People should know that I was not fortunate enough to be raised in a Muslim family, rather I was raised in a Christian household of unbelievers. I was taught that Jesus was God and that the Bible was the infallible word and law of God. Eventually I came to ask questions about the things I was being taught; simple questions like "Why?" "How?" or "Are you sure?" Some of the answers I got were sufficient for me and others I found unsatisfying. Eventually, as I searched for better answers to those questions puzzling me due to insufficient answers, I found the answers Islam had to offer to be the most pleasing to my logic and understanding which in turn brought a certain peace to my soul. Now, I feel that the peace has been disrupted and it is pertinent that I point out to my fellow Muslims that the unrest has arisen primarily due to some of the attitudes and disposition of some of our brothers and sisters who were raised in Muslims families and have been Muslim they're whole lives.
It seems, at least to me, like around some Muslims who were raised in Muslim households, we converts from other faiths are treated as lesser Muslims. In part due to our previous affiliation with another opposing faith and in part due to our habit of asking questions concerning what we are told. When during a serious theological or jurisdictional discussion it is revealed that we are reverts from another religion besides Islam, suddenly our statements and knowledge is no longer trusted and any difference we may have in opinion concerning an Islamic topic of discussion is regarded as a product of our being raised as Christians, or Jews, or Hindus, or Buddhists, or whatever and therefore not worth listening. Another problem is that I feel that the Raised-Muslims look down on our asking "Why?" or "How do you know?" a lot. If someone brings forth a certain hadith, tafsir, or fiqh ruling, and we reverts question it when we have trouble understanding it so that we may receive clarification as to the authenticity or meaning of that interpretation or tradition, we seem to be chastised as "rebels" or "questioning the Ahlul Bayt and Sunnah," when all we are asking for is knowledge to guide us aright.
On the first matter, I feel like Raised-Muslims assume that we have nothing to teach them from our own experiences in other faiths and cultures. It seems like the Raised-Muslims expect us to seek advice from them and learn by their hands, but generally have no interest in the knowledge we have from our past lifestyles in areas that they are unfamiliar with. For example, because I was raised in a Christian household, I know the Bible pretty well, as well as different Christian and Jewish apocryphal books and traditions. I don't feel like Raised-Muslims are generally interested in applying this knowledge to Islam and putting it to use within the faith. Sure, when a supposed contradiction in the Bible is mentioned, they're all ready to argue with the unbelieving Jews and Christians as though they are Biblical scientists or something, but when we reverts seek to teach certain traditions that we have kept from our pasts that we see no apparent contradiction or falsehood in treating them as Islamic practices, we are either looked at as oddities or innovators rather than being asked why we have done so in an effort to ascertain whether the traditions we have kept can truly be considered Islamic practices and/or beliefs that are independent of the falsehood we have abandoned. For example, if a Buddhist converts to Islam, but still chooses to honor the Buddha as an authority sent by the same God who sent Muhammad , integrating certain ancient Buddhist customs with the typical customs associated with the Middle Eastern Muslims, I don't get the feeling the raised Muslims show any genuine interest and if anything are averse to such behavior. Instead of saying "Hmm, maybe he knows something we don't know," I feel like the typical response is "He's still attached to his old religion and hasn't fully embraced Islam. All the knowledge one needs is what is with us and has been with us since we were children so there's no need to read or profess belief in anything else with them as he does." This completely misses the point, when we reverts do things like this, it's not because we feel that standard doctrines and ritual are "insufficient," it's only that we feel these customs and this knowledge is but the foundation of a much larger structure with many different rooms and floors that have their own distinctive traits but are still part of the same whole. Raised-Muslims I don't think understand this because they have lived how they have lived for so long and have never been dissatisfied with it and fancy that they're particular path is the only way that people can be satisfied. People can choose to follow it or not, but only those who mimic exactly what they do 100% will find any sense of peace.
