don’t even understand how a person can be so thoroughly immersed and convinced of any one path, to the exclusion of all others.

    Michel Potay sounds like a prophet. The Qur’an says no additional prophet will come after Mohammad. The group has been labeled a cult, but this description sounds refreshing to me:

    “The Revelation of Arès recalls the roots of monotheism, in order to recreate and dynamise spiritual life, which is thought to be the fundamental task of any prophet. The basic message is that humanity will not gain happiness by any rigid, dogmatic, legalistic, ideological, political, scientific, financial, nationalistic, theological, etc., system, but by simply recreating himself good, becoming once again the positive image and likeliness of the Cr … ” from http://www.experiencefestival.com/

    Judging by the state of the world today, one could agree with this statement.

  18. djd says:

    “unshakably grounded in their spiritual path”
    “how a person can be so thoroughly immersed and convinced of any one path”

    Perhaps this depends on how you define the path. There is a certain basic-ness to my faith which is unshakable, but the details may change, probably even should evolve.

    I think Muhammad being the “last” prophet is an interpretation. I would not presume to say that God will not send another prophet. Each time He must hope, this time My creatures will listen and act.

    Labels are easy to use, but not always valid. I have found nothing cult-like in the Arès movement except maybe the wearing of a white tunic for prayer in the holy place. To me, it is a wonder and a blessing to have a fresh Divine Message.

  19. Marahm says:

    Thank you for this wise comment– one that gives me pause.

  20. Issam says:

    Hello sister Marahm

    “I read the Code 19 piece. It needs study, but I get the idea, and it is remarkable, indeed. My first question is not to doubt the veracity of the code, but to wonder whether similar codes might be discovered in the texts of other religious traditions, including Buddhist and Hindu text. The code 19 was worked out by a Muslim. It would have been more convincing had it been worked out by a non-Muslim.

    As you can see, I am a scientist!”

    I am glad that you read the Code 19 piece and found it remarkable.
    Other “Codes” exist in other religious texts, but they are not genuine codes, because they are arbitrary. In any large enough text, one is bound to find some numerical trends. However the Code 19 is entirely different, because we are talking about a sentence made up of only four words. It is also a sentence so central to the Quran. The odds that all these mathematical trends would appear by chance in such a small sentence are so infinitesimally small that no reasonable person should believe in them. Therefore I genuinely believe that the Code 19 in the Basmallah was designed by God.
    There are non-Muslim mathematicians who find the Code 19 really intriguing. Check this website out: http://19.org/

    “I struggle with Islam because of several factors. First of all, 9/11. I needn’t expound about that.”

    Up until few years ago, I genuinely believed that 9/11 was perpetrated by some cavemen from Afghanistan. However around 3 years ago I started to have serious doubts about the official story of 9/11 by Bush’s government, but I kept these doubts to myself. People were calling those with the same doubts as mine “conspiracy theorists”! But over the past several months I was surprised to find out that thousands of people were voicing the same doubts that I have had: http://www.patriotsquestion911.com/
    You will be disturbed by the testimonies given by engineers, architects, pilots, professors, medical professionals, even former American government officials and foreign heads of state! I no longer believe that 9/11 was perpetrated by Qaeda. I now believe that it was an inside job and hopefully the truth will come out one day and the real terrorists will be brought to justice.

    “Secondly, my family of origin is Christian, and I have always been uncomfortable with religious differences between people who love each other. Thirdly, I am profoundly affected by the world around me. While I had no trouble practicing Islam in the Middle East, I find much difficulty in doing so here in the United States, where I am surrounded by non-Muslims. Fourth of all, being a scientist, I regard the inner world and the outer world with a certain aloofness.”

    I am sure you are strong enough to overcome these psychological and social barriers. I sympathize with you and admire your strength.

    “I want to know the details of everything. I want to know how consciousness works, physiologically. I want to know why anesthesia works.”