The second matter encompasses part of the first, I get the impression that if we reverts question the authenticity or logic of a tradition or ruling, we are treated as unfaithful. Again, an example: a person says that the Imam Ali said such and such. I feel like those who have been raised since childhood to believe that these particular words were indeed Imam Ali's or that Imam Ali preached this, if we reverts perhaps ask why we should believe such a tradition ourselves for whatever reasons, we are barraged with accusations that we are questioning the wisdom of the Ahlul Bayt and are deviants when all we did was simply ask for the meaning of the tradition to be explained or the logic to be examined because something we have learned previously contradicts what is being attributed Imam Ali. The Raised-Muslims then tell us things like "We're not to question what we've been told by Ahlul Bayt, we're just supposed to do it and not challenge it. We're don't follow what makes sense to us but just what the Ahlul Bayt commands even it makes no sense to us." Again, they've completely missed the point. I was raised my entire life worshiping Jesus as God. I was told that nothing could contradict the Bible, to follow the Bible without question and not to doubt it or question it and even if it didn't make sense to me, I was still expected to believe it was true without a second thought. This was my mind state for years and had I kept this mindstate, I'd still be an unbeliever. It was only when I had a second thought, when I questioned what I was told Jesus was by the Bible or the preachers, when I asked why I should believe this or that, only when I did this did I become unsatisfied with the answers I was given and in my desire for a satisfying answer I searched out and found Islam, the straight and true path. I was told all my life that Jesus said he was God's begotten son and was given words of Jesus to read and memorize that promoted this falsehood all my life and was so convinced it was true. If I hadn't asked "Why?" or "How?" I would still be an unbeliever today. Now that I'm Muslim, I find Muslims chastising me for questioning (when all I'm trying to do is make sure that I am not being deceived again) and sitting and accusing me of unfaithfulness and being a deviant who wishes to make Islam what fits his selfish desires does nothing to increase my faith, but only makes me feel unwelcome. The only way to find the truth and stay in the truth is to ask questions and see if the answers given by a person you've asked are good enough. Raised Muslims don't understand that many of we reverts for years were taught not to question the wisdom of certain writings and long standing traditions only to realize, alhamdulillah, that we were in the wrong, deceived by lies or falsehood, mistaken. Our undying devotion to falsehood and our taking it in without question did not help us find the truth but instead only kept us steadfast longer in deception. So why should we not put forth questions, even in our new faith, so as to not be led astray by the misguided or the lying again? And why should simply questioning be counted against us as doubt or unfaithfulness of which it (questioning) is not synonymous with? If those we ask are certain they are correct, what have they to fear by our questions? That we will be reaffirmed of our choice with knowledge and understanding? Or is their chastising of our questioning certain interpretations of or narrations of certain traditions because they lack knowledge and understanding themselves and only follow what they were bidden to do by their families like those who chastised our prophets so harshly when they arrived with the right guidance?
Just in the same way, whenever We sent a Warner before thee to any people, the wealthy ones among them said: "We found our fathers following a certain religion, and we will certainly follow in their footsteps." He said: "What! Even if I brought you better guidance than that which ye found your fathers following?" They said: "For us, we deny that ye (prophets) are sent (on a mission at all)." --Surah 43:24-25
Now, after questioning that which confused us and arriving at the truth, are we expected to revert back to old habits that kept us in falsehood for so long and the logic that we know from experience does not guarantee that we are following the truth?
We should not be afraid to question, nor should we be afraid to express ourselves through certain customs or rituals indigenous to our own personalities as Allah created us all as different people of different nations, tribes, colors, and tongues, so that we might know each other and take pleasure in our diversity, the diversity which he has gifted us. There's more to following the Ahlul Bayt than copying external actions and fashions, as not all their external actions can be imitated by us, their devotees. The important thing is developing the same heart as they had and letting that which this heart produces be without guilt or fear and to pursue knowledge, which never ceases to grow, without rest.
Again, I mean no personal grudge toward anyone, I just feel like those who are raised as Muslims are not interested in pursuits for more knowledge beyond the folk traditions they have been raised with and look at reverts as being a lesser stock of Muslims because we tend to question what we are told or may adopt or even develop different breeds of "folk Islam," for ourselves and our communities than what they are used to. Even though we do not intend these customs to oppose or replace the practices/customs of our rightly guided brothers and sisters but to be beside them as another means of expressing the same knowledge and truth. That and we may also keep and integrate traditions that we were raised with in our Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and etc. communities because we feel they are perfectly in line with what we are taught as Muslims.
Edited by Saintly_Jinn23, 08 September 2011 - 03:14 AM.