    Consciousness is an immaterial phenomenon. Humans are made of non-conscious matters, such as blood, flesh and bones, yet we are conscious. How can this be? The only logical answer is that there is an immaterial, conscious element to ourselves.
    Of course we should study and investigate the electro-chemical reactions that accompany our conscious states in the brain. I believe we can use the knowledge gained from such studies to heal many illnesses.

    “I want to know what happens after death, and I want to know it before I die”

    Since we are made of souls and bodies (As I have logically shown above) we should survive our bodily deaths. Our souls are eternal because they were planted in us by an eternally living Being, God. Since God is Just He will reward the good and will punish the bad. It is very simple.

    “I want to know these things, and yet my daily life is filled with the routine of work and taking care of my mom, kids and grandkids.
    I love my daily life, except for having to work.”

    I feel you.

    “I’m not really struggling religiously as much as my blog might suggest. The blog, however, is the only place I can express these concerns. I get feedback from people like you, who nourish my knowledge and contribute to my understanding of Islam as well as other viewpoints.”

    I am happy for you and want to help with whatever questions you might have. God bless you.

  21. Issam says:

    “However, the happiest, most secure, vibrant people I’ve ever known are those who are unshakably grounded in their spiritual path. I’ve always admired such people and wished I could become one of them, but I cannot.

    I don’t even understand how a person can be so thoroughly immersed and convinced of any one path, to the exclusion of all others.”

    It is because we know Islam to be the truth by simple elementary logic. We do not need to study other scriptures for years and years before making a final decision, if we ever reach a final decision. you can arrive at Islam by a simple process 1, 2 , 3…

    Regards,

  22. Marahm says:

    Ah, yes, Issam, you are one of them!

  23. Marahm says:

    Issam, I have seen films and read articles regarding the conspiracy theory of 9/11. I did consider it in view of the testimonies from people whose ideas carried weight, but in the end, I rejected it.

    I believe the evidence in favor of al-Qaeda is stronger than the evidence in favor of a conspiracy theory. Also, and perhaps because I am American, I cannot accept the possibility that fellow Americans are capable of perpetrating such a complex, evil and ultimately self-destructive project.

    9/11 is different from the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, and if the American government wanted to initiate war with these two countries, it could have done so with much less bloodshed, destruction, and psycho/sociological tragedy, to say nothing of the monetary cost of carrying out a conspiracy theory.

    Americans love efficiency almost as much as they love “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” They nearly worship the cult of the individual, which is another reason I doubt that a conspiracy theory could have worked here.

    The government could have found other, less destructive, less costly, and just as effective ways of convincing the American public to support war efforts in the Middle East.

  24. Issam says:

    Hello Marahm,

    “Ah, yes, Issam, you are one of them!”

    I am one of what exactly?

  25. Issam says:

    Regarding 9/11, I do not think the Bush administration could have invented a reason with much less bloodshed, destruction, and psycho/sociological tragedy. They tried the WMD with Iraq and they failed. Nobody believed in it. Not the UN at least. With Afghanistan they could not play the WMD card. It just was not possible. What make this much more probable are some comments by Cheney and Rumsfeld about the need for a catastrophe like Pearl Harbour to initiate the New American Century.
    You say the evidence in favor of al-Qaeda is stronger than the evidence in favor of a conspiracy theory. What evidence? All the evidence came from the Bush administration, just like the WMD “evidence” in Iraq.

    “Americans love efficiency almost as much as they love “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” They nearly worship the cult of the individual, which is another reason I doubt that a conspiracy theory could have worked here.”

    The average American yes, but not the Militarist-Industrialist or imperialistic politician. They are heartless.
    May it is because you cannot accept the possibility that fellow Americans are capable of perpetrating such a complex, evil and ultimately self-destructive project. And maybe my doubts are baseless. I believe the future will confirm which view is right.

    By the way, please do not take this as an attack on America or the American people. I know that most Americans, just like you, are kind-hearted people. I am just voicing my doubts about what I believe is a very evil and unethical political establishment.

    Regards,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s